Slovakia’s March 6 general elections have catapulted a neo-fascist party into parliament and strengthened the position of another ultra-nationalist formation, notes analyst Janusz Bugajski. The results highlight a broader European trend of public disillusionment with the major parties and anger with stagnant economic conditions. They also indicate that a sizable portion of the Slovak electorate remains susceptible to xenophobia, ethnic exclusivity and authoritarianism, he writes for the Center for European Policy Analysis:
Until now, the starkest example of radical rightist popularity has been evident in Hungary. Jobbik, the Movement for a Better Hungary, is the third-largest party in parliament, having won 20.5 percent of the vote in Hungary’s April 2014 elections….Ultra-right groups are also present in Poland and the Czech Republic. In Poland, the National Movement — which resembles Hungary’s Jobbik — claims five of the 40 seats held by the “Kukiz ’15” movement in the 460-seat parliament. An even more extremist but extra-parliamentary formation, the Polish Defense League, wants to create a register of Muslims to protect Poland against the threat they allegedly pose.
Slovakia still has a vibrant civil society that helped expose corruption and put people on the streets as the clock ticked toward the election, notes Jan Surotchak, Regional Director for Europe at the International Republican Institute [a core institute of the National Endowment for Democracy]
“In the end, the results were messy in Slovak terms, but fell neatly in line with those of Portugal, Spain and Ireland over the past few months,” he writes. “They lead to a more fragmented parliament that will make the country much more difficult to govern.”
Although Slovakia’s democratic institutions appear to be strong enough to withstand any fascist impulses, the relative triumph of militants spotlight four main negatives that need to be monitored throughout the region, Bugajski observes:
- First, any ultra-right successes generate a negative image of Central Europe in the EU and the United States. While observers largely dismiss French xenophobes such as Le Pen’s National Front — or their radical Italian, Dutch, Scandinavian, Greek and British equivalents — as irritants to otherwise healthy democracies, Slovakia’s elections reinforce the perception of the Central Europeans as tenuous democrats. ….
- The neo-fascist revival is producing a second, more disturbing phenomenon: the rising popularity of racism and xenophobia among the younger generation, and the increasing nostalgia for a “golden era” of fascism among some disoriented youths. It demonstrates the inadequacies of the public education system and the yearning for simplistic solutions, phenomena we are also witnessing in the U.S. presidential elections
- A third danger is when ultra-rightists convince ruling parties — which are fearful of losing votes — to adopt some of their positions, which then become mainstream. Conversely, if a major party adopts xenophobic policies then it gives credence to even more radical programs. ….
- Fourth, but certainly not least, a radical rightist revival leaves countries more exposed to Russia’s anti-Western influences. Extremist parties anywhere in Europe receive an inordinate degree of attention in the Russian media, and Slovakia’s election results have figured prominently in the Kremlin’s international broadcasts.
Moscow seeks to benefit from popular dissatisfaction with Brussels across the EU, Bugajski adds:
It has focused in particular on radical groups espousing anti-liberalism, anti-globalism, anti-Americanism, ethnic intolerance, Islamophobia and combative Christianity. Militant parties and personalities are invited to Moscow for international conferences at which Russia is lauded as the bastion of traditional values and monoculturalism, while the West is lambasted for its “moral bankruptcy.”