September 2009 Poll Results: Whither Smer?

This post comes a bit late because of changes to the pozorblog site but the month’s news is important enough to warrant an interim post.

Things only changed a little this month. But small changes from one month to the next add up. And this month not all the changes are small. A few areas to watch.


September 2009 Graphs_Page_01

As the image shows Smer remains far above its nearest competitors–still well over double the preferences of SDKU. But the last four months have seen a drop in Smer preferences from the mid-40s to the high-30s. This shift is primarily in FOCUS polls, however, and it is difficult to say whether the result is “real” or some sort of blip. Median, the only monthly alternative, shows no similar drop. I am really missing UVVM this month as it was always helpful to see what a second pollster said before making a judgment, and MVK polls are as unpredictable–in their appearance, not their results–as weather.

September 2009 Graphs_Page_05Closer look at Smer polls over time show a gradual increase over the last two years peaking in a cluster in late 2008 and then reverting back to the previous plateau and now, again to a lower level, though whether that lower level is part of a plateau or a slope is something we will have to see about. I suspect next month will show Smer higher in Focus polls but lower than its average level for the last 5 months. I suspect this month’s drop is a bit of an outlier, just as its previous peaks did not always sustain themselves and appear to be noise rather than signal.Smer doesn’t have too much to fear–it’s still hard to calculate a way that it won’t be in the next government, but it wouldn’t surprise me if some mid-level Smer types were starting to work on their political insurance policies.


September 2009 Graphs_Page_02Take Smer out of the graph and it looks more like a competitive party system. And this fall for the first time in a long time, the two top competitors to Smer are both from the opposition: SDKU and KDH. SDKU dropped slightly this month in FOCUS polls but it’s still near a historic high (in the past it would do this well in elections but not in polls). Some of its slight decline may relate to the rapid resurgence of KDH, a party that has taken a sudden upward jump due, I must think, to the energizing presence of Jan Figel, former European Commissioner. I am interested to see whether Figel’s more proactive approach will keep the party preferences high. In some sense, this does not help the opposition much, since those attracted to Figel are probably those who would otherwise hold their noses and vote for SDKU, but since they might also vote for SaS, it keeps votes among the larger opposition parties. Thumbnails for SDKU and KDH are here:

SDKU——————————————————– KDH

September 2009 Graphs_Page_06September 2009 Graphs_Page_10


Slovakia’s two minor governmental parties continue their respective slow slides, partly the result of Smer’s remarkable skill at picking off their voters and partly the result of their own internal struggles and disadvantages. HZDS has stopped falling for the moment but given the party’s steady 10 year slide and absence of anything new that might recommend it, it is hard to imagine anything but continued decline (with the key question: 5% or not 5% next June). SNS’s decline has been disquised at times by the party’s erratic support shifts but it is notable that all of the trendlines (24-month, 12-month, 6-month and 3-month point down at almost the exact same angle). The party has more leeway for falling than HZDS but it is not immune, and at some point SNS mid-level leaders are going to need to decide what to do if they feel that Jan Slota is pulling them down. The party’s structures are so focused around the party chair that the only way to force change will be to leave, but the last time they did that the parties split the electorate 50/50 and neither got into parliament.

SNS——————————————————– HZDS

September 2009 Graphs_Page_07

September 2009 Graphs_Page_09

and Most-Hid

Not much to say here, yet. For two polls in a row both parties are poised to make it into parliament. If this can continue then Bela Bugar has done a big favor to the Hungarian electorate, bringing back those disenfranchised from SMK. If both don’t stay above 5 and neither drops to near-zero, then the Hungarians will see their poorest electoral showing since the early days of Slovakia’s democracy. I’d be keen to hear any thoughts from Magyarophones about what to expect here as this is a subset of the population from which I hear little direct news.

SMK (regular graphs for Most-Hid coming soon)

September 2009 Graphs_Page_08

Smaller Parties:

Not much news here this month. SaS shows staying power at around 3%, and KSS recovered this month to its traditional 3% levels as well (though it has not been there for awhile). Below, around 2% stands SF (recovering slightly from a major drop the previous month) and at at the flatline level are OKS, KDS, ANO and Liga (which didn’t get a single person to mention it’s name this month even though it’s on the list). Between them are two more: HZD (slightly higher than expected–it’s been flatlining) and the Greens (somewhat lower than expected–last month it even beat KSS).

