June 2009 FOCUS Results

FOCUS Monthly Report, June 2009

[Citajte post aj po slovensky]

With no more results from UVVM to kick around anymore and only irregular announcements from MVK, we’re left with FOCUS (quite a good poll but it was always better to have a comparison set) though “Median” appears for better or worse to be filling some of the void (more on this in a future post).  As a result, I’ve temporarily adapted my monthly tracking graphs from UVVM to FOCUS and will use those until I can shift to a new visualization system this fall (with any luck).

UVVM+poll+data+ for +all+parties+ for the most recent +24+months+ in Slovakia
This overall long-term graph of poll results for FOCUS shows, amid the overall stability, several minor shifts, most notably a drop in Smer, fairly consistent over the last months (and also suggested in the final, unpublished UVVM numbers) from its highs at the beginning of the year. Given past disastrous guesses, I’ve withheld judgment on this, but, I’d now guess that January 2009 might prove to be Smer’s all time record high point (more on that in a later post).  Also obvious is SDKU again separating itself from the pack in the middle, both because SDKU is doing better and because its closest competitor, SNS is doing worse.  That middle “Gang of 5” parties all around 9% has largely disappeared now that SDKU is doing so much better and because HZDS is doing so much worse (though it has picked up slightly this month and moved back above the 5% threshold).  In fact HZDS is now closer in preferences to KSS and SF than to any of the current parliamentary parties (Median’s numbers for HZDS are higher).  The gang of 5 is likely to disappear altogether next month if Most-Hid manages to pick up a significant number of SMK voters.  Over the coming months I will be reworking the system to include the many smaller parties that have emerged of late and about which FOCUS now asks explicitly.  For the moment it is worth noting that the Greens (SZ) and Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) now accompany KSS and SF in the 1-3% range whereas the Conservative Democrats (KDS), Civic Conservatives (OKS) and Civic Liberals (Liga) languish with ANO and HZD under 1%.
UVVM+poll+data+ for +all+parties+except+Smer+ for the most recent +4+months+ in Slovakia

As a result of these shifts the long-term graph of poll results for coalition and non-coalition parties shows something of a narrowing, though not one that should give too much joy to the current parliamentary opposition, because a large and increasing of those “non-coalition” votes are actually votes for parties that are either not ideologically in sync with the current opposition (KSS) or parties that probably won’t make it into parliament unless there is some consolidation of small parties on the right (SaS, SF, Liga, ANO, KDS, OKS).

UVVM+poll+data+ for +coalition+support for the most recent +24+months+ in Slovakia

The long-term graph of poll results for (loosely defined) party “blocs” parties shows a steady drop over time for the more explicitly national parties (though recovering a bit in the last three months from record lows, with many of those voters apparently shifting over to Smer while the “right” remains relatively stable (this graph does not include the non-parliamentary parties on the right).

UVVM+poll+data+ for +party+'blocs'+ for the most recent +24+months+ in Slovakia

For all these slow shifts, Smer is in no danger yet of needing two coalition partners.  One will do.  Though speculation has involved the possibility that the “one” in question might be SDKU, I suspect that if things stay as they are, Fico’s partner will be whichever party is weakest and least likely to threaten Smer’s control.

Multiple-poll+average+ for +estimated+party+seat+distribution for the most recent +1+month+ in Slovakia

Multiple-poll+average+ for +estimated+party+seat+distribution for the most recent +24+months+ in Slovakia

Sorry, but I won’t be posting of full poll numbers this month or any time soon until I get the new system worked out.  More soon on the polls by “Median”.

In HZDS is everything possible

Except, perhaps, victory.

