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Poll
Question: Who would you vote for? 🇸🇰🗳️
#1
🌹Smer
 
#2
🟦PS
 
#3
💬Hlas
 
#4
🌫️Slovensko
 
#5
✝️KDH
 
#6
🟩SaS
 
#7
🦅SNS
 
#8
🟫Republika
 
#9
🍀Szövetség
 
#10
🟪Demokrati
 
#11
🤲Sme rodina
 
#12
❌Other
 
Show Pie Chart
Partisan results

Total Voters: 28

Author Topic: Slovak Elections and Politics | Fico the Fourth 🇸🇰  (Read 89125 times)
Estrella
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« Reply #975 on: April 07, 2024, 10:12:47 AM »

Is there a particular reason for the massive surge in turnout? Have Slovak politics polarized a lot following the political crises of the 2020s, or is there something specific to the candidates that drew people to the polls?

It's polarization. The Kuciak murder boosted opposition turnout and demotivated Smer voters in 2019, especially in the runoff. Same thing happened in 2020. Then Matovič's incompetence and Heger's support for Ukraine boosted Smer and far-right turnout in 2023 and again yesterday. On the map, many of the highest increases in turnout were in areas where Smer, Harabin and Kotleba were the strongest, now and five years ago (let's put it this way, Hlas ministers parading around with Hitler-saluting neo-Nazis didn't exactly hurt Pelle with ĽSNS voters). Pellegrini's belated but all the more enthusiastic pro-Russian and anti-LGBT turn was a masterstroke: it got him voters who wouldn't otherwise care about the election, but saw the need to protect Slovakia from Ukrainian Nazis, NATO warmongers, gender propaganda or whatever. Hungarian turnout also increased (Orbán's state TV openly campaigning for Pelle in the last days couldn't have hurt) and Hungarians now vote just like Slovaks in areas with comparable economic situation and urbanization. It's why I chose to compare this election not to last time, but to 2009, when a Fico-adjacent candidate won by a similar margin and with a vaguely similar, yet in some ways very different map.
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AustralianSwingVoter
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« Reply #976 on: April 07, 2024, 10:22:50 AM »


Slovak opposition be like
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Antonio the Sixth
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« Reply #977 on: April 07, 2024, 10:32:58 AM »

Is there a particular reason for the massive surge in turnout? Have Slovak politics polarized a lot following the political crises of the 2020s, or is there something specific to the candidates that drew people to the polls?

It's polarization. The Kuciak murder boosted opposition turnout and demotivated Smer voters in 2019, especially in the runoff. Same thing happened in 2020. Then Matovič's incompetence and Heger's support for Ukraine boosted Smer and far-right turnout in 2023 and again yesterday. On the map, many of the highest increases in turnout were in areas where Smer, Harabin and Kotleba were the strongest, now and five years ago (let's put it this way, Hlas ministers parading around with Hitler-saluting neo-Nazis didn't exactly hurt Pelle with ĽSNS voters). Pellegrini's belated but all the more enthusiastic pro-Russian and anti-LGBT turn was a masterstroke: it got him voters who wouldn't otherwise care about the election, but saw the need to protect Slovakia from Ukrainian Nazis, NATO warmongers, gender propaganda or whatever. Hungarian turnout also increased (Orbán's state TV openly campaigning for Pelle in the last days couldn't have hurt) and Hungarians now vote just like Slovaks in areas with comparable economic situation and urbanization. It's why I chose to compare this election not to last time, but to 2009, when a Fico-adjacent candidate won by a similar margin and with a vaguely similar, yet in some ways very different map.

There's certainly something weird about Slovak and Hungarian nationalists getting along... But I guess that goes to show how surface-level the "nationalism" actually is. At the end of the day, for both Orban and Fico, it's all about consolidating power, and it's always easier to deal with a fellow autocrat as a neighbor than with someone who can be held accountable by their citizenry.
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Filuwaúrdjan
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« Reply #978 on: April 07, 2024, 10:54:47 AM »

Unintended consequence of the Pan-European Security Umbrella. Irredentism is rendered as truly and genuinely performative, and so all kinds of associations that were once unthinkable for very basic practical reasons are not.
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Antonio the Sixth
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« Reply #979 on: April 07, 2024, 11:21:45 AM »

Unintended consequence of the Pan-European Security Umbrella. Irredentism is rendered as truly and genuinely performative, and so all kinds of associations that were once unthinkable for very basic practical reasons are not.

