Feeding “publicity discussions”
The popularity of Robert Fico, former Prime Minister and chairman of the Social Democratic Party Smer, currently a member of the opposition, has grown in recent times. While only 19% of voters trusted him in November 2020, that figure had risen to 29% in September, according to a Focus poll.
Fico is one of the worst politicians to feed what Radoslav Štefančík, a political analyst at the University of Economics in Bratislava, calls “publicity speech”.
As an example, Fico wrote on Facebook in August that political scientist Jozef Lenč, who has criticized Smer in the past, should not be accepted as a political analyst in a “Christian country” because Lenč is a Muslim and, like So , he only attacks Smer because the party is against migration quotas and against the emergence of Muslim communities in Slovakia.
Štefančík also singles out Smer’s vice-president Ľuboš Blaha, who uses exceptionally “radical” language in his public statements, as well as Boris Kollár, chairman of the Sme Rodina coalition party. The far-right parties People’s Party Our Slovakia (ĽSNS) and Republika, founded by defectors from LSNS, are also “strongly represented” in this regard, according to the analyst.
Smer currently enjoys 14.4% support, Republika 6.8%, ĽSNS 4.6% (below the 5% threshold to enter parliament) and Sme Rodina 6.7%, according to the latest poll produced by Focus Agency between September 7. and 11. Counted together, they have the support of about one third of the Slovak electorate.
Typically, the language of extremists is no longer radical, as anything more extreme would risk prosecution and possibly even a ban on party activities. So the most radical voices are often those of politicians who surface on the surface support ideologies incompatible with such rhetoric, says tefančík.
“Neither a social democrat nor a liberal in Western democracies would dare to say, for example about Muslims, what they say in Slovakia,” he explains.
Yet representatives of the far right in Slovakia have faced several lawsuits for comments they made. Milan Mazurek, then ĽSNS deputy who later deserted the party for the Republika, became the first deputy to lose his seat in parliament following a court ruling. The Supreme Court found him guilty of making racist remarks about the Roma minority. And the specialized criminal court sentenced ĽSNS leader Marian Kotleba to four years and four months for displaying Nazi symbolism. The verdict is still under appeal.
“But ĽSNS voters are former voters of other parties and some of those parties want their voters back,” says tefančík, adding that Smer is trying to tempt ĽSNS voters. “Because the voter hears radical language, he begins to use it too, but on the borderline of what is acceptable or just behind.”