Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico is on course to win another term in parliamentary elections on Saturday, maintaining an anti-immigration alliance with his European Union neighbors, Hungary’s Viktor Orban and Poland’s Jaroslaw Kaczynski. Fico, 51, is a Social Democrat but fits in with his two conservative peers when it comes to a focus on national pride, social conservatism and strong opposition to immigration. Opinion polls show Fico’s Smer party will win 32.5-38.4 percent of the vote, enough to retain power with a coalition partner or two. Many in Brussels are watching the election and Fico’s views on migration because Slovakia will hold the rotating six-month EU presidency from July, giving it a bigger voice in EU discussions.
A referendum to prevent granting new rights to gays in Slovakia, an ex-Communist state in the European Union’s east, failed Saturday due to a low turnout as opponents of the popular vote urged people to stay at home. Only 21.4% of 4.41 million eligible voters cast their ballots, below the required 50% quorum in this predominantly Roman Catholic country of five million people to make the national-vote results legally binding, final results released Sunday by the Slovak electoral commission showed. They confirmed preliminary results published late Saturday. The final tally also showed that between 90.3% and 94.5% of 944,209 Slovaks voting in the referendum agreed to all three questions it asked: whether marriage can only be a union of a man and a woman; whether to ban same-sex couples from adopting children; and whether parents can let their children skip school classes involving education on sex and euthanasia. The Slovak antigay vote followed a similar referendum that succeeded in Croatia, also a Roman Catholic EU member, in 2013. The different results reflect cultural differences within Europe on gay rights. Some people in mostly ex-Communist eastern EU states, including also Hungary and Poland, are against what they view as excessively liberal policies such as legalizing various forms of same-sex unions and children adoptions by gay couples possible elsewhere in the 28-nation bloc, including Austria and the Czech Republic.
Almost 1 million people cast their ballot in the February 7 referendum which, as its initiators say, sought the protection of family. The turnout, however, failed to surpass the required 50-percent quorum as only 21.41 percent of eligible voters went to the polling stations. It was the third lowest of the eight referendums already held in Slovakia and surprised analysts as pre-referendum polls suggested that about 35 percent would attend the voting. Despite the failed vote, both the referendum’s organisers and representatives of the LGBTI community consider the results a success and claim they want to continue with the discussion it has opened. “For me, as a sociologist, the turnout is really surprisingly low,” Martin Slosiarik of the Focus polling agency told the public-service Slovak Radio (SRo), adding that a pre-referendum poll Focus conducted for the Sme daily suggested the most pessimistic variant for turnout at about 30 percent. Of more than 4.4 million eligible voters, only 944,674 people came to cast their ballot. The highest turnout was in Prešov Region (32.31 percent), while the lowest was in Banská Bystrica Region (15.84 percent).
Social conservatives in Slovakia aim to block gay couples from gaining more rights in a referendum on Saturday that pits the country’s mainly liberal city dwellers against those in the more traditional countryside. The campaign is part of a conservative pushback in eastern Europe against what they see as overly liberal policies spreading eastwards in the two decades since the European Union expanded to include former Communist states. More than 400,000 Slovaks, nearly 10 percent of the central European country’s electorate, have signed a petition demanding a national vote. It is a rare show of political engagement in a country where people often shun public affairs – a mere 13 percent voted in the European Parliament election last year.
A long-awaited law unifying the rules for all elections held in Slovakia finally sailed through parliament in late May. Before the law was passed, the government allowed the public a period of time to discuss the new rules and to reach a consensus across the political spectrum. Despite this, opposition parties and political transparency watchdogs have serious concerns about some of the rules. On May 29, parliament passed new election rules which are to become effective only in 2015, meaning that, stricter control over campaign financing and limits on campaign spending will not be applied in the municipal elections taking place this autumn. The new election law is replacing six laws that set out the rules for different kinds of elections in Slovakia, with the declared aim of unifying the rules for elections, and to make the running and financing of political campaigns more transparent.
Opposition Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) MPs Lucia Nicholsonová and Martin Poliačik want to amend the new election code to allow Slovaks living abroad to vote in parliamentary, presidential and European Parliament elections. They also suggest introducing the requirement to inform electoral commissions in advance when an illiterate person wants to cast a ballot with an assistant, the TASR newswire reported on April 7. Both Nicholsonová and Poliačik attended the elections in Jarovnice, Prešov Region, which is the village with the largest Roma settlement in Slovakia, where they sat in the electoral commission.
Philanthropist and former businessman Andrej Kiska took a wide lead over Prime Minister Robert Fico in Slovakia’s presidential election, partial results of the second election round showed on Saturday. Data from 45 percent of voting districts showed the politically unaffiliated Kiska leading over the center-left prime minister by 59.4 percent to 40.6 percent of the vote. Kiska, 51, has been riding the wave of anti-Fico sentiment among right-wing voters as well as distrust in mainstream political parties because of graft scandals and persistently high unemployment. The partial results seemed to reflect fear among Slovaks that the 49-year-old would amass too much power, which some see as unhealthy for democratic checks and balances.
