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Hungarian parties lose ground in Slovakia

March 8th, 2016

Hungarian newspapers try to make sense of the chaotic political situation after the elections in Slovakia, and ponder what it means for relations between the two countries.

Hungarian politics in Slovakia are in deep crisis, Magyar Nemzet comments on the result of Saturday’s parliamentary election in the neighbouring country (which is home to a large ethnic Hungarian minority). It would be a big mistake, however, to blame this crisis on Slovak intrigue, István Pataky warns in the conservative paper’s editorial, noting that voter turnout in the regions where ethnic Hungarians live was lower than the national average.

Although SMER Social Democracy Party came first on an anti-immigration campaign ticket in Saturday’s elections, it lost its majority in parliament, which will now house a multitude of smaller parties, making it difficult to form a viable government coalition. The Slovak-Hungarian party Most-Híd (Bridge) received 6,5 per cent of the vote (compared to 6,9 per cent four years ago see BudaPost March 19th, 2012), while the Hungarian Community Party (MKP), ostensibly favoured by Fidesz, fell just short of the 5 per cent threshold (4,1% now 4,28% four years ago) for the third time in a row. The ultra-nationalist Slovak National Party (SNS 8,6%) and Marian Kotleba’s Neo-Nazi People’s Party Our Slovakia (8%) both made it to parliament.

The author accuses Fidesz of being insensitive to the local peculiarities of ethnic Hungarian communities and of having thus contributed to this trend. On the other hand, the editorial notes, the whole Slovak political system is showing severe symptoms of crisis. Voters in Slovakia, who turned up in relatively high numbers on Saturday, the paper argues, let Robert Fico know that his mixture of populism, nationalism and post-communist mentality will not be enough for a sustainable success.

Magyar Idők expresses concern over the possible negative impact of the election results on the otherwise good relations between Hungary and Slovakia. There is a chance, Zoltán Kottász warns in the pro-government paper’s editorial, that Robert Fico cannot avoid forming a coalition with the SNS, whose leader, Jan Slota once infamously declared that Budapest should be destroyed with tanks. Fico should also recognise, Kottász suggests, that campaigning about a migrant wave that does not really affect his country did not energize voters, who are more interested in everyday problems like conditions in hospitals, pensions and changing tax rates.

Népszabadság‘s op-ed piece calls Saturday’s election a political shock for Slovakia. In the article József Szilvássy maintains that Fico’s tactics of using the migrant crisis to divert attention from problems in health care and education has backfired. Xenophobia stirred up by the Prime Minister, the author asserts, has ultimately helped the racist Marian Kotleba to gain parliamentary seats and boosted support for the SNS as well. Népszabadság also criticizes Híd-Most and the MKP, alleging that,z the latter has been degraded to a mere ‘subsidiary of Fidesz’ by its leader. Hungarians in Slovakia have shown their discontent with the two parties’ reluctance to cooperate, he concludes.

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