16/03/2009 - D-7 - 1st round
The Slovakians are being called to vote on 21st March for the first round in the presidential election. If none of the candidates wins by taking the absolute majority (with a turn out rate of over one half of those registered), a second round will take place on 4th April.
The campaign will last 13 days and end 48 hours before the Election Day. Candidates will have equal periods of air time (the Slovakian Radio station SRo) from 9th to 17th March and on the state TV channel STV from 10th to 18th March.
7 people are running for the presidential office:
- Ivan Gasparovic, outgoing President of the Republic, supported by Direction-Social Democracy (SMER-SD) and the National Party (SNS), members of the present government;
- Iveta Radicova, sociologist, former Labour, Social Affairs and Family Minister (2005-2006) and rightwing opposition candidate, Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU);
- Milan Melnik, a university professor, who has the support of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (LU-HZDS), a party which is member of the present government;
- Frantisek Miklosko, former MP supported by the extra-parliamentary party, the Conservative Democrats of Slovakia (KDS);
- Dagmar Bollova, former Communist Party MP (KSS);
- Zuzana Martinakova, leader of the extra-parliamentary group Free Forum (SF);
- Milan Sidor, Communist Party candidate (KSS).
Outgoing President Ivan Gasparovic has focused his electoral campaign on his experience. "I have nearly 22 years experience in the highest possible State posts,
" he said at a press conference on 6th March last. He announced that he was going to visit all of the regions in the country over the next three weeks, with a part of his campaign being funded by his own resources.
Unsurprisingly his main rival, Iveta Radicova is campaigning on a desire for change. "I am offering you the energy of an active President,
" she repeats. Her priorities are to reduce Slovakia's energy dependency on Russia and to establish new relations with Moscow. Former Prime Minister (1998-2006) Mikulas Dzurinda dispatched 7,000 e-mails in support of Iveta Radicova saying that she can provide the expertise and professionalism vital to being a Head of State. "During this presidential election we have to decide if the next President of the Republic is to be independent, educated, hard working and someone with a sound international political culture and a vision for the country's future,
" he stressed, adding, "the present Head of State is not independent; he serves the most powerful political party.
Iveta Radicova, who already encountered difficulties because of a group of 7 Catholic priests in February due to her support of abortion, has been compared to Adolf Hitler by Bishop Rudolf Balaz of the Banska Bystrica Diocese.
On registration with the Electoral Commission, Iveta Radicova presented 15 MPs' signatures, five per opposition party (SDKU, KDH and SMK). For his part, Ivan Gasparovic presented 40 signatures from SMER-SD MPs and citizens – a number that is higher than demanded by the electoral law. Any candidate running for the supreme office must present 15,000 signatures or those of 15 parliamentarians who support his/her candidature.
The family is the heart of Zuzana Martinakova's campaign. Leader of Free Forum she is undertaking a campaign based on discussions (direct or over the internet) with citizens. Running third in the polls she says she is happy with this result given that her party is not represented in Parliament (Free Forum won 3.47% of the vote during the general elections on 17th June 2006), i.e. below the minimum threshold of 5%.
Another candidate supported by the Conservative Democrats, a party not represented in Parliament, Frantisek Miklosko suggested together with MP Rudolf Bauer, the grant of voting rights proportional to the number of children in the family. This would provide families with children greater importance and solve the demographic crisis that Slovakia is suffering.
According to the most recent poll by MVK, Ivan Gasparovic will not quite win the first round. The outgoing president is due to win 48.6% of the vote in comparison with 33.3% for Iveta Radicova. They are clearly ahead of the other five candidates: Zuzana Martinakova is due to win 7.1%; Frantisek Miklosko, 5.5%, Dagmar Bollova, 2.7%; Milan Melnik, 2.1% and Milan Sidor, 0.7%.
Only 37.7% of those interviewed say they are sure they will vote on 21st March. Participation is still a major stake since low turn out may be the source of surprise significantly modifying voting intentions.
Two-thirds of those aged over 50 say they will vote for the outgoing president whilst most of those aged 18 to 30, as 44% of university graduates, prefer Iveta Radicova. The outgoing president is due to win 74.8% of the vote amongst SMER-D supporters, 65.7% of the National Party members and 53.9% of those in the LU-HZDS. He is due to achieve the highest results in the regions of Trencin, Banska Bystrica and Presov. Iveta Radicova has the support of 76.1% of SDKU supporters, 72.6% of those from the SMK and one third of KDH members. Her best results are due to occur in the regions of Bratislava and Trnava.
"If Ivan Gasparovic wins most of the votes in the first round this might play against him in the second because voters will then think that victory is in the hat,
" says Pavel Haulik director of MVK. In addition to this Iveta Radicova may benefit from a better vote transfer in the second round.
Political analysts attribute Ivan Gasparovic's popularity to his skill in avoiding conflicts. "Everyone is expecting the President to choose not to stand in the way of those in government, reality confirmed these expectations,
" stresses Professor Ratislav Toth of the Alexander Dubcek University in Trencin. "None of the previous Slovakian presidents have really succeeded in meeting expectations, this is why the presidency of Ivan Gasparovic, which is clear of any type of conflict suits the Slovakians perfectly. In their opinion the Head of State is a friend, one of them," he adds. "He suits any type of government, notably the present one because he never interferes in its decisions," confirms Professor Miroslav Kusy of the Comenius University of Bratislava. Finally Edward Kukan, former Foreign Minister (1998-2006) and unfortunate SDKU candidate in the presidential election on 3rd and 17th April 2004 called for a good turn out in the first round. "I am talking from personal experience, an error such as this should not be repeated,
" he stressed. Edward Kukan who was declared favourite in the polls, came third in the first round in April 2004 and therefore did not qualify for the second round.