SLOVAKIA’S voters presented politicians and observers with a major surprise in the March 5 parliamentary elections. With extremist parties making significant gains, there is little chance for a lasting government.
The results of the elections, which came slower than usual due to technical problems at the Statistics Office, completely re-shuffled the situation on the Slovak political scene. The result of the ruling Smer, below 30 percent and well below expectations, was only one of the surprises. It was overshadowed by the high gain of the far-right People’s Party – Our Slovakia (ĽSNS) led by known extremist Marian Kotleba (8 percent) and the protest party of businessman Boris Kollár (6.6 percent), who will occupy together 25 seats in the 150-member parliament.
Additionally, the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) dropped out of parliament for the first time in the 26 years, and the newcomer Sieť of Radoslav Procházka, which was considered a favourite for becoming the new leader of the centre-right, barely made it to parliament with just over 5 percent of the vote.
Most observers of the local political scene have been taken by surprise with the election results. They do not expect any stable government to arise from the mixture of parties that made it to parliament and talk about the possibility of a caretaker government for Slovakia that will run through the end of the year.
Early elections in sight?
Most analysts agree that Slovakia will see new elections soon. A caretaker government could be appointed to handle Slovakia’s upcoming EU Council presidency in the second half of 2016 and early elections could take place after that, they suggest.
Fico, whose Smer gained the biggest portion of the vote, just over 28 percent, said he will try to avoid early elections. He said he feels the responsibility to put together a government, but admitted that it is not going to be easy and “might take longer than usual”.
Richard Sulík, whose Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) came in second with 12.1 percent of the vote, said he was also ready to try and put together a “rightist, reform government” if Smer fails to gain enough support for their option. After the election results got clearer as the night progressed, leaders of Ordinary People and Independent Personalities, and the NOVA movement (OĽaNO-NOVA), Igor Matovič and Daniel Lipšic, who made it to the parliament with 11 percent of the votes, came to celebrate at SaS headquarters. They however refused to speculate about the possibilities for the next government.
Five needed for centre-right coalition
Political analyst Kevin Deegan-Krause sees two alternatives based on the election math and a big mashup of five parties (SaS-OĽaNO-Most-Sieť-Sme Rodina) is one of them.
“None of them was in the parliament before 2010,” he noted.
Another option that would make 77 or 78 seats in the parliament is the government of Smer and the Slovak National Party (SNS) with the support of Kotleba.
“But I don’t know if the party could survive it,” Deegan-Krause told The Slovak Spectator and explained that at this point, in Smer, some of the more western-oriented members could leave the party if it teamed up with far right extremists.
“The thing is that Fico’s got to be really weakened now, and even two or three defectors from Smer, (people like Luboš Blaha) could now tip the balance of parliament,” Deegan-Krause said.
Smer’s result is a big fall compared with its 44-percent victory from four years ago. Despite that, Fico stated that Smer is “the most successful political project in the modern history of Slovakia”. He however admitted they expected 4 or 5 percent more, but understands the result as “the price for winning elections four consecutive times”.
Fico labelled the results “complicated” but said that this proves that the “political system is very much alive”.
Smer’s votes most likely shifted to SNS, but Kollár and Kotleba might have profited from its loss, according to sociologist Pavel Haulík of the MVK polling agency.
Political analysts generally agree that Smer’s anti-migrant rhetoric in the campaign has backfired and aided extremists parties.
“It is a result of Fico’s discourse and that the opposition that was unable to oppose it,” political analyst Pavol Hardoš said.
KDH out, Most barely in
The KDH has been around for 26 years and it is the first time now that it has dropped out of the parliament with just below 5 percent of the vote. Over the past four years, KDH has been deserted by its younger generation including Daniel Lipšic and Radoslav Procházka, who have both made it to the parliament with their respective new parties.
KDH has relied too much on outdated topics and faces, Haulík told The Slovak Spectator.
The movement did not give an official statement to the final results at night. Deputy chair Pavol Zajac however listed the mistakes that the KDH made: the failed candidacy of Pavol Hrušovský in the presidential elections, but also the controversial draft law proposing in vitro fertilisation to be a punishable crime that was filed in the parliament shortly before elections and that some of KDH MPs signed.
With KDH and the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) out of the parliament, Most-Híd (6.5 percent) remains the only one of the traditional right-leaning parties in the parliament. The chair of the party Béla Bugár was visibly disappointed with the results by the time 50 percent of the votes were counted.
“What we can say is that citizens have already voted outside the system twice, meaning they did not vote for established parties,” Bugár said.
Procházka far below expectations
The result of the newcomer Sieť however came as a bigger surprise than the results of KDH and Most-Híd.
One of the reasons for the party’s failure might have been that they did not form a strong opposition to Smer and that he was not very strong in televised debates, Procházka told the journalists when votes from more than 42 percent of election precincts were counted.
Sieť leaders will meet on March 7 to discuss the situation. Procházka told journalists he is ready to resign as the party’s chair. He refused to speculate about the future government, TASR wrote.
There were many undecided voters among Sieť preferences and they seem to have changed their minds in the last moment, Haulík said.
“Procházka was not in the parliament, and many have forgotten about him,” said political analyst Aneta Világi in post-election debate hosted by the Sme daily, when commenting on the poor results by Sieť.