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SLOVAK WORD OF THE WEEK

Šúchať nohami

“I WILL just shuffle my feet (šúchať nohami) and wait for the results,” was the phrase Prime Minister Robert Fico kept repeating before the first round of the presidential elections. Well, it seems his heel injury has taken its toll, as the shuffling just wasn’t enough. The meagre 28 percent he received must be a bitter disappointment for the PM, who never went below 35 percent in recent polls and whose Smer party received 45 percent in the 2012 parliamentary elections.

“I WILL just shuffle my feet (šúchať nohami) and wait for the results,” was the phrase Prime Minister Robert Fico kept repeating before the first round of the presidential elections. Well, it seems his heel injury has taken its toll, as the shuffling just wasn’t enough. The meagre 28 percent he received must be a bitter disappointment for the PM, who never went below 35 percent in recent polls and whose Smer party received 45 percent in the 2012 parliamentary elections.

There may be three main reasons for the fallout. Firstly, some Fico supporters may have correctly considered his victory in this weekend’s vote a sure thing and failed to show up, planning to come only for the second round. However, it is not likely that this alone could secure his victory. Voter turnout was very similar to the first rounds in 2004 and 2009. Five years ago, it only went up by around eight points in the second round, 10 years ago it went down. Considering that Andrej Kiska will likely gain most of the 30-plus percent that went to Radoslav Procházka and Milan Kňažko, Fico would need much wider mobilisation from his supporters to win.

The second reason could be that many Smer voters want Fico to stay where he is – at the head of the government. The party itself quoted surveys that showed this sentiment during the long months when its chairman kept silent about his plans to run.

But lastly, it may well be that some voters are just fed up with Fico. Until now, he has done well in the polls for the lack of a credible alternative. But people such as Kiska or Procházka might be able to not only attract disappointed former voters of the right, but also reach out to many in the political centre.

In any case, an election loss would be a disaster for Fico. That is why in the next two weeks we are going to see less shuffling around and much more kicking.

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