Slovak European Elections in the Shadow of the Rise of Right-Wing Extremists

Analysis by a partner of transform! on the political landscape in Slovakia, the European Elections and their importance for the unification of the radical left.

The issue of elections to the European Parliament has so far been in the shadow of the presidential elections in Slovakia. Despite this, the upcoming European elections in Slovakia can be perceived as a certain indicator of internal political development up until the next year’s parliamentary elections.

The traditionally low interest of voters (Slovakia had the lowest electoral participation of the whole EU in 2014 – only 13.05%) to select future MEPs simultaneously raises an interest of political entities in these elections. At the same time, the extremely low electoral participation means an increased chance to assert itself even for marginal political entities. By comparison, in the last elections to the European Parliament in Slovakia, about 30,000 votes were enough to gain a parliamentary mandate.

This fact also caused the record 31 entities to compete for confidence of voters at the end of May. Most attention will be drawn to the result of the strongest government party. Smer-SD (Direction – Social Democracy) suffered the significant losses in regional and municipal elections, moreover, this month fell below 20% in preferences for the first time. The opposition expects that the European elections confirm the downward trajectory of party support, while the leadership of SMER is hoping for a result of over 20% in this last test before parliamentary elections, which could then be interpreted as maintaining current positions.

The duel of “old” opposition composed of SaS (Freedom and Solidarity), OĽaNO (Ordinary People and Independent Personalities) and KDH (Christian Democratic Movement) with the “new” opposition represented in the upcoming European elections by the coalition of Progresívne Slovensko (Progressive Slovakia) and Spolu – občianska demokracia (Together – Civil Democracy) will also be observed. These two parties, together with the forming entity of outgoing president Andrej Kiska will compete for the same electorate as the old opposition, and the May elections will be their first real encounter.

The radical left together

While the right side of the political spectrum is largely fragmented, there are only two entities on the left which court the support of voters: the aforementioned Smer-SD, a member of the Party of European Socialists, and a coalition of a radical left formed by the Komunistická strana Slovenska (Communist Party of Slovakia) and the entity Vzdor – Strana práce (Resistance – Labour Party). Several left-wing civic associations are also represented on the electoral list of this coalition.

Five years ago, both entities were standing for election independently and competed also with the entity Úsvit (Dawn), a party of former MP for KSS Ivan Hopta. This party will not join the upcoming European elections, which plays into the hands of the radical left coalition. Its program priorities include social issues, resistance to militarism and the fight against the rise of right-wing extremism in Europe.

However, both parties are only sporadically able to break through the media blockade and their support in public opinion polls is usually one percent. According to the latest survey, a radical left-wing coalition in European elections would win 1.76%.

The advent of the extreme right?

One of the negative surprises of the elections in Slovakia will probably be the result of the extreme right-wing entity Kotleba – Ľudová strana Naše Slovensko (Kotleba – People’s Party Our Slovakia). While this party has received less than two percent in previous elections, the question now is not whether extremists will be able to win a seat in the European Parliament, but whether they will acquire one or more mandates. In fact, since 2014 extremists have managed to assert themselves in parliamentary elections and keep a stable and disciplined electorate composed mainly of protest votes.

This was also reflected in the recent presidential elections, where extremist leader Marian Kotleba won more than ten percent and finished fourth. In front of him has placed Štefan Harabin, who aimed at the protest voters, and he also built the campaign on topics typical especially for the far right – euroscepticism, nationalism or fear of migration. Taking into account that Harabin and Kotleba gained more than 25% of the votes in the presidential election altogether, and the fact that Harabin does not stand as candidate in the European elections, Kotleba has a very good opportunity to earn at least one MEP.

These expectations are confirmed by the latest survey of the European elections, where Kotleba’s party ended up with almost 13% in second place behind SMER.

Will the election result be affected by the topics of migration and relations with Moscow?

Although the issue of EU and member states relations is likely to dominate the election campaign, the topic of migration or at least an efford to revive it will also play a role in the campaign, given the great potential of extremist and anti-systemic forces. Geopolitical issues, particularly EU and Russia relations, will not be left behind either, thus there can be a discussion about the sanctions against Russia or the united European army project.

Generally speaking, in the upcoming European elections SMER is expected to win as they will try to retain the current number of mandates (4). After the elections, Slovakia will most likely be represented by a higher number of eurosceptic MPs, especially from the parties Kotleba – ĽSNS and Sme rodina – Boris Kollár (We Are Family – Boris Kollár), led by entrepreneur Boris Kollár.

The ALDE fraction can also gain profit if a representative of Progresívne Slovensko (Progressive Slovakia) gets to the European Parliament. This party goes to the elections in the coalition with another party Spolu – občianska demokracia (Together – civil democracy). The right-wing parties SaS (Freedom and Solidarity), OĽaNO (Ordinary People and Independent Persons), as well as the KDH (Christian Democratic Movement), should maintain parliamentary representation. On the contrary, the assertion of Slovenská národná strana (Slovak National Party) and two Hungarian parties: Most-Híd (Bridge) and Strana maďarskej koalície (Hungarian Coalition Party) is questionable.

Cover photo: photo by Peter Leto Škodáček. Source: