Right wing extremist wins governor vote

IF THE SUCCESS of the extremist Marian Kotleba in the first round of the governor election in the Banská Bystrica region came as a cold shower to Slovaks, his eventual victory over the Smer candidate, incumbent Vladimír Maňka, in the run-off, left most of the country frozen in disbelief.

IF THE SUCCESS of the extremist Marian Kotleba in the first round of the governor election in the Banská Bystrica region came as a cold shower to Slovaks, his eventual victory over the Smer candidate, incumbent Vladimír Maňka, in the run-off, left most of the country frozen in disbelief.

Kotleba received more than 71,000 votes in the run-off, which accounted for 55.5 percent of the vote, against MEP and Smer Deputy Chairman Vladimír Maňka, who was backed also by the Greens, the Movement for Democracy (HZD), the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), the Party of Modern Slovakia (SMS), the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) and the Party of Hungarian Communities (SMK), and Most-Híd.

The Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) regional leaders, namely its regional head Ľudovít Kaník who came third in the first round of the governor election and thus did not move on to the runoff, did not recommend their voters vote for Maňka.

Prime Minister Robert Fico was quick to blame the SDKÚ and another rightist party, Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) for not supporting the Smer candidate against Kotleba.

“Voters of the right surely voted for Kotleba in order to see Smer lose,” Fico said as quoted by the Sme daily, adding that for the right even “Antichrist, Satan, Hitler, Mussolini” would be better than Maňka.

Observers smashed the reaction of the prime minister as demagogic, saying that all politicians carry their part of responsibility for the development.

Elena Gallová Kriglerová from the Centre for Research of Ethnicity and Culture (CVEK) believes that the statements and politics that politicians have been making in the past 20 years have contributed to the success of Kotleba now.

“Often even in the standard political sphere there would occur opinions that did not have much in common with the human rights standards,” Gallová Kriglerová told The Slovak Spectator. “And the measures they proposed or passed were often very radical, trying to punish people for their situation rather than trying to solve the problems in a participative or really effective way.”

In the spotlight

The position Kotleba just won signifies more than just election success to him and his party, observers agree.

Political analyst Miroslav Kusý believes it is dangerous that Kotleba should now be in the centre of media attention since “also negative promotion is promotion”.

“He will be getting it for free now all through his election term, with the media focusing on him and informing about him,” Kusý told The Slovak Spectator.

Gallová Kriglerová noted that the position of Kotleba will open the public discourse to him and his party allies.

“They will be real players now, and they will be able to present their opinions much easier and they will be more present in the public discourse,” Gallová Kriglerová told The Slovak Spectator.

Alone against the council?

Tensions between the regional council, where Kotleba has no formal ally at the moment, and the governor, will also put him in the light that he is standing alone and is not able to carry out his plans because of the resistance of the councillors, according to Kusý. In result, after four years people might feel he needs more support in order to get some allies in the council, “unless he clashes with the common sense of the voters who might get to see that what he promises are only general, empty phrases with no concrete content”.

The Party of Hungarian Communities (SMK), which holds five posts in the newly-elected regional council, announced they will boycott Kotleba, the TASR newswire reported.

The decisive voice in the Banská Bystrica regional council is on the ruling Smer party, which holds 25 posts out of 49. The Smer representatives did not make it clear immediately after the election whether they would boycott Koleba, Sme reported.

Some councillors for Smer have hinted that the council might curb the competencies of Kotleba in the governor post, Sme wrote.

Gallová Kriglerová however voiced concern that despite the strong statements of some politicians now, Kotleba might not be that isolated in the council after all.

“I am afraid that many local and regional politicians share his opinions,” she told The Slovak Spectator. “I cannot tell how they will act, but they will not be able to refuse any communication with him, since he will be the regional governor. And I can imagine that even in the standard political spectrum he will find a sympathetic ear when for some of his proposals or solutions.”

Politicians on regional as well as national level now have a big responsibility to distance themselves from Kotleba, according to Gallová Kriglerová, but not only in their declarations and reactions to the elections, but with all their political activities.

“For 20 years the Roma issues have only been solved in a repressive way, by cutting allowances, and by throwing them even more into poverty,” Gallová Kriglerová said. “But there are many positive examples, mainly on the local level, that show that if Roma are made to participate in municipal companies, the effects on the whole community are better.”

Radka Minarechová contributed to this report

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