Big Trouble For Europe In Slovakia.

slovakia

Radovan Geist

“The European integration project is crumbling before our very eyes. Pro-European forces are losing hope that it can be saved in its present form and have started focusing on salvaging the remains.”

The Slovak election results signal big trouble – for the country and the EU as a whole. The success of a fascist party is a symptom of a society that feels increasingly frustrated with its political elites.

Were it not for the success of that fascist party LS NS (People’s Party – Our Slovakia), post-election discussions would have been dominated by a well-known tune: who goes with him, for how much, and for how long. Notwithstanding the momentary shock, the political mainstream will try to get back to that all-too-familiar political telenovela as soon as possible. They know the script and could play by it pretty well.

For now, the mainstream is resolute in putting the fascists into a political ghetto. One may wonder whether it’s based on values, or fear and political tactics. Let’s just hope nobody will dodge that position. Not because isolating extremists diminishes their popularity – depending on the circumstances, it could well be otherwise. But because you just don’t do deals with fascists. Full-stop.

Ritual dances

Negotiations about the future government have started. Robert Fico’s Smer-SD had the first try, and was not successful. Now it’s the turn of euro-sceptic and anti-immigrant Richard Sulik, who will try to build a centre-right government. Due to a divisive personality and political fragmentation his task is not easy: any such government would have to comprise a combination of the Slovak National Party and Most-Hid, which has a strong support among the Hungarian minority, or an unpredictable political start-up of a controversial oligarch Boris Kollar. Or both. If that fails, Fico could be back in the game, even negotiating some form of caretaker government.

Before we see a new executive, one could expect some ritual dances to justify alliances that just a few weeks ago were said to unimaginable.

Big trouble

Immersed in their petty hopes and conflicts, mainstream parties could easily lose sight of a bigger problem that has caused this malaise in the first place. There may be many different individual reasons why people voted for a fascist party. However, its success was made possible by a growing insensitivity to intolerance and hate, and an atmosphere of despair.

The political mainstream has repeatedly flirted with racism and nurtured prejudices. The most frequent victims were Roma, but the migration crisis brought out new “dangerous others”. Vitriolic anti-immigrant rhetoric was not an exclusive domain of government (even though Fico intentionally nurtured these themes and tried to capitalise on them electorally), many so-called mainstream opposition parties followed suit. This scaremongering might not have directly brought Kotleba his 8 per cent (according to exit polls, only 8.1 percent of his voters supported him out of fear of immigrants or terrorism), but it has contributed to this reduced sensibility about intolerance, hate and extremism.

The second factor is an atmosphere of despair morphing into blind anger. A growing feeling that the country has been hijacked by oligarchs and their friends in the political elites – left and right – and elections are just a comedy, with little bearing on the real execution of power. Combined, these factors give little hope that the rise of far right is a temporary, incidental phenomenon.

Salvaging remains

Slovakia will most probably take over the EU Presidency with an instable government (whether with Smer, or anti-Smer). If things go well it might survive until December 2016, but all coalition partners will be keeping one eye on possible early elections, and their chances of success. Combined with support from the Council of Ministers administration, it might be just enough to prevent a major failure, but that’d be it.

Don’t expect any substantial change of course. After the last summit on migration, Fico has already announced that any agreement with Turkey on the re-settlement of refugees would not apply to Slovakia, because it has lodged a suit over migrant quotas against the Council (it’s due to preside over from July).

The European integration project is crumbling before our very eyes. Pro-European forces are losing hope that it can be saved in its present form and have started focusing on salvaging the remains. If it were deemed necessary, the “troublesome” periphery could be quickly sacrificed. What arguments have we prepared that it shouldn’t.

 

About Radovan Geist

Radovan Geist is cofounder and publisher of EurActiv.sk. A regular commentator on EU affairs in Slovak media, he also teaches at the Department of Political Science at the Faculty of Arts, Comenius University in Bratislava. He holds a doctoral degree in Political Science and studied at the Matej Bel University in Banska Bystrica, Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi and the Institute of Political Science at the Slovak Academy of Sciences.

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