I was actually just thinking that. In a way, there's no greater triumph for the EU than to force even its fiercest opponents to think in its own terms.
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Estrella
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« Reply #980 on: April 09, 2024, 02:41:30 PM »

Fico announced that some austerity measures might be coming up. And by 'some austerity measures' I mean that he stood up on a press conference of the Minister of Finance and said that nobody would notice if he fired 30% of civil servants and ministries would actually work better. Now, this is probably unavoidable – extra taxes on cigarettes and soft drinks aren't gonna do much about the 6% deficit – but I love the utter shamelessness of doing it three days after the election. And, of course, there's the added benefit of being able to replace key employees with loyalists, like his Minister of Culture did when she appointed her friend, an economist mostly known for ranting about transgender ideology, as the director of a children's theatre.

As the presidential campaign ended, the European campaign is starting up. Plain blue billboards with no identifying marks appeared all over Slovakia, with slogans such as "We don't need EU and NATO", "We can't survive without Russia" and "Ukraine is the enemy". Turns out they were put by... the Democrats as a part of a provocative anti-government campaign Tongue
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Estrella
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« Reply #981 on: April 12, 2024, 08:24:50 AM »

I think Fico is in some kind of quantum superposition where he simultaneously holds every single position on Ukraine it’s possible to have.

Quote from: Pravda
The Slovak and Ukrainian governments held talks in Michalovce on Thursday. The meeting resulted in energy memoranda, provision of civil and humanitarian aid and improvement of transport between the neighbouring countries. The atmosphere after the talks was friendly, with smiles, touches and hugs accompanying the prime ministers' meeting.

"You need to put aside fear, prejudices, bring people together, remove bureaucratic obstacles and you will find that difficult decisions can be taken," Fico explained. He believes that "bureaucratic obstacles and bureaucratic contrivances" are hindering the protection of Ukraine's sovereignty and integrity. On the issue of military aid, the government's position is unchanged. Commercial military cooperation will continue and Slovakia wants to help in demining Ukraine.

"The use of Russian military force was a gross violation of international law," Fico said, adding that he did not want to change anything about this and adding that Ukraine needed help and solidarity. The prime minister added that Slovakia wished Ukraine early membership of the European Union. According to the Prime Minister, this is a guarantee of perspective and development.
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Filuwaúrdjan
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« Reply #982 on: April 12, 2024, 09:54:40 AM »

Say whatever else you like about him, but he really has mastered the art of Being A Postcommunist, which is not always easy.
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Estrella
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« Reply #983 on: April 20, 2024, 05:37:59 PM »

This week's Focus poll for TV Markíza:

TrustDistrust
Peter Pellegrini49 50
Zuzana Čaputová45 54
Robert Fico (Smer)36 64
Michal Šimečka (PS)29 66
Milan Majerský (KDH)28 61
Milan Uhrík (Republika)26 63
Andrej Danko (SNS)24 75
Richard Sulík (SaS)22 76
Krisztián Forró (Szövetség)22 59
Jaroslav Naď (Demokrati)21 73
Igor Matovič (Slovensko)15 84

This, along with election results, makes it clear you can divide the Slovak population (or at least the 60–70% who sometimes follow politics and vote in high-stakes elections) into four blocks:

◾about 30–35% (Smer, SNS, Republika, ĽSNS, parts of Hlas and Szövetség, various left-wing and far-right groups) who love Fico, love the government, agree with their anti-Western/anti-LGBT/anti-justice-system/anti-civil-society conspiracy theories and enthusiastically support everything it does, including unpopular anti-anti-corruption measures. A significant minority is very politically engaged outside mainstream media, on Telegram and such. Basically Trumpists.

◾about 20–25% (Hlas, Szövetség, Sme rodina, parts of KDH and Slovensko) who don't like Fico and his mafia but support the government for their promised welfare measures, social conservatism or a more moderate "yes to NATO but no help for Ukraine" foreign policy and above all see it as a lesser evil compared to liberals and Matovič. Basically the median voter.

