SMK is out of parliament, its future unclear

THE ELECTION results came as a cold shower for the leadership of the only political party in Slovakia based on purely ethnic-Hungarian foundations. After its failure to clear the 5-percent threshold, the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) will experience life outside parliament for the first time in its 12-year history, most likely under a new leadership. Seven new MPs representing the Slovak-Hungarian Most-Híd party will be the only ethnic Hungarians in parliament.

There was nothing to celebrate at SMK headquarters.There was nothing to celebrate at SMK headquarters. (Source: ČTK)

THE ELECTION results came as a cold shower for the leadership of the only political party in Slovakia based on purely ethnic-Hungarian foundations. After its failure to clear the 5-percent threshold, the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) will experience life outside parliament for the first time in its 12-year history, most likely under a new leadership. Seven new MPs representing the Slovak-Hungarian Most-Híd party will be the only ethnic Hungarians in parliament.

According to the official election results, the SMK won 4.33 percent of the vote. The party, which had previously enjoyed the support of around 10 percent of voters, roughly reflecting the percentage of Slovakia’s citizens who are ethnic Hungarians, recorded its first sharp drops in support after former leader Béla Bugár left a year ago with a group of other SMK MPs and founded Most-Híd, with the proclaimed ambition of pursuing Slovak-Hungarian cooperation and understanding.



The SMK had been hoping that votes from ethnic Hungarians in election precincts in the southern part of Slovakia would keep them in parliament. But the traditional centres of SMK support switched sides this time: for instance, in the town of Dunajská Streda, the SMK received 33.9 percent of the votes, while Most-Híd got 48 percent.

After the result became clear on election night, party chairman Pal Csáky avoided making any significant comments and left SMK headquarters early. On Sunday June 13 he and the entire leadership of the SMK resigned.

“It’s a sensitive loss, which cannot pass without consequences,” Csáky explained. The SMK’s Republican Council was due to convene on June 19 to decide what to do next. According to Csáky, the council is likely to authorise the current leadership to act until a party congress is held.

“We propose that as a non-parliamentary party we will obviously continue in our political activities, with most of our [focus] moving to regional and local politics,” Csáky said. But vice-chairman József Berényi warned that the position of SMK even at the regional and local level might be endangered, the Sme daily reported.

Despite its setback, observers say the party is not buried yet and comment that under different leadership it could return to parliament again. Berényi said the aim of the party is to be back in parliament after the next election in 2014.



Leadership criticised

Only days before the elections experts from polling agencies stated in interviews with The Slovak Spectator that the SMK would be the party to make it into parliament, particularly after Hungary amended its dual citizenship legislation.



However, the actual result was exactly the opposite and observers as well as some people from within the SMK suggested the loss came after a mismanaged campaign.

Political analyst Grigorij Mesežnikov told The Slovak Spectator that one of the reasons why the SMK dropped below 5-percent support was that it overdid the aggressiveness of its campaign against Bugár’s Most-Híd.

The SMK’s Berényi said in an interview with the Sme daily that he believed his party had the potential for 5 percent support.

“I also made some statements where I did not attack, but pointed to the fact that Most-Híd is not the best solution,” Berényi said. “My style is not aggressive.”

According to him, the SMK made grave mistakes in the last three weeks of the campaign.



Voting for a change



The SMK missed the parliamentary threshold by less than 1 percent. Mesežnikov said he believes the strongest factor in this particular election was that ethnic Hungarians might have believed the SMK had enough support and was sure to be returned to parliament. With this in mind, part of the Hungarian electorate might have decided to vote for Most-Híd at the last moment, just to make sure Bugár and his party were in parliament too, and thus seal the victory of the centre-right bloc against the Smer-led ruling coalition.

“And in the end it was sealed, but without the SMK,” Mesežnikov told The Slovak Spectator. The pre-election polls showed the SMK’s support at about two-thirds of the Hungarian population in Slovakia, but in the end less than half of the ethnic Hungarians voted for SMK.

In consequence, the support for Most-Híd in this election was boosted to a number much higher than predicted by the polls. According to Mesežnikov, however, the party also received support from quite a lot of Slovaks at the last moment and for similar reasons as applied with ethnic Hungarian voters – but this time at the expense of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) or other centre-right parties.



