Category Archives: Slovakia

+++ (BBG) Slovakia’s Fico Delays Coalition Talks Needed to Avoid New Vote

..It seems to have become a pattern…

(BBG) The runner-up in Slovakia’s inconclusive elections vowed to negotiate with five other parties to create a ruling coalition that will exclude Prime Minister Robert Fico’s Smer party and avoid a new ballot.

After Smer won Saturday’s election with a smaller-than-predicted result, Fico postponed a meeting with President Andrej Kiska at which the premier will receive a mandate to start coalition negotiations until Wednesday, according to the president’s website. At the same time, the leader of the second-place SaS party, Robert Sulik, said he’d try to bring together six of the eight groups that made it into parliament to create a government.

Robert Fico
Robert Fico
Photographer: Samuel Kubani/AFP via Getty Images

Sulik’s bid underscores Fico’s struggle to build a coalition after his Smer party lost its majority. The prime minister needs at least two partners from the seven other groups that made it into the assembly, which include two nationalist parties. The other parties have all rejected working with him in government, however, and if he fails to form a cabinet, the baton will pass to Sulik, a pro-business politician who fought against aid to Greece during that country’s debt crisis.

“If I get a mandate from the president I want to create a broad stable coalition with 87 deputies,” Sulik said on Tuesday, adding that he’ll begin informal talks with the parties immediately. “I will spend as much time as possible to make sure such coalition can work.”

The election serves as a warning to EU leaders who may be stoking nationalist fervor as they rail against migrants and the ills of the bloc. Fico’s campaign largely ignored public discontent over underfunded public services including schools and hospitals, while his anti-refugee campaign opened the door to more extreme versions of the message. The migrant crisis is now playing out in other political struggles including the U.K.’s potential exit from the EU and Greece’s economic woes, which will dominate Slovakia’s six-month stint at the EU’s rotating presidency in the second half of the year.

‘Complicated’ Result

Slovakia’s benchmark 2025 bond rose for a second day, pushing the yield down one basis point to 0.47 percent. The yield has declined by about 1 percentage point from its June 2015 peak, as the European Central Bank’s asset-purchase program has boosted demand for the debt at a time when the shrinking budget deficit is cutting supply.

Sulik said his SaS party would start talks with the third-placed Ordinary People, We Are Family, Siet, the Slovak National Party and the Most-Hid party, which mostly represents Slovakia’s ethnic Hungarian minority. The plan depends on whether Most-Hid leader Bela Bugar can overcome his party’s long-standing differences with the Slovak nationalists, who have a history of accusing Hungarians of undermining the country. Without Most-Hid, the other parties would have a fragile majority of only 76 of parliament’s 150 seats, creating potential for instability.

“The party is different than how we used to know it,” Sulik said of the nationalists. “For me it isn’t unacceptable.”

The inconclusive elections sent the record eight parties to parliament after an anti-refugee campaign by Fico shifted the focus from Slovakia’s economy, which is outperforming most of its euro-area peers. Output grew 4.3 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, data showed on Tuesday. The country is also benefiting from foreign direct investment, including a new 1 billion pound ($1.4 billion) car plant being built by Jaguar Land Rover that will solidify Slovakia’s position as the world’s biggest auto producer per capita.

While the prime minister joined neighbors Poland and Hungary in rejecting an EU plan to redistribute refugees across the bloc, most of the other parties who entered parliament campaigned even more heavily on the issue.

“Fico has virtually zero chance to succeed,” said Grigorij Meseznikov, president of the Bratislava-based Institute of Public Affairs. “Given the comments of other party leaders, this is a battle already lost. Early elections can’t be ruled out, and I can imagine an interim cabinet of experts in place until the end of the EU presidency.”

The election’s biggest surprise was the rise of the Slovak National Party and the far-right People’s Party, led by Marian Kotleba, a former high-school teacher who’s been indicted for inciting racial hatred. While the charges have been dropped, other parties have labeled him as an unacceptable coalition partner. Kotleba, like one of the Slovak National Party’s past leaders, has praised Jozef Tiso, president of the Slovak fascist satellite state during World War II, a regime that sent tens of thousands of Jews to Nazi concentration camps.

