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Second Time As Farce?. Slovakia’s 2006 Government in Comparative Perspective. Kevin Deegan-Krause, Wayne State University Woodrow Wilson Center Presentation, 29 June 2006, Updated and annotated, 1 July 2006 [email protected], www.pozorblog.com. My Question: What happened in Slovakia

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Second Time As Farce?

Slovakia’s 2006 Government in Comparative Perspective

Kevin Deegan-Krause, Wayne State University

Woodrow Wilson Center Presentation, 29 June 2006, Updated and annotated, 1 July 2006

[email protected], www.pozorblog.com


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My Question:

What happened

in Slovakia

between

1994-1998?


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  • My Answer:

  • Slovakia’s democracy nearly collapsed because

    • An ambitious and unscrupulous leader

    • with a lot of votes,

    • with compliant coalition partners,

    • with a centralized, organized party,

    • overpowered weak rival institutions


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My New Question:

Could

it

happen

again?

  • In other, less condensed words:

  • To what extent does Slovakia face similar dangers?

  • To what extent are the potential dangers different?

  • How can they be avoided

  • Note that I am focused here on what I see as the main problem of the 1994-1998 Meciar government which was a question of politics rather than corruption, or minority rights, though these were extremely important. This assessment does not ask about the economic and minority questions directly. Those will require separate analysis.


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Slovakia’s democracy nearly collapsed…

“A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.” --Federalist 51

Slovakia has had an unbroken string of free and fair parliamentary elections, so to what extent can we talk about near collapse? Because the near-collapse occurred in a realm other than “electoral” politics.


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Slovakia’s democracy nearly collapsed…

“A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.” --Federalist 51

Power

Vertical (Electoral)

Accountability

People


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Slovakia’s democracy nearly collapsed…

“A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.” --Federalist 51

Horizontal (Institutional) Accountability

Power

Power

Power

Vertical (Electoral)

Accountability

People


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Slovakia’s democracy nearly collapsed…

“the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition.”

Horizontal (Institutional) Accountability

Power

Power

Power

Vertical (Electoral)

Accountability

Slovakia suffered from a near-fatal lack of horizontal/institutional accountability in the 1990’s. This, in turn, almost permitted the destruction of vertical accountability in the form of flawed elections. My inclination is that Slovakia’s civil society would have been strong enough to overcome an illegally-elected Meciar government, but it would have required civil disobedience (a la Serbia in 2000) and created significant chaos.

People


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An ambitious and unscrupulous leader…

  • A leader willing to:

  • Violate relationships of horizontal (and perhaps vertical) accountability;

  • Engage in deception or misdirection toward that end;

  • Accept the use of violence toward that end


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A thug…

  • What is the same?

  • Absolute self-confidence

  • Will to power

  • What is different?

  • Professional training

  • Generational experience

  • Nature of goals?

    • Emphasizes economy rather than nation?

  • Breadth of goals?

    • Desire for prominence beyond Slovakia?

Fico and Meciar are obviously not identical, but they share many similar personal traits. One key question is whether Fico, unlike Meciar, has ambitions beyond Slovakia and therefore might moderate his efforts in the hopes of reserving a chance for future advancement. He also seems less able (or willing) to disguise personal ambition, which may ultimately work against his own efforts.


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…with a lot of votes…

  • 1,005,488 votes

  • 34.9%

  • 61 seats

  • 671,185 votes

  • 29.1%

  • 50 seats


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…with a lot of votes…

  • What is the same?

  • Largest share by large margin

  • Right to form government

  • What is different?

  • Relative size of next largest party

  • Programmatic reasons for support

    • Largely national for Meciar in 1994

    • Largely economic for Fico

From the perspective of comparision, Fico’s party may lack some of the “positive” support that Meciar’s had in 1994 as that party already had a track record of achieving some major goals (albeit hotly disputed). Meciar’s party also had stronger support in 1994 among those who opposed accountability than Fico’s appears to have now.


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  • Interlude: Voting for Thugs, The Project

  • Why vote for somebody who isn’t willing to let you vote against him?

  • Can’t choose

    • Clientelism, electoral fraud, police powers

  • Don’t know

    • Media control, cover-ups of abuse

  • Know and Choose

    • Accountability violation desirable as end in itself

    • Accountability violation acceptable as means to something else

    • Accountability violation tolerable in pursuit of unrelated goal


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…with compliant coalition partners…

Size of delegations

Size of delegations

73.5%

58.8%

Seats in government

Seats in government

Interestingly here Fico has managed to take a weaker initial position than Meciar had in 1994 and take a greater share (though only by a small margin) of government seats. If recent reports of portfolio distribution are right, he also managed to keep a greater share of key ministries (particularly defense).

66.6%

68.8%


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…with compliant coalition partners…

  • What is the same?

  • Size of government majority

  • Identity of partners

  • Anti-accountability inclinations of partners

  • What is different?

