Slovak elections: Romani candidate Peter Pollák elected to parliament
Yesterday in Slovakia the opposition Social Democrats (Směr-SD) overwhelmingly defeated their political rivals in early parliamentary elections. With 44.41 % of the votes, the party has won a comfortable majority in the 150-member chamber. Romani candidate Peter Pollák has also made it into the National Council for the "Ordinary People and Independent Personalities" party (Obyčajní ľudia a nezávislé osobnosti - OLNO). The party took third place with 16 seats.
"I believe it is good for Slovakia that someone will be in parliament who won't just talk about the Romani issue, but will start doing something too. I believe Slovakia needs a person in parliament who is thoroughly familiar with this issue and is informed enough to successfully address it," Pollák told Gipsy Television after learning of his victory. "I thank all the responsible voters in Slovakia for electing a person who will defend not just Romani interests in parliament, but those of Slovakia as well. Without addressing this issue Slovakia will never move forward," Pollák said in the interview. He is currently a teacher at the St. Elizabeth College of Social Work and Health in Bratislava (Vysoká škola sociální práce a zdravotnictví sv. Alžběty).
The Social Democrats will take 83 seats and lack only seven votes for a constitutional majority. For the first time since the fall of communism in 1989, a single party will govern parliament in Slovakia. Voter turnout was almost 60 %. The results of the vote were confirmed by the central electoral commission.
Another five parties were elected to the chamber in addition to Směr-SD. The Christian Democrats (KDH), currently part of the governing coalition, came in second place with 8.82 % of the vote. The surprise of the election is the new party of populist Igor Matovič', "Ordinary People and Independent Personalities" (Obyčajní ľudia a nezávislé osobnosti - OLNO), which won 8.55 % of the vote. The Most-Híd (Bridge) party, also currently in government, won only 6.89 % of the vote.
The two formerly dominant parties in the governing coalition made it past the 5 % threshold for entering parliament but have been significantly weakened: SDKU-DS won only 6.09 % of the vote, while Freedom and Solidarity (Svoboda a solidarita - SaS) got 5.88 %. The nationalist Slovak National Party (Slovenská národní strana- SNS) will not be seated in the chamber.
Concerns of low voter turnout proved unfounded, with 59.11 % of voters participating. Voter turnout was higher than even two years ago.
The battle against high unemployment awaits the new government, as does the far from easy task of restoring the state's finances to health so the budget deficit does not exceed Brussels' 3 % of GDP eurozone limit. Speaking today, Směr-SD leader Fico embraced that obligation. He had previously announced he would increase the country's special tax on banks, already one of the highest in the EU. More income tax will evidently also be paid by citizens with above-average incomes and the most profitable firms under a Směr-SD government. That would mean backtracking on the current flat income tax of 19 %.
The early elections in Slovakia were held after the center-right, four-party coalition was unable to agree on aid for other indebted countries in the eurozone. Last fall the SaS refused to support expanding the powers of the eurozone bailout fund during a vote in parliament which the government linked to a vote of confidence.