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Five Things You Need to Know About Slovakia’s Elections

On February 29, Slovakia elected a new parliament comprised of opposition politicians who campaigned against the incumbent center-left government. The elections took place amid ongoing political fallout over the 2018 murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova—an episode which revealed corruption at the highest ranks of politics and triggered mass social protests.

Here are five things you need to know about these elections:

1. The insurgent opposition movement OLANO won a plurality of the vote. 

The largely conservative Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OLANO) movement won a plurality of the vote, appealing to voters who felt frustrated by their traditional parties and perceived systemic corruption. OLANO leader Igor Matovic looks likely to build a coalition with other opposition parties to form a government for the coming period. OLANO came from polling around 10 percent just two months ago to a commanding win on Saturday, winning 25 percent of the vote (an increase of 14 points from 2016).  Why? After years of frustration with establishment parties, voters rejected the governing center-left Smer-Social Democracy (SD)—the party of former Prime Minister Robert Fico, who had resigned following the eruption of protests in 2018. Fico’s party received 18.3% of the votes, and LSNS, a far-right party known to support pro-Russian policy, received just under 8% of votes. SNS, a party with a long nationalist history, received 3.2% of votes. 

2. Corruption and disaffection drove voters to the polls—and were weaponized in social media campaigns.

Despite robust economic growth, significant parts of society feel left behind by the post-1989 economic transition, while a series of corruption scandals has shaken Slovaks’ faith in the self-regulation of democratic institutions. In the weeks leading up to the parliamentary elections, these vulnerabilities were exploited through strong visual social media campaigns, including videos spreading disinformation and divisive messaging on issues such as the flow of migrants into Europe. The extreme right-wing People’s Party – Our Slovakia (LSNS) party, which received 8 percent of votes even openly financed Magazin1, a website known to be spreading disinformation, as an official provider of their media services.

3. The election saw the highest voter turnout in 18 years, including from Slovak expats

At 65.8 percent, this election saw the highest voter turnout in 18 years. Despite Smer-SD’s populist attempts to increase support by passing a  13th annual pension payment three days before elections and campaigning against Slovak voters living abroad, 93.8 percent of Slovak expats voted, and over 97 percent supported the various opposition parties.

4. Despite demanding political change, voters remain committed to traditional values. 

With the majority of the elected parties aligning with the traditional conservative values common in Slovakia, the election results showed that these values remain strong, confirming the trends evident in the 2019 presidential election. These trends include support for the protection of family values, traditional gender roles and national values—as well as a loss of trust in traditional parties. While the center-right Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) didn’t pass the threshold for parliament, four out of six parliamentary parties define themselves as conservative with a strong sense of national sovereignty.

5. OLANO must now form a governing coalition. 

Having secured 53 seats of his own, Matovic will need 37 coalition MPs to rule in a constitutional majority. A large coalition of 95 seats including OLANO and the parties We Are Family, SaS and For the People currently looks like the most viable option. Once a governing coalition is formed, the new government must take decisive steps to prove that they are committed to addressing the concerns that drove voters to the polls such as corruption and economic concerns.