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International Forum for Democratic Studies June 28, 2006. Assessing Slovakia’s 2006 Parliamentary Elections Domestic and Regional Implications. Grigorij Mesežnikov Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow President, Institute for Public Affairs (IVO), Bratislava

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International Forum for Democratic StudiesJune 28, 2006

Assessing Slovakia’s 2006 Parliamentary Elections Domestic and Regional Implications

Grigorij Mesežnikov

Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow

President, Institute for Public Affairs (IVO), Bratislava

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Content of the Presentation

  • Overall Framework: Slovakia’s Transition

  • Public Perception of Democratic Transition and Reforms

  • Pre-election Situation: Patterns of Electoral Behavior and Value Orientations

  • Election Rivals: Party System and Party Politics

  • Elections Results: Analytical Findings

  • Domestic and International Implications

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Pre-election Slovakia in the International Press

“Imagine you're the leader of a country where economic growth is running at 6.3%, your government has been praised by the World Bank as the best market reformer in the world, unemployment has fallen to a record low of 10.6% from around 20% in just four years and your flat 19% corporate, value added and income tax rate led Steve Forbes to call your country an "investors' paradise." Imagine, also, that your country has seen foreign investment sky-rocket to the point at which it will shortly become the world's biggest per capita car maker, and where your people's feelings about their sense of national worth have gone from shame to something approaching pride. Oh, and as icing on the cake, imagine too that you got your country into the European Union and NATO.

With this record in mind, now consider that you face parliamentary elections … at which … you risk annihilation by a leftist opposition party with no experience of government and a policy agenda filled with populist rhetoric.”

Robin Shepherd, “The Dzurinda Revolution,” Wall Street Journal Europe, June 12, 2006

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Results of Slovakia’s 2006 Elections

Seats (150)


Smer-SD - 29.14 %

SDKÚ-DS - 18.35 %

SNS - 11.73 %

SMK - 11.68 %

ĽS-HZDS - 8.79 %

KDH - 8.31 %

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Slovakia’s Transition to Democracy

  • 1990–1992: basic systemic changes, institutionalization of democracy

  • 1993–1998: new nation-state building, democratic deficits, authoritarian illiberal tendencies, struggle for democracy, maturation of democratic forces and civil society actors

  • 1998–2004: consolidation of democracy, removal of illiberal legacies, accession to EU and NATO, launching radical socio-economic reforms

  • 2004–present: post-integration adaptation, deepening pro-market reforms, improving quality of democracy

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Slovakia’s Elections

  • 1990: ex-post plebiscite against communism; center-right democratic parties win

  • 1992: definition of Slovakia’s position in the common Czechoslovak state; proponents of the “specific Slovak way of transition” win

  • 1994: social justice in the context of transformation; broad alliance of authoritarian populists (radical nationalist, neo-communist, and charismatic parties) win

  • 1998: renewal of democracy and ambitions in EU/NATO integration; broad alliance of democratic forces (left/post-communist, center-right, and ethnic minority parties) win

  • 2002: confirmation of democratic reforms & completion of accession process; pro-reform democratic center-right parties win

  • 2006: quality of democracy and governance, continuity of reforms

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Indicators of Socioeconomic Development

* - prediction

Source: Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic, Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs

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Accomplishments of the 2002–2006 Period

  • Membership in EU and NATO

  • Long-term macro-economic stability

  • Stability of democratic institutions

  • Influx of FDI

  • Launching profound reforms of:

    • Tax system

    • Public administration

    • Pension system

    • Social benefits system

    • Health care

    • Judiciary system

    • Military forces

  • Democracy promotion activities in EU neighborhood

  • Well-balanced domestic inter-ethnic relations

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Failures of 2002–2006 Period

  • Unsuccessful effort to launch education reform

  • Permanent conflicts within ruling coalition

  • Inefficient governmental communication about socio-economic reforms to the population

  • Unclear deals behind support for government in parliament; suspicions of political corruption, high level of distrust of state institutions and political actors

  • Declining citizen participation in politics, decreasing voter turnout in elections

  • Persistence of large discrepancies between country’s regions

  • No substantial improvement in the socioeconomic status of the Roma minority

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Public Perception of Current Societal Development

  • Critical views on macro-social development; traditional social skepticism as a part of political culture

  • Dominance of socioeconomic optics

  • Realistic and slightly positive views of personal life situation

  • Tendencies to accept basic reforms combined with skepticism of their outcomes

  • Cognitive disconnect between the outcomes of reforms and personal life situation, resulting in support of parties opposing reforms and proposing the alternative options

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Is Slovak Society Moving in Right or Wrong Direction?