HZDS Trendline

Today brings more news from the ever-shrinking HZDS: last week it was Sergei Kozlik with criticism; this week it’s Zdenka Kramplova (see below).  The cost of criticism is lower now that HZDS has several times breached the threshold of electability: why refrain from criticizing a party that won’t get elected anyway.  Kozlik is safely in the European Parliament for another five years.  Kramplova won’t make it onto the party list of a party that may not make it into parliament.  For them, it seems, it may be time to leave the heavily-listing ship.  To its credit, HZDS may have managed one of the steadiest declines of any party anywhere, as if the Titanic had sunk so slowly that it managed to limp into New York harbor.  Except that for HZDS there is no harbor.

Meanwhile I learn new Slovak words every time SNS chair Jan Slota speaks.  This time the comments concern Smer’s Monika Benova-Flasikova (SNS vice-chair Anna Belousovova had something equally sharp to say about Benova-Flasikova last week)


“Kramplova not yet out of HZDS”

In (babel) English here:

“HZDS is like a hamster in a wheel.”

Something resembling a translation here:

“Slota: Benova is a stupid [goose]”
Google tries here

European Parliament Elections: The Wonder of Wikipedia

Wikipedia hosts not only basic factual information regarding the recent elections but excellent analysis as well, particularly regarding the relative efficacy this time of preference voting with  3 out of 13 getting positions thanks to preference voting: Zaborska (KDH), Mikolasik (KDH) and Paska (SNS–though helped perhaps by his famous Smer namesake?).   Full information is here.


Thanks to a reader for pointing it out and…I suspect…for providing the said analysis.

New Parties: SaS does the electoral math

SaS LogoInteresting post today from Richard Sulik, founder of Sloboda a Solidarita (trendily-colored logo is at left, found not on a party website but on a Facebook page), who responds to the charge from SDKU that SaS hurt the right by causing voters to “waste” votes on a party that did not make it over the threshold (http://richardsulik.blog.sme.sk/c/196401/SaS-oslabila-pravicu.html).

Sulik makes interesting arguments to suggest that SaS voters had good reason to vote in other ways and that they might not have voted at all, but he also makes good use of electoral math to make his point:  he uses the electoral formula to show that  reallocation of all SaS to SDKU would only have reallocated the number of seats that went to the right (SDKU would have gained one but KDH would have lost one) and thus that SaS did not impact the final result.  The math looks solid to me and it is nice to see someone respond to arguments by looking at actual numbers and rules.

Nevertheless, it is not as easy to dismiss the SDKU arguments if they are seen as a warning about future elections.  SaS did not have much impact in the European Parliament elections because there were so few seats at stake (13 [Correction, thanks reader “Richard”).  Had it been a parliamentary election (and yes, many other things would have been different as well), Sulik’s argument is not quite as strong.  I’ve reworked his numbers assuming the 150 seats of Slovakia’s parliament at stake.  According to this, calcuation, SaS would have had a significant impact on SDKU votes (which would have gained 6 seats had it received all of the SaS votes) which is partially but not completely ameliorated by its impact on KDH and SMK (each of which would have lost a seat).  In terms of coalition and opposition, this is almost a crucial difference:  from clear parliamentary majority for Smer-SNS-HZDS to a bare majority that would hinge on the decision of only two deputies.

European Parliament Election Results if 150 seats (the Slovak Parliament) were available for election, according to two hypotheses:

Party SaS supporters vote for SaS SaS supporters vote for SDKU
Smer 56 53
SDKU 30 36
SMK 20 19
KDH 19 18
HZDS 16 15
SNS 9 9
Smer+HZDS+SNS 81 77

Of course this is all theory, but the underlying debate is deeply relevant.  The more the fragmentation on the right, the worse it is likely to do (as the left and the Slovak nationals demonstrated in 2002), but it is not a zero-sum game and it may be true that Sulik’s party brings out new voters.  His ability to mobilize certainly is apparent in this election.  The question for me is whether the best use of Facebook/youtube/social networks is enough to attract the 115,000 voters who will likely be necessary to get a party over the 5% threshold in 2010?  The effort is certainly worth watching.

