Slovak Parliamentary Elections 2012: Is Radical Nationalism Rising or on the Decline?

One of the most frequently discussed topics in analyses and commentaries published onSlovakia’s parliamentary elections in 2012 was the failure of the Slovak National Party (SNS) to get into the parliament. A question, however, arises: does the departure of the party from the legislative assembly automatically lead to the termination of the policies promoted and represented by it, i.e. policies based on extreme ethnic nationalism, vulgar homophobia and virtually unlimited verbal aggression towards ideological and political opponents? The answer is not as simple as it may seem at first sight. Under certain circumstances, the recent weakening of SNS may even help boost even more extreme and radical forces. Who can, in turn, benefit from the recent failure of SNS?

The electoral defeat of SNS was down to various  factors: decreasing public support for the party indicated by  pre-election opinion polls may have unsettled its traditional voters, and encouraged them to support other, stronger “nationally oriented” parties. For some of these disenchanted voters Smer-SD emerged as an acceptable alternative, , while the choice of  some proved to be the new “alternative” political movement, Ordinary People.. For nationalist voters who were disappointed and dissatisfied with the SNS, particularly with  its corruption scandals and the excessive antics of its leader, Ján Slota, and for those who considered the party policy not aggressive enough, the feasible alternative could be a group named Slovak Togetherness (Slovenská pospolitosť), whose political branch ran in the 2012 elections under the name the People’s Party – Our Slovakia (ĽS-NS). The emergence of the latter party poses an important question: does ĽS-NS have the potential to replace  SNS in the future in terms of public support and influence on Slovakia´s development?

Unlike some other parties, ĽS-NS may consider its electoral result in 2012 not only relatively successful, but, to some extent, even promising. ĽS-NS is one of the parties which managed to improve their electoral results for the second consecutive elections. While in 2010, when  ĽS-NS ran in parliamentary elections independently for the first time, the party gained 1.33% of the vote (it was supported by 33,724 voters),  L’S-NS received 1.58% in 2012  (40,460 voters). In the electoral contest, the political offshoot of the Slovak Togetherness movement proved to be more successful than  the established, previously even parliamentary or governmental parties. ĽS-NS has received more votes than ĽS-HZDS (Movement for Democratic Slovakia), KSS (Communist Party), DÚ (Democratic Union), SF (Free Forum), ZRS (Association of Slovakia’s Workers), SZS (Green Party). It gained the same amount of votes as the newly-formed political movement “99%”, that invested enormous sums of money in the electoral campaign. Marian Kotleba, the leader of the LS-NS ballot and one of the leaders of  the Slovak Togetherness received more preferential votes (29,158) than two former strong men of Slovak politics: Vladimir Mečiar (12,045) and Mikuláš Dzurinda (27,242).

What could attract more than 40,000 voters in 2012 to such an extremist, nationalist formation? Has it been the party program or an interesting offer of personalities on its candidate list? These aspects should perhaps not be completely ruled out in the case of some voters, yet a  look through the electoral program of ĽS-NS and the names on the ballot leave  a rather weak impression. The one-page-electoral program of  ĽS-NS (“Ten Commandments”) is a general summary of populist-sounding-statements about the responsibility of political parties, “wise economic management”, reduction of salaries for politicians and high government officials, the need for general employment, along with the restoration of  the country’s food and energy self-sufficiency etc..

The overall nature and the ideological profile of ĽS-NS however became clear even from such a brief election document. The document clearly indicates that ĽS-NS is a  racist group (“we will remove the benefits of preferential treatment of the Gypsy parasites”, “we will give nothing to parasites at all”), a formation adhering to nationalist, anti-European and anti-Western views (“we put the  Slovak interests above the Brussels dictate”, “we will succeed with the withdrawal from the terrorist pact of NATO”), based on anti-foreigner sentiment  (“we will prevent foreigners from buying up  Slovak soil”, “we will  tighten  immigration and visa policy”), violent (“we will establish militia”, “we will extend the right to use a weapon”, “we will allow people to pass through the voluntary military training”) and homophobic (“we reject  registered partnerships and  adoption of children by gays, promotion of sexual deviations”). In other documents of the Slovak Togetherness and the ĽS-NS one can find phrases about a certain “same blood”, which circulates in the veins of the nation and brings together its members, under the realm of the rejection of capitalism, consumerism, materialism, multiculturalism, or  as to oppose the “decline of spiritual values”. All this is well-seasoned by obligatory anti-Semitism in its ethno-racial and religious versions. This is a typical set of beliefs and views, forming the creeds of many right-wing, radical and fascistoid associations.

