Smer unlikely to rule alone in 2016, pollsters say

FOUR years after the landslide victory of Smer in the 2012 elections, where its 44 percent share of the vote enabled it to form one-party government, opinion polls indicate this scenario is likely to repeat. Sociologists however say that it is more probable Smer will have to find a coalition partner.

Illustrative stock photoIllustrative stock photo (Source: TASR)

Smer remains the strongest political party in Slovakia. In the Focus poll carried out in early October it was supported by 39.1 percent of 1,032 respondents, while the MVK poll conducted at the turn of September and October showed its support even higher, at 40 percent. Both results would bring the party 76 seats in the 150-member parliament, which means that the party would be able to rule alone.

Also another two polls carried out by smaller polling agencies suggest that Smer would win the support of some 38 percent of voters.

Smer however has not reported such a high preferences in earlier polls. In the April Focus poll, for example, it received just 33.2 percent of the vote (resulting in 58 parliamentary seats). Since then the preferences have been rising, especially thanks to the discussion on refugees.

“Smer as a ruling party managed to earn some points [on this topic] and increased its preferences,” sociologist Martin Slosiarik of Focus told The Slovak Spectator.

Smer recently changed its campaign motto from ‘We work for people’ to ‘We protect Slovakia’. The question however remains whether the migration issue will remain prominent in the following months, Slosiarik added.

More post-election scenarios

Despite high support in the opinion polls, sociologists addressed by The Slovak Spectator say that Smer will seek for a coalition partner rather than rule on its own. The current polls hint that it will need just one party to form a government, said Pavel Haulík of the MVK agency.

Regarding the preferences of voters, the MVK poll carried out between September 26 and October 2 on 1,085 respondents indicates that 35.6 percent of current Smer voters would like to have only one-party government.

Another 27.6 percent of Smer voters would prefer a coalition with the Slovak National Party (SNS), while 7.9 percent would like to see the coalition with the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), 5.1 percent with Most-Híd, and 18.1 percent with any other party, the TASR newswire reported.

When asked what coalition they would choose if the selection depended only on their own choice, 36.7 percent of all respondents said they would prefer a coalition of Smer and one of the centre-right parties.

Such possibility would however be a precedent in Slovakia, according to Oľga Gyárfášová of the Institute for Public Affairs.

“Smer would be a dominant partner in such coalition, which means it will decide on the main governing course,” Gyárfášová told The Slovak Spectator, “on the other hand, it will be able to move part of the troublesome agenda to its ‘junior’ coalition partner.”

The least possible scenario, according to sociologists, will be a coalition of centre-right parties without Smer.

Right wing struggles

Slosiarik however warns that it would be problematic to establish a right-leaning government of five parties, reminding of the situation leading to the fall of the Iveta Radičová government (2010-12) and disputes between the party leaders. It would be better if three or four parties formed the coalition, he added.

“The polls however do not indicate that the parties have a significant potential to catch up with Smer,” Slosiarik said.

In the latest Focus poll, the biggest gain was achieved by newly-established Sieť with 12.6 percent (24 mandates). The Most-Híd party came third with 7.3 percent (14 mandates), followed by KDH with 7.1 percent (14 mandates), SNS with 6.1 percent (12 mandates), and Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) with 5.1 percent (10 mandates).

Also the MVK poll shows only small support to the right wing compared to the one of Smer. While KDH would receive 10.8 percent of the vote (21 mandates), Sieť would get 8.3 percent (16 mandates), SNS 7.6 percent (15 mandates), Most-Híd 6.9 percent (13 mandates), and the Party of Hungarian Community (SMK) 5 percent (nine mandates), TASR reported.

The one-time leader of the opposition, the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) would fail to make it to the parliament, not receiving even 3 percent which would allow it to receive the money from the state budget.

Among other parties that would remain outside the parliament are the Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO) and NOVA which created a coalition back in June. Though the parties claimed they have potential to succeed and harvest around 11 percent of the vote, both recently carried out polls show they would fail to pass the 7-percent threshold set for two-party coalitions.

While in the Focus poll they would win the support of 6.7 percent of respondents, in MVK poll it would be only 4.3 percent. The sociologists say it is a question now whether the parties will remain together until the elections, or whether they will introduce a single candidate slate.

They also do not expect that there will be more coalitions created before December where the slates will be closed.

Undecided voters as decisive factor

Everything will however depend on the final number of parties that will not make it to the parliament and the support they will receive. This means that if many parties which fail to pass the 5-percent threshold attract enough voters, then the gain of Smer may be higher and it is more possible it will be able to rule on its own, sociologists agree.

Another important factor is the group undecided voters who often make their final choice shortly before casting the ballot. These voters tend to support mostly the right-wing parties, according to Gyárfášová.

It will be, however, very hard to mobilise these voters compared to the previous election years, Slosiarik said.

“This is the basic problem which arises from the disillusion and disappointment from the behaviour of politicians and their ignorance of topics like health care and education,” he added.

The undecided voters may help especially new political subjects which can offer an alternative to the traditional parties that have been on political scene for more than 20 years, Slosiarik said.

The fact however remains that if these voters support mostly the smaller parties that fail to make it to the parliament, Smer will benefit, Haulík reminds.

“On the other hand, if they support bigger parties, there will be a possibility to create the government without Smer,” Haulík added.

Not only migration

Regarding the upcoming campaign, Haulík expects that for Smer it will be rather a mobilisation campaign. It will not explain its programme, but rather encourage people to come and vote.

Except for migration, it will certainly focus on security and stability and also the lack of conflict in a one-party government, he added.

“Smer is an issue owner of all topics that are important for big portion of voters,” Gyarfášová said, adding it is not clear now what alternatives the opposition will offer.

If the right-wing parties want to attract voters, they would rather focus on the everyday problems and finding solutions in health care, education, small and medium-sized entrepreneurship, and corruption, Slosiarik said.

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