Slovak prosecutor moves to ban far-right party

A supporter of leader of the extreme nationalist Our Slovakia People’s Party (LSNS) flashes the victory sign as party members face riot police officers in Krasnohorske Podhradie, South Eastern Slovakia, 29 September 2012. [Janos Vajda/EPA]

Slovakia’s prosecutor general has asked the Supreme Court to ban a far-right party, branding it an extremist group whose activities violate the constitution. EURACTIV Slovakia reports.

The spokeswoman for Prosecutor General Jaromir Cizmar confirmed that the office has asked the Supreme Court to ban the far-right People’s Party Our Slovakia (LSNS) as an extremist group, whose activities violate the country´s constitution.

According to the prosecutor general, the party´s goal is to destroy country’s democratic system.

Admirers of Nazism

When LSNS made it into the parliament last year, their election success caused uproar and shock among the mainstream. Rising from political obscurity to more than 8%, the far-right party sent 14 lawmakers to Slovakia’s 150-seat national parliament. Now the party is polling at 10-11%.

LSNS is known for its controversial positions and activities. Its members, including the leadership, openly admire the WWII fascist regime of the Slovak state. The party’s symbols, such as its logo and salute, are similar to symbols used by Slovak fascist during WWII. In their eyes, the Slovak National Uprising against the fascist regime and its ally Nazi Germany that broke out in 1944, was a “national tragedy” and a “communist putsch”.

But it´s not only about celebrating Slovakia’s fascist past. Before the elections, the party held rallies and marches in areas with Roma settlements, promising to protect people from “gypsy extremists”, and calling Roma “parasites”.

In the 2016 election, the party fielded several well-known figures from the Slovak neo-Nazi scene, such as Rastislav Rogel, singer and leader of the neo-Nazi group JUDEN MORD, and Marian Magat, who openly praises Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime.

A softer image – but not too much

Since the 2016 elections, the party tried to soften its image. The most controversial figures have left the party or stepped aside. LSNS is now trying to present its ideology as “nationalist” or “patriotic”, rather than overtly fascist.

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Politically, it has focused more on anti-EU, anti-NATO and anti-immigrant campaigns. The party calls NATO a terror group, and last summer started to collect signatures for a referendum on Slovakia’s EU membership.

Still, critics and human rights activists say that it´s only political manoeuvring. LSNS is trying to avoid the fate of its predecessor Slovak Togetherness – National Party, which was banned by the courts in 2006. But the political convictions of its representatives haven’t changed.

In fact, several instances demonstrate that point. One of the MPs and the member of the Human Rights Committee Milan Mazurek, regularly uses hate speech against “Islam” or “Zionism”, and was filmed molesting a Muslim family with small children at Bratislava railway station. He is currently facing charges for anti-Roma statements.

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Other members have repeatedly publicly defended the WWII fascist regime in Slovakia and some have been prosecuted for racist remarks or posts on social media.

Bad timing?

The idea of banning the LSNS has been seriously considered at least since elections in 2016. Police have already started collecting evidence of their activities, so the move by the prosecutor general does not come as a complete surprise.

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However, some are questioning the timing of the move and why it took so long to materialise. Slovakia is heading for regional elections in November 2017and the LSNS leader Marian Kotleba has a good chance of defending his position as the president of one of the regions in Central Slovakia.

While his record after four years in the office is not convincing, a court case might turn him into a “martyr”, bringing him additional protest votes.

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The issue boils down to a simple question: why do people support LSNS in the first place? According to several polls and experts, the party is reaping many protest votes from people dissatisfied with the “political mainstream”, pervasive corruption, inequality and lack of opportunities in some regions.

At the same time, LSNS is digging into racist and xenophobic sentiments that are endemic in public opinion. According to some experts, in 2016 the party capitalised on the anti-immigrant rhetoric of most mainstream parties, and especially the tough public attitudes of the PM Robert Fico.

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