Slovakia is reeling in shock after the unexpected results from Saturday’s general elections. Prime Minister Robert Fico and his SMER party did worse than expected, but the real news of the election surrounds Marian Kotleba and his ultra-nationalist party that gained 8 percent of the votes and 14 seats in the Slovak parliament.
Fico surfed the pre-election period on a wave manufactured from anti-immigration fear; an easy and cowardly decision. Create fear; create policies to protect people from the perceived threat. His tactic backfired. The feeling of fear created went beyond his control and many people bypassed Fico and voted for parties on the far-right, like Kotleba’s, believing that they hold stricter and stronger policies against immigrants.
Slovakia has made worldwide news this week with its election results. A neo-Nazi has been voted in to parliament, so how terrible does this make Slovakia look on the international stage? Well, a lot. But let us not judge the entire population of one country on this as the pattern is being mimicked all across the world.
We can look to the US presidential campaign in comparison. Donald Trump, a renowned racist, anti-immigration, anti-Muslim, anti-everything politician has been gaining massive support. He is using the same wave as Fico did to canvass votes. We can also look to the UK. The far-right party UKIP led by the famously anti-EU, anti-foreigner Nigel Farage gained almost 4 million votes in the 2015 general elections. This new and worrying move to the right has also been happening all across Europe. And the right-wing usually bring their anti-EU beliefs along with them.
Remember when people used to be happy to be part of the EU, when they looked to it as a symbol of solidarity in Europe? An organization that, despite its faults, was created in post-war Europe to bring countries together in unity and prevent a repeat of the horrors of the past. Remember, back then, when many Europeans themselves where refugees of war? How short our memory can be.
Lest we forget what happens when people are split into two “groups”, when they are fed the dangerous “us” vs “them” mentality. Politicians worldwide are creating this atmosphere of fear. Divide and conquer. The more people fear, the more they vote towards the far right. We can see the worrying pattern starting to develop and it is not just Slovakia that needs to reassess. We all do.