On 17 June, general parliamentary elections were held in Slovakia. The list of Smer (Direction) dominated the field, doubling its seats from 2002. Even so, it won just one third of the seats in the single 150-seat national district, on 29.1% of the votes. The runner up Christian Democrats (SDKÃš), whose leader Mikulas Dzurinda is the current premier, won 31 seats on 18.4%. The main Hungarian party (much of eastern Slovakia is populated by Hungarians), which is a member of the outgoing coalition, and the far-right Slovakian National Party each won 20 seats (on identical shares of the vote: 11.7%). 6.7% of the vote was cast for parties that fell below Slovakia’s various thresholds (which vary depending on whether a list represents a single party or a pre-election alliance).
Although the big gainer in votes and the leader, by far, in seats, is a party of the left that vows to “soften” the outgoing government’s economic reforms (which included a flat tax and labor-market liberalization), a coalition again based around the center-right may prove more viable given the overall distribution of seats in parliament.
Slovakia has had a volatile party system since the fall of communism, in fairly stark contrast to the Czech Republic, although that has not prevented Dzurinda from being the longest-serving current prime minister in Central Europe. The party that had won the most votes and seats (though only 36) in 2002, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) of ex-president Vladimir Meciar, will be represented in the new parliament only in a pre-election coalition with another party, the People’s Party. The joint list obtained 8.8% of the vote and 15 seats.
The party system is so volatile that none of the leading parties in either this or the outgoing parliament ran on the same labels that contested the presidential election in 2004. (Slovakia moved to direct presidential elections in 1999, although the system is mainly parliamentary; i.e. it is a premier-presidential system.)
The Slovak Spectator reports that a civic initiative called New Roma Generation discovered that there were several cases of vote-buying in KoÅ¡ice region (in the far east, against the Ukrainian border) in which Roma voters were offered cash or goods in exhange for promises to vote for a given party list and a specific candidate within the list.
The emissaries offered Roma voters Sk100 (â‚¬2.64) and a bottle of wine if they voted for the NÃ¡dej (Hope) party, and specified a candidate on the party’s list whom they supported.
The Roma group uncovered similar incidents in the villages of Bystrany and Å½ehra (both KoÅ¡ice region), where Free Forum (SF) representatives also offered Roma voters Sk100, while an unknown SDKÃš representative – via Roma intermediaries – offered Roma voters sausages, coffee and cigarettes in the town of Krompachy (KoÅ¡ice region) if they circled his name on the SDKÃš’s candidates list.
That the allaged bribes involved the use of preference votes is interesting. Slovakia, like its Czech neighbor, uses a flexible list that is not very flexible. In fact, in research I have been doing on the use of preference votes in Slovakia, I have been unable to find a single instance in which a candidate obtained sufficient preference votes to be elected when he or she would not have been elected anyway, based on the party-given list rank. In principle, it should not require many preference votes to change a list order, given the large number of candidates on a list in a 150-seat district. However, most voters obviously do not vote on a candidate basis, and instead vote for one of the top-ranked leaders of their chosen party.