Slovak general elections

Vladimir Meciar, photo: CTK

Politicians in the Czech Republic as well as in the rest of post-Communist Central Europe have welcomed the results of the general elections that took place in Slovakia on September 20 and 21st, despite the fact that the nationalist former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's Movement for Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) at the start of the campaign originally looked like it would have a chance of retaking power. Meciar gained 19.5 percent of the vote but although he received most votes in the Slovak parliamentary elections his chances of forming a majority coalition government are low as he remains isolated. The governing pro-European parties, on the other hand, view the elections as a victory since their coalition would have a majority in parliament. Here are the final election results: the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU) received 15.09 percent and the Smer party received 13.46 percent. The Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) received 11.16 percent, the Christian Democrats (KDH) 8.25 percent, the Alliance of New Citizens (ANO) 8.01 percent and the Communists (KSS) 6.32 percent. After the election results were final, the Slovak President Rudolf Schuster said that he would appoint the person who will give him the majority in parliament as Prime Minister. Whilst it seems most probable that the current Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda has a better chance of forming such a government, his four-party coalition would have 78 seats in the 150 seat parliament, Vladimir Meciar has been given until Friday to attempt to form a coalition himself - a chance that political analysts believe to be just a formal gesture, finding it virtually impossible for Mr Meciar to get the support he needs. In today's CET, Dita Asiedu speaks with Olga Gyarfasova, sociologist and programme director at the Institute for Public Affairs in Bratislava, about the election results and what they mean for Slovakia's relations with its partners in the Visegrad Group (the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary). Of the more than 4.1 million eligible voters, 70.07 percent took part in the general elections. So, Dita Asiedu started off by asking Mrs Gyarfasova whether the Slovak people were surprised by the election results:

Vladimir Meciar, photo: CTK
"Partially yes. I think that there were a lot of surprises in terms of the party Smer, which lost much more than it expected. Then, on the other hand, there is the very good result of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union which was also a surprise not only for the voters but also for the politicians themselves. There are also the unpleasant surprises for those who were unable to get enough votes to enter parliament."

The victory of centre-right parties has certainly increased Slovakia's chances of becoming a NATO and EU member. Now do you expect that to become a priority for the new Slovak government?

"I think it will definitely be a priority for the new Slovak government because it was a priority for those three parties who already were in the government in the previous legislation period and I think that they not only declared it as a priority but they also did a lot to bring Slovakia out of the international isolation and closer to integration."

What sort of a role, then, do you think will Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic - the post-Communist Central European countries that are already NATO members and future EU members - play as far as helping Slovakia get into these institutions is concerned?

"I think that they were very supportive in terms of NATO accession of Slovakia. There were several statements and declarations made by Czech President Havel and also by the highest representatives of Poland. I also think that the new government, which came to power in Hungary after the spring election is much more cooperative than the previous government was. In this respect, we should also speak about the regional Visegrad Four co-operation, which was revitalised in the last years. It was mainly Slovakia's effort to make this co-operation much more politically relevant and to also have some common positions in the negotiation process and also to catch up with the other three countries that already are NATO members by means of a more intensive regional co-operation."

Now you have mentioned the new Hungarian government. How are relations with Hungary now, how do you expect them to be? The Hungarian Coalition Party will be getting some 20 seats in parliament as it won a little over 11 percent in the elections. So how will that affect Slovak-Hungarian relations?

"It's hard to imagine a better situation, better position because - as you have mentioned - the Hungarian Coalition will be in the future government. It will not only be in the future government but it will be the second strongest party in the Four Coalition. There was some friction and there were some problems when Mr Orban made some statements that addressed Slovakia. I think that the situation will now be much calmer. There were elections in all four countries and I think that this is a good time to build effective relations."

One thing that surprised me was that the Communist Party in Slovakia got some 6percent in the elections, compared to the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravian which got three times as much support in the Czech Republic. How is it possible that the development has changed so drastically, that the Communists have so much less support in Slovakia than in the Czech Republic?

"I think this is mainly because the Communist Party of Slovakia was transformed in the early 1990's. That means that there was a split within the party and the more reformed split from the orthodox Communist party. Another reason is that the former Communists were present in several parties in Slovakia and not just in the fundamental Communist Party of Slovakia. So this is why the support is higher in the Czech Republic than in Slovakia. Then there are also other factors which contributed to the election results of the Communists. They got over the five percent threshold and I think that this mainly reflects the situation on the left side of the political spectrum because the other parties were very small and I think that the voters decided to support just one of these parties. Another thing that contributed that was a crisis within the Movement for Democratic Slovakia because we have seen it in the analysis that former voters of Meciar's party now voted for the Communist Party."