Sent via the MYPLACE research team in Slovakia, Alena Kluknavská of the Department of Political Science, Comenius University Faculty of Arts in Bratislava sends this guest blog, summarising her recent paper based on analysis of the fortunes of far right parties in Slovakia’s 2012 elections.
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Since the 1980s in Western Europe and since 1989 in Central and Eastern Europe a variety of far right parties emerged and made electoral breakthroughs. When concerning the main issues of far right parties in Central and Eastern Europe, one finds similarities as well as differences with Western Europe. During the first decade after the fall of communism, parties of the far right were more focused on independence and national issues, but after the period of transformation to democracy, other ideological features similar to ones possessed by far right parties in Western Europe have become more salient in the majority of the countries in Central and Eastern Europe. Although the most striking difference is the absence of anti-immigrant sentiment, xenophobia plays a vital role in another form. Xenophobic attitudes are in the region of Central and Eastern Europe, and especially in the Central Europe, usually directed to Roma people.
In our work we analyzed two far right parties during parliamentary elections in Slovakia. We focused on election themes and election results of Slovak National Party (SNS) and People’s Party Our Slovakia (ĽSNS) in 2012 parliamentary elections in comparison with two previous elections of 2006 and 2010. SNS was founded in 1990 and in the first years of its existence embraced the idea of the Slovak independence and later focused its agenda on persuading voters with not only nationalistic but also with anti-minority (anti-Hungarian, anti-Roma, etc.) sentiment. We found that during 2012 election campaign the party was mostly highlighting nationalistic themes, advocating a strong state built upon traditional values and criticizing the Hungarian minority and the EU. ĽSNS was officially launched in the beginning of 2010 though its direct predecessor civic association Slovak Togetherness emerged in 1995. The party advocates nationalism, calls for the strong state and opposes minorities, particularly Roma and homosexuals. During the 2012 election campaign the party was for the most part criticizing the current establishment and emphasizing the importance of social policy that should be aimed at “decent Slovaks” and not “parasites”.
Except for the electoral themes mentioned above, both parties in their electoral programs as well as in their speeches sharply criticized the Roma minority. ĽSNS which calls the Roma minority “Gypsy extremists” and “lazy parasites” built its 2012 electoral campaign for the most part on anti-Roma agenda. Moreover, we found that party gained the most votes in regions with the highest concentration of Roma-settlements in both 2010 and 2012 parliamentary elections. We also found that a Roma settlement is situated in every town or village (or in a close proximity) in Eastern Slovakia and in most municipalities of other regions in Central and Western Slovakia, in which ĽSNS in 2012 elections gained more than 5 percent of the vote. In the Trnava region the party gained the most votes in the village of Madunice and in its five neighbouring villages where the party organized a long-lasting campaign against Roma due to the incident in which three Roma beat up a retired man who died as a result of the attack shortly afterwards. The Roma were later convicted of racially aggravated attack.
Since 2010 ĽSNS has changed its focus on active campaign against Roma and started to present itself in the media as the only political entity that is really doing something about this issue; its electoral preferences and electoral results have improved. There is a massive increase of votes for the party when comparing the results of the 2006, 2010 and 2012 parliamentary elections. This indicates that the anti-Roma campaign has had an impact not only on a moderately higher election results for the party in an overall picture, but in some areas it might have caused significant increase of votes for the party. In absolute numbers electoral support for ĽSNS increased from 2010 to 2012 elections by 6,700 voters.
On the other hand electoral support of SNS after 2006 elections was decreasing and party failed to meet the threshold in 2012 parliamentary elections. SNS gained the most votes in regions where the majority of the population were of Slovak nationality (Trenčín and Žilina). Electoral success in the Žilina region and especially in the town of Žilina can be partially ascribed also to a popularity of chairman of the party J. Slota who served as a longtime mayor of the town in which SNS gained twice as many votes as the average result of the party.
While both parties gained the most votes in different regions with different demographics, both parties gained the least votes in the regions with high representation of citizens with Hungarian nationality.
According to electoral results SNS is supported by voters who live in the regions with majority of the residents with Slovak nationality and ĽSNS is finding extensive support with voters who live in a close proximity to Roma settlements or areas perceived to have problematic Roma behaviour. We can conclude that while it appears that SNS is supported mostly by voters with nationalistic sentiment, ĽSNS finds support mostly with voters who share negative sentiment towards Roma minority.
The full paper was published in peer-reviewed, web-based scholarly journal Rexter, 01/2012. URL: http://www.rexter.cz/krajne-pravicove-strany-v-parlamentnych-volbach-2012-na-slovensku/2012/05/04/ .