Slovakia goes to the polls

EPA/FILIP SINGER

Election poster of 'Direction - Social Democracy' party SMER with Slovakian Prime Minister and SMER leader Robert Fico reading 'We defend Slovakia' pictured in Bratislava, Slovakia, 04 March 2016. Parliamentary elections in Slovakia will be held on 05 March 2016.

Slovakia goes to the polls


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Slovaks are going to the polls on Saturday, March 5th, amidst a campaign dominated by a problem Slovakia does not have. Bratislava received fewer than 350 asylum-seekers in 2015; still 80% of the population is convinced that asylum seekers should not be welcome while the incumbent Roberto Fico prepares the country for an invasion.

Anti-immigration rhetoric

The incumbent Roberto Fico, 51, has vowed to oppose the settlement of Muslim migrants in Slovakia. His Smer-SD party has adopted the slogan “We Protect Slovakia,” probably with an eye to forming a governing coalition with the extreme far-right nationalist party.

Fico has already taken the European Commission to Court over the mandatory relocation program in November 2015 and accepting only asylum seekers that are Christian. Bratislava has been asked to host a staggering 902 refugees by the European Commission.

Meanwhile, Smer-SD is calling for a sacrifice of Greece and its ejection from the Schengen zone to stop migrants going anywhere else.

Numbers in context

Smer came to power in 2012 with 44,4% and 83 seats in a 150-member parliament. Polls gave Smer 34,1% in February, which corresponds to 62 seats. While this is a big drop, the opposition is fragmented. The second party on a 14 February poll has no more than 14%. SMER maintains a double digit lead over the second party and will be the one to negotiate forming the next government even if it fairs below 30%.

Smer’s most likely partner in a future coalition is the far-right, racist, anti-Romani and anti-Hungarian Slovak National Party, which is surging on the polls and could come third with 8% of the votes, or 15 Seats. That could mean a majority of just one MP in a coalition government.  Thus it appears Smer’s campaign is doing more for its potential coalition partner than for Smer. If SMER does fair worse than 30%, the fragmented coalition may yet be given the chance to form a government.

Successful economic management

In early February the Fico administration was given a glowing report by the European Commission. GDP growth in 2015 stood at 3,5% in Slovakia with Foreign Direct Investment and wage growth driving development. Unemployment stands at 11,5% but is expected to fall to single digits in 2016. This kind of economic growth has allowed for popular measures, including free train travel for students and pensioners and the lowering of VAT charges on food.

Who wins matters

Slovakia is to succeed the Netherlands in taking over the EU’s rotating presidency in July, after the elections, but with an ongoing migrant crisis. Whether this administration will be able to manage a number of divisive issues currently on the EU agenda is a big question.

 (with FT, BBC)

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