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UPDATED: Five remaining regional leaders elected; extremist wins in Banská Bystrica

VOTERS in five remaining self-governing regions, known by Slovaks under the acronym VÚCs, have elected their leaders in the second round of regional elections held on November 23. Banská Bystrica grabbed most of the attention when a right-wing extremist, Marian Kotleba, who has a history of racist statements and acts, won the second-round run-off, according to the official results confirmed by the Central Election Commission on November 24.

VOTERS in five remaining self-governing regions, known by Slovaks under the acronym VÚCs, have elected their leaders in the second round of regional elections held on November 23. Banská Bystrica grabbed most of the attention when a right-wing extremist, Marian Kotleba, who has a history of racist statements and acts, won the second-round run-off, according to the official results confirmed by the Central Election Commission on November 24.

Election turnout was low, only 17.29 percent, according to official results.

Prime Minister Robert Fico restated that his party Smer is the victor of the elections.

“We have six governors of the eight and 25 regional councillors more than in the previous period,” Fico said, as quoted by SITA newswire, adding that Bratislava, where the incumbent backed by the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) won, is a specific case: “Here all of them united against Smer.”

In Bratislava Region incumbent Pavol Frešo, backed by the SDKÚ, Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), Most-Híd, Party of Hungarian Community (SMK), Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), Civic Conservative Party (OKS) and Green Party, collected 74.2 percent of the vote and defeated Monika Flašíková-Beňová, supported by Smer, who picked up 25.8 percent, according to the official results.

In Banská Bystrica Region Kotleba of the People’s Party – Our Slovakia (ĽSNS) garnered 55.5 percent, thus defeating Vladimír Maňka, back by Smer, KDH, SMK, Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), Movement for Democracy and the Green Party, who collected 44.5 percent.

In Košice Region Zdenko Trebuľa, backed by Smer, Most-Híd and SMK, won the second round with 53.1 percent, while his rival Rudolf Bauer, backed by the Conservative Democrats of Slovakia (KDS), garnered 46.9 percent.

Nitra Region saw a second round race between Milan Belica of Smer, SNS and the Agrarian Party of the Countryside, and Tomáš Galbavý, the joint candidate of the SDKÚ, Most-Híd, New Majority-Agreement (NOVA), OKS, SaS and SMK. Belica collected 55.6 percent of the vote, defeating Galbavy, with 44.4 percent.

In Trnava Region, Tibor Mikuš backed by Smer, SNS and the Communist Party of Slovakia (KSS), collected 60.3 percent, while his rival József Berényi supported by SMK and OKS, took 39.7 percent of the vote, according to the official results.

There were three candidates who won the first round of elections: incumbent Peter Chudík, supported by Smer, Our Region and the Party of Modern Slovakia, won the Prešov race, and incumbent Juraj Blanár, supported by Smer, secured his position in Žilina, while Trenčín went to Smer candidate Jaroslav Baška.

Extremist’s victory

Kotleba’s victory has shocked observers, political party leaders and human rights activists.

Prime Minister Robert Fico blamed the right wing and its voters, who refused to vote for the Smer candidate, for Kotleba’s victory. He primarily attributed the result to the fact that the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) and Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) did not endorse Maňka, the SITA newswire reported.

The prime minister also blamed the media, arguing that journalists did a massive campaign for Kotleba. He nevertheless still supports Maňka and sees no reason to review his performance in the party.

Political scientist Samuel Abrahám however said that Kotleba’s victory brings shame to the present political representation as well as all political representations in Slovakia since the Velvet Revolution.

“A great share of guilt lies with all political representations, first of all the current one, Smer, which not even in hints has been addressing the Roma issue,” Abrahám, who also serves as rector of the Bratislava International School of Liberal Arts (BISLA), told SITA.

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