It has been three quarters of a year since Robert Fico regained power in Slovakia by winning a decisive, uncontested majority in Parliament. So far in this cycle, though, he has kept a lower profile than is his wont, perhaps for reasons beyond his busy schedule of tasks in managing the economic crisis.
On the face of it, the early elections held in Slovakia on 10 March 2012 could be seen as repeat elections, given that the parties delivered much the same result that they had at the vote in June 2010, only more amplified this time. Yet how different certain details can be!
One of them is Robert Fico’s European policy. One year ago, the cabinet of Iveta Radičová stumbled over a vote of confidence in Parliament over joining the initiative to create a stabilisation fund to bail out the euro – a defeat aided by liberal (SaS party) members of her own government. When Radičová resubmitted the bill to the floor, now on behalf of her caretaker government, Fico’s party Smer–SD (“Direction – Social Democracy”) came up with a strong vote in favour, netting a majority for the dismissed government. By so doing – and contrary to his peevishness at the previous elections – Fico in effect made a deposition of belonging to the well-harmonised, euphonic orchestra of Europe, this time without a false note. After this, nobody in Brussels was seriously concerned at Fico tightening his stranglehold on his opponents back home and his party winning a landslide victory as an overwhelming force capable of forming a government alone. The Smer–SD collected 44.4 percent of the vote, or nearly 10 percent more than in 2010, gaining 83 seats (21 more than previously) in the 150-member Slovak Parliament – all this with a 59.1 percent voter turnout, a negligible 0.3 percent higher than in the previous elections.
The Western reception of the Fico cabinet’s defeat in 2010 was almost unanimously characterised by relief. The papers lauded the beginnings of a new era; the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung talked about the triumph of common sense. More than a week after the elections, the London-based Fitch Ratings envisioned a consolidation of the centre-right coalition that would be capable of fiscal and structural reform, and advanced the country’s top ratings as a foreign debtor accordingly. In spite of these assessments, it was to be seen early on that the 2010 government, formed with a few-seat majority from six parties on four lists, would be highly unstable owing to internal strife and the protracted crisis, even as Radičová had been able to get away with running for Prime Minister on behalf of the SDKU on a platform of staying out of the first Euro Rescue Package and the Greek bailout – something that Fico would not have been permitted by the Community to do.1 During his one year in opposition, Fico grasped the message, softened his sharp tone of voice considerably, began to toe the line on issues that really mattered to Brussels, and has not veered from this newly-found course ever since.This is hardly surprising given that the downfall of his previous cabinet had been caused by the fact that the viability of its fiscal management had been undermined by the global financial and lending crisis, which did not spare Slovakia any more than it did other countries.
Coming to his senses, Fico obviously wanted to avoid the pitfalls that ended the career of Vladimir Mečiar, who had won every election back to back for ten years with a rhetoric and on a political platform not unlike the ones that catapulted Fico to success, yet was routinely forced into opposition in the absence of a coalition partner. Understandably, Fico had no intention to resign himself to a situation in which he would be unable to assume power despite his party’s performance as a hands-down winner everywhere around the country, except in Bratislava (Pozsony) and the regions dominated by the ethnic Hungarian population, his only challengers being a few powerless, small to medium-sized parties.
That said, the landslide victory Fico reaped on his comeback also depended on the other central theme in his campaign in early 2012, namely the dramatic crippling of Western-oriented, market-friendly right-wing governments by the Gorilla scandal that laid bare the corruption of the political elite.
