Coalitions, At Last

THE SUREST WAY TO KILL A BLOG, it is said, is to miss regular
postings.  By that standard, I firmly planted this page in the grave when I left a month ago to shepherd students
around Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Nevertheless, there is a month left
before Slovakia’s election and there is a lot of potentially useful analysis that has been left undone by
Slovakia’s popular press.  So I will regard this blog as only mostly dead, an attempt a resurrection.
(As before, a .pdf version of this post is available here:
Download slovak_election_blog_3_coalitions.pdf

)

COALITION POSSIBILITIES
In the last posts, I discussed trends in overall support for parties and how
that might translate into actual seats in parliament.  (Since the last posts in
April, we now have a variety of new polls and other data for estimating election
results.  I hope this week to post some revised estimates.)  The final major
question is how parties might combine those seats to form a government.  This is
a realm of great uncertainty, not only because it is depends on polling data
allows for a wide range variance in the partisan composition of parliament, but
also because the decisions of political leaders to form coalitions can be abrupt
and highly idiosyncratic.  It is also the kind of insider realm in which an
American writing from across the Atlantic is most limited in divining the
future. 

Nevertheless, certain kinds of quantitative analysis can offer certain insights
which may not predict what the next coalition will be but might at least draw
certain lines which coalitions may have more favorable conditions than others. 
The two key questions are the likelihood that a particular coalition
combinations will dispose of enough seats to form a government and the
likelihood that the members of that coalition can actually agree to work
together.  The first of these we can assess from public opinion polling data, as
modified by guesses about partisan turnout; the second we cannot assess
directly, but we can look at incomplete and indirect measures such as the
statements of party leaders and the opinions of parties’ supporters about other
parties.

Given the sources of my data, I would like to begin not with the coalitions
assessed as most likely but rather with the full set of possible coalitions. 
Six parties will almost assuredly pass the 5% threshold (Smer, HZDS, MKP/SMK, SDKU,
KDH and SNS) and another two have a strong chance (SF and, to a lesser extent,
KSS).  With eight parties in parliament, there are actually 2^8 or 256 possible
coalitions (including one coalition consisting of "no parties" and another
consisting of "all parties").  The helpful figure below begins to hint at the
complexity.

Figure 3.1. Set of Potential Coalition Relationships in Slovakia

Fig31

Not all of these coalitions are possible.  Some are too small to muster a
majority, while others could shed one or more parties without losing a
majority.  Using the best- and worst-case scenarios for parties that I derived
from the various turnout models discussed previously, I calculate that 40 of the
possible coalitions would be larger than necessary even under all the respective
parties’ worst-case scenarios.  Another 93 would be insufficient even under all
of the respective parties’ best-case scenarios.  Notably, this includes a
variety of governments that are sometimes talked about because they might be
able to muster some sort of ideological consistency:  Smer alone, Smer with KSS,
Smer with SNS, Smer with SF, and HZDS with SNS and KSS.

WHAT PARTIES SAY ABOUT COALITIONS
This analysis still leaves us with 123 coalition that might in some or all
circumstances be the right size to form a government.  Many of these are highly
unlikely, however, because of lingering antipathies between parties along
ideological grounds. 

First, there is the question of Slovak and Hungarian nationalism.  Even
though the underlying basis of Slovakia’s politics has begun to shift away from
this question, the antipathies between the Hungarian party and the two more
nationally oriented Slovak parties, HZDS and SNS, remains extremely high.  It is
difficult to imagine Hungarian and Slovak nationalist parties in common
coalition and the MKP/SMK has explicitly rejected the possibility of coalition with
SNS or with HZDS under the leadership of Vladimir Meciar (a circumstance that
looks unlikely to change).  SF also rejected coalition with either SNS or a
Meciar-led HZDS, and KDH has rejected coalition with HZDS as well.  After
seeming to reject HZDS, SDKU appears to have backed off from outright
rejection.