◾about 15–20% (KDH, Slovensko, parts of Sme rodina, various minor centre-right and localist parties) who vocally oppose the government, strongly support EU/NATO and would rather eat glass than vote for Fico, but agree with the government on some issues not related to foreign policy or rule of law, such as welfare or various social conservative causes related to LGBT, drugs, hunting etc. Basically conservatives, both mainstream and populist.

◾about 25–30% (PS, SaS, Demokrati), the urban and suburban middle and upper class, plus the majority of, to use a South African term, "born free generation", i.e. post-1989. Basically liberals and progressives, very strongly pro-EU, pro-NATO and pro-Ukraine, supportive of LGBT rights (but cautiously so – something like half of PS voters oppose same-sex adoption), lower penalties for soft drugs and other moderate socially liberal causes. Centre-right on economics and big on fiscal responsbility, but with a small Western-style progressive minority. Obviously they think that Fico, Pelle, far-right and far-left are the second coming of Mečiar/Husák/Tiso, they're very politically engaged*, always vote and many have taken part in protests over the past months.

* this may have been a factor in some of the worst polling errors, but doesn't explain why every pollster said Korčok would get like 8% less in the first round than he really did, or that Republika would get in last year

In the news, Hlas and SNS are having a tiff over who should get the speaker's chair vacated by Pelle (Hlas says it belongs to them as a party, Danko wants it for himself after already having it in 2016–2020), austerity continues as the Minister of Health abolished the €150 yearly dental benefit, and activists organized a fundraiser for ammunition for Ukraine that collected €2.7 million (!) in just five days.
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Estrella
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« Reply #984 on: April 29, 2024, 11:09:51 AM »

Fico decided to dip his sticky fingers into pension funds, continues his purge of anti-corruption prosecutors, keeps up attacks on the Supreme Court and proposed something like the Russian and Georgian foreign agent laws. The debate has started on an SNS proposal that would proclaim all NGOs that receive at least €5000 from abroad to be "organizations with foreign support". This would include all sorts of Hungarian orgs bankrolled by Orbán that did GOTV for Pelle last month, so take that as you will. The pension issue is less emotional, but could have much bigger consequences.

First, some boring background. The Slovak pension system is divided into three "pillars". The first pillar is the compulsory pension insurance, a defined benefit scheme managed by the state-owned Social Insurance Company. It's funded by a flat rate 7% income tax and a ~23% payroll tax*. There's no single retirement age; it's calculated by a complicated formula that takes into account the birth year, sex, number of children and life expectancy. For example, my grandma would have retired at 61, my parents will retire at 64 and I'll retire at 68. If you've worked for at least 15 years and your pension, calculated based on years worked and income, would reach a certain level, you can retire a few years early (which is how my grandma actually retired at 58). The average monthly pension is around €520, a bit more than one third of the average wage.

* There are also a million other compulsory insurances, like the 14% health insurance, a separate 1.4% hospital insurance, 1% unemployment insurance, 4.75% for the "reserve solidarity fund" and so on, which work out to like 40% in employee and payroll taxes before the actual 19–25% income tax. All of these rates are flat btw.

The second pillar is a voluntary defined contribution scheme created by the Dzurinda government. Those who sign up can divert a part of their compulsory insurance into private pension funds that will start paying it out as a supplement to the state pension after reaching the retirement age. The third pillar are private schemes funded by voluntary extra payments from employee or employer.

Because state pensions are so lousy, people know they can't expect much and they don't trust the government not to f/ck up their savings, nearly 70% of the workforce is signed up to the second pillar and about 35% to the third pillar. That's a problem for the government: hundreds of millions of euros that could be going to the Social Insurance Company and used to pay today's pensioners are going to private funds. Not good under any circumstances, but the low-ish pension age, brain drain of young taxpayers and massive deficit all make it worse. The government decided that they'll take some measures to claw back money from the funds. We don't know what exactly they're going to do, but they have to be very careful: people see the second pillar as their money that they keep away from the government for a good reason.

