The left-wing Slovakian Social-Democrat Smer (Direction) party of Robert Fico won last Saturday’s general election in Slovakia. Voters rejected the government of Mikulas Dzurinda, the longest serving Prime Minister in the region, who has turned the Slovakian economy into one of the most successful in Central Europe.
The election has left conservative and libertarian Slovaks with a hangover. Smer is just short of a parliamentary majority. It won almost 29.1% of the vote compared with 18.4% for Dzurinda’s Slovak Democrat and Christian Movement. The four other parties that won enough votes to enter Parliament were the Ethnic Hungarian Coalition Party and its antithesis, the (anti-Hungarian) Slovak National Party, which both won 11.7%; The Movement for a Democratic Slovakia of the authoritarian former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, which took 8.8%; and the Christian Democrats, with 8.3%.
During the election campaign Smer promised to scrap the 19% flat tax that is one of the central pillars of the Slovakian economic recovery. The flat tax is credited with generating strong economic growth – at 6.1% the highest in central Europe. However, Slovakia also faces high unemployment at 15.5%. Political analists say that Dzurinda lost because voters are dissatisfied with the widening gap between rich and poor. “We need a Slovakia with more solidarity and justice,” Fico said. “It means that, if we form the government, benefits from our country’s development will not be restricted to a small group of people.”
Scrapping the flat tax will be welcomed by the welfare state politicians in Western Europe, who are opposed to the system and aim for tax harmonization across the European Union.
First, however, Mr Fico has to form a workable coalition, and his options are limited. Dzurinda, the present Prime Minister, could also try to stay in power by forming a coalition that would control more seats in Parliament than Fico’s, but that option appears unlikely because of animosity between Dzurinda’s party and others. The elections were called after Dzurinda’s coalition collapsed last February.
Ironically this collapse was the direct result of EU interference. The Slovak government fell after an EU committee criticized the draft of a proposed treaty between Slovakia and the Vatican. The treaty included a guarantee that Catholic doctors and hospitals in Slovakia would not be legally obliged to perform abortions, and other acts violating their conscience. According to the EU “Network of Independent Experts on Fundamental Rights” doctors should sometimes be forced to perform abortions, even if they have conscientious objections, because the right to abort a child is an “international human right.”
The criticism of the EU experts killed off the draft treaty with the Vatican and led to a conflict between Dzurinda’s party and its coalition partner, the Christian-Democrat KDH. While Dzurinda, under pressure of the EU’s criticism, agreed to abandon the proposed treaty with the Vatican, the KDH defended it and left the government.
EU Brings Down Slovak Government, 9 February 2006
Conscience, How Dost Thou Afflict Me! 7 January 2006
EU to Catholic Doctors: Thou Shalt Abort, 24 December 2005