Slovakia election: anti-immigration PM wins, but loses majority
The leftist anti-immigration party of Slovak prime minister Robert Fico has won the parliamentary election with 28.7% of the vote, according to almost complete results: that is far ahead of others. However, gains by opposition parties including far-right extremists will complicate formation of a new government.
With eurozone member Slovakia due to take over the European Union’s rotating presidency from July, giving it a bigger role in EU policy discussions over the bloc’s migration crisis, the election is being watched closely in Brussels. Moreover, the Prime Minister, who dismisses multiculturalism as “a fiction”, has pledged never to accept EU-agreed quotas on relocating refugees who have flooded into Greece and Italy from Syria and beyond.
Fico’s Smer-Social Democracy party bet on a combination of popular welfare measures such as free train rides for students and pensioners and his opposition to accepting refugees to secure a third term, after ruling from 2006-2010 and 2012-2016.
The results showed that at least eight groups may win seats in the new parliament. According to Fico, building a new coalition in a highly fragmented parliament would take time and be tough, given the “very complicated” election results. If Fico fails to put together a government, a group of centre-right parties could try to form a broad but possibly unstable anti-Fico coalition, a repeat of the 2010 election.
Any centre-right coalition would include the libertarian Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party, which held second place in the partial results with 11.5% of the vote. The party’s refusal to provide guarantees for a bailout of Greece brought down the previous centre-right government in 2012.
Despite Slovakia ranging as one of the euro zone’s most financially sound states, the unemployment of more than 10% and vast regional differences in wealth, as well corruption and low healthcare and education standards, have disappointed many voters. And the results showed Fico’s bet on immigration fears may have benefitted other candidates.
The far-right radical group of central Slovak Governor Marian Kotleba won 8.2% of the vote, nearly three times more than opinion polls had predicted. Kotleba has in the past sported uniforms reminiscent of the Nazi-era Slovak state, and was investigated, but not found guilty of, spreading hatred toward the Roma minority. A new anti-immigration party of businessman Boris Kollar also surprisingly crossed the 5% threshold to win seats.
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