What I said in the previous paragraph are only rarely mentioned as reasons though. In a great demonstration of what kind of left-wing Smer and Hlas are, their justification isn't old-age poverty or income redistribution, it's this:

Quote from: Erik Tomáš (Minister of Labour, Hlas)
That is money that mostly ends up in the USA, but we need that money here at home. Our future retirees are supporting the growth of foreign economies. It's not a new thing for pension funds to invest in government bonds so that the state doesn't have to borrow in international markets. The reasoning is that the state would just borrow money from the second pillar, invest it – and pay it back with interest. [translator's note: lol] It is only being considered whether this money could be invested in building motorways to kick-start the economy.

If you're looking for actual social democratic policies, last year Brigita Schmögnerová (PBUH) prepared a proposal for the new government with a windfall tax, a tax on multinationals, a progressive income tax, stronger colllective bargaining, integrating the Roma into labour market, education and healthcare reforms, decentralization to do something about the massive regional inequality and so on. Not that Fico's interested in any of it.
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Estrella
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« Reply #985 on: April 29, 2024, 11:11:09 AM »

Oh, and also:

activists organized a fundraiser for ammunition for Ukraine that collected €2.7 million (!) in just five days.

14 days, 62 thousand contributors, more than four million (!) euros 🎉🇸🇰🫡🇺🇦
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Mike88
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« Reply #986 on: May 15, 2024, 08:48:48 AM »

Robert Fico has been shot and was rushed to hospital. The extent of the injuries is still unknown. The man who fired the shots against Fico has been arrested.

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Red Velvet
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« Reply #987 on: May 15, 2024, 10:44:19 AM »

Robert Fico has been shot and was rushed to hospital. The extent of the injuries is still unknown. The man who fired the shots against Fico has been arrested.



He’s still alive in the hospital but under risk of death. It was definitely political terrorism. Hoping that Fico recovers soon, the social democrat is probably the only exciting name in Eastern European politics.
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Antonio the Sixth
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« Reply #988 on: May 15, 2024, 11:20:53 AM »

Well this sure came out of nowhere. Supposedly he's hospitalized in "life threatening" conditions (which I assume is the step below "critical"?) so we'll see how that plays out. I wonder what the shooter's motive was though, and where this ranges on the spectrum between "just a crazy person acting out" and "targeted political assassination". The latter would be ominous news for all Slovak politics...
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CumbrianLefty
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« Reply #989 on: May 15, 2024, 11:31:18 AM »

There is now a thread on this important event in the IGD section.
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Estrella
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« Reply #990 on: May 20, 2024, 02:11:34 PM »

ayyy lmao

Video shows how SNS leader Andrej Danko got into a fight at a gas station

Quote
He turned to the unknown man and knocked things out of his hands, even though the man had not physically touched him in any way before. He then remained standing with his face just opposite the man's, saying something as he did so. A security guard became involved in the tense situation and stood just in front of the man and pushed the assaulted man away with his hand. Other footage already shows the man picking up items knocked from the floor.

The car was driven by a security guard, as Danko's driving licence was taken away for two years after he recently crashed into a traffic light. He was also fined 900 euros. The incident at the petrol station took place a few minutes before 10 p.m., according to the time on the video.

The incident is already being investigated by the police, who have been contacted by the man who was attacked. That evening, according to SME, he went to the district headquarters in Nitra to testify about it. The police are investigating the incident as a suspected offence against civil coexistence. It carries a fine of up to 99 euros.
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Estrella
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« Reply #991 on: May 21, 2024, 05:23:37 AM »

So the government wants to, uh, pretty much start banning opposition media, starting with the silly and occasionally political memes from Zomri. They have 374k followers of Instagram and 413k on Facebook, which really is something in a country of five million.

SNS wants to crack down on satirical website Zomri, extremist Bombic published a photo of the alleged admin's child

Quote
SNS chair Andrej Danko has for several years been one of the most frequent subjects of the satirical website Zomri, which is followed by hundreds of thousands of Slovaks on social networks. When journalists drew attention to his plagiarized diploma thesis, when he crashed his car into a traffic light, or when he sometimes cursed, a series of videos or humorous pictures with Danko's image followed on Zomri.