“Gorilla” is the code name for a wiretapping apparatus developed in Israel which is capable of making good quality audio recordings of target individuals from a neighbouring room or apartment. The surveillance tool became a political factor when it was named after the mien of ex-policeman Zoltán Varga, the owner of the wiretapped apartment. The official version has it that it was only “by accident” that an officer of the Slovak Information Service (SIS) noticed frequent visits by important-looking men arriving in big cars to the condominium building under 9/A Vazovova Street where he lived with his family. Prompted by the officer’s report, the SIS in June 2005 bugged the apartment using the Gorilla for what they said were reasons of national security. Until June 2006, when the second Dzurinda government was in power, some 73 pages’ worth of confidential conversations were recorded, now known as the Gorilla file. The participants included representatives of officials from almost every important political party in Slovakia, meeting Jaroslav Haščák, co-owner of Penta Holding, perhaps the largest investment group in Slovakia, which also controls investment funds in the Czech Republic, Poland, the Netherlands and Cyprus. The talks involved cynical and illegal political deals, privatisation contract advantages, the filling of top-rank positions, the weighing of various political scenarios to further these ends, and the amounts of consideration – read: kickbacks, bribes – deemed appropriate. The negotiations were only attended by one high-ranking, well-known politician in person; the others were represented by familiars. The sole exception was none other than Fico, who chatted in good spirits at these meetings sipping his Coke, which is why the press was so fascinated by the Coke bottle he carried around on election night as some kind of lucky charm. When the file containing the details of the corrupt bargaining between the economic and political elite was leaked to the public in late 2011, the scandal instantly erupted, and the ensuing string of demonstrations lasted well after the summer elections in 2012. It follows from the nature of the thing that it is impossible to know who leaked the file. If, according to the cui prodest principle, it was Fico himself, he either had very keen foresight or the nerve of a gambler. If it was someone else, he certainly misjudged the situation by a long stretch. Support for the political right plummeted dramatically in the wake of the scandal, while Fico obviously stood to gain in many ways, and certainly in the eyes of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia. At the secret meeting, Fico declared, in the nonchalant tone of a seasoned businessman, that he was even ready to cooperate with the Hungarian party, and that the way he happened to play the Hungarian card in his policy at any time strictly depended on whether antagonising or courting the favours of the minority would net him more votes.
Truth be told, after he successfully invoked a powerful national rhetoric to erode the camps behind Mečiar and Slota, the two most radical politicians, while managing to weaken his former coalition partners as well, he no longer forced the Hungarian issue at the 2012 elections, and these days he seems to be just waiting it out. This attitude has induced a fresh wave of diplomatic hope in Hungary in connection with Fico’s new, legitimacy-rich government, and perhaps not in vain. The three meetings between Premiers Fico and Orbán to date have followed what can be termed almost a tradition in Hungarian–Slovak relations, in that whenever the parties seek to achieve mutually beneficial results, they stay clear of their irreconcilable, antagonistic differences. There is plenty of the latter in store, from the issue of dual citizenship to the rights to the water body of the River Danube, just to name the two most contentious issues. So far, the two leaders have looked to their mutual interests, in which the two countries, with a long shared border east to west, also abound. With a virtually single-party, stable government, each of the two countries faces very similar challenges in dealing with the crisis and fashioning a viable policy toward Europe. Of course, Fico may at any moment revert to his former anti-Hungarian rhetoric if this is what suits his interests.
And he has not gone back on his previous statements in regard of Hedvig Malina, the Hungarian student brutally beaten by Slovak nationalists in the town of Nitra (Nyitra) in the summer of 2006: despite the official apology issued by the preceding government, Fico continues to label the victim as a liar.
The factor most severely hampering the operation of the Slovak government at present is a tax collection predicament arising from malfunctions in the enforcement of a tax administrative reform launched under the Radičová government. This has caused considerable financial hardship for the state, which Fico and his government have been treating by funds sourced from the recently healthy international loan markets, while being aware that this strategy will quickly undercut the country’s indebtedness ratio. Under the circumstances, it is understandable that the Prime Minister deemed justified the demand of a 10 percent salary increase by teachers who went on a two-day nationwide strike at the end of November, while regretting to say that the timing was just plain bad – the government simply did not possess the funds to cover this extra budget item.
Having taken the oath on 4 April 2012, the new government got down to business by purging staffing and executive contracts. The portfolios were dealt out essentially to the same ministers who had served on Fico’s previous cabinet, but the number of secretaries increased significantly. At the same time, the Ministry for Minority Affairs, created for the Hungarian minority Híd/Most party in 2010, was now wound up as an independent agency and merged with the Ministry of Culture. The post of Deputy Prime Minister for human rights and minority affairs, which had existed since 1998 and was retained by Fico himself during his previous cycle, was now abolished as well. These setbacks were painful, but attest to the fact that, in line with demographic changes, the political leverage of Hungarian political parties in Slovakia has waned, and the new government is much more preoccupied with finding ways to handle the global economic crisis.
