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VÚC VOTE: Far-right leader Kotleba wins in Banská Bystrica

VOTERS in the Banská Bystrica Region have elected Marian Kotleba, who has a history of racist statements and acts, to lead the self-governing region, known by Slovaks under the acronym VÚC. Kotleba of the People’s Party – Our Slovakia (ĽSNS), picked up 55.6 percent in the second round run-off and thus defeated Vladimír Maňka, backed by Smer, KDH, SMK, Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), Movement for Democracy and the Green Party, who collected 44.3 percent, according to unofficial results published by the Slovak Statistics Office.

VOTERS in the Banská Bystrica Region have elected Marian Kotleba, who has a history of racist statements and acts, to lead the self-governing region, known by Slovaks under the acronym VÚC. Kotleba of the People’s Party – Our Slovakia (ĽSNS), picked up 55.6 percent in the second round run-off and thus defeated Vladimír Maňka, backed by Smer, KDH, SMK, Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), Movement for Democracy and the Green Party, who collected 44.3 percent, according to unofficial results published by the Slovak Statistics Office.

Kotleba finished as the regional councillor with the single biggest voter support in the whole country in absolute numbers in the first round.

Prime Minister Robert Fico blamed right-wing parties for Kotleba’s success in the first-round, arguing that they were unable to pick a strong enough candidate to face Maňka. 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 ĽSNS.

Beating the opposition candidate of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) Ľudovít Kaník, Kotleba advanced into the November 23 second round with more than 21 percent of the vote.

Kotleba, originally a secondary school teacher, is well-known on the margins of the Slovak political scene. He founded and led the Slovenská Pospolitosť (Slovak Togetherness) far-right political party, which was later banned by the Interior Ministry and existed only as a civic organisation. He frequently organised and participated in anti-Roma demonstrations or marches commemorating the Nazi-allied wartime Slovak state and its president Jozef Tiso. He has been detained and charged repeatedly for crimes including racial defamation.

Observers originally had said that they saw almost no chance for Kotleba to succeed in the second round against the Smer candidate, but nonetheless found his strong showing disturbing.

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