While international press coverage of yesterday’s Slovak regional election focussed mainly on the defeat of the right-wing extremist L’SNS, the bigger picture was one of heavy losses for the nationally-ruling Social Democrats of SMER-SD.
The party of Prime Minister Robert Fico lost four of its six regional Presidencies to the centre-right opposition – the combined forces of the liberal SaS (Freedom and Solidarity), the conservative OL’aNO and the Christian Democrat KDH. OL’aNO took the governor’s chair from SMER-SD in the Trnava and Zilina regions, the KDH gained it in Presov and a nominal independent, Ratislav Trnka, did so in Kosice.
Capital territory, Bratislava, remained under opposition control after the surprise and low-scoring victory of Juraj Droba (SaS) with just 20.4 per cent of the votes. Incumbent Pavol Feso, running this time as an Independent, trailed in fifth. Two opinion polls for the capital published in October had anticipated victory for another Independent, and former Mayor, Milan Ftacnik, with Droba placed in fourth in both surveys.
The last of the eight regions, Banska Bystrica, is now governed by the Independent Jan Lunter after all mainstream parties combined to oust L’SNS President Marian Kotleba of the L’SNS (People’s Party Our Slovakia). The extremists had drawn international criticism for their policies and alleged neo-Nazi tendencies. On top of the loss of their sole Presidency, the L’SNS gained just two of the 416 seats being contested in the eight regional assemblies.
Controversy surrounding the party also helped to put a rocket under turnout, which has been historically low in Slovakian regional elections. This soared by half to a record 29.9 per cent, up from just 20.1 per cent in 2013. In Banska Bystrica it reached 40.3 per cent, reflecting a successful all-party mobilisation against the L’SNS.
In term of numbers of Deputies in regional assemblies, comparisons with 2013 are very difficult to make following a change in the electoral process from two rounds to a single vote, and major shifts in inter-party alliances within some of the regions. However, overall SMER-SD suffered considerable losses while the opposition combination of OL’aNO and SaS enjoyed significant gains. SMER has lost its majorities in the Kosice, Presov and Trencin regional assemblies.
SMER’s coalition partners in the national government, the Slovak National Party (SNS) and the Hungarian minority party MOST-HID, were broadly unchanged in their returns. The other ethnic Hungarian party, SMK-MKP, retained most of its seats.
The number of independent candidates elected nearly trebled from 55 to 161: how many of them will turn out to be genuinely worthy of that label and how many will instantly seek alliances with the political parties remains to be seen.
Statistics compiled by the State Commission for Elections reveal that the average new Deputy is 48 years old – and that just 14 per cent of those elected are women. However one landmark was established: the election of the first female regional President, Erika Jurinova (OL’aNO) in Zilina.
SLOVAKIA 4 November 2017
Election of regional Presidents and Assemblies
Five year term
(change on 2013 in brackets)
SaS, OL’aNO, SMK-MKP, KDH and allies 5 (+4)
OL’aNO: Trnava and Zilina regions
SaS: Bratislava region
KDH: Presov region
Independent ally: Kosice region
SMER-SD, SNS, MOST-HID and allies 2 (-4)
SMER-SD: Nitra and Trencin regions
Independent 1 (+1)
Banska Bystrica region
L’SNS 0 (-1)
Total Deputies elected (all regions)
SAS, OL’aNO 84
Eligible voters 4,500,142
Votes cast 1,347,550
Turnout: 29.95% (2013: 20.11%, first round)
Source: Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic/State Commission for Elections. Full results in English and Slovak here. Seat estimations from SME.
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