IF RECENT opinion polls truly reflect the nation’s political preferences, Robert Fico can start planning his new cabinet now. The surveys predict that his Smer party, currently in opposition, will be the dominant political force after the general election on March 10. The results are so emphatic that political scientists are no longer being asked by the Slovak media to comment on who will win the election but rather which of the remaining parties might form a coalition with Smer – or if a coalition will even be necessary.
Despite the dominance in the polls shown by Smer, still regarded as a left-wing party and as such the only one in the current parliament, the figures also show a struggle going on among the more numerous centre-right parties, where the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) and the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) in particular are fighting for supremacy. In two recent polls the KDH has overcome the historically more popular SDKÚ. In the last three general elections (in 2002, 2006 and 2010) the SDKÚ was the highest-polling centre-right party.
According the latest poll, conducted by the Focus polling agency for public broadcaster Radio and Television of Slovakia (RTVS), Smer’s 42 percent support would be enough to secure 81 seats in the 150-member parliament. That is only nine seats short of a two-thirds (90-seat) constitutional majority. The poll was conducted between January 9 and 16 on a sample of 1,076 respondents. Were Smer to secure even a simple majority (76 seats) in the election, it would be the first time that any party has done so in Slovakia’s post-communist history.
Next in the poll after Smer came the KDH with 9.3 percent, equivalent to 18 seats, followed by the SDKÚ with 8.3 percent, or 16 seats. The Slovak-Hungarian party, Most-Híd, recorded 6.4-percent support, equivalent to 13 deputies.
Just behind was Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), with enough support to win 12 seats, followed by the new Ordinary People and Independent Personalities party, led by Igor Matovič, which would get 10 seats, according to Focus.
However, 13.6 percent of those polled said they would stay at home on election day and 17.9 percent either did not know for whom they would vote, or chose not to share their preferences. The second group in particular could markedly affect the results.
An earlier poll, conducted by the MVK polling agency between January 5 and 11, found that the SDKÚ was supported by only 9.3 percent of respondents and had been surpassed in popularity by the KDH, one of its current partners in the government, which received 9.6 percent. Smer also emerged as the overwhelming leader in that poll, scooping 40.1-percent support among the 1,145 respondents in the poll.
Political scientist Miroslav Kusý said he believed the results of the MVK survey were affected by the controversy surrounding the so-called Gorilla file, containing the alleged transcripts of secret recordings of senior politicians, government officials and businesspeople made by the country’s main spy agency during the second government of Mikuláš Dzurinda in 2005 and 2006, the SITA newswire reported.
The head of the MVK polling agency, Pavel Haulík, estimated that the turnout on March 10 would be somewhere between 43 and 48 percent. That would make it the lowest voter turnout for an election since the return of democracy in 1989.
Although the Focus poll suggested that Smer would be able to rule on its own, its deputy chairman Robert Kaliňák said, as quoted by the Sme daily, that his party would want to have a coalition partner.
However, 46 percent of the respondents in the MVK poll said they would like to see Smer govern alone. If Smer had to look for an ally, 29.3 percent of its supporters would welcome a deal with the KDH. Other possible coalitions were described by Smer supporters as less attractive or were dismissed entirely, according to the poll, published on January 24 by the TASR newswire.
A KDH-Smer coalition would also work well from the point of view of KDH supporters, with 43.9 percent of them preferring a two-party coalition with Smer to all other options, while 33.8 percent would actively welcome such a coalition and only 13.3 percent would reject it.
By contrast, supporters of the SDKÚ and Most-Híd would like to see another centre-right coalition emerge that involves the parties that have been governing since 2010, according to the poll.
When sympathisers of SaS and Ordinary People were asked about what kind of coalition they would prefer, they opted for “a different coalition”, i.e. unlike any listed in the poll questionnaire, TASR reported.
The senior vote
Sociologists Ján Baránek, who heads the Polis polling agency, and Haulík, who heads the MVK polling agency, suggested that most of the almost-million-strong army of pensioners in Slovakia generally incline towards Smer since no other political party has addressed them as effectively as Robert Fico has.
“Undoubtedly, most pensioner votes will go to Smer,” Haulík said, as reported by SITA, adding that it is Smer which focuses its programme most directly on this group.
According to Haulík, pensioners are generally conservative and prefer strong state intervention in the economy and strong state influence on all goings-on within the country.
Baránek added that Smer has picked up many sympathisers from the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), the once-dominant party of former prime minister Vladimír Mečiar.
The HZDS failed to win any seats in the 2010 election and polls indicate that it is unlikely to make a comeback this year.