The state of votes
The secret left-wing candidate
Kristina Londakova|translated by: Kummer Livia
The fragmented right-wing
Adam Kundrat| translated by: Kummer Livia
Kristina Londakova | translated by: Kummer Livia | 2013. July 30. 22:19
The position of the Social Democratic Party (SMER-SD) as a sovereign leader on the Slovak political scene is unquestionable. The only man worth mentioning on the left-wing – Robert Fico, the current Prime Minister – dominates the polls without having declared his intention to run for President. Will he do it even so?
Lately, SMER-SD has put an end to the case of refusal of the Attorney General’s nomination by the President of the Republic, electing its own candidate for the key post in justice. Henceforth, the conquest of state power by SMERSD seems to be unfolding: their members already hold the positions as heads of institutions, Prime Minister, they have a one-party government, an overwhelming majority in the Parliament, even won the majority of regions and ... the President of the Republic. Does this state of affairs seem reversible? Not in the imminent future. That statement is also supported by the latest surveys, according to which SMER-SD would receive 47% of votes. Meanwhile, the process of "decomposition" of the Slovak right-wing is progressing by the day.
Paradoxically, the leader of polls is not an official candidate. In the upcoming elections the main issue is whether the strongest of the statesmen, Prime Minister Robert Fico will declare his candidacy. In that case he would win the elections easily, as commentators on both sides agree that he remains the most popular and charismatic personality in politics.The question only arises in the following terms for Mr Fico: to be or not to be ... President? Many people doubt the candidacy of Mr Fico, whose current position as head of the Slovak executive branch is much stronger, since Slovakia is a parliamentary republic.
However, regarding the prospect of becoming President as a diminution of power could be a serious underestimation of the potential of the office. Surely, the title is traditionally associated with a merely representative position, and is usually given to well-respected people who are already in de facto political retirement. This was indeed the case for current President Gasparovic, serving two consecutive terms, who was considered a puppet in the hands of SMER.
By the way, there are many who wish to see Mr Fico withdrawing from the field of effective political action. His alleged exhaustion – after more than 20 years in highlevel politics – should justify his desire to accede to a position of lesser responsibility, less media exposure, from where he could play the role of "father of the nation" and of a political conciliator. The important thing in politics is to know when to retire. In that way, the name of Mr Fico would be engraved in history books and he would leave before exhausting his political capital.
Alas, this cherished dream of the members of right-wing remains unlikely. It is important not to foster illusions and underestimate the potential of the presidential office in the hands of an ambitious man. A politician at the height of his power does not retire. On the contrary. If Mr Fico was elected President, the function itself would be radically transformed. By simply changing the constitutional tradition, Slovakia would be on its way to become more of a presidential system.
Given the political atmosphere of the neighboring countries – "Zemanocratie" in the Czech Republic or trends in Hungary – such a development would not surprise anyone. We should not forget that SMER-SD is missing only seven deputies to be able to amend the Constitution as a single party. Maybe its review is in stock after the next parliamentary elections...? Even if Slovakia did not transform into a presidential republic, the application of the "Putin-Medvedev" model by Mr Fico represents an equally unimaginable scenario for the right-wing.
Thus, the only anticipated moment is the announcement of the candidacy of Mr Fico. Especially as for now, yet again, the right-wing shows its inability to unite which in this situation can be fatal. Unless... unless it stops producing one shaky candidate after another and mobilizes its forces to support the "political martyr" Iveta Radicova , the former Prime Minister retired from politics. Who by the way also refuses categorically any prospect of her candidacy at the elections, just like Mr Fico. However, according to conventional wisdom, the prior denial of the candidacy is already the first step of the future campaign.
For now, Ms. Radicova is procrastinating. But her sudden return as “providential woman”, the politician who fought for transparency, and who was reprimanded for these ideals remains last hope of the right-wing. It may be that their defeat at the regional elections this fall – the right-wing was yet again too divided – could provide the impetus to come up with one common candidate, worthy of confronting Mr Fico in the final battle, only to stop him from dominating as a sovereign Slovak politics for years to come.
