Surprise results in Slovakia's local elections

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Slovakia held local elections last week with voters choosing their mayors and members of local councils. The biggest surprise was the defeat of the incumbent mayor of Zilina the infamous leader of the Slovak National Party Jan Slota. Anca Dragu reports from Bratislava.

Jan Slota, photo: CTK
After spending 16 years in the mayoral chair, Slota, who is well known for his xenophobic remarks, had to concede to Ivan Harman, who was supported by a coalition of opposition parties. Here is what the new mayor had to say after the official results were made public.

"First of all I will order an audit at the town hall because I have the feeling that the previous mayor abused his position and took decisions which were not favourable to the people of Zilina."

Political analyst Grigori Meseznikov thinks that Slota lost because his administration was accompanied, not only by moves that attested to his managerial abilities, but also by concerns about the transparency of decision-making.

"The result of local elections in Zilina will have a nationwide impact, especially in terms of the future performance of the Slovak National Party which is a member of the current governing coalition. They simply lost their stronghold"

All in all leaders of the largest political parties in Slovakia have competed to announce the success of their own political organisation. Prime Minister Robert Fico said that the winner of Saturday's local elections was his own Smer-SD party.

"This party is now strongly embedded in towns and villages. It's easier to defend the post of mayor than to defeat an incumbent, and that it is only this year that Smer has been able to make a significant impression in local elections. Smer had 74 candidates for mayors of towns and cities, with 34 of these successful. In all, we can speak about 55 mayors if we add the candidates that his party supported as a member of coalitions. In fact, the Bratislava borough of Petrzalka is one of Slovakia's largest towns."

The strongest opposition partry; SDKU-DS; is also satisfied with the results of Saturday's local elections, according to party leader and former Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda.

"In some towns we have had better results, in others worse results than in 2002, but the overall evaluation is that we are satisfied with the results. Prime Minister Robert Fico's claim that his Smer-SD party won the local elections is a nonsense and a lie. I don't think any political party in Slovakia can say it is the absolute winner."

The SDKU's candidates won in the two largest cities in Slovakia with Andrej Durkovsky re-elected as mayor of Bratislava and Frantisek Knapik in Kosice. Analysts, however, conclude that it is difficult to measure the success of individual parties due to the various coalitions formed in towns and villages.