Slovak Parliament changes regional election rules, extremists could benefit
The Slovak Parliament has changed the rules for the direct election of the chairs (Governors) of the country's eight self-administered regions less than a year before the next elections are to be held. According to the opposition, the amendment could aid extremist candidates including some incumbents, six of whom were supported during the 2013 elections by the Social Democrats headed by Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico (Směr-SD).
The bill to abolish the existing two-round runoff voting method for electing Regional Governors was pushed through in the legislature by coalition MPs on 3 February. If the Slovak President signs the amendment to the law, whichever candidates simply get the most votes this year in one round will become the next Regional Governors.
Up until now a Regional Governor was elected by the first round only if more than half of the votes were cast for that candidate. The governing coalition MPs justified the change by saying voter turnout during the second round of regional elections has been low in Slovakia.
The next elections for Regional Governor are scheduled to take place in Slovakia this November. Slovak MP Martin Klus of the strongest opposition party, "Freedom and Solidarity" (Svoboda a solidarita) said during parliamentary debate that in single-round elections, votes are diluted among the many candidates competing an anti-establishment or extremist forces might, therefore, succeed.
Of course, it was the runoff system that most recently aided the current head of the ultra-right party called "Kotleba-People's Party Our Slovakia" (LSNS), Marian Kotleba, with surprisingly became Regional Governor of the Banská Bystrica Region. He defeated the incumbent running for Směr-SD, Vladimír Maňka, who eked out a victory during the first round of voting only to be trounced by Kotleba in the final round.
The Slovak Parliament also voted on 3 February to change the Constitution, deciding in favor of allowing the Regional Governors and the members of the Regional Assemblies who will be elected this year to serve five-year terms instead of the usual four. That step will make it possible for the 2022 elections for Regional Governors, mayors of cities and municipalities and members of local assemblies to be held all at the same time.
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