Although the Híd/Most party itself (the name means “Bridge” in Hungarian and Slovakian, respectively) got into Parliament without a sweat as it had last time, its support base in the mostly Hungarian-populated areas shrank by 30,000 votes. The party is now engaged in an interesting political experiment around the remote and purely theoretical possibility that a mixed Slovak/Hungarian party could clinch a sizeable chunk of Slovak votes. At the 2010 elections, it shared a list with candidates delegated by the OKS, the Civic Conservative Party culling well-known Slovak intellectuals with a liberal bent. After Híd/Most cheated its ally out of funds raised for financing the campaign, the four representatives who won their mandate riding on the joint list now ran on the lists of three different parties this year, and each of them managed to secure a seat in Parliament. As a result, Híd/Most’s has seen its chances to win Slovak votes dwindle, although the election results suggest that the setback was not due to fewer votes collected from mostly Slovak territories. It is conceivable that pro-Híd voters with a Slovak identity are really assimilated Hungarians scattered around the country, or even other minorities which the party has sought to represent ever since it came on the political scene. During the previous Fico government, Híd/Most mounted a billboard campaign featuring text in Roma and Ruthenian, as well as in the East-Slovak dialect, to protest a heavily intolerant law that threatened sanctions against these groups if they dared to use their own language or Slovak dialect.
Not withstanding such attempts at winning other minorities, 75–80 percent of the Híd/Most’s voter base is still estimated to comprise Hungarians, and nothing came of its hopes of becoming the largest opposition force as a mixed party, and the second largest party altogether in Slovakia. On the contrary, it finished as the fourth runner-up with only 6.9 percent of the vote, significantly down from the 8.1 percent it collected in 2010. The all-Hungarian MKP (Party of the Hungarian Coalition) did not see a change in the absolute number of its votes, but the result of 4.3 percent was, once again, not enough to carry the party into Parliament. Interestingly, commentators after 2010 chalked up the poor performance of the MKP to what they said was the big mistake of not being firm enough in the campaign about ruling out the possibility of a coalition with Fico. In 2012, Híd/ Most went a step further by leaving that possibility distinctly open throughout its campaign, and even after the elections it was not averse to the idea of an ad-hoc coalition to supply the eight mandates Fico would miss from the 91, the three- fifths majority required to amend any provision of the constitution. In the end, the position of Commissioner for minority affairs was given to László A. Nagy, a Híd/ Most party representative. In other words, the same tactics on the part of Híd/Most are not seen as a mistake today, perhaps because the business circles supporting the party are mainly interested in the decisions made by political powers, and all-out opposition is less conducive than pragmatic half-opposition to business opportunity.
Híd/Most and the MKP had their own scrap over the Gorilla, although the politicians of the two parties were of one and the same organisation at the time of the wiretapping scandal. It goes without saying that the people meeting Jaroslav Haščák in the flat on Vazovova Street included individuals on behalf of the future Híd/Most. A recurring and fundamental debate between the two parties is the question of which of the two is better suited to represent Hungarian interests. From the national perspective, certain issues of authenticity and credibility do arise in connection with the fact that Martin Hrnčiar, the vice president of Matica Slovenská, the national-radical non-governmental organisation, who is also the mayor of the city of Martin, ran for a seat in Parliament on the list of Híd/Most. There is also something unfair about the success of Béla Bugár, formerly the president of the MKP, with Híd/Most, which he now leads. It seems as if voters punished the MKP for its suboptimal collaboration with the government under his presidency. At the time, the MKP laboured – and ultimately failed – to settle the land ownership issue in the agricultural regions of the country for the benefit of the original owners dispossessed by the notorious Beneš decrees. Nor did the party succeed in achieving a breakthrough in the language issue or restoring the administrative divisions at least to the conditions in the 1990s, when the system was still far more favourable to Hungarians. Last but not least, the MKP lost out due to its negative campaign in the rivalry between the two Hungarian parties. Commentators routinely mention it under the same breath with extremist outfits such as Slota’s group, the very party against which the MKP sought to define and protect the interests of its own camp – a most unfortunate association.
