Slovakia: EU campaign influenced by local politics

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The European elections in Slovakia are being overshadowed by much-discussed presidential elections, which are delaying the beginning of the EU elections campaign – EURACTIV Slovakia reports.

Background

Slovakia will elect 13 MEPs to the European Parliament this year: one less than in 2004. The country recorded the lowest turnout of all EU countries in the 2004 elections, with only 16.9% of eligible voters going to the polls to elect the first Slovak MEPs.

Recent surveys offer a similarly pessimistic perspective for the upcoming elections. Presidential elections in April have delayed the start of EU campaigning, and by early April only a few parties had revealed their electoral manifestos or candidate lists. 

Issues

Shadow of the presidential elections 

Besides the European Parliament (EP) elections, presidential and regional elections have also been scheduled for this year. Some politicians suggested that at least two of these polls should take place at once to boost turnout. But this idea went no further than the drawing board. 

Since the presidential election has two rounds, Slovaks will go to the polls four times during a very short period of time. Since the beginning of 2009, the attention of politicians, the media and the general public has been focused on the presidential elections. That has effectively prevented the start of campaigning for the European elections, and the only media coverage they have had so far was when the names of the candidates were announced. 

The presidential run-off will be held on 4 April between opposition challenger Iveta Radi?ová and the incumbent Ivan Gašparovi?. The presidential campaign turned on the offensive, after the first-round vote resulted in a relatively small gap between the two candidates (EURACTIV 24/03/09). Moreover, the poll has effectively become a "referendum on the current government". 

The most controversial moment of the campaign – with a possible impact on the EP elections too –centered around the Nationalist party (SNS), which played the so-called 'Hungarian card'. SNS pointed out that Radi?ová won the first round in southern regions, where there is a high proportion of Hungarian nationals. "It is not acceptable that rich Bratislava and the Hungarian minority is dictating to the majority," said the vice-chair of the SNS, Anna Belousovová, giving her backing to Gašparovi?'s candidacy.

Slovak nationalist heading to Brussels for first time 

The SNS party may well enter the European Parliament for the first time after these elections. In 2004, the party was fragmented, split and did not have any representatives in Slovakia's national parliament. But today, as a member of the governing coalition and with public support of roughly 10%, it has a good chance of gaining two seats. 

As for SMER, the Social Democratic party of Prime Minister Robert Fico, the coalition with the nationalists (SNS) almost cost the party membership of the Party of European Socialists (PES). PES suspended SMER's candidacy for full membership after the government was formed in 2006. But SMER was officially put back on track for full membership of the PES in February 2008. 

The Nationalist party is presently seeking membership of the Union for Europe of Nations (UEN). In May 2008, UEN chair Cristiana Muscardini visited the SNS leadership in Bratislava. During a joint press conference with Muscardini, which was only open to selected media, Belousovova said the SNS was not isolated in Europe. 

In June 2008, SNS leader Ján Slota announced that he may lead the party into the European elections. "If I were to be elected by chance, you would see how lively it would be there," he said, expressing his desire to "oxidise the muddy, rotten, milky waters [of the EP] by truth, and not by hypocrisy and lies". Later, the party agreed that he had to front the national election campaign in summer 2010. 

Low turnout favours centre-right

Turnout in Slovakia hit an historic low for the EU during the country's first elections in 2004, with only 16.9% of voters going to the polls. According to surveys, this scenario may be repeated. Such low figures are believed to favour the centre-right opposition parties, with relatively stable electorates. 

"The turnout will be so low that it will deform any strength or weakness of political parties," predicted Prime Minister Fico. His party, SMER, intends to organise a series of electoral events. "I think it will be up to politicians to play their role. Even though some claim that they want many people to come, in reality it only matters to SMER, because the more people come, the more votes we will get," MEP Vladimir Ma?ka (SMER) told EURACTIV.sk. 

The prospect of a turnout as low as 15% (according to Eurobarometer projections) would probably prompt parties to mobilise specific groups of voters, without tempting them to reach out beyond their traditional electorates. That could be especially true for the conservative Christian Democrats (KDH), as well as the party that represents the Hungarian minority in Slovakia (SMK) and the People's Party / Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), led by Vladimir Me?iar.

