In one of the biggest surprises of the March 5 election, more than 200,000 Slovakians – including 23% of first-time voters – cast ballots for the neo-Nazi People’s Party Our Slovakia (L’SNS).
And while the term “neo-Nazi” is often bandied about, at times foolishly, to describe anyone with views slightly to the right of Marine Le Pen, the BBC reported that Marian Kotleba is different. He was, once, literally a neo-Nazi.
Until recently, he dressed in a uniform modelled on the Hlinka Guard, the militia of the 1939-45 Nazi-sponsored Slovak State. He and his followers also adopted the mannerisms, greetings, symbols and rhetoric of that state, Slovakia’s first ill-fated flirtation with sovereignty, reported the BBC.
In a separate report, the Financial Times noted that Kotleba refers to Roma as “gypsy parasites”, reveres a Nazi war criminal as a “national hero” and has advocated a state where minorities are stripped of their rights. And as of this weekend, he leads Slovakia’s fifth-most popular political party.
Now, his rise to prominence (8% in the national vote and 14 seats in the 150-strong parliament) mirrors that of far-right movements elsewhere in Europe, such as the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party in Greece and Hungary’s radical nationalist Jobbik, both of whom have national MPs.