The second round of presidential election in Slovakia, which took place last Saturday, became victorious for the 51-year-old businessman and multimillionaire, independent candidate Andrej Kiska. He defeated his rival, the incumbent prime minister, leader of the ruling Smer-Social Democracy (Direction) Party Robert Fico with significant advantage in votes. According to the official data, Kiska received 59.4 percent of the vote, and Fico 40.6 percent. Let us remind that two weeks ago, after the first round, Fico was leading. He was supported by 28 percent of voters, while Kiska by 24 percent. “It is a new feeling to be voting for myself,” said Kiska when casting a ballot in his hometown of Poprad.
“I promised I would be a president for all of the citizens. I will unite and motivate them. Slovakia is beautiful country, with great people, and it is up to us how we are going to use all the great things we have, so we can be proud of our country, so young people will want to live here, so we all can feel good here. I will improve our politics, I will do my best to make it more humane,” said Kiska when addressing his supporters who celebrated the victory. Fico sincerely congratulated his rival on this victory. Even during the campaign, the experienced politician stated that in case of a defeat, he will retire from politics. We can only wait for his statement in the next few days, because at the moment, he, just as his opponent, took a few days off to rest from this campaign.
Observers say that the success of Kiska, who among other things founded a charity Good Angel (it provides financial aid to families with sick children), was promoted by several circumstances. Firstly, this is the image of a freshman in politics who was never involved in corruption scandals. During the pre-election campaign he promised to fight corruption and create a more effective government. Secondly, many voters were unwilling to let the Social Democracy party consolidate its positions, which already has the majority in the parliament. Meanwhile, chairman of the OLaNO movement Igor Matovic thinks that Kiska’s victory brought “great pleasure to all the people who were watching with dread as the period of Meciarism was coming back to Slovakia with Robert Fico.” Matovic also said he was happy that for the first time in history Slovakia will have a truly independent president who will be accountable to his electors only.
Sociologist Martin Slosarcik says Fico has failed to convince voters why he should run for president. Moreover, most people want him to be prime minister rather than president, Slosarcik added. According to political analyst Erik Lastic, Fico should react to his defeat by making personnel changes in the leftist one-party Cabinet. It should be mentioned that during the recent election campaign, Fico was supported by renowned leftist European politicians, in particular, president of the European Parliament Martin Schulz and French president Francois Hollande. The newly elected fourth president of Slovakia will be sworn in on June 15, when the incumbent Slovak president Ivan Gasparovic’s term ends.
Oleksandr DULEBA, director of the Research Center of the Slovak Foreign Policy Association:
“The prime minister said that for him and his party this election was a referendum on his policy. This is the first time since 1993 that we have had a single-party government for two years. Since he lost the election, it is an important signal which indicates that Slovaks want political changes. In the second round, Kiska took all the protest electorate from Fico, even though the Smer leader confirmed the result of the parliamentary election of 2012. It is a very important change in Slovakia’s politics. I now expect that Smer should review its party policy. And Fico himself is to make a statement in a few days on whether he will remain in politics. However, he can remain prime minister until 2016, because the position of his party in the parliament is rather stable. But there is a strong message for him personally and for his party that they lost coalition partners. And if this logic proves to be right during the election of 2016, it means they will not be able to form a single-party government, they will need coalition partners. But they polarized the situation with their politics, and there is big chance that opposition parties will form a new government, if something about Fico’s policy does not change.
“It is good that pluralism will be present in the Slovakia’s political system with the victory of an independent candidate. Only one party dominates the parliament right now, but it has failed to obtain the presidential post as well. Kiska’s victory is good news for Slovakia.”
Will the arrival of the independent candidate influence Slovakia’s foreign policy, in particular the part that relates to Ukraine?
“The position of the president is rather symbolic in Slovakia, in particular in the executive branch. But the president can do a lot in foreign policy. And I think it will not be the worsening of relations, on the contrary, I hope that Kiska will adhere to the policy towards Ukraine which he expressed during the campaign. During the second debate he had a clearer position about supporting Ukraine than the prime minister himself. In particular, concerning the interpretation of occupation of Crimea and the approach towards sanctions and the EU policies. The prime minister said we were not interested in sanctions, nobody is interested in worsening the relations in fact, but there are some lines that cannot be crossed. Fico said in particular: where economy matters begin, the importance of human rights ends, and so on. Kiska had a more conscious and clear position: Slovakia cannot recognize the situation when one country occupies the territory of a sovereign country, which is Slovakia’s neighbor. Kiska had clear accents in what concerns supporting Ukraine. This will be a positive aspect for relations between Slovakia and Ukraine.”
Grigorij MESEZNIKOV, president of the Institute for Public Affairs, Bratislava:
“Kiska’s victory was expected, but the result he showed was not, in particular, the large 19 percent gap. Political non-alignment turned out to be an advantage for him. He even refused to accept the support of political parties, when their representatives contacted him at the beginning of the election with an offer to represent them. In the second round he was supported by all opposition parties. Kiska’s victory as an independent candidate will have a positive impact on the functioning of the system of democratic institutes, because one can see a concentration of power in the hands of one party only, the leftist national Smer. This party has a majority of votes in the parliament and access to all the control mechanisms. The voters showed with their choice that the division of powers is very important for them. That one party cannot have everything.”
Are there any grounds for statements like the one expressed by leader of OlaNO movement Igor Matovic: that under Fico Slovakia saw the return to Meciarism?
“First of all, this is a position of an opposition MP who is exaggerating. There were some unfavorable tendencies, which were revealed in the attempts to consolidate power. Naturally, there was no such direct threat as the return to Meciarism. Slovakia is an EU member after all, and under Meciar, it was neither a member of the EU, nor a NATO member. The only thing that reminded of Meciarism was the tyranny of the majority: ‘We are the ruling party, we control everything, and the opposition has to obey. It had no controlling mechanisms of influence.’ There also were no human rights violations, which were typical for Meciarism. However, such hard-line practices with elements of authoritarianism reminded of Meciarism to people who fought for democracy in the 1990s.”
Should some changes in Slovakia’s foreign policy be expected with the arrival of an independent politician?
“I think the general line towards the cooperation with our partners in the EU and NATO will be preserved. And as for Ukraine, it will be a specific moment, which has its own meaning, since the prime minister has expressed doubts about the possibility of Slovakia helping Ukraine. Officially, Slovakia as a nation supports Ukraine, condemns the annexation of Crimea, and will not recognize it, there is no difference in this respect. However, our prime minister has said strange things a few times. And basically, he raised doubts as to whether he himself adheres to this official position. In particular, Fico was actively opposing the implementation of sanctions and justified this by economic expediency, saying that ‘we receive gas from Russia, how can we impose sanctions on it.’ The president’s position is much weaker, because the government has the last word in policy-making. But I think that in this respect, Kiska’s position coincides with the widespread European opinion that sanctions are necessary. Kiska constantly emphasized that we need to occupy a position that would not make us different from the European Union, that we have to share a common standpoint. And Fico was ready to stand different grounds. In the course of the election campaign, Kiska clearly said that Ukraine should be supported, that we must strive for the stabilization of the situation, for the country to be able to develop into a democratic and independent state. And that is why the chances are bigger that Slovakia will occupy a more positive stand in relation to Ukraine.”