Candidates: Experienced politicians, no new faces 

Parties have tended to opt for senior politicians with years of experience, mostly former ministers, to run for election. As only candidates whose name features in the first three places of the list have a realistic chance of election (with preferential votes or without), most parties are aiming to put top figures in these positions. These means that the current MEPs, almost all of whom are seeking re-election, have in many cases been downgraded on the lists. 

The leading positions have instead been granted to Eduard Kukan (an MP and former foreign minister) for the centre-right SDKÚ, Boris Zala (an MP and chairman of the foreign affairs committee) for SMER, and Martin Fronc (an MP and former minister of education) for KDH. 

The liberal democratic HZDS party, member of the governing coalition, decided to put all of its current three MEPs (Sergej Kozlík, Peter Baco and Irena Belohorská) at the top of its candidate list. 

No high-profile Libertas candidates in Slovakia 

Libertas leader Declan Ganley visited Bratislava in February 2008 in an attempt to recruit prominent figures to run in the European elections for Libertas. He met conservative politicians like Ján ?arnogurský, a former prime minister of Slovakia from the KDH party, Vladimir Palko, a former minister of justice from the KDS (conservative democrats who have split from KDH), Peter Osuský and Ondrej Dostál from the OKS (non-parliamentary conservative party) and Richard Sulík, the founder of a new liberal political party (Freedom and Solidarity). 

These politicians, however, are almost all running in the European elections under their own banners. Thus far, Libertas has neither revealed any official candidates, nor whether it intends to run in the Slovak elections. 

Ján Oravec, president of the Hayek Foundation and Ganley's host, said: "Slovakia is fertile ground for the Libertas message of democracy, accountability and transparency. We are great supporters of the European Union, but are disappointed in the anti-democratic way it's being run. Slovakians, particularly in these difficult economic times, want a better deal from Europe." 

Party review:

SMER-SD (PES)

The strongest political party, Prime Minister Fico's SMER, hopes to gain at least three mandates, the same number as it holds in the current legislative period. Its most optimistic scenario is five MEPs. On 27 March, SMER finalised the list. In the end, the party leadership chose to nominate one of the party founders, the popular politician Monika Flašíková-Be?ová, who openly criticised the party for forming a coalition with SNS and HZDS and lost her position as the party's president. The party is yet to reveal its manifesto for the elections. 

  • 1. Boris Zala
  • 2. Vladimír Ma?ka (MEP)
  • 3. Monika Flašíková-Be?ová (MEP)
  • 4. Monika Smolková
  • 5. Katarína Neve?alová
  • 6. Alexander Kurtánský
  • 7. Peter Hanulík
  • 8. Gabriella Ke?kéšová
  • 9. Peter Markovi?
  • 10. Jozef Štrba
  • 11. Ladislav Petráš
  • 12. Svetlana Pavlovi?ová
  • 13. Milan Magát 

SDKÚ-DS (EPP-ED) 

The strongest opposition party officially chose its leader in February, with the next positions occupied according to the party's primary elections. It is the only party to hold primaries. The party wants to focus its campaign on economic issues and combating the crisis, but it is also yet to publish its manifesto. The party would consider three MEPs as a success: the same number as in 2004.

  • 1. Eduard Kukan
  • 2. Peter Š?astný (MEP)
  • 3. Milan Ga?a (MEP)
  • 4. Pavol Kubovi?
  • 5. Jarmila Tká?ová
  • 6. Zita Pleštinská (MEP)
  • 7. Juraj Švá?
  • 8. Marián Török
  • 9. Júlia Hurná
  • 10. Eugen Szép
  • 11. Alexander Slafkovský
  • 12. Štefan Mikula 

SNS (seeking UEN membership) 

SNS may well be set to enter the EP for the first time. It has a chance of gaining one or even two seats, and is largely campaigning on national issues. 

