“PEOPLE deserve certainties,” heralded the main election slogan of the formerly opposition Smer party and, after a massive victory in which it won 83 parliamentary seats – and hence a clear majority – in the national elections held on March 10, Robert Fico’s political project is now determined to deliver these “certainties”.
A commentator in Slovakia’s leading daily, Sme, noted that Slovakia is now getting a relatively stable government. Obviously, “stable government” means one thing to those who voted in support of Smer and a leader who knows what they want to hear, and something completely different for right-wing voters.
It is not only that many right-wing and pro-reform politicians simply did not say what their voters wanted to hear, but they also failed to act in such a way that their voters would even want to hear what they were saying without some guarantee that it was not just the usual pre-election right-wing meta-discourse.
The leaders of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), which has suffered the toughest blow in the party’s history and only just scraped into parliament above the 5-percent threshold, argued ahead of the elections that its declining popularity was due to the fact that its sympathizers and voters were just more critical thinkers.
However, SDKÚ leader Mikuláš Dzurinda also said that he had never been guided by opinion polls and obviously hoped that at the decisive moment SDKÚ voters would not only get the party into parliament, but deliver even more, perhaps even a repeat of the situation on election night 2010, when the country elected enough centre-right MPs to form a government led by the SDKÚ’s Iveta Radičová.
But that has not happened and if there is anything positive for the SDKÚ to come out this gloomy Sunday for right-wing voters, it is the message that people are sick of being asked always to vote for a lesser evil, and sick of the parties they have voted for never taking a look at themselves and actually delivering the transparent, modern and trustworthy political force they appear to promise.
Right-wing voters expected that the politicians they entrusted with power in the summer of 2010, but who simply wasted that chance, would have more self-reflection than the parties they criticise – ironically, for their ruling style, which often simulates democratic values but fails to live up to them.
Some may slip into “blame-it-all-on-Dzurinda” mode, suggesting that he should have given up the party leadership in favour of outgoing Justice Minister Lucia Žitňanská, who initiated a thorough-going reform of the troubled judicial system. But this result is not just about Dzurinda, it is about the public’s general disappointment with how political parties, even those that are supposed to be “the good guys” interpret political responsibility and the system overall.
It is just as much about Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), the party which in 2010 heralded a new style of politics in Slovakia and said it would replace the old reformers who remembered far too much of the bad habits of the transition period, during which, amidst all the changes, more survived from the previous regime than anyone dared to admit. Yet, one of these SaS “new” politicians was all the while employing a dubious businessman – very much one of the “old” set – to screen members of his party, and was in return providing him with inside information about the workings of the coalition.
So now an age of stability has arrived, at least according to Robert Fico. One positive thing is that the notorious Slovak National Party (SNS) failed to make it into parliament and so Fico cannot pick the nationalists as his ruling partners, as he did in 2006. He has five parties from which to choose a coalition bride, with the Christian Democrats (KDH) and their 8.82 percent obviously being the “richest”. But although Fico says he wants to negotiate, his parliamentary majority means he actually has no need to. The answers will come in the next days or even hours, after this issue of The Slovak Spectator goes to print on March 11.
Even though most of the country, unlike Dzurinda, did not expect another right-wing coalition to miraculously emerge, there were still some surprises, not least the turnout. While the pollsters predicted a record-breaking low turnout, it instead reached almost 60 percent.
Some voters were not paralysed with frustration, but were instead making last-minute decisions; perhaps waiting until the very last moment for some apology, any apology to arrive for having had their trust abused by the right-wing parties they elected in 2010. But it never came.