SERIOUS economic challenges that will call for compromises and agreements between Slovak political parties, European Union efforts to coordinate national fiscal policies that will affect individual member states, and the outcome of Slovakia’s early parliamentary elections in March: these will be the major political issues in 2012, according to political analysts interviewed by The Slovak Spectator.
The Slovak Spectator spoke with Grigorij Mesežnikov, president of the Institute for Public Affairs, Darina Malová, head of the Political Sciences Department of Comenius University, and political scientist Miroslav Kusý about the key events and possible developments they expect in the political arena in 2012.
The Slovak Spectator (TSS): What are your expectations for 2012?
Grigorij Mesežnikov (GM): Slovakia will have to confront a very serious economic situation. The situation in the eurozone will certainly affect Slovakia, meaning that it will have both economic and political consequences for the country – because solving these economic issues will require the agreement of several political parties. But I do think that Slovakia has the potential to solve these problems in cooperation with its partners in the European Union. I do not expect to see the return of any authoritarian forces similar to certain parties which ruled in 2006. Yet the options remain open and it is possible that parties which were not very convincing in the area of political democracy in the past will strive to be involved in sharing power. I am mildly optimistic, but certainly with the caveat that something might still emerge and influence developments in Slovakia – something unknown that we cannot predict at the moment.
Darina Malová (DM): As far as the European level is concerned, I have optimistic expectations because all the European leaders, or at least most of them, understand that the issues linked to the euro currency are an urgent matter. These are issues that they have made their national priorities. As far as Slovakia is concerned, however, I am not all that optimistic. I assume that the government that will emerge from the March elections, regardless of the people who are in it, will have a tough job since Slovakia really has serious economic and social problems which will be very difficult to solve. Finding solutions to the problems we currently have will not be possible without European integration and without cooperation within the EU.
Miroslav Kusý (MK): I am looking at the next year with concern, as the nearing elections foretell complications and there is still an economic crisis; these are all factors which don’t make for promising prospects.
TSS: What will be the key events in 2012?
GM: Certainly the parliamentary elections, because these will determine further developments – the composition of the government and the ruling coalition will emerge based on the results of these elections. Then, undoubtedly, the situation within the eurozone will figure: what direction the European Union will take; how groupings of countries will be formed and what their position will be on certain issues; how these positions will differ from the opinions of other countries. In Slovakia if a political grouping similar to the current ruling parties is formed after the elections, I expect the continuation of reform measures in the area of the courts, which I consider very important, along with strengthening transparency, consolidating public finances, and so on. This is quite an important agenda.
DM: The March elections will have key importance since solutions for all the additional issues will stem from the results. For the development of our internal politics, the elections are the key issue.
MK: The ruling power will change in the March elections and there are different possible outcomes for parliament and government; these elections will be a decisive factor in terms of the further development of the country. The ways in which European countries manage to solve the crisis within the eurozone and the outcome of developments around the European bailout fund will impact developments in Slovakia and also be another important factor.
TSS: Do you expect any significant changes after the March elections? If so, what kind?
GM: The most significant possible change after the elections would be if a government comes to power which erases everything that the previous government has done, bringing in fundamentally different politics. However, it does not seem to me that conditions are right for that. I am not excluding the possibility that in a modified form the current ruling coalition will continue since several bodies have now emerged which, eventually and if there is good will, could be considered the potential partners of centre-right parties. In that case any fundamental change is very unlikely. If some of the current ruling parties unite with Smer, for example, no radical changes can be expected; there could be some changes but Smer, which is an anti-reform party, would find it difficult to justify the removal of reforms. If they [Smer] manage to get a centre-right party as a coalition partner, which they are striving for, then there would be no radical changes since I assume that anyone from the current centre-right parties considering cooperation with Smer would not agree to rescind the reforms.
DM: I do not know who will be in government so I do not know what to expect since further developments will depend on the make-up of the government. It again seems that Smer has the best chance but based on the same polls it seems that it will need a coalition partner. The citizens first of all need a government that is able to deal with unemployment.
MK: A change in power is to be expected. Smer has significant domination and it will obviously preserve it until the elections. It is expected that the party will not have an absolute majority, which means it will have to establish a government by forming some kind of coalition and the question is still very open as to what this coalition will look like. But every combination will be problematic because Smer, as the dominant partner, will be pushing its partners to the ground and attempting to use them only to fulfil its own goals.
TSS: Which events from 2011 will continue to influence the Slovak political arena?
GM: Those developments which led to the fall of the government [on October 11] and the announcement of early elections will continue to have an impact on Slovakia’s politics, including the approach Slovakia has taken towards European issues. Initially, [parliament] failed to support participation in the extension of the bailout fund but then Slovakia approved the decision and thus it will certainly influence our attitude and our obligations towards the EU. Along with these issues, things that this government has managed to achieve in reforming the court system, in bringing transparency, will continue to have an impact. This is what I consider to be most important as in this area the past government was highly reform-driven. However, the fact that the government did not manage to revise the law on state citizenship [a response by the Fico government to the Hungarian law on dual citizenship] could influence developments in Slovakia since Fico’s legislation is still valid. We know, for example, that Ján Slota [chairman of the Slovak National Party] has filed an objection against the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK). In such a specific situation the influence of what has been done or could not be done in legislation in 2011 might emerge.
DM: I think that the way the government collapsed will certainly have an impact, along with issues linked to the European bailout system and the stability of the euro, which are key European issues. These are events which will continuously influence our lives.
TSS: What importance will European issues have within Slovak politics in 2012?
MK: European issues will certainly play an immense role because the euro concerns us just as the development of the European Union does: whether it will be heading towards federalisation or a tighter union, it all concerns us. The eventual transfer of certain powers that are held by individual countries, including Slovakia, concern us existentially. So European issues will have a significant impact on us.