THE DISASTROUS performance by Pavol Hrušovský, the joint candidate of the People’s Platform alliance of right-leaning parliamentary opposition parties, was among the biggest presidential election surprises – so much so that it has led to the end of the one-time opposition alliance.
Comprised of his mother party, the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), plus the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) and Most-Híd, the People’s Platform candidate Hrušovský received a mere 3.3 percent of the vote in the March 15 presidential election, finishing not only well below the expectations from the pre-election polls (between 5 and 8 percent), but also much below the preferences of his own party, the KDH, which currently polls around 8 percent.
“Since the very beginning we reckoned it was a bad choice from the part of those three parties, but such a deep fall was not expected,” political analyst Miroslav Kusý told The Slovak Spectator.
Despite that, observers of the Slovak political scene do not dismiss the chances of the parties of the People’s Platform completely, even though the idea of the Platform alone seems to be over.
Hrušovský spent the evening of the elections at his home in Nitra, and refused to talk to the media.
Life goes on?
“It’s not the end, life goes on in politics,” he told a press conference a day later, dismissing any suggestions that he might retire from political life now.
Hrušovský however admitted that the result was a disappointment and a failure that needs to be analysed.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t convince the voters that we had the best candidate,” KDH Chairman Ján Figeľ said.
The low vote count for Hrušovský indeed suggests that even the KDH voters were far from convinced he was the best candidate the centre-right could offer. Kusý called Hrušovský “a worn out politician long past his zenith and who never stood out with any particular qualities”.
“Even as a parliament speaker he was the type of a bureaucrat in a high post,” Kusý said. “No vision, no ideas about the future, just one that wanted to suit every side.”
Institute for Public Affairs President Grigorij Mesežnikov agrees that the peak of Hrušovský’s political career is over and the rightist parties did not do well to choose him. He believes that supporting a non-partisan candidate, one that was already in the race or bringing in a new candidate, would have been a much better option.
“But back then they saw the support of a candidate who is not even a member of one of the three parties as a total heresy,” Mesežnikov said.
Kusý mentioned intensive pre-election internal talks within the SDKÚ to support independent candidate Milan Kňažko.
“If they did [officially endorse him], Kňažko’s result could have been much better, incomparably better to the one of Hrušovský and definitely incomparably better than what he achieved alone, without this endorsement,” Kusý concluded.
Sociologist Pavel Haulík estimated that the voters of the three parties divided their votes among several candidates. While SDKÚ supporters went for Kňažko and Radoslav Procházka, Most-Híd supporters mainly opted for Kiska and Hungarian candidate Gyula Bárdos. KDH voters originally seemed they would divide their votes between Hrušovský and Kiska, but eventually they mostly voted for Procházka, as evidenced by voting patterns in traditional KDH regions like Orava, where Procházka, himself a former KDH top politician, won.
Mesežnikov noted that even while officially endorsing Hrušovský, the KDH’s partners were very mild about expressing their support in public.
SDKÚ head Pavol Frešo shortly before the election angered the KDH when he said that the supporters of his party had four candidates to choose from, and subsequently refused to say whom he would vote for.
In a post-election moment of openness, Most-Híd Chairman Béla Bugár admitted his party suggested Hrušovský should withdraw from the race, but they did not mention it publicly after he refused to do so, in order “not to spoil his chances”.
End of the Platform
The cooperation of the three parties within the Platform has been questionable since its very start and the doubts increased most recently after the KDH allied with the ruling Smer party to pursue a joint constitutional amendment that includes a conservative definition of marriage drafted by the KDH.
Hrušovský’s poor result may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back when it comes to continuing the Platform.
Bugár was the first one to admit that, speaking to a press conference on March 17.
“Regardless of me saying it or not, it’s true,” he said, as quoted by the TASR newswire, adding that he still needed to talk to his partners.
One day later, Bugár announced his Most-Híd was leaving the Platform, noting it had met neither the expectations of voters nor the parties involved.
“Always when something ends, something new begins,” Bugár said, adding that his party wants to put forward what it calls the Vision 2016, which should be the basis for “building a new civic vision of the republic”.
Opposition needs a restart
Iveta Radičová, a former prime minister who led the government composed of the Platform parties plus Freedom and Solidarity in 2010-2012, said that the result of the election is a challenge for the traditional centre-right parties.
“It’s now up to them how they will approach it,” she told the Sme daily. “Either they make a restart, or there’ll be mutual blaming and that would mean the end.”
Radičová believes there is deep mistrust between the parties and there is no obvious bridge to cross the divide, but she does not believe further fragmentation and establishing of new parties would bring the desired effect.
“I rather believe in individual talks with political representatives who have something to offer,” she said.
The parties, although they suffered a considerable drop in preferences since they ruled the country in 2010-2012, might still heal, analysts suggest. The three parties should now take the result of their official candidate seriously and stop making background deals about joint nominees and candidates.
“The principle of party trades that eventually forced the other two parties to endorse the KDH candidate should have been abandoned long ago, and they should consider wider interests,” Mesežnikov told The Slovak Spectator.
Political analyst Juraj Marušiak however sees the result of the Platform’s candidate as a signal that voters no longer trust them.
“What has remained of the current opposition was totally marginalised and it is clear that citizens demand a completely new opposition,” he told The Slovak Spectator.
At least one thing however unites the Platform parties at the moment. They have all expressed their support to Andrej Kiska, who advanced to the run-off from second place with just over 24 percent, to face the winner of the first round, Prime Minister Robert Fico, who got 28 percent of the first-round vote.
Radka Minarechová and Roman Cuprik contributed to this report
24. Mar 2014 at 0:00 | Michaela Terenzani