Politics without politics harvests success

WITH many feeling that today’s political parties have abandoned the principle of serving the people, several candidates in this year’s presidential race stressed their distance from the political establisment. This resonated with voters, who responded by electing one such candidate to the highest state office.

WITH many feeling that today’s political parties have abandoned the principle of serving the people, several candidates in this year’s presidential race stressed their distance from the political establisment. This resonated with voters, who responded by electing one such candidate to the highest state office.

But president-elect Andrej Kiska, who has no background in politics, was not the only one to capitalise on an anti-establishment mood. Radoslav Procházka, who finished third in the first round of the presidential race, garnering more than 20 percent, has also been critical of the current political system, and his support came in part from voters who have grown increasingly wary of politics since the 2011 collapse of the center-right government.

“The mere fact that all three main opponents of Fico were from outside the political parties shows that something is happening with Slovak political parties,” Marek Rybář from the Comenius University’s school of political science told The Slovak Spectator.

Yet, political analysts say there is no chance of politics becoming wholly nonpartisan in the future.

SUB: An intermezzo

While most left-leaning voters remained faithful to Smer, with almost 900,000 of them turning up to support party leader Robert Fico in the presidential election, the situation is quite different on the political right, where voters remain disappointed and frustrated with politics after seeing the government of Iveta Radičová (the embodiment of many voters’ hopes for real change in Slovakia) self-destruct and give way to Fico’s one-party government.

This is why on the right alternative political movements might garner some support, political analyst Grigorij Mesežnikov said in an interview with The Slovak Spectator.

In general, however, there is little room for non-party politics, as in practically all levels of public administration, from central offices to municipalities, political parties are still important, Mesežnikov said. He called the current situation a sort of intermezzo in Slovak politics, saying that he expects the political scene to regroup in some way if an interesting offer appears for voters.

Procházka could bring such an offer, according to Mesežnikov. For the moment, he represents a new style of politics. However, new political movements, like the one he recently announced, are essentially normal political parties, with the main difference being the way they communicate with their voters.

“Perhaps [Procházka] will care more about communication with voters, meet with them more often and use proactive methods, but in the end it will be a standard political subject,” Mesežnikov said.

Values needed

Procházka has yet to specify which political values or philosophies his new party will represent. The only information to surface so far are a few names of those who might become involved with the party.

One such name is former Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU) MP Miroslav Beblavy, who is known to lean left politically, even though Procházka has represented more conservative values, as a fromer member of the Christian Democratic Union (KDH). Observers have noted similarities between Procházka’s plans and the relatively new party of another young, conservative politician, Daniel Lipšic, whose NOVA was joined in 2013 by defectors from the liberal Freedom and Solidarity (SaS).

Is this how Slovak political parties will look in the future, without clearly defined stances on social issues?

Mesežnikov explains that this is somewhat typical for Slovakia, where the political scene on the right is structured in a peculiar way, forcing politicians of varied ideological backgrounds to unite. He pointed to the example of the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK) that emerged before the 1998 elections in order to defeat Vladimír Mečiar.

“That was due to the fact that democracy was more important than the leftist or rightist programme,” Mesežnikov told The Slovak Spectator.

Such unions have appeared on Slovakia’s political landscape several times since, which the centre-right parties used after the elections to create a ruling coalition. Ideally, clear liberal and conservative streams should develop on the political scene. But under current conditions, the dominant power in the state, in this case the ruling Smer party, forces the other parties to put their differing stances on social issues aside and quickly unite so as to counter its policies.

“Slovak parties simply don’t have the chance to separately develop in the long run, because their task to create a counterweight for the less standard parties is a priority in this specific situation,” Mesežnikov said.

Values needed

Sociologist Martin Slosiarik however considers it problematic if Procházka’s new party chooses not to clearly define its values, especially since Procházka has in the past offered clear views on various social issues.

“The background of values, the roots of the party, is not a fictitious thing; it is important for the voters that politicians are consistent on these issues,” Slosiarik told The Slovak Spectator.

Preserving the status quo and ignoring social issues does not seem to be all that effective, as seen from the example of Daniel Lipšic’s NOVA, which so far has not lived up to expectations.

It is clear now that voters expect a clear message, Slosiarik noted.

Radka Minarechová contributed to this report.

Get daily Slovak news directly to your inbox

Top stories

Illustrative stock photo

More aggressive COVID strain probably dominant in Slovakia. It is not necessarily bad news

Virologists report they have found that the B.1.1.7 strain, first detected in the UK, is dominant in the samples from Trenčín.

24 h
Illustrative stock photo

News digest: Slovakia will receive more than 4 million vaccines

Schools will continue with distance education. Curfew will be applied on January 25 and 26 too.

24 h
Gabriel Šípoš

I receive more hate mail than I used to, says outgoing transparency watchdog director

Gabriel Šípoš leaves Transparency International Slovakia after 11 years. Slovakia has gone a long way in transparency, he says.

20. jan