But Mr Fico has an additional strategic advantage – with the number of his party’s deputies in the Parliament, he can afford the luxury of waiting until the last moment before declaring himself a candidate. While hypothetically Radicova or others as candidates of citizens, must collect the signatures of 15,000 citizens, forcing them to start earlier. Thus, Mr Fico could take his decision at the last moment, when he would be sure to have no real competition and to avoid the unimaginable – his defeat in the presidential elections, which could hasten the end of his political career.
Adam Kundrat | translated by: Kummer Livia | 2013. July 30. 22:19
The position of the candidates from the right-wing reflects the fragmentation and the general weakening of their political camp. In addition, there is no one who would be able to mobilize and unite the whole right-wing, though several candidates have interesting agendas.
The right-wing is in a lamentable situation: none of the parties score above 10% in the polls, they question who the leader of the opposition should be and there are serious dissonances amongst them even when it came to the regional elections in fall this year. This weakness is paradoxically the main cause behind the lack of will on the right-wing to come up with a single candidate. Hence the peculiar situation: the battlefield for the presidency is already filled on the (center) right by five officially declared candidates, however additional applications in future – for now only suggested by unofficial sources – are not to be excluded either.
The Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) fosters three candidates. A very experienced politician, former president of the National Council (Parliament) and its deputy since 1990, Pavol Hrusovsky, has been designated as the candidate of the KDH and Most-Híd, a party essentially representing ethnic Hungarians living in Slovakia. United within the Platform of People with SDKÚ-DS (Slovak Democratic and Christian Union – Democratic Party), the three parties have declared the desire to find a common candidate. The reluctance of the SDKÚ-DS derives from the fact that they believe in the nomination of former Prime Minister, Iveta Radicova – the "providential woman" as some representatives of the party still see her – although she has repeatedly denied the idea of coming back and entering the presidential race.
The second candidate of the KDH – who is no longer a member of the party since he quit a few months ago – Radoslav Prochazka, is the youngest among the would-be residents of the Presidential Palace. Although his age (he is only 41) might irritate some voters who would have liked to see an older and more experienced candidate, this lawyer who studied at Yale, presents an agenda that is both progressive and dangerous: following the example of President Gasparovic, who refused to name the candidate elected by the National Council for the post of the Attorney General, Prochazka made it clear that he might as well remove the President of the Supreme Court or other highly controversial officials. That move would serve as a precedent for transforming the parliamentary system into a semi-presidential one.
Finally, the honorary president of KDH, the emblematic figure of the Slovak dissidence, Jan Carnogursky has also announced his candidacy, which he intends to conduct on a civil basis, without direct support from political parties. He is somebody who does not lack a certain stance worthy of the presidential office. In addition, being close to the center, he could be a consensual candidate even for the Social Democrats. Under the assumption that Prime Minister Robert Fico would embark on a presidential campaign, Carnogursky would be well positioned to deprive him of a significant number of votes of those Social Democrats who would rather see Fico as Prime Minister.
Two other candidates who position themselves clearly in opposition to Prime Minister Fico or any other left-wing candidate are Andrej Kiska, a businessman, involved in charity ever since he made his fortune, and Peter Osusky physician and academic, the official candidate of the Liberals, who is however, coming from a conservative environment. The latter seems not to have much potential. On the other hand, Kiska, previously unknown to political circles, seems to appeal to voters, at least according to the polls, precisely because of his blank political profile.
A right-wing elector thus has a large variety of candidates to choose from, maybe even too large. Nonetheless, there seems to be a lack of a single charismatic leader, except maybe for Carnogursky, who could appeal to a large portion of the Slovak population.
The right-wing, in its fragmentation, cannot unite itself in order to propose a common candidate who would have the best prospects to beat a left-wing opponent. And this is happening despite the bad memories of the 2004 elections, where not one of the numerous right-wing candidates was qualified for the second round, and which was eventually won by the current president. Even though the final duel in 2014 is articulated on a left-right axis, the question of support for the right-wing candidate is left open. Since there is no general agreement between the parties on the right, it is not sure that the future common candidate will unify the whole right-wing. Especially, since candidates such as Carnogursky or Kiska, who could possibly be appealing to some voters on the left, may not be unanimously accepted on the right. The presidential elections are still a unique occasion for the right to reaffirm their position in the political arena until now dominated by a single party in power - SMER-SD (Social Democratic Party).
Kristina Londakova|translated by: Kummer Livia
Adam Kundrat| translated by: Kummer Livia
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