Left and right square up in capital

THE OCTOBER 3 deadline for submitting candidate lists for Slovakia’s municipal elections prompted a surprise rush to join the three previously announced candidates for the mayoralty of Bratislava. Eight candidates will now slug it out in a campaign to win the hearts and minds of the capital’s voters.

THE OCTOBER 3 deadline for submitting candidate lists for Slovakia’s municipal elections prompted a surprise rush to join the three previously announced candidates for the mayoralty of Bratislava. Eight candidates will now slug it out in a campaign to win the hearts and minds of the capital’s voters.

The three candidates who had earlier revealed their intentions to run for what is one of Slovakia’s most prominent jobs were: Milan Ftáčnik, the left-wing mayor of Bratislava’s Petržalka district and a former education minister, who is running as an independent candidate with the support of Smer, the largest opposition party in the national parliament; Magdaléna Vášáryová, an MP for the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) and a former Slovak ambassador to Austria and Poland, who is being backed by the four centre-right parties that make up the national ruling coalition; and civic activist Alojz Hlina, who has become well known for staging a series of protests against the Slovak National Party (SNS) and its leaders.

As well as these three, the Bratislava election commission announced that five other candidates for mayor had officially registered. The Sme daily reported that among the new candidates are civic activist Jozef Bonko; Ján Budaj, one of the leaders of the November 1989 revolution against communism; and Marek Blaha, a candidate backed by the Party of the Democratic Left (SDĽ) and the Green Party. The names of the remaining two candidates had not been released when The Slovak Spectator went to press.

The incumbent mayor, Andrej Ďurkovský, who was elected in June as an MP for the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), had earlier announced he would not be running for re-election.

Despite the relatively large number of candidates for the post, observers generally expect the election to be reduced to a fight between Ftáčnik, as the representative of the left, and Vášáryová, as the right-wing candidate.

Vášáryová, who presently serves as a deputy in the national parliament as well as in the Bratislava regional council, proposed an election programme which, among others, comprises seven decisions for which she pledges to take personal responsibility. The decisions include unresolved cases and serious issues that she said should be solved as soon as possible because they “cost us time, money, and energy”, the SITA newswire reported. These issues and cases include the fate of the PKO cultural venue, where she intends to hold talks with developers in an attempt to preserve what she called the genius loci of PKO’s present site on the Danube embankment.

Ftáčnik, despite enjoying the support of Smer, which would have been enough to secure his place on the ballot, decided to submit a petition in support of his candidacy. He said he wanted to have a mandate from the citizens to enter the election race, and obtained the signatures of 4,501 people. Although he had not officially presented his election programme before The Slovak Spectator went to print on October 7, Ftáčnik has presented himself as a transparent candidate who can bring about change to the government of the capital. As an example, he has suggested he would like to introduce a so-called ‘participative budget’ for the city, which would allow citizens to decide how part of the municipal budget should be used.

According to political analyst Juraj Marušiak, this election will be the first time since 1989 that the two strongest candidates have an even chance of winning, which in effect could mean that Bratislava gets its first non-right-wing mayor of the post-communist era. He noted, however, that Vášáryová is a strong candidate, especially given the backing of all the coalition parties.

“The negative image of Smer, which is supporting Ftáčnik in Bratislava, despite the fact that Ftáčnik is presenting himself as an independent candidate, could work in her favour,” Marušiak told The Slovak Spectator.

Darina Malová from the Political Science Department of Comenius University noted that Vášáryová gained many preferential votes in the June parliamentary elections thanks to her personal campaign. For the moment, however, Malová said she had not observed any such campaign in the lead-up to the municipal elections.

As for Budaj, analysts don’t regard him as a strong candidate, although he is known to the public. Marušiak noted that Budaj has been critical of the current municipal authorities and as such could appeal to civic activists, in which case he could ‘steal’ votes from both Ftáčnik and Vášáryová.

If the municipal elections had taken place at the end of September, Ftáčnik would have won with 43.2 percent of the vote, according to an opinion poll carried out by the AKO agency between September 25 and 28. Vášáryová polled 32 percent of the votes in the same survey, while Budaj scored 8.6 percent and Hlina 1.5 percent. At that time, no other candidates for mayor had been announced and 12.4 percent of respondents were unable to choose from these four, while 2.5 percent stated that they would not take part in the elections, the SITA newswire reported.

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