Slovakia

I - Political context

Political change
I.1
What is the political context of the Eurozone crisis period in Slovakia? Have there been changes in government, elections, referenda or other major political events during the period of 2008-present?

Since the early parliamentary elections of 2006, won by a leftist party Smer – sociálna demokracia (Direction – Social Democracy; Smer-SD), the government was composed of Smer-SD (having majority in the Government – 11 out of 16 seats) with its leader Robert Fico being the Prime Minister, far-right party Slovenská národná strana (Slovak National Party; SNS) led by Ján Slota,[1] and national conservative party Ľudová strana – Hnutie za demokratické Slovensko (People’s Party – Movement for a Democratic Slovakia; ĽS-HZDS) led by former Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar.

On January 1, 2009, Slovakia became a member of the Eurozone and was put under the EDP for a second time since the accession in 2004 (EDP is likely to be lifted in mid 2014).[2] In spring 2009, presidential elections were held. The first round took place on March 21. The two most successful candidates from the first round advanced to the second round –  incumbent president Ivan Gašparovič (supported by SMER-SD, SNS, and two non-parliamentary and marginal parties HZD and ND) and Iveta Radičová (with support of SDKÚ-DS, KDH, a Hungarian minority party Strana maďarskej komunity (Party of the Hungarian Coalition; SMK), SaS, and two non-parliamentary marginal parties OKS and Liga). In the second round that took on April 4, 2009, Ivan Gašparovič was elected for his second consecutive five-year term.

In the European elections of June 2009, with only 20% eligible voters participating (the lowest in the EU), the coalition party succeeded – Smer-SD gained 32%, SNS 5.5%, and ĽS-HZDS 9%. The main opposition parties, SDKÚ-DS and KDH, received 17% and 11% respectively. A month later, regional elections were held. It was again a success for the governing party Smer-SD that won seven out of eight regions and formed regional governments in all regions, but Bratislava, with six of them being headed by Smer-SD members.

Smer-SD of incumbent Prime Minister Robert Fico also won the general parliamentary elections held on June 12, 2010 receiving 12 more seats in the Parliament (41% of the seats in the Parliament altogether) than in the 2006 elections. Despite this success, the opposition formed a government lead by Iveta Radičová, the leader for the elections[3] for a liberal conservative party Slovenská demokratická a kresťanská únia – Demokratická strana (Slovak Democratic and Christian Union – Democratic Party; SDKÚ-DS). The coalition was formed by SDKÚ-DS, a centre-right liberal party Sloboda a Solidarita (Freedom and Solidarity; SaS) founded and led by Richard Sulík, a conservative party Kresťanskodemokratické hnutie (Christian Democratic Movement; KDH) lead by Ján Figeľ, and a inter-ethnic rightist party Most-Híd[4] led by Béla Bugár.

A referendum on political reform was held on September 18, 2010. The referendum failed due to a low turnout with only 22.8% of the electorate voting (well below the 50% threshold required by the Constitution). The referendum was called after a successful petition that started as a civil activity and resulted in the foundation of a new liberal party Freedom and Solidarity (SaS). Large majorities voted in favour of the six proposals: First, to abolish the television licence; second, to limit parliamentary immunity; third, to lower the number of MPs from 150 to 100 by 2014; fourth, to set a maximum price for limousines used by the government at €40,000; fifth, to introduce electronic voting via the internet; and sixth, to change the Press Code by removing politicians’ automatic right of reply.

In the local elections held on November 27, 2010, Smer-SD of Robert Fico was again the most successful party with 20.6% of the votes.

On September 14, 2011, the opposition called for a vote of non-confidence, which the government survived.[5] However, the Radičová Government lost in a next confidence vote a month later, on October 11, 2011 and resigned. It was a result of an internal coalition struggle for the ratification of the increase of guarantees under the EFSF that was fiercely opposed by the coalition party SaS of Richard Sulík. Slovakia was last to ratify and the Commission and the Eurozone exercised pressure on the Slovak government to speed up the ratification process. PM Radičová, after failing to persuade SaS, linked the vote on the increase of guarantees to vote of confidence, which she lost. The Parliament then recalled Mr. Sulík from his position of the Chairman of the Parliament (Speaker). The remaining three coalition parties made a deal with the main opposition party Smer-SD, which had originally opposed the increase of guarantees. Smer-SD made it clear that it would support the increase of guarantees only in exchange for early elections or government reconstruction. The governing coalition and Smer-SD then passed the increase of guarantees and an early elections constitutional bill.[6] This solution was also accompanied by another constitutional act stipulating that the President would entrust the Government in demise with the execution of its duties until a new Government is appointed only in a limited extent, especially that the Government can appoint and recall state officials only with the consent of the President.[7]

On December 8, 2011, the Parliament adopted Constitutional Act No. 493/2011 Coll. on Fiscal Responsibility (Fiscal Responsibility Constitutional Act), which became effective on March 1, 2012 (with certain provisions becoming effective as of January 1, 2015).