  • 1. Dušan Švantner
  • 2. Jaroslav Paška
  • 3. Vladimír ?e?ot
  • 4. Daniel Pla?ko
  • 5. Tatiana Poliaková
  • 6. Štefan Zelník
  • 7. Rafael Rafaj
  • 8. Emil Vestenický
  • 9. Augustín Jozef Lang
  • 10. Vladimír Bachar
  • 11. Roman Sopka
  • 12. Ján Stanecký
  • 13. Stanislav ?e?ko 

?S-HZDS (its non-attached MEPs are seeking membership of the European Democratic Party (EDP), a member of the ALDE group) 

The HZDS of former Prime Minister Vladimír Me?iar was the first party to publish its manifesto for the European elections. It could gain up to two seats in the new Parliament.

  • 1. Sergej Kozlík (MEP)
  • 2. Peter Baco (MEP)
  • 3. Irena Belohorská (MEP)
  • 4. Ivana Kapráliková
  • 5. Diana Štrofova
  • 6. Ján Kovar?ík
  • 7. Jaroslav Jaduš
  • 8. Jaroslav ?a?o
  • 9. Pavol Krištof
  • 10. Beáta Sániova
  • 11. Jana Kandrá?ová
  • 12. Igor Liška
  • 13. Ladislav Kokoška 

SMK (EPP-ED)

The party represents Slovakia's Hungarian minority. It has a very stable electorate, and it is thus likely that it will repeat its 2004 results by winning two seats. MEP Edit Bauer heads the list as she did five years ago.  

  • 1. Edit Bauer (MEP)
  • 2. Alajos Mészáros
  • 3. Attila Lancz
  • 4. Sándor Albert
  • 5. Szabolcs Hodosy
  • 6. Zoltán Bara
  • 7. Gábor Klenovics
  • 8. Zsuzsanna Andrássy
  • 9. Pál Banai Tóth
  • 10. Béla Keszegh
  • 11. Csaba Cúth
  • 12. Gyula Slovák
  • 13. Gergely Agócs Gergely 

KDH (EPP-ED) 

The only Slovak MEP to hold the chairmanship of an EP committee, Anna Záborská (Women's Rights), was moved into third position on the list, which puts her re-election at risk. The party is also in the process of changing its leader, and it is possible that Commissioner Ján Figel' will occupy the post after returning from Brussels. It appears that the candidates will each have his or her own manifesto for the election. The party highlights ethical aspects, in line with their Christian tradition, and the protection of national sovereignty within the EU. 

  • 1. Martin Fronc
  • 2. Ján Hudacký (MEP)
  • 3. Anna Záborská (MEP)
  • 4. Miroslav Mikolášik (MEP)
  • 5. Ján Van?o
  • 6. Peter Len?
  • 7. Renáta Ocilková
  • 8. Pavol Kossey
  • 9. Martin Hladký
  • 10. Martin Kraj?ovi?
  • 11. Martin Kalafut
  • 12. Jozef Bobík
  • 13. Ján Morovi? 

OKS and KDS (non-attached) 

This coalition of two conservative parties criticising the Lisbon Treaty will most probably not be elected.

  • Vladimír Palko
  • Peter Osuský 

SF (Free forum)

  • 1. Milan Izák
  • 2. ?udmila Farkašovská
  • 3. Mária Lévyová
  • 4. Miriam Repáková
  • 5. Milan Pla?ko
  • 6. Alexandra Paf?ová
  • 7. Peter Luká?
  • 8. Kvetoslava Matlovi?ová
  • 9. Katarína Cselovszká
  • 10. ?ubomír Malák
  • 11. Jozef Dušenka
  • 12. Jana Kordiaková
  • 13. Radomír Szabó

KDS-OKS 

  • 1. Vladimír Palko
  • 2. Peter Osuský
  • 3. Alojz Rakús
  • 4. Tibor Taká?
  • 5. František Mikloško
  • 6. Pavol Minárik
  • 7. Svetozár Gavora
  • 8. Rudolf Bauer
  • 9. Mária Majdová
  • 10. Andrej Pavlík
  • 11. Marcela P?olinská
  • 12. Karol Jadaš
  • 13. Peter Jese?ák

(KSS) Komunistická strana Slovenska (Communist party of Slovakia)