Source: FOCUS – IVO, 1998 - 2006

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How Did the Situation Change in the Following Areas Since the Last Elections?

Source: IVO 1997, 2002 a 2005.

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What is the Financial Situation of Your Family Compared to the Situation One Year Ago?

Source: IVO 2003, 2004, 2005.

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Are You Satisfied With Your Own Life? the Situation One Year Ago?

Source: FOCUS 1994, IVO 2004 a 2005. Note: Rest of 100% is answer “do not know”.

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The Most Pressing Problems of Society the Situation One Year Ago?

Source: IVO, April 2006.

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Citizens’ Views About Reforms the Situation One Year Ago?

Source:IVO, April 2006.

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Voter Turnout in Parliamentary Elections the Situation One Year Ago?

  • 1990 – 95.39%

  • 1992 – 84.20%

  • 1994 – 75.65%

  • 1998 – 84.24%

  • 2002 – 70.06%

  • 2006 – 54.67%

Source: Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic

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Reasons for Declining Voter Turnout the Situation One Year Ago?

  • General distrust in political parties

  • Disappointment with socio-political development

  • Disappointment with political party performance

  • “Election does not matter”

  • Low interest in politics

  • “My vote does not matter”

  • High frequency of electoral acts, “election fatigue”

  • Changed character of main political conflicts: shift from politics to policies

  • Declining levels of NGO involvement

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How Do You Usually Vote in Elections? the Situation One Year Ago?

Source: IVO, April 2006

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What Matters in Voter’s Decision the Situation One Year Ago?

Source: MVK Agency, April 2006

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Most Important Area in Party’s Program the Situation One Year Ago?

Source: MVK Agency, April 2006

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Ideological Self-definition of Slovakia’s Citizens the Situation One Year Ago?

Source: IVO, April 2006.

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Which Type of Economy Would You Prefer? the Situation One Year Ago?

Source: IVO, April 2006.

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Necessity of Changes After Collapse of Communism the Situation One Year Ago?

Source: IVO, April 2006.

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Party System and Party Politics in Slovakia the Situation One Year Ago?

  • Divisions into two groupings of parties

  • Fragmentation of center-right forces

  • Demise of postcommunist left

  • Liberal parties disappear and re-emerge

  • Excessive personalization of party politics, long-term existence of one-man-show-type parties

  • Coalition governments

  • Eight parties with real chances to be elected in 2006: one big party, four medium-sized parties, three small parties

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Smer the Situation One Year Ago?-SD (Direction – Social Democracy)

  • Self-declared “Social Democrats” (accepted in Socialist International and in Party of European Socialists)

  • Left populist party, annexed postcommunists

  • Party with radical anti-reform rhetoric

  • Number of illiberal elements in political culture

  • “Law and order” principle dominates over principle of “rule of law”

  • One-man-show-type party

  • Tycoons’ financial background

  • Party with the four-world-sides-concept of foreign policy, loudly protest against war in Iraq, neglect democracy promotion activities

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SDKÚ-DS the Situation One Year Ago?(Slovak Democratic and Christian Union – Democratic Party)

  • Party of the 1998 democratic change

  • Self-declared “Christian Democrats” (accepted in European People’s Party – European Democratic Union)

  • Mixture of moderate “pragmatic” Christians and “pragmatic” liberals

  • Some elements of cultural liberalism

  • Party of continuity at power with image of patron-client-connections user

  • Party of socio-economic reforms and integration into EU and NATO

  • High profile in democracy promotion activities in EU neighborhood

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SNS the Situation One Year Ago?(Slovak National Party)

