MYPLACE Slovakia researcher Jaroslav Mihalik sends a report on support for neo-nazi candidates in recent Slovak regional elections..
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The regional elections in Slovakia held in two rounds in 5 of 8 regions during 9 and 23 November 2013 showed no spectacular surprises with the exception of Banská Bystrica region. The voters gave support to neo-Nazi leader of People´s party – Our Slovakia, Marián Kotleba who won the second round against a candidate from SMER-SD.
The results might be surprising at the first glance but as we explain below there are several critical junctures that enhanced the victory of the extreme right leader which was also a vivid topic for international media and press.
Marián Kotleba and his party ran for national parliament in 2012 with the 1,5% electoral result. Since then, apparently, something has changed in the support for political alternatives and radicalization. He won in 9 out of 13 electoral districts gaining 55,5% of the electoral votes.
Based on the results, Slovakia has become another EU country that witness the rise of support for extremists among citizens.
Regarding the success of the new regional leader there is also a change of the electoral map of Slovakia, adding brown colour to already established left and right colours (red and blue):
There are several arguments that can be particularly observed as the factors of voters´ influence. The first is devoted to the frustration of the “old” parties which were not able to fulfill the programs and are considered to be corrupt in the public based on the recent scandals. Then there were promises from 1989 to increase the living standards of ordinary citizens, to guarantee the higher employment rates and social benefits including the Roma issues that were usually only part of the electoral campaigns. The electoral apathy as well as political distrust might have caused the open political space for new alternatives, even when considered as radical ones.
Furthermore, the media power and general negative attitude against them among young people might have contributed to the success of Marián Kotleba. After the first round of the elections, media brought several interviews with the regional politicians, famous people and celebrities who expressed the denial of Kotleba´s politics and campaign. Apparently, everyone believed in definite success of the other candidate and underestimated the potential and mobilizing factor of Kotleba voters. After all, Kotleba received more than 70,000 valid votes which was enough to gain 55,5 per cent of the turnout. The negative campaign or anti-campaign in media has shown its darker side again.
Another factor of electoral success is vested in the personality of Marián Kotleba. He has the ability to influence the masses, even among the minority population, such as Roma. They demand the meeting with the new leader to negotiate the proceedings in solving the position of Roma in the region. Apparently, Kotleba didn’t need any particular program for the regional development and he relied mostly on his agenda against corrupt politicians, unemployed Roma and social parasites. In comparison with the other candidates, Kotleba has not used expensive campaign tools such as billboards and media space, but relied on his name and the factor of personalized politics. He might be also observed as a symbol of resilience toward the status quo.
Then, there is a democratic deficit particularly visible and valid in the regional elections. While in the other regions of Slovakia the electoral turnout hasn’t reached 20 per cent, there was considerably higher participation in Banská Bystrica where the turnout went beyond 25 per cent. Still, despite the relatively low number, the voters of Kotleba have mobilized to the extent which enabled his victory. Together with the factors analyzed above, these numbers create the potential for the rise of well-organized and mobilized supporters of the new wave parties and their leaders.
The immediate reactions from the other party leaders commenting the results also differ in the perspective of a “hot potato” issue.
Pavol Frešo, re-elected head of Bratislava region as well as leader of SDKU-DS calls for the responsibility of all democratic parties in order to unite and fight against extremism not only in Banská Bystrica but nation-wide. On a contrary, the Prime Minister Robert Fico sought the culprit almost immediately in the right wing voters since they did everything in order to defeat the candidate from SMER-SD. Fico blames the right wing parties because for them, Antichrist, Satan, Hitler, Mussolini, whoever is better than Smer-SD candidate and he suggested that these parties enabled such results.
Despite all, the political settings at the regional level do not allow the leader to be a sole executor since there are deputies from Party of Hungarian Community (5), Independent deputies (13) and SMER candidates (25). From this perspective, the political and ideological balance in the region should be established and guaranteed and the new leader will have to seek for compromises. Nevertheless, Marián Kotleba was given the mandate in a democratic election which authorizes him to attempt and prove his political abilities, providing political alternatives and solutions for the region. Most definitely, he will be in the spotlight of national as well as international media and organizations that can potentially mediate the radicalization and extremism.