Slovakia's election winner searching for coalition partners

Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda and Robert Fico, photo: CTK

No loud cheering or hasty comments to the media, but rather cautious celebrations behind closed doors, that is how Smer - Slovakia's Social Democrats - marked their victory in the general election that took place last weekend. Gaining nearly 30 percent of the votes, Smer has 50 seats in the new Parliament. To be able to form a new government the party needs over half of the parliamentary seats, and so right after receiving a mandate from the President to form a new cabinet Smer began a week of meetings and negotiations with fellow parties that made it to Parliament.

Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda and Robert Fico,  photo: CTK
"In the first round of official meetings we are only looking for programme overlaps. We will present all parties our priorities, on which we want to base the new government program. We will then narrow down the series of meetings according to their reactions to this as well as to their own priorities."

...said Robert Fico. Fico started talks with two of the other parties currently in opposition - the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, that saw a significant fall in their vote share, and the Nationalist SNS party, whose result came as an even bigger surprise. After 4 years of not even being represented in Parliament, they gained more than 11% of the vote.

"We will honour the choice Smer makes in picking a third partner for a coalition. If Smer decides not to continue negotiations with us, we will respect and honour that too."

Vladimir Meciar and Robert Fico,  photo: CTK
... said leader of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar. Such accommodating statements right now are not a big surprise, say political analysts. Many of them have commented on how calm the political climate has suddenly become after a conflict-ridden election campaign. Although before the election none of the parties wanted to say outright who they would be willing to join in a future coalition, personality clashes between Smer leader Robert Fico and the long term leader of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia Vladimir Meciar were well known.

"We started to talk about our programmes and found no obstacles. That is a very significant piece of information."

Now it seems Smer, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia and nationalists have no major clashes in their programs and could form a new government. After these first round meetings, Smer then met the parties of the current coalition that made it to Parliament. The ethnic Hungarian coalition, that gained a little over 11% has already stated its priorities, but believes it would be possible to reach a compromise with Smer. Smer and SDKU, the party of Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda that came second in the election and won more than 18 percent of the vote seem to be the most improbable match, as the SDKU stands firmly behind the liberal reforms it has launched, while Smer has a plan to reverse many of them.

Pavol Hrusovsky,  photo: CTK
"We would like to meet Smer representatives, and listen to their priorities, and opinions on future relations between other political parties."

...said leader of the Christian Democrats Pavol Hrusovsky. For now it seems that the Christian Democrats, which came out of the election with almost 9%, will tip the balance. It is not possible to predict the direction of Slovakia's economic policy just on the basis of the election results as further talks will be very complex, but some analysts have raised concerns about the possible halting of euro adoption or changes in the business environment in Slovakia as the country moves to the left.