Political gridlock in Slovakia mirrors Ireland’s challenge

Prime minister faces task of salvaging power after an inconclusive election

 

Slovakia’s prime minister Robert Fico’s challenge, much like Enda Kenny’s, is to salvage power after an inconclusive election that saw his governing Smer party plummet from 44 per cent support in 2012 to 28 per cent. Slovakia’s parliament now also has seven other parties and no clear majority – prolonged stalemate and a caretaker government are likely. Fico, whose left-leaning Smer-Social Democracy party ran on a strong anti-migrrant platform, gets the first crack at forming a government.

His task has been made more difficult by the proliferation of nationalist parties, and not least the strong showing of, and first parliamentary representation for, a neo-Nazi party whose views are so obnoxious that almost all are agreed it is an unacceptable coalition partner. The People’s Party-Our Slovakia is led by Marian Kotleba, a former high-school teacher who has been indicted for inciting racial hatred and has praised Jozef Tiso, president of the Slovak fascist satellite state during the second World War, a regime that sent tens of thousands of Jews to Nazi concentration camps. He has referred to Nato as a “criminal organisation” and has railed against the Roma, the US, the EU and immigrants.

The rise in the People’s Party mirrors that of the similar Jobbik party in neighbouring Hungary and more broadly in the EU of the far-right as the migration crisis has intensified.

Coalition-building will be complicated by the refusal of the Most-Híd party, representing Slovakia’s ethnic-Hungarian minority, to enter government with the far-right nationalist Slovak National Party that also did well. It has clashed with the Hungarian minority. And the main conservative opposition party SaS, which has ruled out government with Fico, as have the Ordinary People and We Are Family parties, would be forced to create a six-party alliance to make up the numbers.

Slovakia, a country of 5.4 million, assumes the rotating EU presidency in July for the first time, when its ability to broker compromise, notably on the still vexed issue of migration, will be of huge importance. The prospects do not look good.

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