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Elections in Slovakia: following the European trend

, by Tomas Kvasnovsky

In November 2013, Slovakia adopted the European trend of rebirth of extreme-right populist parties.

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Marian Kotleba, chief of the ultra-nationalist People´s party - Our Slovakia (LSNS), won the regional elections and has become the governor of Banska Bystrica Self-Governing Region in the central part of the country. In the run-off he beat the favourite Vladimir Manka - incumbent, candidate of the governing party Smer-Social Democracy (Smer-SD) and MEP. His convincing victory was a shock for experts, traditional politicians and also for many common people. The result has spread worldwide and Banska Bystrica got negative publicity in the many world media. The American news agency Associated Press wrote about Neo-Nazi, Die Welt about the Roma-hater, Swiss tabloid Blick about right-wing extremist.

Kotleba received 71,397 valid ballots (55,5%) which made him the second most voted candidate of the second round in the country after the governor of the capital Bratislava Self-Governing Region, candidate of Slovak Democratic and Christian Union Party (SDKU), Pavol Freso, who received 2,915 votes more. The remaining six districts were acquired by the Social Democrats.

Kotleba also ran for governor’s office in Banska Bystrica in 2009 but only came fourth, with 10,03%. History was supposed to repeat itself. The incumbent governor Vladimir Manka was predicted to win smoothly in the first round. However, he received just 49,5% of valid ballots and with 21,3% Kotleba became his rival in the second round, which no one expected.

For natives, Kotleba is a well-known figure who has been part of the Slovak political scene since 2003. He twice stood for parliamentary elections. In 2010 the party received 1,33% of votes and in 2012 1,58% so the gates of parliament remained closed for it. Experts predict that this election result may harm the region’s development because neither local representatives nor governing party would be willing to cooperate with him.

Meet the „little“ Führer

Kotleba is a 36-year-old former high school teacher with master’s degrees from Pedagogics and Economics. He launched his political career as a leader of the now-outlawed ultra-nationalist party Slovenská Pospolitosť - Národna Strana (Slovak Togetherness – National Party). His tenure has been notorious for his hostile attitude towards Slovak Roma minority, branding them as „gypsy parasites“ and by organizing anti-Roma marches and events. Further, for publicly praising the Nazi puppet government that ruled Slovakia as satellite state during the World War II and its president Jozef Tiso who dispatched thousands of Jews to Nazi concentration camps. In the media, he has been using term „so-called holocaust“ when speaking about the Jewish genocide.

The most radical members of the party called him Vodca (The Führer) and worn uniforms very similar to one which had been worn by paramilitary corps Hlinka Guard (Hlinkova garda) existing during the puppet state as government military forces. The subject of hostility for this party was not only the Roma ethnic group but also Hungarians, Czechs, Zionists, homosexuals, NATO, the common European currency, immigrants in general and everybody who was „posing a threat“ to Slovak nation, state and culture. The party was disbanded by the Supreme Court because of its anti-constitutional activities in 2006 so it has been transformed only to citizens association.

After banning this party he has become the leader of Party of friends of wine, bringing his ideas and people from previous activity with him and transformed originally a small local and non-serious party of frustrated and disappointed voters to LSNS. However, his rhetoric and public behaviour have toned down and extreme radicalism has been fettered by the vision of political success so the party now defines itself as national and Christian but it is still balancing on the edge of nationalism and neo-Nazism because of the activities, statements and previous history of its members.

The official election program calls for a green economy, direct democracy, preserving traditional family, social security, supporting private businesses, democratic values and fair state. However, the real-life statements and actions tell a different story. Ten Commandments of LSNS speak inter alia about leaving NATO, considering it a terrorist organization, abandoning the common European currency, rejecting the dictate of Brussels and its federalism and about the final solution of „the Roma problem.“ During his political activities he has been arrested and sued for defamation of race, spreading racism and propagation of Nazism several times but has never been convicted or penalized.

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