A notable part of the mental and ideological setup of Slovak nationalist extremists is a proneness to embrace conspiracy theories when perceiving reality, along with social and political mechanisms. Promotional or publicity materials published on the websites of the Slovak Togetherness and ĽS-NS,  as well as their printed periodicals are full of considerations about  hidden mechanisms through which different groupings try to dominate the world and Slovakia, and to conquer, subjugate or destroy nations, including the Slovak nation. These are mainly Jews, Zionists, Freemasons, “a small group of people that controls our lives and takes away our freedom”. Americans, the State of Israel, the agents of the “liberal West”, members of the EU-bureaucracy who harmSlovakiaand the Slovaks also frequently appear in such theories. The idea thatSlovakia’s development after 1989 was determined by secret mechanisms of influence and domination can be illustrated by a quotation from the text published on the website of the Slovak Togetherness on the occasion of the anniversary commemorating the foundation of the Slovak clerical-fascist state in 1939. According to the Slovak Togetherness, “the emperors of the world” after 1993 acted in the following way:  they, the “manipulators of human minds implanted the idea that ​​experts would govern our country. However, these were not experts favoring the Slovak nation, but were Czecho-Slovakists and Bolsheviks, now they govern us and liquidate the Slovak nation. They dragged us into the EU, and into the terrorist organization of NATO”.

Such notoriously known and endlessly repeated ideas of the “genuine” background of developments in the country and around the world are not unique. They indicate the intellectual level of their authors, and additionally, they correspond with the way of thinking of many of the recipients of this sort of “thoughtful” analytical findings.

The so-called “Roma” topic, a dominant feature of the political agenda of Slovak Togetherness, is politically highly appealing inSlovakia, especially in the areas with mixed population, i.e. with significant proportion  of Roma inhabitants living in settlements. In recent years, there have been signs of tension between the Roma and non-Roma population, resulting in conflicts and incidents involving members of the Roma community.  These incidents became the focus of attention for extremist leaders: both by enabling them to appear in person  in places where  controversial events took place, and by granting them with opportunities to issue their provocative, ostentatious statements about the events, reminding the public that it is the radical right that is in possession of  the quick and efficient guide on how to solve the “Roma” issue.

Analyses of the results of the 2012 parliamentary elections confirmed that the ĽS-NS succeeded in the districts of Eastern andCentral Slovakia, where the “Roma” issue is a particularly hot issue. In the region of Banská Bystrica, ĽS-NS gained 2.6% of votes, and in the Prešov region it received 2.2%.  The party proved most successful in the districts in the two regions mentioned above – in the district of Kežmarok it received 5.9% of votes and in the district of Brezno it was supported by 5.8% of voters. In the district of Revúca, the ĽS-NS won 4.3% of votes, in that of  Stará Ľubovňa 3.6%, and in the district of Poprad 3.3%. The political offshoot of  the Slovak Togetherness achieved better than average results in the districts of  Gelnica (Košice region) – 4.85%, Spišská Nová Ves (Košice region) – 3.6% and Zlaté Moravce (Nitraregion) – 3.5%. In the town of Plavecký Štvrtok (district Malacky), known for its problems in relations between the local Roma and non-Roma residents, the ĽS-NS gained 3.7% of votes. The party scored  above its average results in the polls in some Central and Eastern Slovakian towns and villages.  For example, in thevillageofPolomka(district Brezno) it received 9.7%, and in the town ofSpišská Bela(district Kežmarok) – 9.4%. The ĽS-NS gained 8.4% of votes in Šarišské Michaľany.  It was the town where  the Slovak Togetherness organized a mass meeting of local residents against the “Roma terror” in August 2009 which resulted in physical clashes with the police.  It was also where, in September 2009, people close to the Slovak Togetherness initiated a referendum to recall the incumbent mayor for his defense of the Roma.

In one of the pre-election issues of the ĽS-NS periodical, the leader Marian Kotleba argued: “If you want to know what we will do with the money if we gain more than 3% of the vote, I will tell you right now. In the areas most affected by  Gypsy extremists, we will open training centers for militia and will give decent people a chance to actively participate in protecting their lives, the health of their relatives and their properties. It will be the beginning of what others considered impossible.” Although the ĽS-NS did not receive any money for its electoral gain, after the elections, it immediately began to mobilize itself on yet another occasion associated with the “Roma” topic – the fire at the castle Krásna Hôrka (district Rožňava), caused by Roma children who played with fire in the immediate vicinity of the castle. A few days after the elections, ĽS-NS leader M. Kotleba, speaking to his supporters gathered in Krásnohorské Podhradie, promised to remove  the local Roma settlement. Several weeks later, the owner of the estate on which the settlement was built without permission, transferred the property rights free of charge to M. Kotleba.  Now the Slovak Togetherness can solve the “Roma” issue on the private property of one of its leaders. The Slovak Togetherness wants to show the local people and the wider audience that it takes the decision about the fate of those who are identified as “parasites” and “enemies” into its own hands. Should this really happen, it will mean that LS-N’S wants to take over the state power, more specifically, the monopoly of the state to enforce its own will. Will the state allow it to happen?

Grigorij Meseznikov

Institute for Public affairs. 

Categories Analyses, Slovakia | Tags: | Posted on June 13, 2012

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