Second, there is also the question of socio-economic policy.  Distributional
issues are often more amenable to compromise than identity issues, but in the
case the Communist Party of Slovakia, a redistributionist policy is paired with
an "unreconstructed" Marxist-Leninist identity (or at least the image of one)
which evokes strong mutual antipathies.  The parties of the current coalition
explicitly rejected post-election cooperation with KSS and the feeling appears
largely mutual.  All major right wing parties (SDKU, KDH, MPK/SMK and SF) have
explicitly rejected cooperation with KSS, as has SNS.  Alone among the coalition
parties, MKP/SMK also seems to reject cooperation with Smer.

In light of these statements—full text of which can be found in the appendix
at the end of this post—it is possible to redraw the octagon above with colored
lines highlighting the impossible coalition combinations and with black lines
highlighting the remaining possibilities, a rather simpler set of relationships
to work with.

Figure 3.2. Unlikely Coalition Relationships According to Party Statements

Fig32

Figure 3.3. Revised Set of Coalition Relationships

Fig33

WHAT VOTERS SAY ABOUT COALITIONS
Of course pre-election statements by party leaders are
often poor guides to post-election behavior but politicians face coalition
constraints other than their own promises.  Fortunately, Slovakia’s Institute
for Public Affairs (http://www.ivo.sk)
a series of excellent reports (see

www.ivo.sk/vyskum_slovensko2005.pdf
,


http://www.ivo.sk/vyskum_maj_2006.htm
and

http://www.ivo.sk/vyskum_maj_2006.ppt
) on polls that ask supporters of each
party what they think of all other parties.  The IVO reports list the share of
supporters in each party who express either sympathy or antipathy toward every
other party.  In the tables below, I have simplified this into a single table by
subtracting the share of antipathy from the share of sympathy (thus a party with
more sympathy than antipathy will have a positive score while greater antipathy
produces a negative score).

Table 3.1 Sympathy/Antipathy of Party Voters toward
Other Parties, Dec. 2005

Tab31

Table 3.2 Sympathy/Antipathy of Party Voters toward
Other Parties, April 200
6

Tab32

It is possible further to reduce this array of numbers to a
more accessible image depicting the degree of sympathy or antipathy in terms of
distance.  A completely accurate image of this nature would require eight
dimensions, but two dimensions proves to be enough to capture basic
relationships without too much distortion.  The dimensions do not measure
anything in themselves, but the distance between any two points on the graph is
roughly proportionate to the degree of overall antipathy.  It is worth noting,
furthermore that two surveys separated by nearly six months produced nearly
identical results.

Figure 3.4 Spatial Relationships among Parties, Dec 2005
and April 2006

Fig34

In most cases, party supporters’ views about coalition
partners correspond with the statements of party leaders (the cause and effect
in that relationship warrant a much longer and more detailed discussion
elsewhere.  See

http://www.bsos.umd.edu/gvpt/apworkshop/carsey-layman-oct04.pdf
for
starters).  Many of the relationships with greatest spatial distance are also
those with explicit (sometimes mutual) rejections of cooperation: SDKU-KSS,
KDH-KSS, SMK-KSS, SMK-SNS, SMK-HZDS.  The combination of high distance among
leaders and voters makes these the least likely combinations.  A few other
relationships have a high degree of leadership antipathy but less among
partisans (SNS-HZDS, SNS-KSS and, by the direct measures of distance, SMK-Smer);
in such cases the party membership at least will not present a barrier to
coalition if the chance for political gain (and the lack of alternatives) force
elites to change their minds and seek accommodation.  In other cases, a high
degree of voter antipathy has not produced an official rejection of cooperation
(SDKU-HZDS, SDKU-SNS, KDH-SNS, KDH-Smer, SDKU-Smer) as political leaders attempt
to keep their options open.  Although parties tend to remain fairly close to
their bases on important issues, pressures remain fairly indirect and slow
moving and may not prevent such coalitions from coming into play in the short
run.  A KDH-DU-SDĽ coalition was equally unlikely in 1994 but party leaders
managed to make it work in the short run. 

