Extremist leader Marian Kotleba of People’s Party – Our Slovakia (ĽSNS) has made it to the second round of the governor’s race in the Banská Bystrica Region, in a result viewed as one of the biggest and most controversial surprises of the regional election results.
Originally, observers had expected that Ľudovít Kaník, supported by the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), Most-Híd and Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), would be the most serious challenger to Vladimír Maňka, backed by Smer, Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK), the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), Movement for Democracy and the Green Party.
Maňka won 49.5 percent and will face Kotleba, who picked up 21.3 percent of the vote, in a runoff round. Kaník collected only 15.1 percent of the vote.
Prime Minister Robert Fico blamed the right-wing parties for Kotleba garnering 26,251 votes in the Banská Bystrica Region.
“Vladimír Maňka is the clear winner and the question is not why he did not win by a half percent more, but why Mr Kaník was defeated by an extremist,” Fico commented on the results, as quoted by the TASR newswire.
Fico however claimed that “we [Smer] have not been defeated by leftist extremism”, suggesting that the right wing was supported by right-wing extremism and that a problem in the right-wing political spectrum has allowed people like Kotleba to defeat standard parties, as reported by the Sme daily.
The prime minister has also said that Maňka will win the second round in a sovereign way.
Yet, Kaník said that the victor of the Banská Bystrica race is Kotleba, adding that “unhappy voters are escaping to a dead-end”, according to Sme.
Kotleba, the former head of Slovenská Pospolitosť, an organisation banned for its extremist activities, has a long record of anti-Roma rallies and controversial statements addressing the Roma community.
KDH Chairman Ján Figeľ said that his party did not support the former minister of labour Kaník, but if the SDKÚ had submitted a different candidate, an agreement on cooperation may have been possible.
“The KDH supported and supports Maňka,” said Figeľ, adding that he rejects opinions that Kaník is a social monster, but “it is true that he has not won the support of the KDH”.
Irena Bihariová with the People Against Racism organisation said that many might have found his populist words focused at the Roma minority and has forgotten that Kotleba started with anti-Semitism and denying Holocaust while “later he understood that by this he cannot address the masses”, according to Sme.