Bratislava, Slovakia – With the elections coming up this month, many in Slovakia and abroad are still wondering who to vote for. Whether you’re going for the old guard from the incumbent government coalition, other long-standing parties or the newcomers in the race, the political landscape is more than varied, and needs some clarifying.
After focusing on the parties currently represented in Parliament in the first article, this piece will examine the movements that have been founded since the last elections and seek to disrupt the status-quo.
PS (Progressive Slovakia) – Spolu (Together)
Perhaps the most well-known new party that has been appearing all over the news and media in the country is the former political party of current president Zuzana Caputova. After renouncing her position as the leader of the party, she handed the reigns to Michal Truban, a socialite and businessman from Bratislava who’s tough job is to transform the former grassroots movement into a fully-fledged a key political actor in Slovakia.
After striking a cooperation agreement with the Spolu party (a tad more liberal in many matters than PS) led by Miroslav Beblavy, the new liberal opposition leading coalition seeks to reform and modernise Slovak politics, focusing on important sectors that have been either ignored or faced growing attack from the current Smer-led coalition – such as education, healthcare, environment, justice and more (they even boast a Hungarian minority platform), labeling their initiative as a game-changer in Slovak politics. Often compared to Emmanuel Macron’s progressive En Marche! party, the PS-Spolu coalition seeks to promote, defend and uphold liberal values (with a strong focus on fundamental and minority rights, transparency and judicial independence), while maintaining a centrist and pro-European stance.
After leading Zuzana Caputova to victory in the presidential elections and coming first in last year’s European Parliament elections, many citizens wonder PS-Spolu will be able to build on their momentum and secure a win in this month’s parliamentary elections – by far the most important of all three.
Za Ludi (For the People)
Za Ludi is another liberal party, recently founded by former President Andrej Kiska after he stepped down last June, one of the most popular figures in Slovakia who, despite the mostly symbolic role of the presidential office, was instrumental in keeping the ruling Smer party and government in check during his time in office (like keeping the former Prime Minister from getting a seat on the Constitutional Court).
Politically and ideologically close to the PS-Spolu coalition, Za Ludi is a centrist, liberal party – largely composed of experts in their respective fields – albeit slightly more conservative on certain social issues (like LGBT rights). Although Za Ludi and PS-Spolu failed to reach a cooperation agreement ahead of this month’s elections, both sides pledged to a non-aggression pact in order to oust former PM Robert Fico’s Smer.
KDH (Christian Democratic Movement)
Actually part of the old guard, KDH is one of the oldest Slovak parties who fell from grace in recent years, mostly in the aftermath of a number of scandals involving its old leadership (especially Jan Figel and his golden parachutes). KDH’s former electorate mostly turned, according to analysts, towards the likes of SNS, OLaNO-Nova, LSNS or other parties spearheading Christian-democratic values.
The political agenda of Slovakia’s KDH puts a strong emphasis on conservative, family and religion-oriented values, a program expressed in the party’s focus on topics such as healthcare, pensions and the family model meant to safeguard the well-being of the population in line with the country’s cultural roots.
MKS (Party of Hungarian Unity)
Perhaps the second largest Hungarian minority party after Bela Bugar’s Most-Hid, MKS is a newly-created party currently hovering around 4%, according to polls. The party seeks to present a unified bloc of Hungarian politicians to attract Slovakia’s sizable Hungarian minority and put an end to constant in-fighting for their votes. MKS seeks to ride on the wave of discontent faced by Most-Hid, the main Hungarian minority party led by Bela Bugar, whose popular support has been significantly falling after he failed to fulfill his promises and was implicated in several scandals.
MKS is led by Gyula Bardos, main rival of Bela Bugar, who seeks to win over the confidence of the Hungarian minority in order to improve their situation, standing and protection in Slovakia. The party’s program is largely focused on regional development and cooperation targeting Hungarian-majority areas (mainly in the country’s south) and sends a clear message, easy to sell to ethnic Hungarians but harder as regards to the bulk of Slovak voters: the promise of a better life for Hungarians born and living in Slovakia.
Dobra Volba (Good Choice)
A rather interestingly named party, Dobra Volba is a new movement founded by former Smer-SD members and led by former Minister of Interior and Healthcare (failed both posts), Tomas Drucker. Dobra Volba is a party best described by Slovak as a Smer-SD 2.0, a social-democratic party focusing on the need for the state to provide better social policies, albeit with an emphasis on the country’s youth.
With a program focusing on topics such family, healthcare, seniors, education, employment and more, Dobra Volba is a typical socialist-oriented party with a conservative twist, made up of former Smer members as well as some new faces, who would like to use their experiences in Slovakia and abroad to further the development of mostly societal areas. The main question is whether such a party can gain momentum in a post-Smer and post-Kuciak murder Slovakia. Overall, many voters believe Dobra Volba will only preserve the status quo, albeit with new faces, and will be unable to reinvigorate social democracy in Slovakia.
As the name clearly indicates, Vlast is centered around conservative-nationalist ideas – best described as a 2.0 or radical version of SNS. Led by former judge and Trump-like figure Stefan Harabin, the party self-professes the need to make Slovakia more independent, sovereign and self-reliant, in order to protect a supposedly-embattled Slovak nation and culture.
An anti-LGBT, anti-EU, illiberal, anti-establishment party straight up non-conformist to societal norms, many Slovaks see Vlast – whose leader Harabin is a highly divisive figure in Slovakia including due to his links to former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar – as even more radical than the neo-Nazi LSNS party of Marian Kotleba – including due to the sheer amount of fake news and disinformation spread by its leaders and followers.
All of the parties presented above represent widely different sides of Slovakia’s political spectrum. Powered mostly by liberal and pro-democratic tendencies – but not only – they either seek to change and reform the political landscape or keep the status quo with new faces. While some parties would like to turn Slovakia into a liberal beacon in Central Europe – hopes fueled by the election of Zuzana Caputova last year – others claim Slovakia’s traditions and culture are under threat (from the EU, from migrants, from Western liberal ideas, etc.) and that the country should, instead of opening up to Europe and the world, come back to its roots.
Politics in Slovakia are tricky, at best, and since politics are made and powered by tricksters, one never known whether to expect a sad joke, or a surprising and joyful punchline.
Written by Mark Szabo
An international relations and European politics student at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic, Márk grew up in a bi-cultural Slovak-Hungarian family, stoking his interest in Central European politics and cross-national relations. A former intern at the Bratislava-based Globsec Institute, Márk aims for a career in diplomacy. He joined the team of Kafkadesk contributors in April 2019. To check out Mark’s latest break-down of the parties already represented in Parliament and running for reelection, as well as all his other articles, it’s right here!