SLOVAK ROULETTE
On the basis of elite-level and mass-level party antipathy,
we can create a list of possible coalitions and then revisit their actual
chances for success.  The considerations above actually suggest two lists: a
“strict” list that includes only coalitions in which neither the parties nor the
party voters have expressed strong opposition, and a second, looser list which
recognizes that party statements may only reflect political posturing and
therefore only excludes the Slovak nationalist-Hungarian, and right-Communist
combinations.  Application of the “strict” conditions actually cuts the number
of potentially viable coalitions from 123 to a more manageable 12.  These are
listed below, ranked according to the potential size of the coalition in
parliament (according to the previously calculated best-, worst-, and
intermediate-case scenarios). 

Figure 3.5. Coalitions Possible under “Strict”
Conditions Organized by Likely Coalition Size

     Fig35

Most notable about this list is that only one of the twelve
does not contain the party Smer and that this coalition (essentially replicating
the coalition of 2002 with SF substituting for ANO) receives a parliamentary
majority only in the best-case scenario.  Almost as unlikely are any coalitions
of Smer with only one other party.  In best-case scenarios using April data it
is just barely possible that Smer could partner with HZDS or SDKU, but the
chances remain relatively small.  (A Smer-KDH coalition falls just short of a
majority in even the best-case scenario, though the margin is quite narrow). 
More viable in numeric terms are a variety of 3 and 4 party coalitions that
including Smer along with some combination of members of the current coalition
(SDKU-KDH, KDH-SF or SDKU-SF), members of the current opposition (HZDS and KSS),
or a mix of (KDH-SNS, SDKU-SNS, HZDS-SDKU).

The problem with these larger coalitions, however, is that
they introduce greater potential for intra-coalition conflict.  Figures 3.6 and
3.7 rank the potential “strict” coalitions both according to seat potential and
the degree of likely intra-coalition strife as measured by the opinions of party
supporters about their potential coalition partners.  (Equivalent figures for
the 42 party “loose” standard for possible coalitions are available in the
appendix below.).  The first graph measures internal cohesion as an average of
the degree of sympathy held by supporters of each coalition member toward every
other coalition member.  The second graph begins from the notion that coalitions
are only as strong as their weakest internal link and therefore measures
internal cohesion as the lowest-level of mutual sympathy among any pair of
potential coalition members.

Figure 3.6 Coalition Vote Potential According to
Antipathy among Potential Members’ Voters (Average Antipathy)

Fig36_1

Figure 3.7 Coalition Vote Potential According to
Antipathy among Potential Members’ Voters (Weakest Link)

Fig37

The goal for any coalition is the upper-right quadrant
(high internal sympathy and sufficient numbers for a majority), but it is
apparent that none of the current possibilities come particularly close to
achieving that goal.  Coalitions are either large enough to have a majority but
highly fractious (at least as measured by party voters’ opinions) or relatively
more coherent but too small.  A comparison between the 2006 data and equivalent
data for 2002 offers an even more troubling sign.  A star on Figures 3.6 and 3.7
marks the viability and internal cohesion of the potential SDKU-SMK-KDH-ANO
coalition about two months before the 2002 election.  As the graphs show, this
fractious coalition performed considerably better in terms of internal
coherence than any of the coalitions that now seem viable.  Slovaks might
be advised to fasten their seatbelts.  (Yet for those of us conditioned by the
politics of Slovakia in the mid-1990’s, a bumpy coalition is better than one
that smoothly steers the country toward authoritarianism.)

 

PLANS FOR FUTURE POSTINGS

Having created a system for tracking opinion polls,
estimating the effects of turnout on relative party vote and assessing the
viability of party coalitions, there still remains work to be done.  The next
posts will assess the impact of the most recent set of polls—late April and
early May—and use these to track both individual party and potential coalition
performance over time.  Another post will use data on voters’ decision-making
process to refine the turnout-based model of party electoral performance.

Appendix A: Party Statements Rejecting Potential
Coalition Partners

The following is a not-yet-exhaustive list of ways in which
parties refused the possibility of cooperation with other parties.  If readers
are aware of any other exclusions, I would encourage them to let me know.