The president snubbed Kotleba in his talks with party leaders, and the People’s Party leader told Slovak media he’d be happy to act as an opposition party.

(BBG) Slovak Leader Begins Coalition Tussle After Losing Majority

(BBG) Slovakia’s president will ask Robert Fico Tuesday to try to form a government after inconclusive elections that cost the prime minister his majority in parliament, saw two nationalist parties win seats in the assembly, and may lead to a new vote.

Fico’s Smer party won 28.3 percent of the ballot, well below the 44 percent he scored in 2012. Voters elected seven other parties into the 150-seat parliament, giving a fifth of the mandates to nationalist groups that pledged, like Fico, to prevent refugees from entering the country of 5.4 million people. Informal coalition talks are under way and President Andrej Kiska told reporters on Monday he will give the 51-year-old premier the first chance to try to form a cabinet.

With several parties refusing to rule with him, Fico will struggle to create a majority coalition in the euro-area state. If he fails, the baton may then fall to the second-place SaS party, whose pro-business leader Richard Sulik fought against aid to Greece during that country’s debt crisis. Forming any government will be tricky as the parties range from economic liberals to nationalists who have been branded as political pariahs by other parties. Bickering among potential coalition partners broke out during a live television debate on Sunday.

“The voters’ decision has created a complicated situation,” Kiska said Monday in the capital Bratislava in his first reaction to the ballot. “There are several dividing lines between parties. Some can’t be overcome, and it even wouldn’t be right.”

The election result also serves as a warning to European Union leaders who risk stoking nationalist fervor as they rail against migrants and the ills of the bloc. Fico’s anti-refugee campaign, in which he’s joined neighbors Poland and Hungary in denouncing a EU plan to redistribute refugees in the bloc, ignored public discontent over underfunded public services while opening the door to more extreme versions of the message. Migrants, along with the U.K.’s potential “Brexit” and Greece’s economic woes, will dominate Slovakia’s stint at the EU’s rotating presidency that starts in July.

Nationalists Surge

“If any country in the EU believes it can put up walls and lock itself out from the huge instability around Europe, it’s deluding itself and its population,” said Judy Dempsey, a senior associate at Carnegie Europe in Berlin.

Despite having presided over booming growth, which accelerated to 4.2 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, Fico’s support fell during his four years in power. While his main focus remained on migrants and increasing benefits, he faced strikes from teachers and health workers, who complained his administration had left them behind.

The election’s biggest surprise was the rise of the Slovak National Party and the far-right People’s Party, led by Marian Kotleba, a former high-school teacher who’s been indicted for inciting racial hatred. While the charges have been dropped, other parties have labeled him as an unacceptable coalition partner. Kotleba, like one of the Slovak National Party’s past leaders, has praised Jozef Tiso, president of the Slovak fascist satellite state during World War II, a regime that sent tens of thousands of Jews to Nazi concentration camps.

‘Complicated Situation’

The president omitted Kotleba in talks as he scheduled meetings on Monday and Tuesday with all of the other leaders of parties that made it to parliament.

Slovakia’s benchmark 2025 bond rose, pushing the yield down three basis points to 0.46 percent. The yield has declined by 1 percentage point from its June 2015 peak, as the European Central Bank’s asset-purchase program boosted demand for the debt at a time when the shrinking budget deficit is cutting its supply.

Any comfortable coalition hinges on whether the Most-Hid party, mainly representing Slovakia’s ethnic-Hungarian minority, will enter a pact with the Slovak National Party, Sulik said. Even as his SaS party has ruled out cooperation with the premier, Sulik said he could imagine a six-way coalition if former foes can overlook their differences.

Most-Hid leader Bela Bugar poured cold water on that vision Sunday, saying his party can’t work with the Slovak National Party, which has clashed with the country’s Hungarian minority in the past and whose time in power with Fico was tainted by corruption scandals. Early elections can’t be ruled out, Bugar said.

“No matter what coalition will be built, it will be highly unstable,” Dempsey said. “The good news is that Fico didn’t get the majority. The bad news is that it completely fractures Slovak politics.”