New Parties: Most-Hid now on display

Most-Hid LogoFor a party whose name looks in English to mean “least visible” this party will be getting a lot of attention over the coming year. Founded by Bela Bugar, former head of the Party of the Hungarian Coalition (SMK), it may change Slovakia’s political landscape.  Or maybe not.

The party’s name actually means “Bridge” in both Slovak and Hungarian.  This allows a nice pun by SME–“Bugar’s people divide Hungarians with a bridge (http://www.sme.sk/c/4881801/bugarovci-rozdelili-madarov-mostom.html)–and prompts a lot of speculation by a lot of people about the nature of the new party.  In fact, I suspect that it would be difficult for any predominantly Hungarian party to attract more than 1 or 2% of the Slovak electorate, though European election results from this weekend suggest that minority-focused parties can attract more than their ethnic share if the other parties are in bad enough odor.  Nor do I think that the new party, despite its name, necessarily expects to gain a large number of Slovak voters.  The debate here is primarily about what happens within the Hungarian community.

At first glance, creation of a second major party to represent Slovakia’s Hungarian minority seems extremely dangerous in a country where the electoral threshold is 5% and the Hungarian population hovers around 11%.  The Slovak National Party (SNS) here represents the worst case scenario: in 2000 it split its 8% electorate almost exactly down the middle (disillusioning a few of its supporters in the process) between SNS and the “Real” SNS (PSNS) in such a way that each half got 3.5% and neither made it over the threshold.  With this example in mind, the establishment of Most-Hid looks like a gamble, especially since, the split follows the SNS-PSNS in another key way: one party gets the more popular leader but little organization, while the other gets the organizational continuity and the uncharismatic new leader who threw out the other one.  The difference, however, is significant as well: unlike SNS voters (who could always turn to HZDS) Hungarian voters do not have anywhere else to go, and given the minority status of Hungarians in Slovakia they are relatively well-habituated to turning out rather than staying home.

Given these conditions, what is the likely effect of Most-Hid on overall election results.  Well in the first place, Bugar has been careful not to exclude the possibility of an electoral coalition with the party he just left, which would more or less return the situation to the pre-1998 situation in which two Hungarian parties competed for share of vote but approached elections in coalition.  Even if the parties do go into the election separately, the results may actually not be catastrophic for the Hungarian population.  The graph below starts with today’s electoral environment and makes the assumption that a combination of two Hungarian parties will receive 11%.  (This is a conservative estimate, slightly below the party’s recent totals in the mid-11% range.  Of course it is possible that bitter competition between two Hungarian parties could turn voters off, but it is just as possible that having more defined choices might bring some Hungarians back to the voting booth and, just maybe, that Bugar could attract a few Slovaks, so 11% is probably a bit low.)  Under current conditions, a party with 11%  would gain 19 seats, one short of SMK’s take in 2006.  For the sake of argument I assume that each point gained by Most-Hid reduces the support for SMK by the same amount and then calculate the number of seats according to the current Slovak method for alloting parliamentary seats:

Most-Hid Calcuations

First, and obvious but it should be said, unless the Hungarian party electorate falls below 10%, the emergence of Most-Hid won’t replicate the SNS-PSNS mutual destruction.  One of the two parties will gain representation.  The next-worst-case scenario not impossible but it is also not as grim as it might seem because of the workings of the electoral system.  If Most-Hid (or SMK) were to get 4.99% and the other party 6.01%, the total share of parties would certainly fall short of the possible score, but not by as much as one might suppose since, with fewer parties above the threshold, parties get more seats per vote.  As a result, the likey minimum score for total Hungarian representation is 12 seats.  Furthermore in half of the scenarios above (I cannot say which is most likely), Hungarian representation does not drop by more than two.

The fact that the creation of Most-Hid threatens a drop but not an elimination of Hungarians in parliament may help to explain Bugar’s calcuations.  The step won’t ruin his reputation and increases his options.  It is not impossible that Most might be able to attract a significant share of SMK support and become the dominant of the two partners, allowing Bugar to dictate terms, allowing the possibility of an electoral coalition with SMK, even leading to the ouster of Csaky from SMK and a re-unification under Bugar.