  • KDH rejects HZDS:

zostavovaní novej vlády po
parlamentných voľbách nebude Kresťanskodemokratické hnutie (KDH) rokovať s
Ľudovou stranou – Hnutie za demokratické Slovensko (ĽS-HZDS). Svojmu duelantovi
Vladimírovi Mečiarovi povedal, že spolupráca s ním nie je možná. (http://spravy.pravda.sk/sk_domace.asp?r=sk_domace&c=A060224_073946_sk_domace_p02
and

http://spravy.pravda.sk/kdh-nezostavi-vladu-s-ls-hzds-djn-/sk_domace.asp?c=A060409_151118_sk_domace_p23)

  • SDKU rejects KSS:

Jediná politická strana, s ktorou
nie je SDKÚ-DS ochotná ísť do budúcej vlády, je KSS. Podpredseda strany a
minister dopravy Pavol Prokopovič v relácii TV Joj Sedmička povedal, že so
všetkými ostatnými stranami si SDKÚ vie predstaviť spoluprácu, ak bude vedieť
nájsť s nimi styčné body v programoch. (http://spravy.pravda.sk/sdku-nebude-spolupracovat-s-kss-dad-/sk_domace.asp?c=A060507_134638_sk_domace_p12)

  • SF rejects KSS, SNS and HZDS with Meciar

Slobodné fórum nebude po voľbách
spolupracovať s KSS, ani s "extrémnymi" stranami ako je SNS, či s Vladimírom
Mečiarom. "Slobodné fórum nebude účastníkom vo vláde, ktorú by viedol súčasný
premiér Mikuláš Dzurinda," povedala predsedníčka SF Zuzana Martináková.  (http://spravy.pravda.sk/sf-hovori-nie-kss-sns-aj-meciarovi-drd-/sk_domace.asp?c=A060503_141208_sk_domace_p12)

  • MKP/SMK rejects SNS and KSS:

Slovenská národná strana a
Komunistická strana Slovenska by nemali byť podľa vicepremiéra a podpredsedu SMK
Pála Csákyho v budúcej vládnej koalícii a nemali by mať ani reálny vplyv na
budúcu vládnu politiku (http://spravy.pravda.sk/csaky-nechce-vo-vlade-sns-a-kss-dei-/sk_domace.asp?c=A060520_004134_sk_domace_p12)

  • MKP/SMK rejects HZDS:

Of the governing parties the MKP
(Hungarian Coalition Party — SMK in Slovak) has presented the clearest stance.
Gyula Bardos, the head of the MKP deputies group, has said that the MKP would
not differentiate according to whether Meciar is or is not head of the HZDS.
"For the MKP what is important is the politics carried out by the HZDS in the
years from 1994 until 1998, and also the policies that it wants to carry out in
future," said Bardos.  (Sme, Wednesday, February 22, 2006 T13:49:47Z:,
Translated by World News Connection)

  • MKP/SMK rejects Smer:

According to MKP (Hungarian
Coalition Party — SMK in Slovak) Chairman Bela Bugar, coalition cooperation
between the MKP and Direction in the next election period is made impossible by
the parties’ different programs. According to Bugar, Direction’s program — —
is impossible to realize. Bugar did not rule out post-election cooperation with
the HZDS (Movement for a Democratic Slovakia), but Vladimir Meciar remains an
obstacle to this. (Sme, Wednesday,  January 18, 2006  T12:28:53Z, Translated by
World News Connection)

  • SNS rejects KSS and SMK:

We clearly reject only the
Communist Party of Slovakia (KSS) and the SMK. It would be morbid if the
Communists were in the government. This perverse ideology was already dead for
me when I started to perceive the world. But we do not rule out cooperation with
anyone else. As far as the SMK is concerned, we will try to have this political
entity disbanded. (Hospodarske Noviny, Sunday, April 23, 2006 T16:22:05Z,
Translated by World News Connection)

  • HZDS rejects SNS:

Meciar only ruled out
post-election cooperation with the Slovak National Party (SNS). "This is because
of its low political culture, vulgarism, and inclination toward unethical
behavior, and I cannot cooperate with Jan Slota (SNS leader)."( Sme, Tuesday,
April 11, 2006 T08:49:17Z:,  Translated by World News Connection)

Appendix B: Data for the Full “Loose” List of Potential Coalitions

The following table offers a full list of all coalitions
that are neither too large nor too small and that do not contain Slovak
nationalist-Hungarian or Right-Communist pairings.

Tab33

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