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Regional run-offs to conclude

SLOVAKS will take to the polling stations for the second time in a month on November 23, this time voting for regional governors in the Bratislava, Trnava, Nitra, Banská Bystrica and Košice self-governing regions (known by the Slovak acronym VÚCs), where in the first round no candidate received a majority of votes. Though Banská Bystrica grabbed most of the attention when a right-wing extremist made it into the run-off, Prime Minister Robert Fico has turned his attention to Trnava by endorsing a Slovak candidate over an ethnic Hungarian.

SLOVAKS will take to the polling stations for the second time in a month on November 23, this time voting for regional governors in the Bratislava, Trnava, Nitra, Banská Bystrica and Košice self-governing regions (known by the Slovak acronym VÚCs), where in the first round no candidate received a majority of votes. Though Banská Bystrica grabbed most of the attention when a right-wing extremist made it into the run-off, Prime Minister Robert Fico has turned his attention to Trnava by endorsing a Slovak candidate over an ethnic Hungarian.

Three of the eight self-governing regions elected their leaders in the first round: incumbent Peter Chudík, supported by Smer, Our Region and the Party of Modern Slovakia, won the Prešov race, and Smer-backed incumbent Juraj Blanár secured his position in Žilina. Trenčín went to Smer candidate Jaroslav Baška.

In Banská Bystrica, incumbent and Smer candidate Vladimír Maňka will square off against far-right extremist Marian Kotleba, with a number of politicians from across the political spectrum having expressed their support for Maňka against Kotleba in the name of fighting for democratic principles. Fico blamed right-wing parties for Kotleba’s success, arguing that they were unable to pick a strong enough candidate to face Maňka. (Note: The Slovak Spectator will provide detailed information on the results of the run-offs at spectator.sk)

Political analysts however suggested that it was partly anti-Roma sentiments and partly the legitimisation of nationalist discourse by Fico’s first government that fuelled the success of Kotleba of People’s Party – Our Slovakia (ĽSNS).

Ľudovít Kaník, the regional head of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) who lost in the first round of the governor’s election, leaving the second post in Banská Bystrica to Kotleba, refrained from endorsing either candidate. SDKÚ head Pavol Frešo, running for the post in Bratislava, however said he “would vote for Maňka” if he were in Banská Bystrica Region.

Nevertheless, the SDKÚ party itself said on November 19 that it would not endorse either of the candidates.

In Trnava, incumbent Tibor Mikuš will face József Berényi, the head of the Party of Hungarian Community (SMK), in the second round. Berényi is supported by opposition party Most-Híd.

Fico travelled to Trnava to support Smer candidate Mikuš, where he tried to convince inhabitants to vote for the Slovak candidate, saying that people should come to the elections, because if they do not, others will.

“If Most-Híd and SMK tell us that they are participating in this election to elect in Trnava, a Slovak town, a Hungarian governor, I answer: Let us join Slovaks in Slovak political parties and let us elect Tibor Mikuš,” Fico said, as quoted by the SITA newswire.

Berényi called Fico’s statements “an unnecessary seeking of conflict”, SITA reported.

Fico divides voters into Slovaks and Hungarians and brings nationalism into the regional elections, Most-Híd chair Béla Bugár told a press conference, as reported by SITA, at which he also expressed his party’s support for the centre-right candidate in Bratislava, Pavol Frešo.

Indeed the right-leaning parties have been calling on the voters to support Frešo, who was the sole right-wing supported candidate to win the first round of VÚC elections with 48.8 percent, leaving behind Smer’s Monika Flašíková-Beňová, who picked up 24.1 percent, by a considerable margin and missing out on a first round victory by just 1.2 percent.

“It turns out that where the right-wing sticks together, we are able to defeat the left-wing,” said Freedom and Solidarity boss Richard Sulík, who refused to endorse Maňka against the extremist Kotleba, according to the TASR newswire.

Zdenko Trebuľa, supported by Smer, Most-Híd and SMK, won the first round in Košice Region with 48.6 percent, and will face Rudolf Bauer in the second round, backed by the Conservative Democrats of Slovakia (KDS), who garnered 24.5 percent.

Nitra Region will see a second round run-off between Milan Belica of Smer, the Slovak National Party (SNS) and the Agrarian Party of the Countryside, who picked up 46.9 percent, and Tomáš Galbavý, the joint candidate of the SDKÚ, Most-Híd, NOVA, OKS, SaS and SMK, who collected 37.3 percent.

Galbavý succeeded thanks to the support of the Hungarian parties in a region with a large number of ethnic Hungarians. He recorded the most significant victory, at 75.94 percent, in Štúrovo, a border town. Northern parts of the region voted for Belica, according to Sme.
In Nitra there was a “wide-Slovak coalition” in several elections which united both opposition and coalition parties to weaken the election success of ethnic Hungarian candidates in areas heavily populated by ethnic Hungarians.

In the first round of regional elections, 20.11 percent of 4,463,039 eligible voters cast their ballots, with Banská Bystrica Region posting the highest turnout at 24.6 percent, followed by Prešov with 22.1 percent. The lowest turnouts were in the Trenčín (17.4 percent) and Trnava regions (17.5 percent).

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