Far right in parliament

After the parliamentary elections, the Slovak political scene finds itself in a situation where practically nobody is able to form a government supported by a solid majority in the parliament without the votes of extremist parties. This is a result that few (if anyone) expected.

Marian Kotleba surprisingly made it to parliament on Saturday with his far right party.Marian Kotleba surprisingly made it to parliament on Saturday with his far right party. (Source: Sme)

OF THE eight parties that made it to the parliament after Slovakia’s March 5 elections, two are considered highly non-standard and unlikely to be considered to have a part in any potential ruling coalition.

The far-right People’s Party – Our Slovakia (ĽSNS) of Marian Kotleba scored 8.1 percent in the elections and will have 14 seats in the new parliament, while the protest party of Boris Kollár, Sme Rodina (We are Family) gained 6.6 percent of the vote and will have 11 MPs in the new parliament. This stems from preliminary results released by the Statistics Office after more than 99 percent of the votes were counted on Sunday morning.

After Kotleba’s 2013 victory in the regional governor vote, analysts warned that the top regional power will open up the public discourse to him and his associates. Some opined back then that he won’t be able to carry out his promises and will disappoint his voters, but the parliamentary election results have proven that wrong.

Analysts are discussing a mixture of factors that strengthened the protest vote and brought extremists to parliament: one thing is that voters remain disappointed with the standard political parties, another thing is the hostile and fearful atmosphere that was fostered also by the campaign of some standard parties, mainly the ruling Smer with its anti-migrant rhetoric.

“Smer introduced an atmosphere of fear and anger and then was unable to channel it,” said political analyst Pavol Hardoš during a debate in the editorial room of the Sme daily, to explain the result of Kotleba.

Hardoš also noted that for Kotleba’s result the factor of non-voters plays a role: people who normally wouldn’t vote turned out to support him.

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First-time voters bring extremists in

Data of the exit poll for Radio Expres suggest that a large portion of Kotleba’s vote came from young people, mainly first-time voters. According to the exit poll, almost 23 percent of first-time voters cast their ballot for Kotleba’s party.

Observers expressed concerns about the fact that it is the people in their late teens and early twenties, today’s secondary school students, who supported the far-right party. They point to the education system in the country as one of the factors that lead to this behaviour in young voters.

“There is a lack of education at schools but also education at home,” political analyst Pavol Boboš said during the election night.

Political analyst Aneta Világi noted that there has been no critical reflection of the wartime Slovak state. There are still people who remember that time and some of them admit that they were quite well off back then, economically, and this is what they tell their grandchildren, who in turn are unable to evaluate that information in the context of history data.

“It makes sense to me that it clicks in their heads when they have nothing to confront it with,” Világi said.

The reason also lies in the fact that first-time voters are normally not interested in things like family policies, pensions, or economics, and they react to simple messages that extremists are good at broadcasting.

“When first-time voters vote for Kotleba, they are attracted by the ideology, the substitute, rather than real problems, because they don’t know what to actually expect from a party,” Világi said. Instant messages and slogans resonate with them, and serious politicians simply stand no chance to explain their policies in such instant manner, she explained. Young people simply need more experience in life “to move away from their intuitive way of choosing a party”.

Additionally, addressing first-time voters is even more cost-effective than with other groups. An online campaign on social networks suffices, as “that is where this group [of voters] lives”, Világi said.

A share in power?

Most parties who made it to parliament, including Smer and SNS, have made it clear that they wouldn’t consider negotiating with either Kotleba or Kollár.

“I’d rather not be a chairman of SNS than cooperate with parties that belong to the last century,” SNS’ Andrej Danko said as quoted by Sme.

Richard Sulík of SaS, the second strongest party after Smer with 20 seats in the house, excluded ĽSNS but also Smer from his coalition considerations.

“It proves that standard parties have paid little attention to the will of voters, here’s the result,” he said as quoted by Sme.

According to Igor Matovič, whose OĽaNO will have 19 MPs, the presence of fascists in the parliament “forces other parties to behave responsibly”.

The outgoing foreign minister Miroslav Lajčák who ran on the slate of Smer said that the non-standard parties will “complicate the perception of Slovakia in Europe”, TASR reported.

Frantisek Šebej of Most-Híd (11 MPs) pointed to the upcoming EU presidency.

“People whom Kotleba and Kollár bring into the parliament are people who have neither education-, nor value-, nor intellectual equipment to be able to take part in such complicated political processes,” Šebej said as quoted by TASR.

Kotleba satisfied but not surprised

Kotleba said for the Plus Jeden Deň daily that he was satisfied with the results, but not surprised.

Kollár said he was scheduled to meet SaS’ Sulík and said that he wouldn’t have a problem “with anyone but extremists”. He, however, earlier said that he was not willing to go to a ruling coalition because his party is too small and wouldn’t have a say.

“I’d rather survive outside of that and gain greater power so that we can then decide more,” Kollár said as quoted by Sme. 

In an immediate reaction to the election results, a protest gathering was organised to take place in Bratislava on Monday, March 7.

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