Parties negotiate in the run-up to the elections in Slovakia

The elections in Slovakia are scheduled on September 30th. The last time the country experienced a summer electoral campaign was more than twenty years ago. Summer campaigns are traditionally known for the politicians’ trips to the regions, rallies, and meetings with citizens. Party leaders already started to introduce their billboards in the towns. As the elections in Slovakia are approaching, cooperation among parties is on the table too. While President Zuzana Čaputová is confirmed the most trusted politician in the country (trusted by 41 percent of the respondents according to a Median agency survey), the political fragmentation strengthens the trend of citizens’ scarce trust in the political class. This forces the parties to form coalitions and hold negotiations. Many cannot resist the temptation to make populist promises in the run-up to the elections. The opposition left-wing-populist and Russia-friendly Smer-SD is growing: it is the first party with 17 percent.

Earlier this month, NMS Market Research showed Smer-SD was gaining supporters not only from non-voters but also from former Hlas-SD voters. There are many concerns, in Bratislava and abroad, that if Robert Fico wins the election, Slovakia’s international orientation might change in connection with the war in Ukraine and other European dossiers. Along with Deputy Speaker of Parliament Juraj Blanár and MEP Monika Beňová, Fico met with the ambassadors of the EU, Great Britain, and the US in Bratislava to discuss domestic and foreign policy in late April. The ambassadors urged him not to join Vladimir Putin, but Smer-SD’s leader stated that if he were to take part in a future government, he would stop supplying weapons to Ukraine, favoring “peaceful negotiations” instead. In Fico’s opinion, the ambassadors lack any answers as to what the solution for the conflict in Ukraine should be.

Though he voiced a timid support for EU membership for Ukraine, the opposition leader stressed he would not like to have Kyiv join NATO. He would support sanctions against Russia, but only “those that make sense” – to him, no sanctions against Moscow did make sense so far. Some observers would welcome an alliance between Smer and the second leading party in the country, Hlas, led by Peter Pellegrini. Voice might indeed temper Smer’s more populist and anti-Western wings. As very few parties in the Slovak political spectrum are willing to cooperate with Smer, Hlas and the right-wing Republika party are the best candidates to enter a future government with Fico. Pellegrini is the second most trusted politician in the country (Median agency: 29 percent of the preferences), and this month he signed a memorandum on cooperation with the Slovak Pensioners Union (JDS), which also held talks with Smer.

However, a center-left Smer-Hlas marriage with Republika is not the only counterintuitive political union on the table. Former extreme right Slovak National Party (SNS) leader Andrej Danko (the least credible politician in Slovakia – Media agency) invited Hlas for a joint meeting with SNS and Fico. He also stated that such a coalition would be the best alternative for SaS, OĽaNO, and We Are Family to govern. Fico responded positively to Danko’s invitation. “We have good experience from governing together, so we find him to be a solid partner,” he noted. Speaking of SaS, this party launched a new campaign called “We are changing the game”. After fourteen years, a new logo was needed: henceforth, liberal SaS will be known as “Saska”. In April, the party also held its congress in Jasná, which confirmed current chairman Richard Sulík as party leader for the next four years.

SaS is equally looking for coalition partners in the run-up to the September elections in Slovakia. While Sulík said that cannot imagine Pellegrini ruling the country again, he does not exclude cooperation with Hlas. However, Saska might not reach the 5 percent threshold to enter Parliament. A concern it shares with OĽaNO, which by his leader Igor Matovič’s voice continues to produce populist proposals. The last one is “Mothers and youth without taxes”, the title of a draft law the party proposed at the Parliament. Mothers with children under 15 and taxpayers under 25 should be exempted from income tax. Secondly, MPs’ and President’s salaries should be lowered, OĽaNO’s leader stressed. However, Parliamentary Chair, Boris Kollár will not include this proposal in the agenda of the parliamentary session due to start next week. In April also, MP György Gyimesi quitted OĽaNO, and might join the Aliancia – negotiations are ongoing.

The problem of center-right’s fragmentation is one that interim PM Eduard Heger’s Demokrati know well. The party aimed to rally the galaxy of moderate parties, but at the moment polls are disappointing for him. While attacking the Democrats, the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) Milan Majerský affirmed he is not holding any talks on cooperation with other parties and is preparing to run alone in the elections. Curiously, after giving the green light to the Democrats in March, former PM Mikuláš Dzurinda changed his mind and said Heger’s party was a fraud. Thus, if some politicians do not hesitate to make enemies and reject the idea of forming coalitions, this is not the case for We Are Family, led by Kollár, willing to join the government with practically anyone.

Ahead of elections in Slovakia, MEP Lucia Ďuriš Nicholsonová’s centrist Apple and Dzurinda’s “Blues” did manage to reach 10.000 signatures to present their parties to the elections. While former PM and eternal Vladimír Mečiar approached Žilina’s mayor to establish a political party of mayors, one of the young faces of Slovak politics, Michal Šimečka, is advancing in the polls. His Progressive Slovakia currently ranks third after Smer and Hlas, and is aiming for Saska’s voters. Later this month, Sulík and Šimečka met: they might cooperate after the elections. Finally, the Hungarian Forum (MF), Slovak Civic Democrats (ODS), Democratic Party (DS), and Roma Coalition Party (SRK) will gather together. These parties are connected by the pursuit of human rights and the support Slovakia’s anchoring in the EU and NATO. This coalition has not negotiated with Apple, Blues, or Democrats yet, but ruled out Smer, Hlas, Republic, and SNS.

Amedeo Gasparini

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Pubblicato da Amedeo Gasparini

Amedeo Gasparini, class 1997, freelance journalist, managing “Blackstar”, MA in “International Relations” (Univerzita Karlova, Prague – Czech Republic); BSc in “Science of Communication” (Università della Svizzera Italiana, Lugano – Switzerland)