SNS politicians used Wednesday's assassination of Prime Minister Robert Fico to start talking about ending the website in its current form. Danko describes it as extremist and even indirectly links it to the shooting of Prime Minister Fico. "Do you consider it normal that it has 'Zomri' ('Die') in its name? And then the prime minister will be shot?" asked the SNS chairman in a debate on TA3 on Sunday.

So SNS would have to find a way to force Meta to either block the Zomri site, reduce its reach, or at least provide data on the people who operate it. Earlier on Friday, the pro-Russian disinformation radio Infovojna said that Zomri administrators were allegedly allowed to break the law, something Meta is sensitive to. According to the SNS chairman, the site has long radicalised its followers. However, in the broadcast, he also suggested that he takes party interests into account when it comes to media or sites like Zomri. He indirectly identified them as one of the reasons why he dropped out of parliament in the 2020 elections.

"It's the main satirical site of the liberal cafés, its name is literally a call to violence. They dehumanised a part of Slovak society with their humour, but in doing so they banned me and Rudo Huliak from Facebook," said Smer MP Ľuboš Blaha, alluding to the fact that he lost his Facebook account two years ago. The reason was multiple violations of the site's rules, especially during the pandemic.

Environment Minister Tomáš Taraba (SNS) also joined the move against Zomri on Sunday, indirectly calling on the police or the prosecutor's office to deal with its administrators. "Zomri by name alone should be a special focus of law enforcement. Historically, it is a scandal that this instrument of heckling of three boys with bags on their heads has been overlooked by the law enforcement for such a long time here," Taraba wrote on Facebook. One commenter asked Taraba what they were waiting for as government politicians. "Now is your chance to abolish these anti-Slovak sewers," the debater added. Minister Taraba publicly wrote back saying they are already working on it."We are not waiting for anything, everything is being legally prepared," Taraba wrote.

Another person who would like to silence the Zomri website is extremist and anti-Semite Daniel Bombic, who goes by Danny Kollar on social media. On Saturday, he posted a series of photos in which someone surreptitiously snapped one of the supposed administrators in places where he normally hangs out. Among the photos is a shot of a man who is allegedly one of the administrators taking a child to daycare. Bombic also stated in which village this nursery is located. There is also a photo of the man's alleged car with a license plate number.

Danko announced last week in Infovojna that he would bring several proposals to the next coalition meeting that should affect the functioning of the media and social networks. "I will do everything I can to put some areas in the media environment in order," he said.

The EU will do nothing, of course.
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AustralianSwingVoter
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« Reply #992 on: May 21, 2024, 06:18:23 AM »

When I think dangerous assassins the first thing I think of is satirists in liberal cafes.
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CumbrianLefty
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« Reply #993 on: May 21, 2024, 10:38:52 AM »

Few things were more depressingly predictable than this.
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RGM2609
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« Reply #994 on: May 21, 2024, 04:03:38 PM »

Funny how they're blaming a random Facebook page for the assasination attempt but they still haven't got to address how Fico being a vile piece of sh**t his entire life might have made it more likely.
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Estrella
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« Reply #995 on: May 21, 2024, 07:09:45 PM »

And now for something completely different. What in the fresh hell was this?


Yes, every single one of those twenty-five parties came first in at least one municipality, and as if that wasn't enough, there were six more contesting not shown here that did not. The winner in my town was *checks notes* SaS and the dozen or so surrounding villages were won by PS, SMK, KDH, Smer and ĽSNS.
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Antonio the Sixth
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« Reply #996 on: May 22, 2024, 02:55:56 AM »

I can't get past "Turnout: 22.7% (+9.7)"
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Estrella
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« Reply #997 on: May 23, 2024, 12:27:07 PM »
« Edited: May 23, 2024, 12:45:17 PM by Estrella »

I can't get past "Turnout: 22.7% (+9.7)"

You think that's bad?

Referendum on 23 and 24 May 1997.
1. Are you in favour of Slovakia's entry into NATO?
2. Are you in favour of placing nuclear weapons on the territory of Slovakia?
3. Are you in favour of locating foreign military bases on the territory of Slovakia?
4. Do you agree that the president of the Slovak Republic should be directly elected by the citizens of the Slovak Republic according to the attached proposal for a constitutional law?