What it all means? The Coalition Partner Game

It’s still Smer’s ballgame, but coalition politics could become extremely interesting if Smer does end up at around 35% and HZDS or SNS fall below 5%. It is dangerous to trust what parties say about potential coalition partners, but as of now, SDKU and KDH appear to have ruled out coalition with Smer (Dzurinda is right, I think, to note that such a coalition would severely hurt his party, and he doesn’t have the organization or track record to ride it out the way ODS and CSSD did with their opposition agreement in the Czech Republic). But if this option truly is gone, then there are few other combinations that can make 50%. If the existing coalition can’t muster 50% because one party drops off, then Fico would need to find alternatives, but (even though I generally do not rule things out) there will be no coalition containing both SNS and either SMK or Most-Hid, and SaS, the only other party that looks now to have a chance, has promised up one side and down the other that it will not join forces with Smer. So Smer’s only real chance is probably SNS+HZDS or so many votes for parties that fall below the threshold that it can with SNS or HZDS form a bare majority government.

At the same time, there’s not much hope for a government of the current opposition parties. Even with SDKU and KDH and SMK and Most-Hid and SaS, there’s nothing like a majority. It might be possible to create one by adding HZDS to this but even that’s unlikely and HZDS is the party in greatest danger of falling short. In 10 short years, HZDS has gone from a huge and polarizing force in Slovakia’s politics to a tiny but necessary coalition partners. The more things stay the same, the more they change.

Twenty Years Ago Today (or The Audacity of Hoax Prequel)

havel closeup1

I have been waiting quite a while to post this on just the right day. Two decades ago, a month before the first large-scale protests against Czechoslovakia’s communist government, the following brief announcement appeared on the “Society Chronicles” (Spolocenska Kronika) of the “Hello Saturday” (Halo Sobota) supplement to the official newspaper Rude Pravo (“Red Right”). It says:

Dne 5. 10. 1989 oslavil narozeniny Ferdinand Vanek z Maleho Hradu. Za jeho namahavou praci, kterou ve svem zivote vykonaval a vykonava, mu dekuji a do dalsich let hodne zdrave a dalsich pracovnich uspechu mu preji jeho spolupracovnici a pratele.

Which translates roughly as:

On the day 5 October 1989 Ferdinand Vanek of Maly Hrad celebrated his birthday. Thanks to him for the hard work which he has done in in his life and continues to do, and his friends and co-workers wish him many more years of health and further success in his work.

The picthavel closeup picturehavel na hradure, of course, is that of Vaclav Havel who within 10 weeks of the Halo Sobota article would feature prominently on hundreds of thousands of much higher resolution pictures recommending him for the presidency of Czechoslovakia.

Ferdinand Vanek is the name of one of playwright Havel’s most famous (and most autobiographical) characters, the protagonist of a trilogy of plays: “The Audience” “Unveiling” and “Protest. “ The address, Maly Hrad, is almost identical to Hradecek (both meaning “Little Castle”) where Havel had a cottage.

So what? Well, twenty years ago, when Poland and Hungary were changing but Czechoslovakia was not, someone had the courage to submit to the Communist Party’s main newspaper a birthday announcement for the country’s main dissident praising him for his work and wishing him a long and productive life! And because the dissident’s picture and works had been suppressed, the announcement made it past all of the potential censorship points. Either the editors of the Society Chronicle page didn’t know what Havel looked like and had not heard of characters in his most famous plays or they were complicit in publishing it but could plausibly claim that they didn’t know. Either way, a combination of individual daring and official ignorance and incuriosity put a subversive message in a very public place. It’s no surprise that this same environment produced the Pink Tank and Entropa.

Thanks to my student Daniela Brabcova from Plzen who knew enough about Havel to spot this gem when it came out, kept a copy and shared it with me in the spring of 1991. Below is the full page from which it came:

havel halo sobota