  • Experience of partners

Experience, of course, could cut either way. On the one hand, Meciar and Slota are experienced in coalition politics and could use this experience to frustrate Fico’s efforts to undermine accountability (preferring to keep him as weak as possible). To the extent, however, that Meciar and Slota to find common cause about accountability violation, this experience could be quite powerful in undermining accountability relationships.


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…with a centralized, organized party…

Meciar in 1994 had created a party that was simultaneously one of the most centralized and also one of the most robustly organized. This provided a powerful tool for pursuit of his anti-accountability interests.

Centralization

Organization


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…with a centralized, organized party…

Smer

Leader-dominance of parties based on 2004 Rohrschneider/Whitefield survey of academic experts. Smer and HZDS highly centralized. Arrows show change in parliamentary delgation size. Centralized parties showed greater volatility over time. Results for Smer suggested it to be even more leader-driven than HZDS.

SDKU

Seats in Parliament, 2006

SMK

SNS

KDH

HZDS

KSS

ANO

Program and Organization Leader and Charisma


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…with a centralized, organized party…

  • What is the same?

  • Central role of party leader

  • What is different?

  • Prior expulsion/ departure of dissidents

  • Habits and mechanisms of organizational discipline

  • Mechanisms to safeguard voter loyalty

In terms of centralization, Smer resembles HZDS in 1994, but in other aspects it is closer to HZDS in 1992 before that party had experienced the departure of internal dissidents. This has significant consequences: Smer may contain a significantly wider range of opinion regarding the acceptability of accountability violation. It may also be more prone to defections among those who are not willing to accept this coalition’s national focus or who may disagree about more mundane matters, and it may lack the kinds of mechanisms for ensuring loyalty that Meciar implemented (in many cases illegally) to prevent future breakaway factions.

Evidence suggests that while voter loyalty to Smer has increased over time, it is not remotely as high as for Meciar’s HZDS in 1994 and that the party may suffer a significant loss of support over time.


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…overpowered weak rival institutions.

Government

Pres-ident

Court

Security

Service

Parliament Majority

Parliament Minority

Stages in Encroachment:

State Media

Committees

Committees

Privati-

zation

Voters

I posit a four-stage model of encroachments, each leading to (permitting and then necessitating) the next.


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…overpowered weak rival institutions.

Government

Pres-ident

Court

Security

Service

Parliament Majority

Parliament Minority

  • Stages in Encroachment:

  • Legal

    • Occupation of positions in government and other executive agencies, supermajority control of key parliamentary committees, exclusion of opposition from bodies overseeing executive agencies

State Media

Committees

Committees

Privati-

zation

Voters


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…overpowered weak rival institutions.

Government

Pres-ident

Court

Security

Service

Parliament Majority

Parliament Minority

  • Stages in Encroachment:

  • Legal

  • Extra-Legal

    • Use of government ministries and related agencies (now deprived of opposition oversight) to intimidate and attempt to oust constitutionally-protected opposition representatives, made possible by stage 1.

State Media

Committees

Committees

Privati-

zation

Voters


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…overpowered weak rival institutions.

5

Government

Pres-ident

Court

Security

Service

Parliament Majority

Parliament Minority

  • Stages in Encroachment:

  • Legal

  • Extra-Legal

  • Reactive Extra-Legal

    • Encroachment against disillusioned deputies, constitutional court, prosecutors made possible by stage 1 and necessary by clumsiness in stage 2.

State Media

Committees

Committees

Privati-

zation

Voters


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…overpowered weak rival institutions.

5

Government

Pres-ident

Court

Security

Service

Parliament Majority

Parliament Minority

  • Stages in Encroachment:

  • Legal

  • Extra-Legal

  • Reactive Extra-Legal

  • Electoral

    • Efforts to prevent popular fallout (referendum marring, electoral law, state resources in campaign)

State Media

Committees

Committees

Privati-

zation

Voters


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…overpowered weak rival institutions.

  • What is the same?

  • Fundamental weaknesses of some institutional protections

  • What is different?

  • Experience of other institutions

  • Some new institutional protections

  • Role of EU

As with the question of an organized party, the news here tends to be fairly optimistic: while the Dzurinda government did not protect its institutions constitually (as many suggested), the decentralization and increased experience of government institutions suggest a more robust capacity for self-defense, as does the greater confidence and cohesion on within the SDKU/KDH/SMK opposition. Still, some of the new protected institutions (presidency, some regional governments, are in hands friendly to the new government)

The role of the EU remains an open question here. It has lost some of the main tools of conditionality but picked up others in taking Slovakia in. Whether it uses these and whether they succeed is unclear.


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Back to the Question:

Could

it

happen

again?


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The Answer:

Probably not.

At least not in the same way or to the same degree.But risk of lesser encroachments may be significant.

Applying the specific elements of the 1994-1998 period to 2006 we find:



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