The Changing Face(s) of Slovak Politics
As President-elect Andrej Kiska prepares to take over the presidential office from incumbent President Ivan Gasparovic on 15 June, 2014, his victory over Prime Minister Robert Fico looks set to change the face of Slovak politics, with a large question mark hanging over the fate of the PM and his Smer-SD party.
Even before the second round of the elections on Saturday, which saw independent civil candidate Kiska smash the politically tried-and-tested PM Fico, rumours were coming out of the Smer-SD camp that whatever the outcome, a change was about to take place in the party, which enjoys a parliamentary majority.
Who knows what island Mr Fico himself will land on after shipwrecking himself by opting out as PM two years early for a post of far less significance, but one that had the lure of a lifetime of immunity and an easy ride from now on. His party colleagues are picking their words cautiously these days and putting on a brave face, but a wave of changes is coming, and not just for the Smer-SD party, which could now split into the factions that lie within.
With the parliamentary elections two years away, any seasoned politician knows that the time is ripe to set off on the election campaign. Ironically, the youngest candidate in the presidential race, Radoslav Prochadzka, saw that immediately, after coming third in the first round with an impressive 20%. He realised that he had a lot of backing from the people and so decided to capitalise on it by surrendering his MP mandate to set up his new political party.
Fico’s loss in the presidential elections to Mr Kiska paves the way for a new kind of politics, with new faces like Prochadzka’s taking over the political right, which has been fractured for years. There are rumours and speculations that current Speaker of the House, Pavol Paska, could be preparing to leave Smer-SD and take his chances, and his followers, but it is too early to tell and the wounds of Fico’s lost presidential election on Saturday are still too fresh to throw salt onto.
President-elect Andrej Kiska made his vision clear after his victory; that he wanted to put a human element back into Slovak politics and mediate more dialogue between government, opposition and the people. His victory, which saw him take over 59% of the vote, was thanks also to the Hungarian ethnic minority rallying, not so much in his support, but rather in defiance of Fico, who has shown to be a little insensitive to their needs.
For many, the defeat of the ever-popular Robert Fico opens a new chapter in Slovak politics, with President Kiska fighting on one side and the new parties and faces on the other, revving up for the general election in 2016. As for Prime Minister Fico, some opposition parties are calling for him to stand down, a scenario that could even prove advantageous for Fico. A government reshuffle could therefore be just around the corner.
Meanwhile, we say farewell to President Ivan Gasparovic, who has held the post for 10 years. Gasparovic is the last of the old guard from the Meciar era and his departure puts an end to yet another chapter, but he still has 10 weeks to sign whatever he wants and there is growing agitation that this transition period will be abused. Opposition parties KDH and SaS are calling for Gasparovic to sign only essential items, but he never listened to them before, instead bending almost systematically to the will of Robert Fico’s government.