Along with the SaS, the Ordinary People and We Are Family parties also said they’ll refuse to work with Fico in government. If they stick to their vow, lacking a majority of their own, it would mean any new cabinet would have to include both Smer and the Slovak National Party. Nevertheless, Fico vowed to push on with his task of forming a coalition.

“There’s a winning party, and its sole responsibility is to attempt to try to form a government,” Fico said in a television debate on Sunday. “What would early elections solve in such a short time?”

+++ (BBG) Diminished Slovak Leader Wins Inconclusive Vote, Poll Shows

…The same scenario again…

…One does not have to be a genius to realize that the EU is ill conceived and    does not work…

(BBG) Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico’s party won Saturday’s general elections with a weaker-than-expected outcome, partial results showed, with as many as nine parties entering parliament in what may create a post-vote deadlock in the euro-area state.

Fico’s Smer party, which pledged to raise living standards and protect the country against Europe’s migrant crisis, lost its majority, taking 29.3 percent, according to partial results released Sunday that were based on 50.4 percent of districts counted. That was well below the 44 percent he won in a 2012 ballot. SaS party was second with 10.5 percent, early results showed.

Robert Fico addresses the press at party headquarters on Mar. 6.
Robert Fico addresses the press at party headquarters on Mar. 6.
Photographer: Samuel Kubani/AFP/Getty Images

If borne out, the results mean Fico needs at least two coalition partners to control a majority in parliament. The diminished victory may also lead to a repeat of 2010, when he won elections but pro-business opposition parties united against him to take power in a government that collapsed halfway through its four-year term.

“If the math gives a chance to create a cabinet without Fico, I can’t imagine that the opposition parties would betray one another and team up with Smer,” said Grigorij Meseznikov, Director of Bratislava-based Institute for Public Affairs.

SaS leader Richard Sulik expects Fico, as the winner, to be handed the baton first to form a government but that he’d be ready to lead talks to create a “reform-oriented” administration, he told journalists late Saturday.

Forming Cabinet

“If the results allow, we will do everything possible to create a government without Smer,” Sulik said.

Others that look set to make it into parliament include the Slovak National Party, Fico’s former coalition partner from 2006 to 2010, with 15 seats, partial results showed. Two new political forces, a far-right anti-migrant People’s Party and We Are Family, founded by Boris Kollar, a media entrepreneur and a father of nine children, may also make it to the legislative chamber for the first time.

Booming Growth

Despite having presided over booming growth, which accelerated to 4.2 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, Fico’s support has fallen since he took power. He struggled to maintain popularity as his message of keeping immigrants out of Slovakia collided with public discontent over underfunded services, which included strikes by teachers and health-care workers.

At the center of the election campaign were doubts over the future of the European Union. The country of 5.4 million has been struggling to weigh the benefits of its 2009 euro adoption against obligations such as sheltering migrants and helping Greece. Fico has joined neighbors Poland and Hungary in denouncing an EU plan to redistribute refugees in the bloc. That, along with the U.K.’s potential “Brexit” and Greece’s economic woes, will dominate Slovakia’s stint at the EU’s rotating presidency, which begins in July.

Smer’s focus on migrants backfired, according to Otilia Dhand, an analyst at Teneo Intelligence in Brussels, as it boosted support for more radical groups that have taken up the anti-refugee cause. They include the People’s Party headed by Marian Kotleba, who has praised Jozef Tiso, president of the Slovak fascist satellite state during World War II, a regime that sent tens of thousands of Jews to Nazi concentration camps. Originally a high school teacher, Kotleba has been repeatedly detained by police for supporting fascism and stirring racial hatred. He hasn’t been convicted of any crimes.

A potential alternative cabinet of five current opposition center-right parties joined by We Are Family is possible, but it may be unstable, Dhand said. A similar broad coalition crumbled in 2011 over SaS’s opposition to an increase in Slovakia’s contribution to EU’s financial rescue fund.

“Negotiations on such a coalition would be extremely hard,” Dhand said. “This may well end in early elections.”