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Slovak elections this weekend

March 6, 2012

Slovaks will go to the polls this Saturday to vote in parliamentary elections. New elections were necessitated when Prime Minister Iveta Radicova’s conservative government collapsed in October 2011 following a no confidence vote over the expansion of the European bailout fund. Radicova’s government came to power following elections in 2010. Even though her Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU-DS) finished in distant second place behind the Social Democratic party, the latter party’s former coalition partners had dismal performances. This allowed Radicova’s party to scrape together a majority coalition with three smaller right-leaning parties. However, when Slovak’s parliament, the National Council, voted in October 2011 on whether to support an expansion of the European Financial Stability Fund, it was a vote of no confidence. The Social Democrats abstained from the vote, which failed to pass, resulting in the fall of the government. The Social Democrats supported the measure in a second vote, admitting that their first round abstention was merely designed to force new elections.

Lucia Virostkova at EU Observer has written a helpful rundown of the upcoming election. As she points out, even though the government’s collapse was triggered by a European-wide issue (namely a discussion over whether Slovakia, the second poorest member of the Eurozone, should be forced to bail out countries such as Greece), the current campaign has revolved around domestic issues. Specifically, a file posted on the internet has detailed corrupt links between various political parties and business leaders. The corruption revelations led to large protests in Slovakia in early February. The file mainly implicates the conservative SDKU-DS, and judging from pre-election opinion polls, the Social Democrats look poised to benefit from the corruption allegations. According to one poll, if the election had occurred at the end of February, the Social Democrats would have received nearly 40% of the votes and 50% of the seats in the National Council, allowing them to govern without coalition partners.

Also interesting from the standpoint of the development of Slovakia’s party system, two recently created parties look likely to surpass the 5% threshold necessary to enter parliament. This after two newly created parties entered the National Council in 2010. Political party scholars often speak of party systems becoming “institutionalized,” one characteristic of which is that over time there is consistency in the field of parties entering parliament and fewer new parties winning seats. Slovakia’s party system would appear to be under-institutionalized, judging from this indicator alone. The frequent emergence of new parties is unsurprising, given the distrust towards the established parties bred by corruption scandals. 

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