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The also-rans ponder their fate

TWENTY parties running in the March 10 general election did not receive enough votes to make it into the new parliament. Two of them came close, but most of the rest had little chance and now face political oblivion. This ignominy came despite no shortage of well-known faces.

TWENTY parties running in the March 10 general election did not receive enough votes to make it into the new parliament. Two of them came close, but most of the rest had little chance and now face political oblivion. This ignominy came despite no shortage of well-known faces.

Parties led by József Berényi, Vladimír Mečiar, Zuzana Martináková and Ján Slota, among many others, all failed to get more than 5-percent of the nationwide vote – the threshold required for winning seats.

Political scientists say that of the 20 parties that failed, the only two with any real chance of getting into parliament in future are the Slovak National Party (SNS) and the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK). Both have won seats in the past, and the SNS has previously accomplished the unique feat of returning to parliament after a four-year absence. Both attracted more than 4 percent in this election; none of the other 18 parties, by contrast, polled more than 2 percent.

“It will be a big surprise if any of the [other] parties survive,” Darina Malová, head of the school of political sciences at Comenius University, told The Slovak Spectator.

We will return, vows SNS

The SNS lost all its nine seats in parliament after getting only 4.55 percent in the March 10 election, 0.6 percentage points less than in 2010. Pre-election opinion polls had predicted it would struggle to win seats.

“I think it is not a defeat for the SNS but a defeat for the nation,” party leader Ján Slota declared, as quoted by the TASR newswire. “You will see in a short time which path Slovakia will go down. The first hints could be seen already at Most-Híd festivities where they celebrated by singing Hungarian songs.”

He added that one of the reasons why his party had not received enough votes was its treatment by the media. The media wrote about the SNS only in a negative context, he claimed.

The SNS said it plans to make a comeback in elections to the European Parliament in 2014, saying that the issues of EU centralisation, badly-designed subsidies for agriculture and the bailout fund, which it believes will probably go bankrupt, will be discussed.

The party will assess the election results at a congress and punish those responsible for the election failure, Slota said. Moreover, the party plans to check the vote-counting process, claiming it has “doubts about the correctness and transparency of the vote”.

“I have information about the misuse of the software,” said SNS deputy chair Andrej Danko, as quoted by TASR, adding that the party would compare the results presented by the Statistics Office with those collected by the party’s members.

However, political scientist Miroslav Kusý said the party’s demise had nothing to do with how votes were counted.

“The nationalists have absolutely failed because they did not have any positive programme,” Kusý told The Slovak Spectator, adding that they offered only blank statements and populist mottos which did not strike voters as realistic.

“And the leading figure [of the party], in this case Slota, has absolutely ceased to be interesting,” he added.

Malová said she believes that the SNS will certainly survive until the next parliamentary elections. She said that if Smer does not address nationalist issues, the SNS will fill the gap.

SMK could survive, say analysts

The SMK was the only other party to come near the 5-percent threshold. Though an exit poll by the MVK agency suggested that it might win 5.1 percent, it actually received the support of just 4.28 percent of voters, according to the official results.

“We had expected more than 5 percent, but we did not manage to make it into parliament,” said SMK leader József Berényi, as quoted by the SITA newswire, adding that some of the voters who left SMK in 2010 to vote for Most-Híd, founded by former SMK boss Béla Bugár, did not return to his party but instead decided to vote for Smer.

Berényi said that another reason the party did not receive more votes might have been what he called the massively negative campaign in southern Slovakia, where most ethnic Hungarians live.

The SMK failed to strike a pre-election deal to form a coalition with Most-Híd, which also has strong support among Hungarians. If the two parties had run jointly in the election, they could have gained 11 percent and become the biggest right-wing party in parliament, according to Berényi.

When asked whether survival was possible for the SMK – which lost all its seats in the 2010 elections after recording a result very similar to that on March 10 – Malová said it still had a chance.

“Similar to the national principle, the ethnic minority principle in our politics is also relatively strong, so the SMK has a chance of surviving over the next four years,” Malová told The Slovak Spectator, adding that it still has local organisations in many villages.

Kusý added that the advantage of the party is its relatively stable ethnic base, which decreased only after some voters defected to Most-Híd.

99 Percent takes just over 1.5 percent

One of the most controversial election campaigns was that of 99 Percent – Civic Voice, which was established only a few months before the election.

Just two weeks before the vote, the police announced that they were investigating the authenticity of the party’s registration petition, after 200 signatures reviewed in a preliminary check had all been found to be false.

The party received 1.58 percent of the votes on March 10, despite a poll conducted by the Focus agency during the first week of February predicting that it might win as much as 6.9 percent, and hence seats in parliament.

One of the party’s leaders and sponsors, Ivan Weiss, said that the party was harmed most by the reports of falsified signatures, Sme reported.

Malová said she believes that 99 Percent did not attract many voters since it was only “a virtual party”, which existed only in the virtual world and was represented only by billboards in the real world.

“99 Percent looked like a party of revolt and protest, but was not tangible for the Slovak voter,” she told The Slovak Spectator, adding that its members offered criticism and slogans, but did not specify what measures they would implement to improve the situation.

Kusý said that the party “was established only on negative emotions”, which attracted the attention of the public only through its controversial campaign which, he said, clearly violated the law.

The rest face oblivion

Future prospects look bleak for all the other parties, even those headed by relatively well-known figures, like the Free Forum of former SDKÚ deputy chair Zuzana Martináková; Change from Below, led by one of the leaders of the Velvet Revolution, Ján Budaj; and the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), led by former prime minister Vladimír Mečiar. The fall of the latter has been precipitous: the HZDS controlled the government for much of the 1990s and as recently as the 2002 election was the most popular party in Slovakia; on March 10 it polled less than 1 percent.

When asked whether it would be possible for the HZDS to make a comeback, Malová said this was now out of the question.

“I don’t believe that Vladimír Mečiar is even interested [in returning to parliament],” she told The Slovak Spectator.

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