Most-Híd entrusted with Hungarian interests



Mesežnikov said that the higher support for Most-Híd compared to the SMK, which is regarded as being more conservative, does not mean that nationalism is weakening among the ethnic Hungarian citizens of Slovakia.

“I also hear from the people of the community that many of those with significantly nationalist preferences supported Most-Híd,” he added.

“The fact is that most of the Hungarian voters leaned towards the type of politics which attempts to solve the real problems of Hungarians in Slovakia here at home, and not through Budapest,” said Mesežnikov. “Because in this sense Most-Híd is a domestic party, while the SMK has a more significant orientation towards Hungary. So the message is that problems should be solved at home.”

Post-election developments mean that the representation of ethnic Hungarians in the Slovak public administration is going to change soon. Most-Híd, the only party with ethnic Hungarian MPs in the new parliament, is very likely to be part of the ruling coalition and will control some ministries and other high posts in the cabinet and parliament. On the other hand, numbers show that the number of ethnic Hungarian MPs has hit a historic post-1990 low, as out of the 14 seats won by Most-Híd only seven belong to ethnic Hungarians. In the outgoing parliament, 14 seats were occupied by ethnic Hungarians.




Most-Híd, as a newcomer to the political scene, benefited from its charismatic leader but was expected to struggle to make it into parliament, while the SMK’s chances were regarded as quite sound.

Only days before the elections experts from polling agencies stated in interviews with The Slovak Spectator that the SMK would be the party to make it into parliament, particularly after Hungary amended its dual citizenship legislation.

However, the actual result was exactly the opposite and observers as well as some people from within the SMK suggested the loss came after a mismanaged campaign.

Political analyst Grigorij Mesežnikov told The Slovak Spectator that one of the reasons why the SMK dropped below 5-percent support was that it overdid the aggressiveness of its campaign against Bugár’s Most-Híd.

The SMK’s Berényi said in an interview with the Sme daily that he believed his party had the potential for 5 percent support.

“I also made some statements where I did not attack, but pointed to the fact that Most-Híd is not the best solution,” Berényi said. “My style is not aggressive.”

According to him, the SMK made grave mistakes in the last three weeks of the campaign.



Voting for a change



The SMK missed the parliamentary threshold by less than 1 percent. Mesežnikov said he believes the strongest factor in this particular election was that ethnic Hungarians might have believed the SMK had enough support and was sure to be returned to parliament. With this in mind, part of the Hungarian electorate might have decided to vote for Most-Híd at the last moment, just to make sure Bugár and his party were in parliament too, and thus seal the victory of the centre-right bloc against the Smer-led ruling coalition.

“And in the end it was sealed, but without the SMK,” Mesežnikov told The Slovak Spectator. The pre-election polls showed the SMK’s support at about two-thirds of the Hungarian population in Slovakia, but in the end less than half of the ethnic Hungarians voted for SMK.

In consequence, the support for Most-Híd in this election was boosted to a number much higher than predicted by the polls. According to Mesežnikov, however, the party also received support from quite a lot of Slovaks at the last moment and for similar reasons as applied with ethnic Hungarian voters – but this time at the expense of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) or other centre-right parties.



Most-Híd entrusted with Hungarian interests



Mesežnikov said that the higher support for Most-Híd compared to the SMK, which is regarded as being more conservative, does not mean that nationalism is weakening among the ethnic Hungarian citizens of Slovakia.

“I also hear from the people of the community that many of those with significantly nationalist preferences supported Most-Híd,” he added.

“The fact is that most of the Hungarian voters leaned towards the type of politics which attempts to solve the real problems of Hungarians in Slovakia here at home, and not through Budapest,” said Mesežnikov. “Because in this sense Most-Híd is a domestic party, while the SMK has a more significant orientation towards Hungary. So the message is that problems should be solved at home.”

Post-election developments mean that the representation of ethnic Hungarians in the Slovak public administration is going to change soon. Most-Híd, the only party with ethnic Hungarian MPs in the new parliament, is very likely to be part of the ruling coalition and will control some ministries and other high posts in the cabinet and parliament. On the other hand, numbers show that the number of ethnic Hungarian MPs has hit a historic post-1990 low, as out of the 14 seats won by Most-Híd only seven belong to ethnic Hungarians. In the outgoing parliament, 14 seats were occupied by ethnic Hungarians.


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