Shades of red: turnout by municipality (nationwide around 9.5%)
Grey: voting did not take place due to a boycott by the local electoral commission


So, um, er, what the actual fxck.

Here's the Wiki and here and here are deep dives from Denník N, who made the map and whose articles I took most of the text below from (I'm not putting the whole thing in a quote because it just looks ugly).



If anything demonstrates the relationship of the Mečiar regime to the institution of the referendum and the will of the people, about which the HZDS leader spoke so nobly when he authored the constitution, it is the referendum of 1997.

Simply put, the events surrounding the 1997 referendum both began and ended with the inability to find a successor to Michal Kováč. Although he became Slovakia's first president as the candidate of Mečiar's HZDS, he began to distance himself from it early on. The government, the secret service and the pro-government media not only did not support him, but went on the offensive. However, the three ruling parties, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), the Slovak National Party (SNS) and the Union of Workers of Slovakia (ZRS), did not have the necessary three-fifths majority to elect their own candidate, and there was no question of any compromise candidate at a time of enormous political polarisation.

The opposition parties KDH, Democratic Union, MKDH, Coexistence, MOS, Democratic Party and SDSS feared that Mečiar's majority in parliament would block the election of a new president, so that when President Kováč's term ended in March 1998 without a successor, presidential powers would pass to the government – that is, into the hands of Vladimir Mečiar. They therefore tried to push for direct presidential elections. When this failed in parliament, they started to collect signatures for a referendum in January 1997. Nearly half a million signatures were obtained by the petition committee in less than a month.

Mečiar responded with a referendum of his own. HZDS came up with the idea that the President should call a referendum on three NATO-related issues. Some did not even hide what was actually at stake. As the proposer and HZDS deputy Tibor Cabaj, always ready to do the dirty work, said, "Calling a referendum on NATO accession will narrow the president's room to manoeuvre." The questions were irrelevant; nobody was interested in placing military bases or nuclear weapons in Slovakia. Even joining NATO was a useless question, the West was looking down on Slovakia at that time precisely because of Mečiar's way of governing and no offer to join the Alliance was on the table.

Joining the North Atlantic Alliance could be found both in the HZDS manifesto and in the government programme. In reality, by asking questions in the referendum it was actually stirring up anti-American sentiment. Many coalition leaders questioned NATO enlargement or spread conspiracy theories that Slovakia would not be admitted because the United States had already agreed with Russia to rule it out. Ján Slota's Slovak National Party called on the people "do not be deceived and do not allow the sons of our nation to die and fight in foreign countries for the interests of big capital."

President Kováč decided mid-March that the three questions on NATO and the question of direct election of the President would be put to a single referendum to be held on 23 and 24 May 1997 (elections were held over two days back then). The combination of the referendums could paradoxically bring success to the opposition question of direct election of the president and ensure turnout reached the 50% needed for the referendum to be valid. Although many coalition MPs attacked him for combining the questions and spoke about its unconstitutionality, not a single one turned to the Constitutional Court. On the contrary, the instructions of the Ministry of the Interior at that time still stated that all four questions should be on one ballot paper.

However, over the next two months, government criticism of the question about direct election intensified. The prime minister, ministers and MPs, who otherwise had no problem with and often voted for unconstitutional laws, suddenly expressed concern about whether it was possible to change the constitution by a referendum. What began as grandiose statements by Mečiar at rallies eventually translated into the government's official stance.

Gustáv Krajči, a former gym teacher convicted of assault and battery, then the Minister of the Interior in the third Mečiar government, thwarted the referendum in a way that even dictatorships would not be ashamed of. Just four weeks before the referendum, the government announced that it would appeal to the Constitutional Court.

The escalating rhetoric was accompanied by incompetence of Vladimír Mečiar's cabinet: the first submission on the referendum, which was supposed to deal with the dispute "between the president as the announcer of the referendum and the government as the implementer of the referendum along state lines", was rejected by the Constitutional Court on the grounds that the government was not a party to the dispute because the referendum fell within the competences of the president, the Interior Ministry and the Referendum Commission.