Even today, speculation remains widespread that, if consolidated, the joint leverage of the two Hungarian parties – more precisely, of the ethnic Hungarian party and of the “mixed” party – would have still added up to more than 10 percent and thus to these cond most powerful force in the National Assembly of Slovakia. However, sober commentators hasten to point out that the persons behind the split a few years ago did not force it through just to reunite now. Under the circumstances, the experience of solidarity continues to elude Hungarians in Slovakia, at a time when the Hungarian community badly needs an injection of spiritual renewal. The year 2012 marked the first free elections in Slovakia where Hungarian minority citizens went to the polls in smaller relative numbers than the nationwide average. Not only that, but tens of thousands of them cast their vote for Fico’s Smer–SD, which is astonishing in light of the minority politics of the campaign two years ago and of the former Fico cabinet. The true extent of the apathy is also illustrated by the fact that the number of Slovak citizens claiming Hungarian identity is down by 10 percent from the previous census, while 9 percent of the population chose not to state any minority identity. These days, then, life is not very easy for Hungarians living in Slovakia, who feel frustrated by the pressure to deny their nationality, mother tongue and feelings, and who would gladly accept dual Hungarian citizenship were it not for the general air of intimidation. It is certainly understandable that ordinary people are unwilling to brag or play the martyr. Most who have applied for Hungarian citizenship are too fearful of official retaliations to come out and own up to it in public. The majority of these people do not have the legal background to know that they would remain citizens of the European Union in any case, even if they forfeited their Slovak citizenship because they assumed the Hungarian, and that therefore their retirement, health care and access to other government services and benefits would not be in jeopardy – although some of their political rights would certainly be curbed. Having said that, the current sanctions clearly act as a much stronger deterrent than any physical violence, such as the brutal police assault on Hungarian DAC soccer fans in Dunajská Streda (Dunaszerdahely) in 2008. Emblematic of the general mood is the 80 percent-Hungarian small town of Gúta, where the referendum on restoring the old name of the town, held concurrently with the parliamentary elections, was declared unsuccessful because turn out at 40 percent remained far below the required 50 percent threshold. Gúta has been officially named Kolárovo since 1948. Ironically, the official name goes back to a lapse of the forced “czechoslovakisation” when someone misspelled the name of János Kollár (writing it with one “l” instead of two), the Hungarian Lutheran pastor of the Deák Square church in downtown Budapest, who went on to become one of the foremost ideologues of Slovak nation-building. Among those who participated in the referendum this year, 66.4 percent wanted to restore the town’s old name. Back in 1992, when the same name change was at stake in the first such referendum, 97 percent of Gúta residents participating voted for the old name with a turnout of 62 percent. At the time, the state apparatus simply chose to ignore the successful referendum and did nothing. This year, with the unsuccessful repeat referendum, it does not need to do anything. This is just another sign to suggest that the Hungarian issue in Slovakia no longer poses a threat to be taken seriously by the architects of the Slovak nation state, who can thus afford to eschew atrocities that could create tension with the international community.
Inspite of this, Fico is bent on yet another amendment of the Citizenship Act, originally created in the heat of his own campaign in 2010, that would prejudice Hungarian minorities in Slovakia, but no longer sanction any nationality seeking to obtain a second citizenship other than the Hungarian. Hungary’s measure instituting the option of dual Slovak–Hungarian citizenship was introduced while the 2010 parliamentary campaign in Slovakia was in full swing. Fico quickly took an aggressive countermeasure by hammering through an amendment of Slovakia’s Citizenship Act, not least because the political potential of the theme came in handy amidst the economic crisis. Under this former amendment, only one tenth of the hundreds of people who lost their Slovak citizenship were Hungarians who had availed themselves of the opportunity to assume their Hungarian citizenship. Incidentally, the sanction is incompatible with the Constitution of Slovakia.
The Hungarian political left have also expressed solidarity with the Hungarians of Slovakia. On 9 December 2011 (Human Rights Day), more than seventy well- known socialist and liberal intellectuals protested against the Slovak government’s infringement of the liberal European values of dual citizenship, and supported the participants of the demonstration organised in Rimaszombat (Rimavská Sobota) in sympathy with the victims of Slovakia’s bureaucratic retaliation. Subscribers of the protest declaration included several former socialist and liberal MPs and ministers, as well as artists and scholars, among others philosophers Ágnes Heller, Gáspár Miklós Tamás and János Kis (President of Central European University and former president of the Hungarian liberal party), writers György Konrád and Pál Závada, and sociologists Pierre Kende and Mária Vásárhelyi. In a communiqué published on 15 December 2011, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee denounced the staggering absurdity of depriving individuals of their Slovak citizenship and offered legal help to those concerned. The legal representation of the sanctions’ victims is provided by the Council of Human Dignity, headed by the former Supreme Judge of Hungary Zoltán Lomniczi.
