#EU2019 – Slovakia: Far-right and new parties expected to boost voter turnout

A public opinion poll released weeks before the election found that more than 20% of Slovaks are determined to go to vote. [Photo: Sarantis Michalopoulos]

Surveys in Slovakia suggest that the turnout at the EU election will this time rise to over 20%. However, it’s alarming that some of the increase should be attributed to the mobilisation of extreme right voters.

A public opinion poll released weeks before the election found that more than 20% of Slovaks are determined to go to vote and another 20% say they are likely to cast their ballot. The turnout in the 2014 EU elections was a lowly 13%.

Nine parties stand a realistic chance of getting a seat in the European Parliament, making the future Slovak contingent more ideologically fragmented and overall more critical toward the EU.

The 13 Slovak MEPs have been holding monthly meetings to discuss issues on the agenda. They did not necessarily vote in the same way in the end, but the overall atmosphere in the delegation was constructive.

Those days are likely over. There is a realistic chance that the neo-fascist LSNS party will gain 2-3 MEPs, as well as the “We are family (Sme rodina)” party, a partner of Italian Eurosceptic populist Matteo Salvini and Marine Le Pen´s far-right Movement for a Europe of Nations and Freedom (MENF).

Moreover, the nationalist Slovak national party (SNS- former EFDD) also seems to be on course to have at least one MEP.

Polls suggest that far-right ĽSNS has one of the highest voter mobilisations in these elections. The party has advocated Slovak exit from the EU and it recently collected signatures to hold a referendum on the issue. However, they have toned down their ‘Slovexit’ rhetoric lately.

A test for pro-EU forces

Even more strongly motivated are the voters of the most pro-EU two-party coalition, Progressive Slovakia (ALDE) &Together (EPP). Both are newly established parties and have not yet taken part in any general elections.

But they were behind Zuzana Čaputová’s recent victory in the Slovak presidential vote. The EU elections will put both parties to the test ahead of the critical national vote due in March 2020.

Socialist Smer-SD, which remains the strongest party, is expected to get the seats in the next EU Parliament.

The “We are family – Boris Kollár” party (MENF) has embraced its recently established partnership with Le Pen’s Movement for Europe of Nations and Freedom. The party says EU membership is a good thing but the EU establishment needs to embrace “common sense”.

In addition, they praise Matteo Salvini for having “stopped migration toward Europe”.

Another curious case is OĽaNO (Ordinary people and independent personalities, ECR), an opposition party whose chairman Igor Matovič leads the EU election list but has said he will not accept the mandate, if elected. Matovič explained that he only wants the voters to confirm his mandate in the national parliament in this way.

On Monday, he stepped down from the list, changing his mind once again.

Economic liberal opposition SaS (ECR) had one MEP in 2009-2014, party chairman Richard Sulík. Since he has ambitions for the next government after March 2020, and is even eyeing the prime minister’s post, he has chosen not to run again.

The conservative forces have also been fragmented. Anna Záborská, who has been an MEP for 15 years, has decided to leave the Christian Democrats (KDH, EPP) after the new party’s leadership decided not to nominate her again. She set up a new party, the Conservative Union, together with conservative MEP Branislav Škripek, who left his OĽaNO (ECR) party.

Spitzenkandidats are ignored

The EPP members from Slovakia, KDH and Most-Híd, align themselves with the EPP’s Spitzenkandidat Manfred Weber, while socialist Smer-SD essentially ignores Frans Timmermans. The Spitzenkandidats are therefore not part of the election debate.

The government does not really back the Spitzenkandidaten concept either and prefers the EU Council to have a leading role in the distribution of top posts.

The next Slovak Commissioner will again be Maroš Šefčovič, who has been serving in the Commission since 2009, currently as Vice-President for the Energy Union. He returned to Brussels after losing to Čaputová in the Slovak presidential election.

[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos/Zoran Radosavljevic]

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