Krajči declared that he was primarily bound by the government's resolutions and presented the Central Referendum Commission with two sample ballot papers: one with questions about NATO and the other with a question about the direct election of the president. In April and early May, the cabinet toned down its rhetoric, saying that by pushing for two ballot papers it did not want to prevent the distribution of the fourth question, but was merely waiting for the Constitutional Court. For example, Krajči spoke of the government "avoiding unnecessary deception of the citizens if the Constitutional Court issues a ruling that question number four on direct election of the president is unconstitutional."

However, there were also harsher remarks, either about the referendum commission, on which the opposition had a majority and questioned the government's reasoning, or about the opposition parties and the president, who allegedly wanted to increase the turnout in "their" referendum by linking question four to questions about NATO. But research has repeatedly shown the opposite, that is, that the direct election of the President was the most attractive to the people.

Although the government did not retreat from its position and the Minister of the Interior did not attend the meetings of the Referendum Commission, the latter eventually received two sample ballot papers from the Ministry a week before the referendum: one with four questions and the other with only three questions. On Friday 16 May, the Commission finally approved the four-question ballot paper, which went to the printers, and the printers produced four and a half million ballot papers over the weekend.

Four days before the vote, on Monday 19 May, the situation had begun to change. In some places the ballot papers did not arrive at all. In others they did arrive, but the municipalities or districts were forced to return them to the district offices. And the rhetoric was even harsher. As Krajči said that day, "The Ministry of the Interior will ensure that they are printed, but it is questionable whether they will be delivered to the individual towns and municipalities in time. That depends on how quickly the Constitutional Court decides in this case."

He was referring to the second submission that a group of government MPs had taken to the court two weeks earlier. At its heart was the question of whether the constitution could be changed by a referendum. The Senate of the Constitutional Court issued the ruling on 21 May, but neither the coalition nor the opposition was completely satisfied with its decision. The coalition criticised the fact that the court did not say that the constitution could not be changed by a referendum. The opposition criticised the fact that the judges found that the annex to the President's decision to call a referendum contradicted the law on referendums, which they said the court had no right to do.

It was this decision that became the pretext for Gustáv Krajči's further action. What this meant became clear on Wednesday 21 May, two days before the vote. Although the Central Referendum Commission obliged Krajči to distribute the already printed ballot papers with four questions by Thursday noon, the minister declared that "the fourth question is constructed illegally and should not be on the ballot paper. I take the responsibility for changing the ballot paper, I have had the ballot paper printed with three questions so that the citizens are not misled by question number four." The printers thus printed another four and a half million ballots.

Although the Referendum Commission gave permission to use its stamp only on the four-question ballot papers, a stamp similar to that of the Referendum Commission eventually appeared on the three-question ballot papers as well. The distribution did not go smoothly this time either, but the reasons were different. For example, some municipalities refused to accept the three-question ballot papers and some even reported them to the police as forgeries. Thus on Friday 23 May, the first day of the referendum, some polling stations had no ballot papers, some had only ballots with three questions and some only those with four.

On both the first and second day of voting, the polling stations were empty. The opposition called on citizens to boycott the referendum. Many people came in just to check whether the precinct electoral commissions had a four-question ballot paper and, after a negative answer, turned around and walked away.

The referendum recorded an all-time low turnout of only 9.5 per cent. Although Vladimír Mečiar, who had no legal right to do so, announced the results of the referendum and declared it null and void due to low turnout, the Central Referendum Commission, which had this right, stated that the referendum had been "sabotaged" and thus the total number of voters who had taken part was zero. 9.5% of the eligible voters had cast "fictitious ballot papers", as the Commission put it.

The intervention of the Minister of the Interior earned him dozens of criminal charges, which were dealt with by the prosecutor of the Bratislava I District Prosecutor's Office, Michal Barila. In September 1997, he also drew up a proposal for criminal prosecution for forgery of ballot papers in contravention of the decision of the Central Referendum Commission. Barila's superior, Tibor Šumichrast, unsuccessfully pressured him to postpone the criminal charges, in the end shelving the case himself.