Add to this the probability (diminished slightly but still extremely high) that Smer will form the next government and the fact that some within Smer have already responded positively to Most-Hid’s creation (http://spravy.pravda.sk/smer-chvali-bugara-sdku-stoji-za-csakym-d94-/sk_domace.asp?c=A090610_085204_sk_domace_p23) and the creation of the party actually looks like a well-calculated risk.  Even the timing is relatively good: a year ahead of elections is enough for the party to build an organization but not too long for the party to languish in opposition obscurity.

Smer may be the real winner in all this:  if Most makes it over the threshold, the number of possible coalition partners increases and therefore so does Smer’s bargaining power.  If Most does not make it over the threshold but draws away a significant number of voters from SMK, then the seats SMK might have won are redistributed upward and some of them will go to Smer.

The real loser in this are those political scientists (by which I mean myself) who argued that SMK’s strong internal organization and decision-making mechanisms made it more stable and less likely to fragment.  But perhaps those same researchers can recover by shifting their focus to study new parties.

One interesting side note:  at the time of with the rather poorly-planned announcement of Palko’s KDS, which at the time had neither a website, logo or even name, I have been conscious of how politicians in Slovakia miss chances for using early publicity to establish a brand that no private firm would ever miss.  So on the day the rumors about Most-Hid finally reached the daily press I checked to see if anybody had established a Most-Hid website.  No, but they did do so by the following day, though the website is empty except for the logo.

Interestingly if I read Whois.com right, the party had already claimed the domain name about 3 weeks ago, at a time when discussions between Bugar and Csaky were still going on!  Plus two points for prior planning.  Minus one point for good faith bargaining.

Domain-name         hid-most.sk [and most-hid.sk]
Admin-name          Websupport, s.r.o.
Admin-address       c.d.457, Kysucky Lieskovec 02334
Admin-telephone     0904/306 081, 0904/306 081, 0904/306 081
Last-update         2009-05-16
Valid-date          2010-05-12
Domain-status       DOM_OK

European Parliament Elections, Slovakia 2009

A few initial thoughts (perhaps my only thoughts) on Slovakia’s Europarliament Elections.
In general there are few surprises here:  Smer wins, SDKU follows at at a great distance, along with SMK and KDH.  Perhaps the only superficial surprise is the apparent reversal of numbers for SNS and HZDS, but even this is not particularly surprising in light of other characteristics of these parties.  As usual, it helps to look at the results against the background of polls and the previous Euroelection.  Full election results with comparisons to 2004 and to various polls are here and in a table at the end.

First, how does this look in comparison to the last (i.e. first) Euroelections in Slovakia, held in 2004.  Turnout appears to be slightly up, but slightly up from the lowest in Europe is still just the lowest in Europe.  In terms of party results, I’ve created a series of charts that array the parties on the Y (vertical) axis in terms of past performance, according to a variety of markers and the X (horizontal) axis in terms of present performance in elections.  Do that for the 2004 and 2009 results and here’s what you get:


As is obvious, Smer does far better than before (over 30% compared with its disappointing under 20% in 2004), picking up 5 seats instead of its previous 3 and far outpacing the rest.  SDKU is next with results almost identical to those of 2004. Following a bit behind in a tight cluster are MK, KDH and HZDS, all performing worse than in 2004, by various margins and for various reasons (but more on that later) and then just above the 5% threshold, SNS.  All parties currently with seats in Slovakia’s parliament get Europarliament seats and no non-parliamentary parties make it across the threshold).

