Smer aims for another single-party mandate at March 5 Slovak election

Smer aims for another single-party mandate at March 5 Slovak election
By bne IntelliNews November 12, 2015

Slovakia will hold general elections on March 5 next year, it was announced on November 12, with opinion polls currently giving the ruling Smer party hope that it will will once again be able to govern alone. 

Smer won the country's first ever single-party majority in 2012, while the fractious ruling centre-right parties were obliterated after the eruption of the "Gorilla" corruption scandal. The opposition has struggled to make much headway since then, despite a significant dip in support for Smer in 2014.

Fico's popularity appeared to reach a nadir in March last year when he lost the race for the presidency to political novice Andrej Kiska, while corruption scandals sparked protests in Bratislava. 

The government rolled out spending programmes this year in a clear bid to turn the tide, although they have remained constrained by the country's fiscal position. However, even in late summer, few analysts gave the PM much chance of securing such a clear mandate again.

Yet Fico has found the EU migrant crisis a far more effective crutch, in similar vein to Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Fico has led a furious fight against the EU's attempts to impose quotas to redistribute hundreds of thousands of refugees.  

The showboating confrontation with Brussels and Germany certainly seems to have done the trick. Recent surveys have handed Smer hope that it will again be able to win a mandate to rule alone. Support for Smer has seen a huge recovery, and stands at 39.7% of voters, according to a poll carried out by Focus agency last month. Based on the result, Smer would gain 76 seats in the 150-seat parliament.

The claim that Brussels is the headquarters of an internationalist elite riding roughshod over member states has gained popularity in Central and Eastern Europe, raising nationalists to power in Polish elections last month and helping Orban's own levels of support  in Hungary recover from a similar dip to Fico's.  

The lack of a viable opposition is also simlar in both the latter countries, with Fico and Orban's populism having proved strong enough to sideline the new anti-establishment parties that have made their mark elsewhere in Europe during the global financial and Eurzone crises.

Although anti-corruption party Siet ranks second in polls, it lags Smer badly on just 12.6%. Most-Hid, a party which mainly represents the interests of Slovak Hungarians, followed with 7.3% support. 

Several attempts have been made to club together by the numerous small parties, but when it comes down to it, they are simply too incongruous to mount a serious challenge. Smer will be delighted to see the coalitions of the Ordinary People Party (Olano)/Nova and Freedom and Solidarity (SaS)/Civic Conservative Party (OKS) struggling to cross the 7% threshold for bi-partite coalitions to enter parliament.