Slovakia after the elections: unexpected results and difficult coalition-building

07 March 2016

A commentary by wiiw country expert Doris Hanzl-Weiss on the unexpected outcome of parliamentary elections in the Slovak Republic

On Saturday, 5 March 2016, parliamentary elections took place in Slovakia. Among the 23 parties participating, eight have passed the 5% threshold. The final results have been unexpected as opinion polls had painted a completely different picture. The first surprise has been the strong decrease in support for Fico’s SMER-SD: It dropped from previously 44.4% to only 28.3%, while 35% had been predicted in the latest opinion polls. The second surprise concerns the parties able to pass the 5% threshold and those not: It was not predicted that the far-right-wing extremist party of Kotleba’s People's Party – Our Slovakia would get into parliament. In fact it gained 8% of the votes. Kotleba won regional elections in Banská Bystrica in 2013 and became regional governor, following an anti-Roma, anti-EU course. Also, the protest party of businessman Boris Kollár – Sme Rodina/We Are a Family achieved an unexpected 6.6%. In contrast, it had seemed certain that the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) of Ján Figel would get into parliament, but it won only 4.9% of the votes. The third surprise was the ranking of the parties in parliament: the liberal party Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) of Richard Sulík came second after SMER, while the right-wing conservative Siet’ party lost the anticipated support.

Difficult coalition-building

Overall, building a government is getting extremely difficult: While before the elections it had been assumed that Fico would need only one coalition partner in order to have a majority in the 150-seats parliament, he now needs in fact two (the less likely option) or even three partners. Fico was in a three-party coalition from 2006-2010 with the Slovak National Party and Mečiar’s Movement of Democratic Slovakia. In the meantime, the Slovak National Party has elected a new party leader, while the latter party has not taken part in the elections. With more parties in government it is likely to be the more unstable. The question now arises whether it is possible to form a government and how long it will last. This is also important as Slovakia will take over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union in July this year.

In fact, the elections have not been influenced by the current economic situation of the country but have been dominated by other topics: the migration crisis as an external threat came first, then protests of teachers and nurses drew attention to domestic problems. In fact, these election results come at a time when the Slovak economy is doing very well: preliminary estimates show that Slovak GDP grew by 3.6% in 2015, the strongest increase in the past four years. In addition, labour market developments have also been very favourable (+2% employment in 2015, the unemployment rate declined to 11.5%). Economic growth is forecast at about 3% annually for the period 2016-2018, with a slight upward trend in the latter years and backed by domestic demand. A new car plant, built by Jaguar Land Rover, will become the fourth major car producer in the country (besides Volkswagen, Kia and PSA Peugeot-Citroën) and will provide further impetus for growth from 2018/2019 onwards.

Final results in detail:

SMER-SD: 28.3 of votes (49 mandates)
Freedom and Solidarity (SaS): 12.1% (21)
OL’ANO-NOVA: 11% (19)
Slovak National Party (SNS): 8.6% (15)
Kotleba’s People’s Party – Our Slovakia (L’SNS): 8% (14)
Sme Rodina / We Are a Family: 6.6% (11)
Most-Híd: 6.5% (11)
Siet’: 5.6% (10)