Smer-SD won the early parliamentary elections on March 10, 2012 with a landslide victory. It gained a majority (83 seats out of 150) in the Parliament and Robert Fico formed a single-party government. The Government formed a new ministerial post of deputy PM for economy.

In January 2013, the Parliament considered an action against President Gašparovič for an intentional breach of the Constitution. The reason rest in the fact that although the Parliament elected a candidate for the position of General Prosecutor of Slovakia, the President refused to appoint him citing irregularities during the elections. Smer-SD of Prime Minister Fico, having clear majority, supported the President and stalled the action, which has thus never reached the Constitutional Court.[8] On September 19, 2013, the opposition attempted to vote non-confidence to the Government.[9] All opposition parties voted against the Fico Government, which, however, sustained the vote given its solid majority.[10]

On November 9 and 23, 2013, two-round regional elections took place. Regional parliaments and heads of the regions are elected separately. Centre-left Smer-SD won the elections (it received alone and in coalition with KDH almost 43%) and its candidates governs in four out of eight regions.[11] On March 15 and 24, 2014, presidential elections were held. Incumbent Prime Minister Robert Fico and an entrepreneur Andrej Kiska advanced to the second round. Two other elections will take place in 2014 in Slovakia – European parliamentary elections in May and municipal election in November.

[1] Party of European Socialists (PES) suspended the membership of Smer-SD for forming the coalition with SNS. PES considered SNS a “political party which incites or attempts to stir up racial or ethnic prejudices and racial hatred.” PES Press Release, SMER suspended from PES political family, Oct. 12, 2006. Available at: http://www.pes.eu/en/news/smer-suspended-pes-political-family.

[2] Slovakia entered the ERM II in November 2005. The assessment of the Maastricht criteria was as follows (2007-08): Deficit of 2.2% GDP, debt of 29.4% GDP, inflation of 2.2%, long-term interest rates of 4.5%.

[3] Mikuláš Dzurinda, the founder of the party and former Prime Minister, remained the chairman of the party.

[4] The party aims to “bridge” Hungarian minority and Slovak majority – “Most” and “Híd” are Slovak and Hungarian expressions for “bridge”).

[5] The voting was as follows: 69 votes of MPs from Smer-SD and SNS for non-confidence to 78 votes against. 23rd session of the 5th parliamentary term, voting no. 3, Sept. 14, 2011. Available at: http://www.nrsr.sk/web/Default.aspx?sid=schodze/hlasovanie/hlasklub&ID=29137. As the reasons for the non-confidence vote, the opposition cited inability to curb the public debt, which has risen during the two years of Radičová Government more than during the four years of the Fico Government (2006-2010), unemployment and inflation growth, stalled economic growth, austerity measures burdening socially weak groups of population, and corruption scandals. See the documents attached to Parliamentary Press no. 493 of Sept. 8, 2011. Available at: http://www.nrsr.sk/web/Default.aspx?sid=zakony/cpt&ZakZborID=13&CisObdobia=5&ID=493.

[6] Similarly to the Czech Constitution prior to a recent revision, the Slovak Constitution does not provide for self-dissolution of Parliament. The Slovak Parliament therefore adopted a special constitutional act on its dissolution and early elections (Constitutional Act No. 330/2011 Coll.; Parliamentary Press no. 533 of Oct. 13, 2011, available at: http://www.nrsr.sk/web/Default.aspx?sid=zakony/cpt&ZakZborID=13&CisObdobia=5&ID=533). It is worth noting that when the same solution was adopted by the Czech Parliament in 2009, the Czech Constitutional Court struck the constitutional act down for breaching unalterable provisions of the Czech Constitution. See more in my Czech Republic Report for this project.

[7] Constitutional Act No. 356/2011 Coll., amending the Slovak Constitution. For the legislative process and the text of the Act see Parliamentary Press No. 548 of Oct. 21, 2011, available at: http://www.nrsr.sk/web/Default.aspx?sid=zakony/zakon&MasterID=3878.

[8] Parliamentary File No. 383, 6th parliamentary term, received on January 17, 2013. Available at: http://www.nrsr.sk/web/Default.aspx?sid=zakony/cpt&ZakZborID=13&CisObdobia=6&ID=383.

[9] The opposition criticized the Government’s decision to acquire ownership in a mother company to strategic gas company named Slovak Gas Industries, which has been in loss for some time. The loss has been bore among others by J&T company, co-owner of the mother company. It was revealed that a document presented by the responsible minister to the Government, on which the Government based its decision, has been prepared by J&T company. This incident has united the opposition and raised suspicions about an excessive influence of certain economic groups on the Government’s decision-making.

[10] 24th session of the 6th parliamentary term, voting no. 44, Sept. 19, 2013. Available at: http://www.nrsr.sk/web/Default.aspx?sid=schodze/hlasovanie/hlasklub&ID=32779.

[11] A right-wing extremist Milan Kotleba was elected the head of region of Banska Bystrica.