FORMER interior minister Daniel Lipšic, who in May this year quit the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) after more than a decade as a member arguing that his vision for Slovakia was no longer compatible with its approach, has now announced he is setting up a new party. New Majority, as it will be called, will add yet another name to the plethora of groupings already perched on the right wing of Slovak politics.
Lipšic, a Harvard Law School graduate, said he is not offering cosmetic changes to disillusioned people since “the time for cosmetic changes is over and Slovakia needs to be built anew. What does this mean? New politics, morals, economy and public services,” he said.
At almost the same time that Lipšic was introducing his new political project, which he said would not be a ‘virtual movement’ – i.e. an internet-based party – but would instead rely on specific people in every municipality, his former colleague Radoslav Procházka said he would establish what he called a ‘new platform’ within the KDH.
Political analysts predict some hard months ahead for the parties on the right and suggest that centre-right voters who, after their defeat in the March general election, had hoped to see some unity emerge at this end of the political spectrum now risk being further disillusioned.
The centre-right, providing its core support holds up, will have to somehow divide up the same number of supporters, which means that some parties will lose support and no one will have enough votes to become relevant, political scientist Miroslav Kusý told The Slovak Spectator.
Lipšic argued at his party’s launch that 20 years after Slovakia gained its independence people do not want to pick the lesser evil, “they want someone who will not steal”.
A petition to gather the 10,000 signatures required for the party to be registered with the Interior Ministry was launched on September 3 and Lipšic, along with fellow independent MP and ex-KDH member Jana Žitňanská, a former journalist, hopes to reach the target by late October. The founders of the movement have collected €10,000 and pledge that every donation, regardless of size, will be made public. If a potential donor does not want their donation to be publicised the party will not accept their money, Lipšic said, as quoted by the SITA newswire. However, Lipšic said he envisions a low-cost party.
The new politics, Lipšic said, mean that the government should exist for the people and not the other way around. He added that he wants to reach a “societal agreement from which a new constitution would emerge that people will approve in a referendum”. Lipšic proposed that at least half of the seats in parliament be elected via single-mandate constituencies, and that judges and prosecutors be elected as well, SITA reported.
Lipšic said that during the summer he had met thousands of people in Slovak towns and villages and that these meetings had confirmed that “Slovakia has many decent people”. He added that up to four barbecue meetings a day was a lot, but that it had been worth it. Lipšic referred to his campaign, which was built around travelling and barbecue parties, as a form of barnstorming.
On the economy, Lipšic promised jobs for the long-term unemployed, saying that there are enough jobs at public hospitals and municipalities but that some unemployed people do not want to work. Lipšic added that if such people refuse to take jobs they would lose eligibility for state support, SITA reported.
Procházka said on August 30 that he had been working all summer with colleagues and supporters on the launch of a new platform, which will pursue a programme called “A Strong Society, a Simple State”. Speaking on September 3, after Lipšic had announced his plans, Procházka insisted that his own platform would not contribute to the fragmentation of the right.
“The platform is primarily aimed at two objectives: providing an outline of a centre-right programme for the times ahead, but without contributing to a further fragmentation of the Slovak centre-right,” said Procházka, as quoted by the TASR newswire.
Nevertheless, Procházka, who was formerly close to Lipšic and whom some pundits had expected to quit the KDH with him, was critical of the ambitions of his former party colleague: “I profess the need for a change in the generations in Slovak politics, while at the same time I feel the need for integrating centre-right politics. Both of these aspects need to be met at the same time, whereas Daniel Lipšic’s new party meets only one of them partially, while giving up on the other completely.”
Slovak Christian and Democratic Union (SDKÚ) leader Pavol Frešo suggested that further splitting of the centre-right parties is certainly good news for Smer, the ruling party, adding that the right-wing parties can beat Smer only if they pull together. He also said that he had not detected any ideas that Lipšic was offering that could not be carried out within the scope of the existing parties, TASR wrote.
Smer MP Dušan Jarjabek suggested that Lipšic’s choice of name for his new party, New Majority, might come to be seen as unfortunate if it turns out to be just a “tiny minority”. Commenting on Procházka’s plan, Jarjabek compared the process to “rightist cells dividing endlessly”, TASR reported.
The agonies of the right wing
On the question of how right-wing voters will respond to the creation of New Majority, Kusý suggested that they would be disappointed since “the expectation of the right-wing voter is that the right wing is able in some way to unify and what is happening now is further disintegration”.
Political analyst Grigorij Mesežnikov, president of the Institute for Public Affairs (IVO), does not expect either Lipšic’s or Procházka’s initiatives to elicit much enthusiasm among voters. He predicts that Lipšic will appeal to a group of supporters who are disappointed with the current situation and the fact that the centre-right parties have effectively handed power to Fico. He told The Slovak Spectator that it would be very hard to gauge support initially and that he could not foretell whether Lipšic would garner the 5-percent support that will eventually be necessary for the party to win seats in parliament.
As for why Procházka did not join Lipšic, Mesežnikov suggested that Procházka has a completely different history in the KDH, and that Lipšic perhaps feels he owes less to the party after having served in it for 15 years.
“Obviously, they have a different view on the situation in the KDH and the chances of revitalising the party,” Mesežnikov told The Slovak Spectator, adding that Procházka might harbour rather more optimism.
The reasons why Procházka is diverging from the mainstream KDH might be very similar to Lipšic’s reasons for quitting altogether, according to Kusý. These reasons are disillusionment and discontent over the situation within the party.
Will Procházka’s platform weaken the KDH?
“Yes, it can if it brings some conflict to the KDH,” Mesežnikov said, adding that if there were no such conflict and he were able to win substantial support then it could increase the voter preferences of the KDH. “As yet I do not see that there would be any great enthusiasm towards such a platform within the KDH.”
Radka Minarechová contributed to this story