Slovakian people choose guarantees

Posted on 14. March 2012

by Veronika Sobolova

veronika-sobolova-modifieed“People deserve guarantees” was the main motto of the winning party SMER in Slovakia´s early elections last weekend. People chose guarantees in the most important elections since the independence of the Slovak republic, as Slovak President Ivan Gasparovic classified them. The SMER-Social Democracy party of former Prime Minister Robert Fico (2006-2010) swept the parliamentary elections with 44.4 percent of votes and gained 83 seats in the 150-seat National Council.

Slovakia held the early elections last weekend after the fall of the government in October 2011, after a coalition from right-wing parties collapsed in acrimony after the catastrophic fight of Slovak politicians versus the economy of the whole of the EU. One of the Slovak junior coalition members, the neoliberal SaS party, abstained in the vote for the Eurozone’s bail-out mechanism which was coupled by the Slovak Prime Minister Ms Iveta Radicova with a vote of confidence in the government, causing the consequent fall of the government. However a second vote was successful after the SMER, which at that time was still an opposition party, glad for the government to fall and sensing the possibility to win the early elections, finally supported the EFSF.

Following the landslide victory of his party Mr Fico is able to form a one-party government with a comfortable majority (83 of 150 seats in National Council). For the first time since the fall of communism in 1989, only one party will control the government. Mr Fico offered other parties the possibility to form a coalition government, but it seems no other party has any interest to cooperate with SMER because of its left-wing (and economically unsustainable) program.

The surprisingly high turnout (59,9%) was caused by the anger of voters over allegations that a huge Central European investment group bribed government and opposition politicians.  This so-called  ‘Gorilla’ corruption scandal compelled thousands of unsatisfied Slovaks to march in the streets of Bratislava and other cities, demanding that the “gorillas” – the politicians tied up in corruption scandals – should resign. Slovakia’s democracy has finally matured, in the words of The Economist editor Edward Lucas. Instead of abstaining, which would have threatened to invalidate the poll, Slovak voters cast their ballots and booted out politicians they considered tainted. The Gorilla fraud scam delivered a fatal blow to Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr Dzurinda (Prime Minister from 1998-2006) and his Christian Democratic Party, SDKU.

A newly formed government must quickly perform the necessary steps to lower an unemployment rate of more than 13 percent, way over the EU average, and to reduce the deficit to 3 percent by 2013, as required after eurozone nations agreed on a deal to stop overspending. One of the populist solutions put forward by newly elected Slovak Prime Minister Mr Fico is abolition of the flat tax combined with progressive taxes on the rich as a way of meeting the target of bringing the deficit below 3 per cent of GDP by next year.

The economy of Slovakia is doing well thanks to reforms undertaken by centre-right coalition parties, such as reducing the budget deficit from more than 8 per cent of GDP in 2010(the high deficit was caused during the governing period of SMER) to about 4.3 or 4.4 per cent in 2011, all while having the economy grow by 3.3 per cent last year. We had the second highest growth rate in the eurozone last year and could have the highest this year but analysts are afraid of overspending by the populist party SMER.

Mr Fico pledged a pro-European outlook. Mr Werner Faymann, the Chancellor of Austria, welcomed the Slovak elections result as a great outcome not just for Slovakia but for the whole Europe and a big impulse for a social Europe. MEP Hannes Swoboda, the President of the group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the EP, described Robert Fico as a politician with a pro-European attitude. Europe can rely on the new Slovak government, which won’t make further problems in approving any EU pacts. This one-party cabinet will try to improve the image of Slovakia as a stable and reliable partner in the eyes of European politicians and we won’t be seen as an enfant terrible of the EU. They will work hard towards achieving this goal also because of the ongoing preparations for the Slovak presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2016.

2012 is an election year. There are presidential and parliamentary elections all over the Europe and we hope to choose the candidates that will bring us social guarantees in this uncertain and changeable crisis time. Slovaks like hearing the short-term populist solutions promising taxation of the rich. While watching the moving of opinions to the left on the political scale in the whole Europe, it is obvious the social benefits promised by the left wing parties might not help solving the economic crises.