Clearly, by this standard 0f 2004 we have a major victory for Smer.  But there are other metrics.  A second way to look at this is to compare it to the most recent poll, does it beat expectations?  By that standard, this is what we get:


Smer and SNS do worse than expected, SNS by a slightly smaller raw percentage but a much higher relative share.  SMK does slightly worse than expected while KDH, HZDS and SAS do better.  What explains these differences?  Two of the three parties that did worse than expected also have the reputation (backed up by some research I’ve done) for weaker than average organizations.  In a low turnout election, organization makes a difference.  KDH and HZDS both have better than average organizations and and relatively stable, older than average electorates who dutifully turn out to vote.  SMK is also fairly well organized, but the party is currently in the midst of major turmoil (more here and more from me later).  The interesting addition to this list is SaS–Sulik’s Freedom and Solidarity.  New parties in Slovakia have rarely developed organizations that could push turnout in this kind of election, but Sulik appears to have made effective use of online social networks and other similar structures to mobilize young, educated voters who might otherwise stay home.  The bad news for SaS is that they just barely missed the chance to shake things up by getting a seat that would gain them some visibility and the same techniques will not have the same impact in higher turnout parliamentary elections in 2010.  Still, SaS will comes out of this strengthened vis-a-vis other small social-liberal parties (SF and Liga with quite bad performances, and the Greens not moving beyond their very small base) and has an opportunity to pick up the “disaffected SDKU” vote.  OKS-KDS did better than the previous year: Palko’s presence helped, no doubt, as the only party leader on the ballot of any party, but the party’s inability to push much beyond 2% in this election does not bode well for 2010.  KSS continues to hover around 1.5%, as it does in the polls, without much immediate hope of revival.

Finally, we can look at these results against the general recent performance of parties at the national level, averaging scores from FOCUS polls (now the only major one left that reports results fully and regularly) since the beginning of the year:


The results here are not wildly different from the previous graph, but it does suggest some cause for concern by Smer.  A 32% result in the Euroelections is great if it is double that of your next largest competitor, but slightly worrisome if it is 14% lower than the party’s average for the year to date.  Of course this is a low turnout election (this happened to Smer before in 2004, and even worse) but 2010 may not be particularly high either.  As with the presidential election, the results suggest that even with rather poor political play, the right wing manages to do better in elections than in the opinion polls (which show SDKU, SMK and KDH hovering around 30%-35%.  For now Smer is so far ahead that this makes little difference, but the party cannot afford to be complacent, especially, unlike its predecessor HZDS which once found itself in a similar position, Smer does not have such a strong organizational base to fall back upon.

The actual numbers are available online at Google Docs:


And the most recent three months are below in tabular format (using “iframe” which may not work on all browsers).

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The main points are above, but in the process of making them, I made a few others that I don’t want to waste.  First, the polls v. results that parallels the one above.


Here we see Smer’s slightly worse-than-expected performance and the dramatically better-than-expected performance of SDKU and KDH in 2004.  This is even more apparent in the poll average graph:


By this standard, 2004 really was a negative shock for Smer and a hugely unexpected bonus for KDH and SDKU and even to some extent for MK.  Here we see the “party organization” factor in full effect.

Finally, a graph that has nothing to do with the Euroelections but was calculated incidentally.  Still, it’s striking in what it shows:


This blog has been talking about shifts in public opinion for some time, but this provides a great time-lapse image.  Smer is way up.  SDKU is up (though up over its polling numbers while in government rather than its actual election figures) as is SNS (though in 2004 it was coming off a disastrous couple of years after the PSNS split.  Its historical figures are actually around this level).  KDH is remarkably stable over time and has been since the mid-1990’s.  The losers are the small parties: KSS and ANO falling from electoral viability to near-death and HZDS falling from near-front runner to barely viable.  Amid all of this perhaps the most striking thing to me is the negative movement of MK.  This is a party which, except for actuarial reasons, should not move at all and yet it has fallen by several points.  Some of this may be the loss of a few Slovak voters who in 2004 still saw it as a clean alternative to the other members of Dzurinda’s then-coalition, but the party’s drop over the last 2 years suggests that it is due to poor politics.  Now we shall see what happens when there is an alternative party, but that is a topic for the next post.