JÁN Slota will continue ruling the Slovak National Party (SNS) for another four years. He was re-elected as SNS chairman with 180 votes, about two-thirds of the delegates to the party’s congress, leaving his three challengers far behind and stirring debate about how internally democratic the SNS is – and what future awaits it with Slota as its leader. The main criticism of SNS’ current standing comes from within the party: Anna Belousovová, who failed to hold her post as deputy chair, said the congress was manipulated and that the SNS is headed for political oblivion under Slota.
Out of the 271 delegates at the 17th SNS congress on September 25, 180 supported Slota for the chair of the party, while his challengers received significantly fewer votes. Deputy chairperson Anna Belousovová garnered 45, Dušan Švantner got 40 and former Supreme Court judge Tibor Šafárik received just six.
Prior to the voting, the congress voted on the method that would be used and a majority of the delegates, 159 of them, voted to hold an open ballot rather than a secret ballot. This option was supported by Slota; Belousovová had sought a secret ballot. Observers opined that if the election had been secret, Belousovová’s chances against Slota would have been much better.
The congress elected Andrej Danko from the village of Miloslavov to take Belousovová’s post as the party’s first deputy chair. Other deputy chairs are Peter Petko of Spišská Nová Ves, Ján Ikrényi from Štúrovo and SNS MP Rafael Rafaj.
Claims of a democratic deficit
Belousovová said after the vote that she considered the elections undemocratic but that she would not challenge the results. The SITA newswire reported her as saying that delegates received ballots in different colours and that each delegate’s number, as stated on the attendance list, appeared on the reverse side of their ballot.
“Each ballot could have been identified to see who voted for whom,” Belousovová said, as quoted by SITA. “Those weren’t free elections. They prove that the SNS is not democratic. It’s all manipulated and the congress was an absolute slapstick comedy.”
Political analyst Marek Rybář from the Department of Political Sciences at Comenius University agreed that the SNS is far from democratic, as the statute of the party in effect enables the chairman to decide on everything.
“The SNS doesn’t work towards optimising its election results, but works towards satisfying the crony structures around it,” Rybář told The Slovak Spectator. He noted, however, that claims of undemocratic practices don’t sound credible coming from Belousovová, who ruled the party using similar rules when she was its leader, and did not seem to mind any lack of democracy then.
Political analyst Miroslav Kusý stated that Belousovová’s chances of winning the party’s chair could have been higher in a secret ballot but pointed out that the difference between Slota’s votes and hers was quite large.
“Such a big difference says something about attitudes within SNS,” Kusý told The Slovak Spectator.
Belousovová remains a member of the SNS but has said she will establish and lead an ‘internal party platform’ to push forward the democratisation and revival of the SNS, SITA reported.
Slota rejected accusations that he had put pressure on delegates to the congress to ensure his victory. He also denied that he had side-tracked some vice-chairs – including Belousovová – by not nominating them for re-election.
Slota, speaking during a political discussion show on public broadcaster STV the day after the vote, said that he was not jumping for joy as he is now the main target for everyone. He repeated that he ran for the post because the chairpersons of SNS district organisations, other members of the SNS, and representatives of other opposition parties and even the governing coalition parties had asked him to do so.
“They were just terrified by the idea that someone else, maybe in a skirt, could sit on the chair of the [SNS] party leader,” Slota said.
Could history repeat itself?
Belousovová had already stated before the election that she would not leave the party if she was not elected as its leader, a position she reiterated following her defeat.
“I’m staying in the party, because it is not possible to privatise the party,” she said, as quoted by SITA.
Despite that, the present situation recalls the 2001-2003 period, when Belousovová (then using her maiden name, Malíková) led the SNS. Slota led a breakaway group of SNS renegades who in October 2001 established a competitor party which they called the Right Slovak National Party (PSNS), after their faction was expelled from the SNS for voicing opposition to Malíková’s perceived use of undemocratic methods in an internal election in December 2000.
The two parties ran independently in the 2002 general election and both failed to reach the 5-percent threshold needed to secure seats in parliament. The PSNS won 3.65 percent of the vote and the SNS won 3.32 percent.
Afterwards, in 2003, the SNS and PSNS agreed almost unanimously to reunify and take the name the Slovak National Party. Slota was elected chairman of the reunified SNS and Malíková became a deputy chair. She held the post continuously until the September 2010 congress.
Kusý believes there is a chance that the SNS might now split again, particularly if Belousovová carries out her promise to establish a faction within the party. But the bad experience from the previous split is still fresh and might prevent her from leaving the SNS.
“At that time it did not end well for either of them, so they will certainly be much more cautious when taking such steps now than they were in the past,” Kusý said.
Rybář noted that the recent congress proved there was only minor support for Belousovová, which would be insufficient to establish a competitor party that would make it into parliament at the next election.
“If [Belousovová] did so, it would mean that neither the SNS, nor the Right SNS, nor any other SNS would be in parliament,” Rybář said. He did however admit that Belousovová could use the threat of establishing a new party as a powerful tool to maintain her position in the party.
4. Oct 2010 at 0:00 | Michaela Terenzani