Sunday, March 06, 2016

A very diverse new Slovak Parliament

Slovaks are very similar to Czechs and we have lived in the same country for quite some time. But the differences in the political attitudes and fashions are significant.

Slovakia voted for its new Parliament and the results are interesting. The turnout was 60%. Prime minister Robert Fico's Smer (Direction), the moderate social democratic party, won with 28.3% of the votes. That's a clear victory in comparison with the other parties – the second one had 12.1% – but a significant decrease from the last elections.

Eight or nine parties have made it above the 5% threshold needed to sit in the Parliament; the traditional Christian Democratic Movement is around 4.9% after 99.8% of votes have been counted and its chances to jump above 5.0% have shrunk considerably.

But what I find remarkable is the almost complete dominance of relatively new parties – and indeed, relatively young politicians, too. With all the modern names of the parties, it actually isn't easy to maintain one's understanding of the Slovak political spectrum.

The top 10 parties above 3% (recall that 5% is needed to be represented) and the number of lawmakers in the new Parliament (the total is 150) are:
  1. 28.3%, 49, Smer/direction social democracy, Fico
  2. 12.1%, 22, SaS/freedom and solidarity, Sulík
  3. 11.0%, 19, Oľano+Nova/Ordinary citizen, Matovič
  4. 8.6%, 15, SNS/Slovak National Party, Danko
  5. 8.1%, 14, ĽSNS/fascists, Kotleba
  6. 6.6%, 11, SMErodina/We Are Family, Kollár
  7. 6.5%, 11, Most/Híd/Bridge, Bugár
  8. 5.6%, 9, #Sieť/#Network, Procházka etc.
  9. 4.9%, 0, KDH/Christian Democratic Movement, Fígeľ
  10. 4.0%, 0, SMK-MKP, regionally restricted Hungarian Party, Berényi
When Czechoslovakia was getting dissolved, we already knew SNS (Slovak National Party), a party with traditions in the Slovak clerofascist state during the war, Most/Híd/Bridge, the boringly responsible party of mainly ethnic Hungarians, and KDH/Christian Democratic Movement, something that I used to consider the mainstream conservative party in Slovakia (but it will probably be out of the Parliament now).

(The Slovak National Party was a major force accelerating the dissolution of Czechoslovakia. It was missing in the Parliament in recent years but it has returned, with 8.6% of votes. That was the second resusscitation of the party.)

All the other parties are new, usually very new, and most of their leaders are actually in their 40s.

Smer/direction social democracy of Robert Fico was founded in 1999 and he is 51. He won the fourth elections in a row but lost his majority. Richard Sulík, the boss of the Libertarian Party SaS #2 in the list that has achieved this incredible result, is 48 and the party was established in 2009. Matovič's "Ordinary citizens and independent personalities" is boasting to be a center right party accumulating "experts". The party was founded in 2011 and the boss is 42.

Worryingly, ĽSNS of Mr Kotleba, was founded in 2000. The leader is just 38+ years old. This former high school teacher of gyms looks like Dmitry Yarosh in Ukraine and his politics seems similar, too. He is using the greetings from the Slovak fascist state and wants to suppress the "gypsy and other parasites", among other things. His 8% in the polls is a lot. However, among voters between 18 and 21 years of age, this fascist governor of the central Slovakia region got a staggering 23%.

The We Are Family Movement is rather new and led by Boris Kollár, an entrepreneur in book publishing industry who is 50. He's proud about being an entrepreneur already during communism. He earned his first "big cash" by buying a computer in Germany in the 1980s and selling it in Slovakia for much more. I would love to know what he calls "big cash". He has 9 kids with 8 different mothers. This is what you have to achieve if you want to establish a movement called "We Are Family" that defines the protection of families as the major issue and gets 6.6% in the polls. ;-) Imagine how such a candidate would fare in America.

The #Network party also claims to be center right and was founded in 2014. The boss is a 44-year-old scholar of a sort.

As far as I can see, Fico's Direction is the only Parliamentary party among the 8 or 9 that could be considered left-wing. Slovaks have at least two parties with strong nostalgia connected to the Slovak fascist state which is bizarre. But unlike the Czechs where the communist party never ends below 10%, Slovaks have completely gotten rid of this "ideologically clean" anachronism.

The voters have been attracted to various new parties with apolitically sounding names and their apparent lack of ideological underpinnings may look worrisome. But it may be just the names – the parties may ultimately end up being readable.

Sulík's Libertarian 12% is an impressive result. In Czechia, the Free Citizen Party (SSO) is arguably the closest counterpart (although Sulík and his party are slightly more moderate Euroskeptics than SSO). But SSO only fights for the 3% or 5% threshold. 12% is more than what the "main" right-wing Czech parties, ODS and TOP09, are projected to get these days.

So in total, the Slovak political spectrum looks significantly more right-wing than the Czech spectrum (although the latter is a particularly fuzzy question because of the ambiguous ideological color of Babiš's ANO/Yes).

Fico will need more important coalition partners than he needed so far to create a new government. It's also possible that Slovakia will have a Fico-free government, however. A majority of the lawmakers in the new Parliament may be said to be close enough to the billionaire president Kiska who could therefore appoint "his" government. Kiska claims to be "apolitical" and Fico is a social democrat. I know that it may sound surprising but I would probably prefer a new Fico government – mainly because but not only because his attitudes to the migration and related issues are already known and 100% OK with me.

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