Slovakia’s Smer wins elections, but loses majority

Slovakia’s Smer wins elections, but loses majority
Prime Minister Robert Fico would need coalition partners, either from the hard right or the centre-right, in order to continue governing.
By bne IntelliNews March 6, 2016

Slovakia’s ruling leftist party Smer has won the general elections on March 5, but lost its comfortable majority, preliminary results from the statistics office show. Two hard right parties benefited from a surge of support, while moderate centre-right parties failed to win enough support to govern on their own.

The inconclusive election looks likely to lead to prolonged haggling and the possibility of a caretaker government to lead the country through its European Union presidency in the second half of the year, before early elections can be called.

Smer, which has based its electoral campaign almost entirely on the anti-migration rhetoric, has won 28.28% of the votes, after 99.98% of the votes have been counted. That means the leftwing party would get no more than 49 seats in the 150-seated parliament and would need coalition partners, either from the hard right or the centre-right, in order to continue governing.

The result is much worse than at the previous elections organized in 2012 when Smer managed to grab 44.4% of the votes and could form the government alone.

Fico and Smer enjoyed rising popularity last year as the government adopted a series of populist measures, including a 50% cut in VAT, free transportat for pensioners and students, and hikes in the minimum salary. Support rose even higher when Fico was very firm in rejecting the EU’s plan to impose migrant mandatory quotas within the bloc. However, recent protests in the healthcare and education sectors shook his credibility and support.

The results showed that the second most popular party is the free market Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), whose hardline Euroscepticism brought down the last centre-right government, but the party gained no more than 12.1% of the votes. It was followed the populist OLANO-NOVA which took 11% of the votes. 

Smer’s most likely partner, the hard right Slovak National Party (SNS), gained 8.6% of the votes, which will entitle it to 15 seats. The two parties would need another coalition partner to form the government, should they decide to form a coalition.

Fico said late on Saturday that he expects a political impasse after the complete counting of the ballots. "A great "mishmash" and enormous number of political parties in the Parliament, that's my estimate," Fico said, according to TASR.

The extreme right nationalist LS-Nase Slovensko (Our Slovakia) led by neo-Nazi Banska Bystrica governor, Marian Kotleba managed to make it to the parliament for the first time, gaining 8% of the votes.

Other parties that would make it to the parliament are We Are Family-Boris Kollar with 6.62% of the votes, Most-Hid - 6.5% and Siet, which scored much worse than expected at 5.6%. The Christian Democrats (KDH) and the ethnic-Hungarian SMK failed to pass the 5% threshold to enter parliament.