Extremists take advantage of sweeping narratives spread by some Slovak politicians
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 who feed what Radoslav Å tefanÄÃk, a political analyst at the University of Economics in Bratislava, calls the âpublicity speechâ.
As an example, Fico wrote on Facebook in August that political scientist Jozef LenÄ, who has criticized Smer in the past, should not be accepted as a political analyst in a “Christian country” because LenÄ 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.
Å tefanÄÃk also singles out Smer vice-president Ä½uboÅ¡ Blaha, who uses exceptionally âradicalâ language in his public statements, as well as Boris KollÃ¡r, chairman of the Sme Rodina coalition party. The far-right parties People’s Party Our Slovakia (Ä½SNS) 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%, Ä½SNS 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 a 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. Thus, the most radical voices are often those of politicians who on the surface support ideologies incompatible with such rhetoric, says tefanÄÃk.
“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 Ä½SNS 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 Ä½SNS leader Marian Kotleba to four years and four months for displaying Nazi symbolism. The verdict is still under appeal.
“But Ä½SNS voters are former voters of other parties and some of these parties want their voters back,” says tefanÄÃk, adding that Smer is trying to tempt Ä½SNS voters. âBecause the voter hears radical language, he begins to use it too, but on the borderline of what is acceptable or just behind. “