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The candidates who leapfrogged into seats

MUCH post-election media attention has been devoted to two less high-profile groupings which made it into parliament under the colours of other political parties. In Slovakia, voters can either cast a ballot for a political party without expressing any preference for its individual candidates, thus accepting the order on the party’s list of candidates, or they can give preferential votes to up to four candidates on a party’s slate by simply circling their numbers. This time around, 11 out of 150 MPs have made it to parliament despite the fact that they ran in party-list positions from which they had little chance of being elected without collecting preferences.

MUCH post-election media attention has been devoted to two less high-profile groupings which made it into parliament under the colours of other political parties. In Slovakia, voters can either cast a ballot for a political party without expressing any preference for its individual candidates, thus accepting the order on the party’s list of candidates, or they can give preferential votes to up to four candidates on a party’s slate by simply circling their numbers. This time around, 11 out of 150 MPs have made it to parliament despite the fact that they ran in party-list positions from which they had little chance of being elected without collecting preferences.

Numbers 13, 23, 33 and 43 on the Most-Híd candidate list were members of the non-parliamentary Civic Conservative Party (OKS). All four of them received enough preferential votes and will be members of Most-Híd’s 14-member parliamentary caucus.

“During the campaign we managed to communicate with success that our candidates were on the Most-Híd slate,” OKS’ Ondrej Dostál, who had number 23, told The Slovak Spectator. He believes that OKS strongly defined itself as being against the ruling coalition, which could have helped its campaign.

A similar situation arose on the SaS list, which agreed to offer places to four people running under the brand Obyčajní Ľudia (Ordinary People) in the last four places (147-150) on its candidate list.

Marek Rybář , a political analyst from the department of political sciences at Comenius University in Bratislava, noted that the two cases might appear similar but that they are in fact diametrically opposed. OKS, he noted, has been known on the political scene as an established party for a long time, and it regularly runs candidates in local, regional and parliamentary elections. From previous parliamentary election results it was clear that the party did not have enough support on its own to cross the 5-percent threshold needed to win seats in parliament. However, preference votes were enough for its four candidates to be elected on the slate of a party that could win well over 5 percent.

“And the fact that there were four of them wasn’t accidental, because each voter has four preferential votes,” Rybář told The Slovak Spectator. “So it’s likely that a lot of voters voted for all four of them… Voters used the Most-Híd slate, but circled all four OKS candidates. Strictly speaking, those are not Most-Híd voters, but rather voters of OKS – which should make things interesting in the future for Most-Híd.”

The similarity between OKS and Ordinary People, according to Rybář, is limited to the fact that they both fielded a group of four on another party’s list. In the case of Ordinary People, he believes its candidates used a targeted campaign that worked with voters. The campaign was mainly based on advertising in regional newspapers distributed to Slovak households free of charge, with texts harshly criticising the Smer-led government.

So while the future centre-right government will rely on a total of 79 MPs in parliament – only eight more than the Smer-SNS opposition – these eight coalition members will not actually be members of the four ruling parties, but rather OKS or Ordinary People MPs instead. The Slovak media has thus repeatedly raised the question of whether the eight MPs, who in effect provide the coalition’s majority in parliament, will be loyal when it comes to key issues.

OKS declared its support after the election for the centre-right coalition, but Dostál noted for The Slovak Spectator that its members intend mainly to follow their conscience when voting in parliament.

“I will not vote for something that would go against my conscience or deeply contradict my convictions,” he said. “On the other hand, it is also my conviction that Slovakia needs the centre-right coalition government and that it’s necessary for this government to be stable and to stick together for four years. Therefore we are also ready for compromises.”

Rybář said that there is no track record for many of the new MPs, particularly the Ordinary People group, which would permit predictions about how they will behave. But he warned about casting doubt on the eight MPs just because they are defined as groupings.

“This [i.e. party loyalty] is a problem [not only] for new parties as such,” Rybář said, referring to previous election terms when the parliamentary caucuses of old as well as new parties experienced turbulence and even fell apart. In that sense, each and every MP can become unreliable and ‘rebel’.

“After all, in the previous parliament we saw people leaving even the KDH, which is perhaps the oldest political party in Slovakia today,” Rybář said. “So I wouldn’t limit the doubts to some particular individuals who are now in the spotlight.”


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