Fico’s government is now working on an amendment that would reserve the sanction of divesting people of Slovak citizenship to those who maintain permanent residence in the territory of Slovakia at the time they obtain their second citizenship. This means that the new version of the law would no longer affect Slovaks working in a foreign country, predominantly in the Czech Republic. The solution is fraught with problems. Many Slovaks living abroad have a registered permanent address in Slovakia, and the measure contradicts the stated mission of using the institution of citizenship to strengthen the patriotic bond of individuals to their home country where such a bond is known to exist. It was in this spirit that, between 1997 and 2005, Slovakia granted citizenship to about ten thousand individuals living elsewhere in the Carpathian Basin or in the western diaspora. Last but not least, under the new rules, those who reported to have chosen their Hungarian citizenship option – as did the Calvinist pastor Gyula Kassai in Levice (Léva) – were deleted from the address records and reclassified with the status of “without registered home address”, effectively forfeiting their right to vote in Slovakia. This begs the question: how can a citizen of Hungary, a member state of the European Union, be deprived of a residential address? Even if he has no Slovak citizenship, as a citizen of the EU he should remain entitled to participate in local municipal elections in Slovakia, as well as in European parliamentary elections.
On 8 January 2013, for the umpteenth time, Slovak police handed out 33 euro fines to three dual Slovak–Hungarian citizens in Levice for the offence of failing to hand over to the authorities their Slovak identity documents. A few weeks earlier, just before Christmas, police called in for questioning the same people, Erzsébet Dolník, a Calvinist pastor Gyula Kassay and a young lawyer László Gubík, on grounds of “civil disobedience”. Since the Fico–Slota–Mečiar government rushed through Parliament the modification to the 40/1993 Slovak Citizenship Act during the closing stages of the June 2010 parliamentary election campaign – a countermeasure in response to the Hungarian citizenship law approved shortly before – the three have been slandered in public along with the actor Olivér Boldoghy, high school teacher István Fehér from Komárno (Komárom), and Norbert Vatay Világi. Although they are probably getting used to the harassment, given their almost weekly summons into the police station. The modifications of the Slovak Citizenship Act are clearly incompatible with section 460/1992. 5. § (2) of the Slovak constitution, according to which, “no one can be stripped of his or her citizenship against his or her will”. No executive decree was ever prepared, nor were any other affected passages of law modified. As a result, since the beginning of summer 2011, the Slovak authorities have been inconsistent and politically-driven in their dealings with the new Slovak–Hungarian dual citizens, citizens who fulfilled their legal obligations by notifying the authorities of their new status and who are now divested of their Slovak citizenship in an unconstitutional manner. For example, because of the early elections, it happened that the body responsible for compiling names for the electoral register notified the authorities that so and so was not a citizen, after which that person was registered as a foreign citizen without a registered permanent address, without the person involved even being informed of the change. In August 2012, after several unsuccessful attempts to obtain the ID documents, not just were the fines for infringements of the law issued again, but also, more than a year after, it was decided that the unproduced documents were invalid anyway. The Slovak system is also inconsistent in that along with divesting people of citizenship, registered permanent addresses are also struck from the register, despite no change in address having taken place. There is a twofold punitive aim here; it prevents the person involved from taking part in elections, and also removes the person’s access to welfare benefits including medical care. The tragic consequences of this were plain to see in August 2012, when Anikó Tamás, the 67-year-old daughter of a 100-year-old former teacher from Rimavská Sobota (Rimaszombat), Ilona Tamás, suffered a heart attack after receiving from the police notice of the new measures. Despite living and working in Slovakia all her life at the same address, she was asked to pay for the hospital treatment she received on the basis of the new system. Although in the end she did not have to pay, Anikó Tamás passed away soon after, her death surely not unconnected to the harassment. This was particularly sad, given that in Slovakia, Hungarians have experience of suffering “years of homelessness”. After the war people were forced to live in their homeland under an accusation of “collective crime”, and were deprived of their legal rights as a result of the discriminative measures contained in the Beneš decrees, which are still in force today. The memory of those times lives on in every Slovak-Hungarian family, and lessens their inclination to avail of the opportunity to take up Hungarian citizenship. Edit Bauer, an MEP for the Hungarian Community Party (MKP) in Slovakia has raised the question with the European Commission of whether or not the divestment of citizenship and deletion of permanent addresses complies with Union law and standards.