  • Party of semi-authoritarian rule and illiberal practices before 1998

  • Radical ethnic nationalists with elements of historic revisionism

  • Party of cultural xenophobia and isolationism

  • Restrictive approach toward ethnic minorities (Hungarians, Roma)

  • Anti-reformist and state-paternalist views in economy

  • Pro-Russian stance in foreign policy

  • Rejected as potential coalition partner by some parties

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SMK the Situation One Year Ago?(Party of Hungarian Coalition)

  • Party of the 1998 democratic change

  • Self-declared “Conservatives” (accepted in European People’s Party – European Democratic Union)

  • Ethnic minority party with strong regional priorities

  • Merger of Hungarian conservatives, liberals and moderate nationalists

  • Pro-reform party: emphasizes necessity of combining radical economic changes alongside softening measures in welfare policy

  • High profile in democracy promotion activities in EU neighborhood

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ĽS-HZDS the Situation One Year Ago?(People’s Party – Movement for a Democratic Slovakia)

  • Party of semi-authoritarian rule and illiberal practices before 1998

  • Self-declared “people’s” party (not accepted in any international party organization)

  • Ideologically empty formation

  • One-man-show-type party

  • Verbal support of continuation of reforms, but with “softening corrections”

  • Declared pro-Western stances in foreign policy

  • Eager to be in power after 8 years in opposition, prepared to coalesce with any other party to enter government

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KDH the Situation One Year Ago?(Christian Democratic Movement)

  • Party of the 1998 democratic change

  • Self-declared “Christian Democrats” (accepted in European People’s Party – European Democratic Union)

  • Party of conservative Catholic Christians, programmatic anti-liberal force (Kulturkampf)

  • Party of “moral minority”

  • “Law and justice” principle

  • Pro-reform party; emphasizes some aspects of social solidarity

  • Genuine Slovak Euro-skeptics and moderate nationalists, supporting freedom fighters in Cuba and Belarus, demanding withdrawal of the Slovak troops from Iraq

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SF the Situation One Year Ago?(Free Forum)

  • New centrist party splinted from SDKÚ

  • “Moral opposition” to PM Dzurinda

  • Appeal to anti-Mečiar sentiment

  • Party of political improvisation, internal conflicts

  • One-woman-show-type party

  • Frequent situational cooperation with left opposition parties in the parliament

  • Selective support for socio-economic reforms

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KSS the Situation One Year Ago?(Communist Party of Slovakia)

  • Non-transformed, old-style Marxist-Leninist party

  • Party of systemic opposition claiming comeback of “socialist society”

  • Rejection of any pro-market, socio-economic reforms

  • Sympathy to dictatorial regimes (China, Cuba, North Korea, Belarus, Syria)

  • Anti-Western, anti-integration and isolationist position in foreign policy

  • Rejected as a potential coalition partner by all parties

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the Situation One Year Ago?SF• SMK • SDKÚ-DS


• Smer-SD



Parties on “Democracy – Market Economy” Axis

Liberal democratic politics

Economic liberalism


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Parties’ Policy Voting the Situation One Year Ago?in Parliament

Source: INEKO

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Voting Preferences (Rating) of Political Parties the Situation One Year Ago?

Source: Public Opinion Research Institute, 2005 - 2006

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Which Party Do You Think Was the Most Active in the Recent Electoral Term?

Source: Polis Slovakia Agency, May 2006

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Which Party Has the Best Professionals? Electoral Term?

Source: Polis Slovakia Agency, May 2006

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Voter Expectation of Election Results and Further Development

Source: IVO, April 2006.

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Slovakia’s Next Prime Minister Development

Source: Polis Slovakia Agency, May 2006

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Election Campaign Development

  • Main topics of the campaign:

    • possible scenarios of reforms (continuity, cancellation, “fine-tuning”)

    • state policies in economy, welfare, health care, education and local development

    • cultural-ethical dispute (religious conservatism vs. secular liberalism)

    • identity (ethnic nationalism vs. state citizenship & minorities’ rights)

    • post-election coalition strategies (who with whom?)

