THE SLOVAK Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), once the pre-eminent force in Slovak centre-right politics, would not make it into parliament if a general election were held now, according to at least two recent polls. The party appears to be racked by internal disagreements over its future direction – a crisis partly mirrored over in the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), another centre-right opposition party. As well as seeing a former deputy leader break away to set up his own party, the KDH recently witnessed one of its remaining MPs, Radoslav Procházka, attack the party’s present course and then establish his own so-called ‘platform’, named Alfa, within the party.
Daniel Lipšic, the breakaway deputy leader, claims that hundreds of former SDKÚ and KDH members are interested in joining his New Majority party, which has now been registered with the Interior Ministry. And a third opposition party, Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO), has seen Alojz Hlina, one of its leading figures, quit, complaining about its leader’s style.
Since the parliamentary elections in March 2012, when Robert Fico and his Smer party won a landslide victory, the defeated right-wing parties which had run the country in a four-party coalition for less than two years have been trying to figure out what it is they stand for and what policy themes might present a viable alternative to the new government’s. Analysts say that the opposition parties have been preoccupied with their own affairs, amplifying their disunity.
The chair of Smer’s parliamentary caucus, Jana Laššáková called the situation on the right “critical”, according to the SITA newswire. She suggested that her party currently faces no serious opponent – and even expressed regret at the current state of affairs.
The unification of the right-wing is necessary but, according to Lipšic, the leader of New Majority, it should happen not at the level of parties but instead at the level of voters and sympathisers.
Lipšic, who formally registered New Majority with the Interior Ministry on September 25, said his party was not interested in integrating old politicians from the existing parties, but instead wanted to group people with a clear record, regardless of which party they had previously participated in. When pressed for specific examples by journalists, Lipšic listed his former comrade Procházka and former justice minister Lucia Žitňanská, who was defeated by Pavol Frešo in the race for the SDKÚ leadership.
“If we want to create a decent alternative, we have to create a team of trusted people and a programme,” Lipšic said, as quoted by SITA. “Voters need hope and a new programme.”
Meanwhile, former SDKÚ member and mayor of Šaľa Jozef Mečiar joined New Majority, claiming as he did so that hundreds of former members of the SDKÚ and KDH were interested in doing the same, the Sme daily reported.
The SDKÚ responded on November 5 by saying that a situation in which every deputy who quits a party establishes his or her own political body is not a means to integrate, merely a route to greater chaos.
“The creation of every new party gives a chance to a couple of people for a career leap – be it a long-term deputy chairman to become a chairman of a party, or a regional politician to become a member of the top management [of a party],” read the SDKÚ statement, as quoted by SITA.
The SDKÚ said that the right wing needs unity in order to create an alternative to the current government, which it described as “socialist”. The party’s statement also insisted that the situation within its own ranks was stabilising.
The SDKÚ’s troubles
The new SDKÚ programme, which the party plans to introduce on November 17 at a meeting of its central body, has meanwhile divided party members, with several key figures, including Žitňanská, former finance minister Ivan Mikloš, MP Miroslav Beblavý and deputy chairman Ivan Štefanec, listing serious reservations about its so-called “tax revolution” proposal revealed in a document that Frešo earlier distributed to party members, Sme reported on November 6.
“I do not consider it a good idea and I will discuss it with members of the party,” Štefanec said, as quoted by Sme.
The chairman of the SDKÚ’s economic section, Tomáš Meravý, led an impromptu one-man revolt against the plans. In a Facebook post quoted by Sme he called on Frešo, party secretary Štefan Kužma and Ľudovít Kaník, the head of its parliamentary caucus, to resign immediately and summon a party congress. The SDKÚ leadership quickly stripped Meravý of all his positions in the party, Sme reported.
“The crisis in the SDKÚ started a year ago and so far the new leadership has not managed to solve it,” Beblavý said, as quoted by Sme.
Meanwhile, Frešo said that internal debate in the party does not mean that there is a conflict, adding that that party was debating these issues in order to make itself stronger.
The KDH, Alfa and Lipšic
Procházka, who introduced his Alfa platform within the KDH in mid October, said that his aim is to weaken the cartel-like nature of Slovak politics. He set out his own proposal for a change to the electoral system, which he said would result in transferring more power to voters at the expense of party headquarters, and in more regional balance. Procházka said that the establishment of his platform is a response to the current state of Slovakia as well as the current state of affairs within the KDH. He added that he aspires to win over people within the KDH to his programme, and gain a mandate to push the programme through.
Juraj Marušiak, a political scientist with the Institute of Political Sciences, part of the Slovak Academy of Sciences (SAV), said that he does not think the KDH will adopt any of the Alfa agenda, at least for now.
In the past, Procházka was close to Lipšic, and they were both critical about the way the party was being run.
“The problem might be that he has formulated his position towards the current leadership of the KDH in a too confrontational manner,” Marušiak told The Slovak Spectator.
Marušiak, however, does not think that if the KDH rejects Alfa Procházka will move towards Lipšic’s new party.
Political scientist Miroslav Kusý called Alfa a “valuable initiative within the still waters not only in the KDH, but also the whole opposition”. However, he also added that the initiative might be slightly utopian.
“Probably it will not find the greatest response, but in any case it will cause the ice to move within the KDH and make the opposition think about what should come next,” Kusý said. “But I am sceptical as far as the results are concerned and I assume that Procházka will remain alone within the KDH and will eventually leave, with his platform.”
Kusý, like Marušiak, does not think that the KDH will adopt the ideas of the Alfa platform since these are “far too blasphemous” for the party, which might mind the sharp criticism.
“Perhaps they will react that Procházka might have ambitions that are much too great and that it is better to wait and carefully consider any change,” Kusý told The Slovak Spectator, adding that it would be a fairly big surprise if they accepted the initiative.
Kusý noted that Procházka has so far kept his distance from Lipšic. “Lipšic’s programme is pragmatic, while Procházka focuses instead on basic and more fundamental issues. Of course some process of getting closer is possible and perhaps it would also be logical if it happens,” he commented.
Nevertheless, Kusý added that he is not certain whether Procházka and Lipšic will be able to operate in line with the “art of compromise, since politics is the art of compromise and the art of the possible”.
“But both of them, especially Lipšic, have been in politics long enough to understand this challenge,” Kusý said, adding that together they would be stronger, while individually they are unlikely to have any strong say in politics.
OĽaNO has also been experiencing some upheaval lately. MP Alojz Hlina, one of its highest profile members, quit the party, citing its status and the behaviour of leader Igor Matovič as his main reasons, the TASR newswire reported on October 26.
“Igor Matovič crossed the line I’m willing to accept,” Hlina said, as quoted by TASR, referring to an incident on October 25 when Matovič addressed him using vulgar language during a parliamentary session.
Moreover, Hlina objected to OĽaNO’s current status as a loose grouping of independent personalities that does not have a solid institutional and organisational structure. He argued that with the exception of an extra-parliamentary party led by extremist leader Marian Kotleba, OĽaNO is the only party whose brand is not owned by the party but by the leader himself, SITA reported.
Matovič responded that Hlina had long been searching for a pretext to leave the party and is satisfied now, as he seems to have finally found one. Nonetheless, he was otherwise reluctant to comment on Hlina’s decision, TASR wrote.