It certainly appears that the Slovak authorities are trying to create a fait accompli before the issue comes before different international forums. On 23 January, the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament (EP) received a petition from Zoltán Lomniczi, Hungary’s former Supreme Judge. The petition was also signed by László Tőkés of Romania and Alajos Mészáros of Slovakia, both EP representatives belonging to the Hungarian Delegation in the European People’s Party–European Democrats Group. The petition lists the EU norms broken by the Slovak law and urges the launching of a non-compliance procedure against Slovakia at the Luxemburg-based Court of the European Union. The infringed principles include the principles of non-discrimination, equal treatment, legal certainty and equality, as well as the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights.
If the Bratislava parliament really wants to solve the problem, it could return the situation to as it was in 2010, and allow Slovaks abroad to obtain Slovak citizenship as before. Incidentally, on 20 May 2005, the Slovak parliament approved an amendment to its citizenship law which in large part was similar to the contested Hungarian one, an amendment which R. Fico voted for at the time. This would suggest the problem lies not in principled opposition, but rather in that it is not easy to row back from an aggressively communicated political position. In interviews, R. Fico has said that due to the fact that neither the Slovak National Party (SNS) nor Mečiar are coalition partners anymore, both the room for manoeuvre and the face that can be displayed are different. By January 2013, 443 citizens had been divested of their Slovak citizenship. Less than 7.5 percent of these, however, were Hungarian, 33 individuals in all. Around a half of the affected citizens had taken up Czech citizenship, one sixth German, one ninth Austrian, about the same number of British as Hungarian, and also a significant number of Dutch.
So there is a period of wait-and-see. In September 2011, Gábor Gál, the Híd/ Most parliamentary representative took a case to the Constitutional Court in Košice (Kassa). The court, however, is not bound by deadlines and can take years to come to a verdict. However, if the Slovak Constitutional Court declared the law unconstitutional, the situation would be corrected without the governing parties and the parliament having to reverse their earlier positions. A case was also brought to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on behalf of the Slovak–Hungarians in spring 2012, but this process could also run into years. In addition, a positive verdict in Strasbourg in itself would not oblige Slovakia to change the law or compensate those damaged by it. Like the EP committee hearing just begun in Brussels, however, it might encourage Slovakia to work towards a solution. So far, the Slovak media is adopting a strategy of silence on the issue, although the decision of the EP Committee of Petitions was attacked by Jaroslav Paška of the SNS who lodged a counter-petition, which argues that the citizenship question is solely a national matter.
It is to be hoped that aside from the issue of prestige, this unfortunate tightening of citizenship legislation is not a “red line” issue for R. Fico, although the 2012 census data shows that policies of forced nation-building for the young nation of Slovakia can yield results. In contrast to the other Hungarian communities outside the borders, the most striking demographic trend in Slovakia is how much assimilation has taken place. It seems gentler and less aggressive means can achieve goals too. The world is changing, however, and the younger generation thinks differently. Next door in the Czech Republic, in the second round of the presidential election, the conservative Schwarzenberg got 45 percent of the vote despite controversially stating towards the end of the campaign what he thought of the Beneš decrees, namely that the mythical founder of Czech statehood, Eduard Beneš, would be in front of the Hague Tribunal for crimes against humanity were he alive today. With this, Karel Schwarzenberg broke with the traditional whitewashing of history, also a legacy of the communist period. According to analysts, with this statement he handed over the presidency to his more old- fashioned Social Democratic opponent Miloš Zeman, but the youth vote went en masse to Schwarzenberg.
Václav Klaus, the outgoing president, intervened in the debate only to say that the aristocratic Foreign Minister was not a real Czech, a reference to Schwarzenberg’s ancestors, one of whom was a leading military general of the Catholic Habsburgs in the Thirty Years War against the Protestant Czech nobility. Still, in and around Prague, the Foreign Minister nicknamed “Prince” won a sweeping 60–65 percent of the vote, and also won Plzeň, Brno and the industrial north-east, while his opponent’s support base was mostly in poorer and the more communist-leaning rural Moravia.
1 One of the major themes of the 2010 elections was the expected contribution to the Greek bailout package, which would have imposed an unrealistic burden on Slovakia, amounting to 10 percent of the country’s central budget.