Other than turnout, there are no publicly available results anywhere, not even on the national level. Denník N managed to somehow get the Statistical Office to provide most municipal-level results for the first three questions. Data for the fourth question is just... nonexistent and it's possible that amidst the chaos the government destroyed it or prevented it from being counted in the first place. So, just as an illustration of the utter absurdity of what happened, here is how the referendum went in my hometown.

Turnout 3.7% (432 votes)
Valid votes: 277 (64%) | Invalid votes: 155 (36%)
Question 1 (NATO): 36% yes, 26% no, 38% blank
Question 2 (nuclear weapons): 47% no, 9% yes, 44% blank
Question 3 (military bases): 41% no, 14% yes, 45% blank
Question 4 (direct election): unknown

So the referendum failed and nothing changed. That would be the end of it, right? Wrong. In March 1998, the term of office of President Michal Kováč came to an end. Parliament tried to elect his successor and, er, it didn't exactly go well.



Without a successor, presidential powers passed to the Mečiar government, which in the last months of its existence passed untold pardons and amnesties for the crimes that had taken place during their rule.

The city councils of Štúrovo and Svätý Jur voted to hold a rerun of the referendum in their municipalities, this time with all four questions. HZDS stated that they will prevent the votes from taking place "by any means available", but after two failed attempts the towns finally managed to hold them on 19 April 1998. Court orders outlawing the referendums were ignored and in the end voting with went ahead with a heavy presence of observers and without any disturbances, other than alleged intimidation of councillors and civil servants. I can't find the results from Štúrovo, but in Svätý Jur only 12% voted, entry to NATO and foreign bases passed, nuclear weapons were rejected and literally 99% voted for direct presidential elections. That linked article also contains this amazing sentence:

Quote
"By initiating this vote, the town council did not intend to overthrow the government, carry out a coup d'état, or to for Svätý Jur to break away from Slovakia," said chairman of the electoral commission Fraňo.


Mečiar's referenduming shenanigans didn't end there. Again from Denník N:



Mečiar finally succeeded in 1998 in ensuring that the presidential office remained empty after Kováč. Part of the presidential powers were thus transferred to the government. Among them was the control of the signatures for the referendum or the decision on the date when the referendum should be held.

And in 1998 there were also key parliamentary elections, in which Mečiar was about to be defeated. In addition to changing the electoral law, Mečiar devised another way to increase his support – a referendum on banning the privatisation of strategic enterprises.

Mečiar's government first wanted to enforce the ban on the privatisation of strategic enterprises in parliament by means of a constitutional law, but there was no constitutional majority for this. At the end of his rule, the political elite responsible for the scandals known as 'wild privatisation' wanted to enforce the ban on privatisation.

HZDS started collecting signatures and according to contemporary reports, they got up to 600 thousand in record time. The state of democracy and the separation of powers in those times is well demonstrated by the fact that the HZDS handed over the signatures to its boss – acting President Vladimír Mečiar. The Cabinet Office checked the signatures in record time and called the referendum for the two days when parliamentary elections were also being held.

The 1998 referendum was one of two that were timed to coincide with an election. It was linked with it only by having the same voting days, the structure of voting – including the polling stations – was separate from the organisation of the elections. Voters who wanted to vote in the referendum had to go to a separate referendum polling station, which wasn't always right next to the election polling station. The Minister of the Interior, Gustáv Krajčí – accused of sabotaging the previous year's referendum – had announced that he would prepare a change in the referendum legislation so that the referendum and the elections would be combined in practice, i.e. so that voting would take place in the same place, but in the end this was not done.

This referendum was not a success either, with 84.3% of voters turning out for the election and only 44.1% for the referendum. HZDS seems to have overestimated the effect of the timing, but they may not have cared about the result as much as they cared about being able to use the referendum as one of the key issues of the election.
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Antonio the Sixth
Antonio V
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« Reply #998 on: May 23, 2024, 12:47:44 PM »

Amazing stuff. What an utterly fascinating mess of a country.
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Storr
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« Reply #999 on: May 23, 2024, 01:34:39 PM »

It seems very fitting that the only referendum in Slovakia's history to not have failed due to insufficient turnout was the 2003 one on joining the EU. Even it could only muster 52.12% turnout, surprisingly close to the 50% referendum validity threshold.
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