  • 1. Juraj Brecko
  • 2. Karol Ondriaš
  • 3. Anna Sotáková
  • 4. Vladimír Chlebo
  • 5. Branislav Rusi?ák
  • 6. Štefan Borovský
  • 7. Michal Kotian
  • 8. Pavol Suško
  • 9. ?ubica Kleniarová 
  • 10. Juraj Lazar?ík
  • 11. Rastislav Kopecký
  • 12. Miroslav Pomajdík

Strana zelených Slovenska (Green party of Slovakia)

  • 1. Jana Budá?ová
  • 2. Eduard Chmelár
  • 3. O?ga Pietruchová
  • 4. Miroslav Král
  • 5. Eva Drozdová
  • 6. Juraj Mesík
  • 7. ?ubica Trubíniová
  • 8. Miroslav Gálik
  • 9. Mária Kuria?ková
  • 10. Milan Barlog
  • 11. Anna Fábryová
  • 12. Peter Nová?ik
  • 13. Diana Chladeková

Sloboda a solidarita (SaS) – Freedom and Solidarity

  • 1. Ján Oravec
  • 2. Emil Burák
  • 3. Katarína Majdlenová
  • 4. Richard Švihura
  • 5. Szilárd Somogyi
  • 6. Jozef Rajtár
  • 7. Katarína Sliviaková
  • 8. Richard Fekete
  • 9. Karol Kyslan
  • 10. Renáta Kaš?áková
  • 11. Michal Matoušek
  • 12. Jozef Mihál
  • 13. Robert Mistrík

LIGA, ob?iansko liberálna strana (League, citizen´s – liberal party)

  • 1. Michal Havran
  • 2. Martina ?ierna
  • 3. Michal Géci
  • 4. ?uboš Jela?i?
  • 5. Štefan Jakabovi?
  • 6. Peter Lichner
  • 7. ?ubica Šipulová
  • 8. Viliam ?uriš
  • 9. Antonia Bjalo?ová
  • 10. Martin Harach
  • 11. Eleonóra Strapcová
  • 12. Alexander Ke?keméthy
  • 13. Ján Papr?ka

Misia 21 - Hnutie kres?anskej solidarity (Mission 21 – The Movement of Christian solidarity)

  • 1. Richard Schneider

Strana demokratickej ?avice (Party of the democratic left)

  • 1. Štefan Horváth
  • 2. Juraj Ontol?ík
  • 3. Ibrahim Maiga
  • 4. Brian Lurie
  • 5. Martin Ožvald
  • 6. Roman Ježko
  • 7. Jaroslav Badinka
  • 8. Michal Labuda
  • 9. Silvia Cukrovaná
  • 10. Lucia Záhumenská
  • 11. Rita Wagnerová
  • 12. Ondrej Mular?ík
  • 13. Miroslava Šuttová

Demokratica strana (Democratic party)

  • 1. Branislav Hochel
  • 2. Pavel Titl
  • 3. Peter Hríb
  • 4. Štefan Dutko
  • 5. Peter Jurík
  • 6. Jozef Vachálek
  • 7. Tibor Brics
  • 8. Ta?jana Štefanovi?ová
  • 9. Mária Eperješiová
  • 10. Vladimír Kokolevský
  • 11. Ivan Barin
  • 12. Vladimíra Aronová

Rómska iniciatíva Slovenska (Roma iniciative of Slovakia)

  • 1. Ján Blaš?ák

Agrárna strana vidieka (Agrarian party of the country)

  • 1. Peter Kopecký
  • 2. Jozef Viglaský
  • 3. Jarmila Eftimová
  • 4. Alica Vidli?ková

Timeline

  • Sept. 2008-Mar. 2009: Political parties started the process of nominations for the elections. 
  • 3 Dec. 2008: Slovak parliament passed amended election law, limiting the number of elected MEPs to 13. 
  • 21 Mar. and 4 Apr.: Presidential elections in Slovakia. 
  • 2 Apr. 2009: Deadline for submitting the final list of candidates for the European elections.
  • 6 June 2009: European elections in Slovakia.  

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