  • Absence of “EU-agenda”

  • “Czech factor” (impact of election campaign and election results in the Czech Republic through inter-party links)

  • Unexpected appearance of war-in-Iraq-related topics in the campaign

  • Relatively low profile of NGOs’ activities compared to1998 and 2002 elections:

    • no voter mobilization campaign

    • merely informative and analytical projects of think tanks

    • NGOs’ challenged political parties in policy issues (transparency,

      party financing, environment, culture)

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Outcomes of Slovakia’s 2006 Elections: Facts Development

  • Electoral victory of the strongest left party (Smer-SD)

  • Remarkable success of radical nationalists (SNS)

  • Good results of moderate center-right parties, especially SDKÚ-DS

  • Fiasco of Mečiar’s ĽS-HZDS

  • Demise of communists (KSS)

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Electoral Gains of Party Groupings Development

Grouping of center right parties


SF + ANO + 2 minor parties):


65 seats

Grouping of left parties

(Smer-SD + KSS + 4 minor parties): 33,96%

50 seats

Grouping of populist and nationalist parties

(ĽS-HZDS + SNS + HZD + 4 minor parties): 21,77%

35 seats

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KSS Development








Parties: Voter Gains and Loses

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Voting Patterns Development

First-time voters

Voters older than 60 years

Source: MVK Agency, exit poll 2006

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Two Most Successful Parties: DevelopmentBreakdown by Education and Age

Source: MVK Agency, exit poll 2006

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Voting Patterns: People in . . . Development

Villages and small cities (2,000–10,000 inhabitants)

Large cities (more than 100,000 inhabitants)

Source: Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic

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Victorious Parties in the Regions Development

Source: Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic

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Political Messages of Slovakia’s 2006 Elections Development

  • Socioeconomic dispute instead of dispute on democratic rules

  • Identities matter

  • Agreement/disagreement with reform policies remain unchanged, balanced

  • Continuing urbanization of center-right parties’ electorate

  • “Winners of reforms” prevailingly supported center-right parties, “losers of reforms” inclined to support left and national populist parties

  • Left is stronger than before, but still not dominant

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Possible Scenarios in Coalition Building Development

  • Smer-SD – SNS – ĽS-HZDS (85 seats)

  • Smer-SD – KDH – SMK (84 seats)

  • Smer-SD– ĽS-HZDS – SMK (85 seats)

  • SDKÚ – KDH – SMK – ĽS-HZDS (80 seats)

  • Smer-SD – SDKÚ (81 seats)

  • Minority government of Smer-SD (50 seats) or SDKÚ-DS – SMK – KDH (65 seats) with “opposition agreement”

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Slovakia’s Positions in Foreign Policy in 1998-2006 Development

  • Strong commitment to Euro-Atlantic liabilities

  • Support for EU enlargement and for deepening the EU integration process (endorsement of ECT)

  • Advocacy for new candidate states (Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro) and Ukraine’s pro-European choice; supportive position toward Turkey’s membership

  • Pro-reform socioeconomic policies within EU and claim for EU internal institutional reforms

  • Support for continuation of regional cooperation in “V4” format

  • Democracy promotion in EU neighborhood

  • Moderate stance on ethnic minority issue

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Recent Parliamentary Elections in Visegrad Countries Development

  • Poland, September 2005:

    • Center-right opposition parties won, left ruling parties lost

    • New government formed (augmented by populist parties in 2006)

  • Hungary, April 2006:

    • Left and centrist ruling parties won, right opposition parties lost

    • Government re-elected

  • Czech Republic, June 2006:

    • Opposition civic democrats (conservatives) ahead of the ruling social democrats; Christian democrats and communists lost.

    • New (center right) ruling coalition formed.

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Conclusions Development

  • Slovakia sustains as a consolidated democracy with stable and functional institutions

  • Democratic pro-reform forces enjoy substantial public support

  • Vote for anti-reform forces politically legitimizes their alternative, anti-reform policies

  • Election outcomes created variety of options for further development

  • Achievements of democratic transition and socio-economic reforms serve as new paradigm for political parties in their coalition strategies

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International Forum for Democratic Studies DevelopmentJune 28, 2006

Assessing Slovakia’s 2006 Parliamentary Elections Domestic and Regional Implications

Grigorij Mesežnikov

Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow

President, Institute for Public Affairs (IVO), Bratislava