19/06/2006 - Results
Direction-Social Democracy (SMER-SD) came out ahead in the Slovak general elections that took place on 17th June. The leftwing formation led by Robert Fico won 29.14% of the vote and 150 seats in the National Council of the Republic, the only chamber in Parliament. The Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU), the party led by Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda again achieved a better result than that predicted in the polls and for the third time running after 1998 and 2002 it came out second with 18.35% of the vote (31 seats); this is the best result in its history. It is followed by the National Party (SNS), led by the Mayor of Zilina, Jan Slota, who surprised everyone by winning 11.73% of the vote, its best result ever taking 20 seats. The Party of the Hungarian Coalition (SMK), chaired by Bela Bugar, won 11.68% of the vote (also 20 seats), the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (LU-HZDS) led by Vladimir Meciar clearly regressed in comparison with the previous elections on 20th and 21st September 2002 (- 10.70 points) with 8.79% of the vote (15 seats). Finally the Christian Democrat Movement (KDH), led by Pavol Hrusovsky, which aimed to win 10% of the vote, only achieved a score of 8.31% (14 seats) a result that its Vice President Daniel Lipsic qualified as a "failure". Free Forum (SF), led by Zuzana Martinakova did not succeed in rising above the 5% mark necessary to be represented in Parliament.
Six parties will therefore be part of the next National Council of the Republic that is one less than in the last term of office.
As forecast in the polls the participation rate was particularly low (54.67%), the lowest level ever reached in the general elections. The President of the Republic Ivan Gasparovic (Movement for Democracy HZD) had however called on his fellow countrymen to turn out to vote in a speech broadcast on 15th June by several local TV stations. "I hope you will be responsible and take part in the general elections even if you are disappointed in politics," he declared. Only 532 Slovaks living abroad fulfilled their civic duty on 17th June.
On Saturday evening Robert Fico promoted his party's excellent results which he qualified as "fantastic", saying that this had more than doubled in comparison with four years ago (+15.64 points) "We need a Slovakia that offers more solidarity and justice. I hope that we shall succeed in forming a government coalition that will put through a programme that is oriented towards the left. Our programme has received significant support in Slovakia. This means that if we form the government the advantages of development will not be limited to a small group," he added. The leader of Direction-Social Democracy who promised to cancel most of the reforms established by Mikulas Dzurinda's government has therefore won his wager and is due to become the country's next Prime Minster and head of the leftwing government. "The poor supported him because he said that he lends them an ear and wants a fair society – he maintains that he will help them," says political analyst Martin Slosiarik.
Robert Fico, who was born 41 years ago in Topolcany in the west of the country, studied law at the University of Bratislava. At first he was a member of the Communist Party then of the Democratic Left Party (SDL); however he left this movement after the general elections on 25th and 26th September 1998 that witnessed his party's entry into government (but without him since he had aimed for the post of Justice Minister). A year later in December 1999 he founded Direction. Between 1994 and 2000 he was Slovakia's representative at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. In 2004 Direction absorbed the Democratic Left Party, the Social Democrat Party (SDSS) and the Social Democrat Alternative (SDA). Robert Fico has succeeded on rallying the left to his name – a unity which has enabled him to win these general elections in which the right wing lay scattered and divided before the electorate.
Direction-Social Democracy is however unable to govern alone and therefore will have to find partners to form the next government coalition. Robert Fico might ask Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia and the National Party led by Jan Slota to join him in government but his coalition runs the risk of greatly displeasing the international community. Last week the Vice President of Direction-Social Democracy, Robert Kalinak, said that the next government led by his party would have to be accepted by all of the States of the international community. After the elections the National Party again said that its priority was to form a "Slovak government," which means a government in which the Party of the Hungarian Coalition has no part. The extreme rightwing part also excluded governing with the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia. The nationalists also said they wanted the posts of Home and Transport minister to be given to them in any future government.
Robert Fico might also turn to the two parties who were members of the previous government, i.e. the Party of the Hungarian Coalition and the Christian Democrat Movement but both of these parties might not accept criticism on the part of Robert Fico with regard to the policy adopted by Mikulas Dzurinda. A grand coalition rallying Direction-Social Democracy and the Democratic and Christian Union, although not impossible, remains however highly unlikely. The leader of Direction-Social Democracy said he is ready to "discuss with everyone" except for the Democratic and Christian Union believing that this would be "a great disappointment for the electorate."
Outgoing Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda acknowledged his defeat and pleaded in favour of the continuation of the reforms that he believed "irreversible". "We don't know whether Slovakia will have the government able to maintain and complete the reforms and to work in a European environment," he declared with concern. "We have a strong position and I hope that our co-operation will be effective and productive because in this case our chances of achieving political continuity will increase," declared Mikulas Dzurinda. "All coins have two sides, hope remains that we won't fall on the wrong side," he then stressed. "In my eyes it is important that Slovakia moves forwards and not backwards," he said as he went to vote maintaining that "the most difficult part was over." Under his government Slovakia entered NATO and on 1st May 2004 it joined the EU. The country also witnessed an acceleration in its economic growth (+6,1% in 2005) and an in-flow of foreign investment enabling it successfully catch up with the standard of life in the most prosperous countries of the European Union. Unemployment however remains high affecting 12% of the working population, and the divide between the social classes and the regions, notably between the capital Bratislava and the East of the country has grown wider. "The reforms have provided for improvement but not for everyone and immediately," stressed Olga Gyarfasova, a political analyst at the Institute for Public Affairs in Bratislava (IVO).
Political analyst Pavel Haulik sees the fall of Vladimir Meciar in this light: "the main reason is the change in the party's political orientation: the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia has slid gently but decidedly towards the centre-right. Although Vladimir Meciar has not always been as charismatic in the opinion of many sympathisers this party had little chance of winning enough votes to sit in Parliament." Haulik also anticipated the rise of the National Party: "If there is a party that will create a surprise it will certainly be the Slovak National Party. Right through the electoral campaign the party has produced its favourite themes notably, "Slovakia for Slovaks" and it has worked." Although we can rejoice at the regression of the Communist Party (KSS) which with its 3.9% of vote will not be represented in Parliament the rise of the extreme right is worrying however.
Although the reforms established by the outgoing Prime Minister's government are not popular a majority of Slovaks (70%) believe they are necessary according to a poll published in May by Median VK. Most of the population would like the process to transform society to be taken at a slower pace but do not however want to reverse it. The changes that will occur in the wake of these general elections should not therefore endanger the work achieved over the last few years. "It is highly unlikely that Robert fico will succeed in applying his programme. His social democrat party will have to create a coalition to govern and therefore he will have to resolve to make compromises," maintains political analyst Radovan Geist.
The President of the Republic, Ivan Gasparovic is now due to ask Robert Fico to form the future government. The new government coalition will then have to win the confidence of Parliament in the thirty days following its appointment.
General Elections Results 17th June in Slovakia
Participation rate: 54.67%
Source Slovak National Statistics Office