Slovakia: 2002 Elections Page: 3 of 6
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All of the parties in the last ruling coalition suffered to some extent from association
with the unpopular Dzurinda government (except perhaps the Hungarian coalition, which
has a stable support base). Some also endured splits and defections. Moreover, none of
the main coalition parties opted to create an electoral coalition or unified front with each
other or with other small parties.
Two new parties emerged in this campaign. The first, Smer [Direction], is led by
former SDL member Robert Fico. While favoring EU and NATO integration, Fico
sharply criticized Dzurinda economic austerity measures and concessions to the EU in
accession negotiations. These criticisms focused on populist concerns about the
economy, unemployment, and criminality, without providing many specifics about
possible future policies. The second new party was the New Citizens' Alliance (ANO),
led by media magnate Pavol Rusko. Owner of Slovakia's largest independent television
station, Rusko has been likened to Italy's Silvio Berlusconi. ANO, which seeks to portray
itself as a traditional European liberal - pro-business - party, fielded media personalities
as its candidates. Rusko discounted post-election cooperation with HzDS, the SDL, and
the Slovak National Party.
During the first half of the year, core support for Meciar's HzDS remained fairly
consistent at around 25%. Meciar attempted to build a more pro-Western image - for
example, by having the party support Slovak membership in NATO - and denied that his
return to power would negatively affect the NATO and EU accession processes.
However, the HzDS was beset by growing internal differences. In July, Meciar
encountered opposition within the party over his list of candidates for the election; the
slate excluded some prominent party members (and potential rivals), including former
parliamentary speaker Ivan Gasparovic. Gasparovic broke with Meciar and formed a new
party which siphoned off support. The HzDS was also hurt by the revelation that Meciar
was constructing a villa worth more than $900,000, financed by a private loan; Meciar,
a former amateur boxer, assaulted a reporter who attempted to question him about the
The campaign was affected by an unusual degree by international factors. Slovakia
is among the countries seeking membership in NATO and the EU. Although no formal
decision has yet been made on the selection of candidate countries for either institution,
high-ranking U.S. and allied officials made clear during the months leading up to the
election that a return to power of Meciar or his party would likely preclude invitations to
Slovakia. Shortly before the vote, Guenter Verheugen, the EU's commissioner for
enlargement, exhorted Slovaks to "show up at the ballot and vote with eyes wide open."3
The Results. On election day, 70.1% of the country's 4 million eligible voters cast
ballots. Though high, the figure was well below the record 84% in 1998.4 Pre-election
polls had suggested that voters, disgruntled with the harsh effects of the government's
3 Slovak Voters To Set Agenda For Enlargement Of EU. By Robin Shepherd. New York Times.
September 20, 2002. p. 17.
4 According to the Washington Post, the U.S. Agency for International Development and other
government-supported groups spent $1.2 million to fund a targeted voter turnout drive. See:
Moderate Reformers Win Slovak Election. Robert Kaiser. September 23, 2002. p. A15.
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Slovakia: 2002 Elections, report, November 7, 2002; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc808659/m1/3/: accessed October 24, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.