Yesterday, on March 5th, Slovakia held the long awaited parliamentary election. What was expected to be the decisive moment for the country´s future turned out to be something that can be, in a nutshell, summarised by the heading ´hopes raised, hopes dashed´. Aside from the little change that results, one attempt to steal the ballot box and sudden death of a pensioner, there had been multiple reported efforts to manipulate the process. In the end, even though hundreds of voters received the package of ballot papers coincidentally including more leading party´s copies at the expense of the one which scored the second place; the election has been pronounced valid and Robert Fico´s SMER (The Direction) is now searching for its coalition junior partner.
While my peers already researched on the possibilities to be granted a political asylum elsewhere- starting from the Zeman´s Czech Republic to Republic of Ghana; I am still contemplating and trying to analyse and understand the meaning and potential consequences of what has just happened and why.
Fico´s anti- immigration party won again, however, with the loss of parliamentary majority and is thus required to form a coalition. That shocking and surprising part of the story is this however; Marian Kotleba´s far far-right and Eurosceptic People´s Party- Our Slovakia did particularly well and the same can be concluded about the newborn We Are the Family of Boris Kollar, the entrepreneur and father of 9 children with multiple mothers. Support for pro-Hungarian parties has declined in response to their lack of novelty and actualisation of agenda. Grotesque composition of the new Slovakian Parliament attracted even the attention of foreign media.
Diversity and roughly balanced distribution of power among the myriad of other parties which successfully made it to the Parliament suggests that Slovakia is about to face extraordinarily rough times before the coalition sees the light. Some political analysts already articulated their fears stemming from the uncertain future and difficulties with the coalition-building and maintenance. There are several lines of reasoning underlying their concerns.
First of all, majority of parties which won fewer seats assured media and electorate about their unwillingness to ally with the leading party. Secondly, equitably strong reluctance surrounds the possible cooperation with the far-right, neo-nazi faction. Resulting is the lack of options for the future coalition that carries the potential of materialising in different scenarios, one bleaker than the other. The prospect of early election has not yet been discarded and the option of open-ended rightist government still clings and casts shadow over the Republic´s outlooks.
The issue raises further concerns in relation to the upcoming Slovak Presidency in the Council of the EU. The image and reputation of the country can ultimately suffer from the pro-Russian oriented leadership.
The currently prevailing mood among especially young Slovak citizens is more the reflection of deeper fears. To understand the atmosphere, one needs to consider recent developments in the context of still not very distant past. Owing to its location in the heart of Europe and partly to its small size implying the weaker voice in international affairs, the country over the past century saw the rise and fall of the whole spectrum of regimes. Nationalist sentiments springing up before and during the WWI resulted in the dissolution of the Austro- Hungarian Empire and mushrooming of small states all around Europe. The first Czechoslovak Republic was born and regardless of its internal heterogeneity, series of reforms helped keep the newly created state afloat. Even on the eve of the Second World War, Czechoslovakia successfully maintained and nourished democracy and this was only to change with the rise of German gluttony. Gradual erosion and weakening by minorities from within also heightened the country´s vulnerability to external pressures, leaving it helpless in the face of Germany´s growing appetite and attempts by large powers at avoiding another major war. Munich Agreement, even though implying major losses for Czechoslovakia, came into being in the absence of its representatives and resulted in the almost instant split of the first Republic. At that point, Slovakia started to write its own history; after the failure of the first CSR and as the part of an effort to preserve at least de jure independence, the Slovak State emerged as the satellite under patronage of Nazi Germany. This dark period in Slovakia´s history terminated with the national uprising and thanks to relentless work of Czechoslovak exile government already drafting plans for the new Republic. Alas, the creation of the new state had been made possible on the grounds of the support granted by Russia and the fact was to have serious repercussions for the fate of the country. Foreshadowed in the liberation by Russian army, Czechoslovakia soon fell into the Soviet Sphere of influence. Following the disappointment of hopes for the independent choice of the new government, the work by Czechoslovak dissenters aiming to give Communism at least some human face- conceptualised as the Prague Spring, alarmed the central Soviet government. This mobilized the Warsaw Pact troops and resulted in the infamous 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. What followed is an obnoxious story of repression, hunt of dissidents and a series of political imprisonments. Soviet Russia arrived to liberate the country again, this time from malign influence of anti-communist villains; and occupied the country until 1989.
The brief cross-cut throughout the dire history of Slovakia indicates that the country already has its own and very personal experience with both Nazism and Communism. It also explains the disenchantment on that part of Slovak population aware of history.
The voter turnout and the resultant win of far right fascists and Pro Russian Eurosceptics, however, demonstrates that Slovakia has either forgotten about its past or suppressed the memory, or still further, failed to learn from own mistakes. It is yet to be seen which option is more terrifying.