The current presidential election will not be the last in which Slovaks living abroad are not able to exercise their right to vote. While allowing people to vote via online could remedy the problem, Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák shot down that option on March 23, citing high costs and security risks. Lawmakers are set to discuss a new election law at the next parliamentary session, but electronic voting is not part of the bill “There are a number of risks and drawbacks,” the TASR newswire quoted Kaliňák as saying. “Even states far more advanced [than Slovakia] such as Germany or Belgium, even our neighbours in Austria, aren’t entertaining the idea of e-voting for the time being.”
Slovakia: Incumbent Faces Presidential Election Battle – Runoff Vote Set for March 29 | Wall Street Journal
Slovakia’s serving prime minister won the first round of Slovakia’s presidential election Saturday but will have to fight hard ahead of the late-March runoff to persuade enough voters concerned that his ruling left-of-center party is taking too much power. If elected, Robert Fico, 49 years old, and his Smer-Social Democrats would gain control over the presidency, parliament, and government in this small euro-zone country of 5.4 million. No single political party has held all top elected offices in this ex-Communist country formed after a peaceful split of the former Czechoslovak federation in 1993. Mr. Fico won 28% of cast votes, which was well below the expected 35% support indicated by pre-election polls of voters’ preferences.
Slovaks will choose a new head of state in the direct presidential election, the fourth since its introduction in 1999, from among the record number of 14 candidates in the first election round March 15. The two most promising candidates are the incumbent Prime Minister and Smer-Social Democracy Chairman Robert Fico, and entrepreneur Andrej Kiska (unaffiliated). It is expected that none of the candidates will be elected in the first round. To be elected, the candidate would have to be supported by an absolute majority of all eligible voters, including those who do not take part in the election. The new head of state, who will replace outgoing President Ivan Gašparovič, will probably emerge from the second election round March 29, in which the first round’s two most successful candidates will clash. According to public opinion polls, the election favorite is Fico, the country’s most popular politician, who might gain about 35 percent of the vote in the first round.
Voters in Slovak presidential elections won’t be able to vote by post, even after the new election rules currently being prepared by the Interior Ministry are introduced. “There’s a problem with the second round. There’s too little time [between the first and second rounds], it can’t be managed,” Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák told the TASR newswire. Moreover, voters aren’t able to take part via electronic voting. Kaliňák said that he doesn’t intend to there isn’t enough interest in this form of voting to make it worthwhile.
There was a startling life-imitates-politics moment during Saturday’s parliamentary elections in Slovakia, when the Krásna Hôrka castle, a national monument, burned to a smoking ruin. With the centre-right government also in flames, social networks quivered with a horrified question: how bad could this get? For the right wing – historically bad. For the first time in its 18-year history, Slovakia will be ruled by a single party, the social-democratic Smer (Direction) led by lawyer Robert Fico. With 44% of the vote, Fico captured 83 of 150 seats, and is now picking ministers ahead of a swift transfer of power. As impressive as the left’s victory was, Fico arguably had little to do with it. Last autumn, the four government parties quarrelled over the euro bailout scheme, and then petulantly refused to make up. The result was early elections, less than two years after the coalition took office, and an electorate fed up with such arrant folly. In rural countries, let it be said, rightwing governments should consider themselves lucky.
A leftist opposition led by one of the few leading politicians in Slovakia to escape voter anger over a major corruption scandal has been propelled back to power in an early parliamentary election, according to almost complete results on Sunday. Smer-Social Democracy of former Prime Minister Robert Fico is a clear winner with 44.8 percent of the vote, or 84 seats in the 150-seat Parliament, with the votes from 5,842 of the 5,956 polling stations counted by the Statistics Office early Sunday. The result allows Fico to govern alone, which has not happened to anyone since the country was created as an independent state following the split of Czechoslovakia in 1993.
For two years, the dossier claims, politicians of all stripes were pocketing kickbacks from members of an influential private investment group. In the wall of the apartment where the clandestine meetings took place was a listening device planted by a secret agent intrigued by why so many high-level visitors were dropping in. The “Gorilla’’ files — mysteriously posted online by an anonymous source in December and said to be based on the wiretaps — have rocked the already-raucous world of Slovak politics ahead of elections Saturday. The fallout looks certain to propel populist former leader Robert Fico back into power, even though he himself has been implicated.
A new hot topic has emerged ahead of Slovakia’s parliamentary election this spring: Alleged corruption at the highest levels of government, and anger over lawmakers’ immunity from prosecution. The allegations have stirred dissent among some Slovaks who have taken to the streets to vent their anger at the government and the opposition. The accusations stem from wire-tap transcripts — whose authenticity have yet to be verified by police — of alleged secret meetings between Slovak officials and local business leaders. The transcripts are contained in a report allegedly compiled by the Slovak Intelligence Service. According to local media reports, the intelligence document — code named Gorilla — was compiled over many years by the spy agency and leaked to Slovak press late last year. Police haven’t charged anyone in connection with the leaked document.