The victory of SMER – a victory for Slovakia?

On Saturday March 10 2012 the legislative elections took place in Slovakia. The SMER-SD party won 55.3 % of the seats in the Slovak Parliament. Is the victory of SMER-SD a victory for Slovakia as well?

A democratic victory with a bitter aftertaste

07/04/2012 - 16:13
The results of the legislative elections have confirmed the existence of a representative crisis in Slovakia. It allowed the spectacular rise of one party, the SMER-SD, the sole party to hold the reins of power. Due to the absence of an opposition, it can do as it pleases.

The March elections ended with a spectacular victory for SMER-SD. The party has managed to collect 44 % of the ballots, giving it 83 seats out of 150. Thus, the party does not need to form a coalition and is able to govern on its own. Such a situation wouldn’t have caused any uproar in Western European countries which are accustomed to the emergence of large majorities; however, in Slovakia the victory of SMER-SD represents an event out of the ordinary in political life.

A revolutionary victory

As a matter of fact, since the end of the communist regime in 1989, no political party has collected an absolute majority of seats in Parliament. It is as though the Slovak electorate has learnt its lesson from decades of single party dominance. Furthermore, the proportional voting system which has been in place in Slovakia since its independence should have avoided the emergence of a single “strong party”. The system has proved to be highly efficient until today: the government has never consisted of a single party but rather of a coalition of several parties; the number of which has varied between three and five. Having a coalition government is an essential trait of the Slovak parliamentarism: numerous agents forced to find compromises is considered to be a highly efficient check and balances system. The expression “coalition partners” has a very positive connotation in Slovakia.

Triumph of populism

Nevertheless, the March 2012 elections changed the situation and Slovakia cedes voluntarily to a single party dominance. However, this abrupt change is not as surprising as it may seem; it has been provoked largely by a decomposition of the electoral offer.

The Gorilla scandal discredited all traditional political parties, right-wing or left-wing ones, including the SMER-SD. The right-wing voters became indignant and they wanted to punish the wrong conduct of the political parties either by abstaining or by casting their ballot to new parties. Herein, they enabled the SMER-SD to multiply their number of seats.

Yet, whereas the right-wing parties suffered a loss (for instance, SDKÚ-DS which is the most implicated party in the Gorila affair lost 9.33 % of ballots), the SMER-SD has been reinforced, and that without any need to reform the party or to make it more transparent. This can only be explained by the strategy of populist discourse, a characteristic trait of SMER-SD. Thus, they managed to convince voters that are uninterested by political events, meaning they are more apt to be seduced by fine words.

Risk of a future « à la hongroise »

In this context, it becomes impossible not to make a parallel with the case of Hungary. In fact, what made the ascent of SMER-SD possible was the undermining of right-wing parties which were sanctioned by the elections. However, in the case of Hungary, despite their declining popularity, the Social Democratic party has remained relatively strong and its score of 19 % cannot be compared to results of oppositional parties in Slovakia, none of which have exceeded 9 %.

Consequently, even though the SMER-SD does not have the two-thirds majority, it will be able to fully benefit of the fact that the opposition is divided between numerous smaller parties that are lacking in solidarity. In fact, considering the disunited character of the opposition, it is quite likely that it will not be able to speak with one voice and will probably have difficulties in making its critiques of the government heard. Even worse, if the SMER-SD makes interesting propositions to the oppositional parties, it will surely lead to a competitive race. In exchange for positions or favours, the smaller parties will accept cooperation without a second thought. Thus, the SMER-SD might exploit conflicts within the opposition and de facto create an ex post two-third majority by damping the opposition.

It is up to the opposition to decide if Slovakia will take on the model of the Orban-government or if it will reform itself and acquire new credibility by refusing four years under an authoritarian government.

This article deliberately presents only one of the many existing points of views of this contorversial subject. Its content is not necessarily representative of its author's personal opinion. Please have a look at Duel Amical's philosophy.

The victory of stability and European perspectives

07/04/2012 - 16:13
The overwhelming victory of SMER-SD gives a clear indication: Slovak voters wanted to sanction two years of right-wing government. The confidence given to Mr. Fico will restore economic and political stability, while the clearly pro-European affiliation of SMER ensures that the new government will not impair democracy.

No one doubted that the SMER-SD would be victorious; however, few anticipated a victory of such magnitude. Furthermore, the prognosis made by political scientists and newspapers foresaw a low participation, and even talked about a risk of negative record which would have been rather disadvantageous to the SMER-SD. Nevertheless, on March 10, Slovak voters mobilized in a remarkable manner in order to establish a record participation-rate of 60 % - the highest score in 10 years.

The weakened right rejected in favor of the stable left

Whereas the first results based on surveys at the output of ballot boxes assigned a victory to the SMER-SD between 37 and 39 % of the votes, Robert Fico’s party managed to persuade more than 44 % of voters, which corresponds to 83 mandates out of 150 seats. The right, fragmented in five parts, suffered a bitter failure. Voters penalized two years of Radicova’s government: Christian Democrats, the strongest oppositional party, barely convinced 8 % of the voters. SDKU-DS, formerly the foremost party of the right-wing, had great difficulties in entering Parliament. Voters clearly chose social justice, safety and stability - values defended by Fico’s Social Democrats.

An unnecessary concern

The results of the vote astonished journalists. They emphasized that the SMER-SD would most likely govern on its own; some even compared the situation to a single party government as was the case prior to 1989. However, this was the Slovaks’ democratic choice. There is nothing to fear. The Fico-government, though it is a single-party government, does not constitute an obstacle to democracy. The future Prime Minister Fico is aware of his first government’s faults. The choice of ministers should be well deliberated. Several would not be members of the party. Despite its homogeneity, the opposition will get two Parliament vice-presidents, several presidencies of parliamentary committees as well as important posts in diverse control organs. Right after elections Fico proved to be open to cooperation with the opposition on sensitive subjects, particularly on those that require a two-third majority support. Furthermore, given budgetary and other obligations stemming from European engagements, it is clear that those who accuse Fico’s government of wasting public finances do so wrongly.

Perspectives of stability

The continuing economic crisis requires a strong leadership, efficient measures and stability. The future Prime Minister clearly expressed his intention of saving money, of establishing social solidarity and of going to any length necessary in order to revive the economy. The previous government showed an incompetence to govern the State. Fico suggests solutions instead of quarrels. The Slovak electorate gave him their trust; it believes that he will restore the dignity of Slovak workers, the unemployed and the retired. The new government will also bring a new political culture that has been lacking in Slovakia for a long time. Slovakia will now experience responsible governance open to debate. The next months will show that this choice was a good one and that the current fears are unjustified.

This article deliberately presents only one of the many existing points of views of this contorversial subject. Its content is not necessarily representative of its author's personal opinion. Please have a look at Duel Amical's philosophy.

Swipe to see the other side.

The state of the votes


The victory of stability and European perspectives


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