Since the Slovak elections

Right after the Slovak elections I wrote an article about Viktor Orbán's Slovak fiasco which, even after more than a week, strikes me as a fairly sound assessment of the events leading up to the elections. I think it is now time to assess the situation that has developed since.

First, the background. Although Prime Minister Robert Fico's Smer received the most votes, in fact more than four years ago, his coalition partner Ján Slota fared very poorly. His Slovak National Party barely surpassed the 5% level necessary to be represented in parliament. Thus the combined forces of Smer and the Slovak National Party weren't enough to form a government. On the other side, the big surprise was that the Fidesz-supported MKP (Magyar Koalicíó Partja) for the first time in the existence of Slovakia failed to get enough votes to qualify for parliamentary representation. On the other hand, Most/Híd (meaning Bridge in both languages) organized just over a year ago by Béla Bugár, formerly chairman of MKP, did fabulously well. It received over 8% of the votes. After more than a week of negotiations it became clear that none of the opposition parties was willing to help Fico out of his predicament. By now it is certain that there will be a coalition government, most likely headed by Iveta Radičová of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union. Most/Híd will be part of this coalition government.

Although Pál Csáky of MKP initially tried to convince the Budapest government to postpone legislation on dual citizenship, in the final analysis he gave in. The argument was that Robert Fico's shrill anti-Hungarian rhetoric would arouse the Hungarians of Slovakia who would flock to vote for MKP. Therefore the legislation on dual citizenship would actually weaken Fico and Slota and strengthen the opposition.

Béla Bugár had a different opinion. He considered the Fidesz government's forcing the issue before the Slovak elections "a political crime." He also said that "anyone who didn't think that Slovak reprisals would be forthcoming shouldn't be a politician." Surely, he had Viktor Orbán in mind. Although the prime minister had helpmates in the persons of János Martonyi, Zsolt Németh, and Zsolt Semjén.

MKP's Pál Csáky resigned and, as one Slovak-Hungarian organ charged, is currently hiding from journalists. Miklós Duray, who is one of the most ardent nationalists in MKP, is sulking and is questioning Most/Híd's commitment to the Hungarian community. I recently learned that Duray has been sitting in parliament for about twenty years and never once rose to deliver a speech. I suspect because he refuses to speak Slovak. Surely, in the European Union this kind of attitude can no longer lead to success.

Most/Híd won over sixty percent of the votes even in solidly Hungarian towns like Komárno (Komárom) and Dunájska Streda (Dunaszerdahely) which were considered to be MKP strongholds. As a result of this election, it became evident that the Hungarian minorities cannot be "governed" from Budapest. Commentators also emphasized that Budapest really doesn't understand the mentality of the Hungarians living outside of Hungary proper. They completely misjudged public sentiment and didn't realize that the Hungarians of Slovakia have an attachment to Slovakia, which is after all their country. (I might add here that the Romanian-Hungarian minority is currently studying the Slovak case and trying to learn from it.)

What is the reaction inside of MKP? Some of the leaders blame Fidesz without admitting that perhaps they also had a role to play in the party's failure. After all, they were willing partners of Budapest. In fact, a commentator called their relationship to Fidesz outright "servile." MKP party leaders now hope that "Fidesz will not be ungrateful" and will help out the party which will soon be in dire financial straights. Some of them consider Fidesz one of the gravediggers of the party "although now they are washing their hands, like Zsolt Németh saying that they are totally innocent in this whole affair."

Another Slovak-Hungarian commentator, Szabolcs Mózes, thinks that if Bugár plays his cards well, "MKP's only hope remains Viktor Orbán. If the chairman of Fidesz has a confrontational relationship with the future Slovak government and if they ignore Híd then perhaps MKP will survive. But if Orbán decides to have a working relationship with the new Slovak government, MKP is finished."

As far as I can see, the Budapest government's future relations with Slovakia are still undecided. On the one hand, János Martonyi and Zsolt Németh keep repeating their willingness for a dialogue as soon as the new Slovak government is formed. Zsolt Semjén, it seems, has other ideas. On June 21 he was interviewed on Krónika (Chronicle), an extended early morning news program of Magyar Rádió, and when he was asked whether Most/Híd of Béla Bugár would receive an invitation to the meetings of Hungarian politicians of the Carpathian Basin he is organizing during the summer, he answered that it depends on whether Híd considers itself a Hungarian party. Because he certainly does not. In his opinion "Híd at the moment is a Slovak party in which there are token Hungarian politicians." He continued that "the future Hungarian-Slovak relationship will fundamentally depend on Bratislava." Not too promising a beginning.

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NWO
Guest

Except, Slota’s party barely made it into the Parliament, and Fico cannot form a Government. Given you see this as a total failure for FIDESZ, they (and Hungary) will likely face a country in Slovakia with a much more rationale government, which will not be particularly interested in raising the tensions with Hungary. This is very much the trajectory of how Hu/Romanian relations have traveled over the years. A true failure would have been Fico/Slota winning and increasing their governing margin. If this is a loss for FIDESZ, it is a pretty good loss. That it is a loss for Orban’s allies in Slovakia is really of no lasting matter.

Mark
Guest

NWO: ” A true failure would have been Fico/Slota winning and increasing their governing margin. If this is a loss for FIDESZ, it is a pretty good loss.”
I read it rather differently. The thing that is really significant is the rejection of nationalist populism, and both the failure of the MKP and the relative failure of SNS are both two sides of this. Despite suffering a sharp downturn, the political reaction in Slovakia has been a turn to fairly mainstream European centre-right politics. Clearly this limits the room for manouver of Budapest internationally if it chooses to assert agressively “national” demands.

NWO
Guest

Mark,
I think we agree. First of all, this is a very good result for Slovakia (though I am sure you do not support a move toward the real center right in terms of economic policy). Second, I have no idea what FIDESZ wants, but it is a good result for Hungary. As for FIDESZ, they should be happy. They got their citizenship law, and they can claim there is a more Hungary friendly government in Slovakia. There is probably not a lot further in trying to pick a fight with Slovakia for the next couple of years anyhow. As one can see in the case of Romania, I think FIDESZ is only interested in “cosmetic” victories, and they can claim one.

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