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Smer paints Slovakia’s electoral map red

ROBERT Fico, whose Smer party won 44.41 percent of the vote in a landslide victory in Slovakia’s March 10 parliamentary elections, has painted Slovakia’s political map red – the party’s campaign colour. It emerged in first place in an astonishing 77 of the country’s 79 districts. Smer even took the capital, Bratislava, with 30.69 percent of the vote, double the support of any of its political rivals. It thereby went some way to overcoming the conventional wisdom that Smer appeals mainly to rural voters and that larger cities – Bratislava in particular – tend to vote for right-wing parties.

ROBERT Fico, whose Smer party won 44.41 percent of the vote in a landslide victory in Slovakia’s March 10 parliamentary elections, has painted Slovakia’s political map red – the party’s campaign colour. It emerged in first place in an astonishing 77 of the country’s 79 districts. Smer even took the capital, Bratislava, with 30.69 percent of the vote, double the support of any of its political rivals. It thereby went some way to overcoming the conventional wisdom that Smer appeals mainly to rural voters and that larger cities – Bratislava in particular – tend to vote for right-wing parties.

Only in the south-western districts of Dunajská Streda and Komárno, which have a high proportion of ethnic Hungarians, did other parties – in these two cases, Most-Híd and the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) respectively – emerge on top. Nevertheless, the SMK failed to clear the 5-percent national threshold required to make it into parliament. Smer harvested its biggest share of support in Čadca, in the north-west, where 67.9 percent of voters opted for the party; by contrast, it received only 6.11 percent of the vote in Dunajská Streda, the Statistics Office reported.

Political analysts ascribe Fico’s massive victory to the effect of the Gorilla file, a leaked document which features purported transcripts from bugged conversations that imply high-level political corruption during the last government of Mikuláš Dzurinda in 2005-6; to the collapse last year of the right-wing government of Iveta Radičová; and to the large proportion – almost 20 percent – of votes that went to parties that failed to clear the 5-percent threshold.

Back in 2002, Smer won only 13.46 percent in the general election of that year, despite opinion polls indicating its support was much higher. Four years later, in 2006, Fico got 29.14 percent of the votes and formed a controversial coalition with the nationalist Slovak National Party (SNS) and Vladimír Mečiar’s Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS). That coalition commanded 85 votes in the 150-seat parliament. In 2010 Smer’s vote increased again, to 34.8 percent, but it lost power after voters gave a broad spread of centre-right parties the chance to govern. The four-party coalition that emerged from that election fell apart just over a year later, in October 2011, in a dispute over Slovakia’s contribution to the second eurozone bailout package for Greece.

Along with Smer, five other parties cleared the 5-percent threshold required to win seats in the 2012 election. The Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) and Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO) got 16 seats each, Most-Híd 13 seats, and the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) and Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) 11 seats each.

The overall turnout in the general election was 59.11 percent, with the highest regional turnout in Žilina Region (63.75 percent) and the lowest in Košice Region (53.78 percent), according to the Statistics Office. Turnout was up on 2010, when it was 58.8 percent, and 2006, when it was 54.7 percent.

Political scientist Miroslav Kusý attributed Fico’s election result to the Gorilla affair, which he said had negatively affected the SDKÚ in particular. The second factor he cited was the fact that the government of Iveta Radičová collapsed due to its own inability to reach agreement. “It was defeated by itself, not from outside by Smer”, Kusý told The Slovak Spectator, adding that what people saw were the quarrels and lack of unity within the ruling coalition.

Kusý said the third factor was the pre-announced departure of Iveta Radičová from politics and the fact that she had expressed dissatisfaction with the practices that dominated the coalition and also her own party, the SDKÚ.

Darina Malová, head of the political sciences department at Comenius University, said that Smer’s programme and the way Fico ran his campaign, which revolved around promises of economic certainty and a socially-oriented state, closely matched the mood in Slovakia, considering the fact that wages are quite low on average.

“People were able to identify with it [Smer’s programme],” Malová told The Slovak Spectator, adding that the low-earning public was more attuned to such messages.

Malová added that the inability of the right-wing parties to communicate their messages to voters also contributed to the situation.

Marek Rybář, also from the political sciences department of Comenius University, told The Slovak Spectator that the election results could be attributed to Smer’s ability to attract almost 250,000 more votes than in the last election, as well as to the fact that about 20 percent of votes went to parties that failed to make it over the 5-percent threshold, and were thus wasted.
“It seems that these wasted votes took their toll on the parliamentary parties, with only Smer profiting from the situation,” Rybář said.

Radka Minarechová and Peter Bagin contributed to this report

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