Czech Election Update: The (Slightly) Bigger Picture

Another quick and ugly post from vacation (thanks to my family for tolerating my obsession even as we drive from city to city to visit loved ones).  I wanted briefly to put the 2010 Czech election into the context of the Czech party system over time (the next quick and ugly will, I hope, put it into broader regional perspective, if Josh Tucker of the Monkey Cage doesn’t do it first.

For now, all I wanted to do was to post a few pictures about what the most recent elections say in raw quantitative terms about the Czech party system circa 2010.

The big news is that thanks to this election cycle the Czech Republic’s party system looks significantly different today than it did ten years ago (indeed it is closer to 1992 or 1996) and signs are that the current changes will presage more change (or, to put it in a different and more awkward way, a period of stable change as opposed to stable stability)

Let’s start with the number of parties:

While the actual number of parties in parliament (the green line) did not change from last election to this one other measures suggest a substantially increased number of parties.  The red and blue lines show calculations of party system size based on Taagipera and Laakso’s method which show more significant parties in the voting than any time since 1992 and more even distribution of seats in parliament since 1992 as well (and it actually comes quite close to reaching 1992 levels.

The second major difference is in volatility–the number of seats changing hands from one election to the next.  This is actually quite a complicated question because it depends on how we consider succession from one party to the next, but in this election in the Czech Republic the lines of succession are fairly clear (not so in previous elections).  Without going into too much detail, volatility in Czech elections looks like this:

While not approaching 1990-1992 levels (and there is a good argument that even 1990-1992 was not that high), this is the highest volatility the Czech Republic has seen since, with only 61% of seats remaining in the hands of parties that held them before the election.  (As I will try to discuss tomorrow, while this is unusual for the Czech Republic it actually brings it more within the “normal” range for Central and Eastern Europe.)

This shift is even more interesting because of the nature of the volatility.   Both Tucker and Powell and Mainwaring et al have done fantastic work in the past two years distinguishing between types of volatility and suggesting that it makes a difference if the shift is between parties already in parliament or between parties in parliament and new parties.  I do not have time to recreate the calculations of the authors above, but there is another method for displaying it that is perhaps even more provocative.  The graph below shows the share of vote going to parties depending on when they first appeared on the ballot (more or less corresponding to when they were created):

What this graph says to me is two things:

  • Until this election, nearly all of the Czech vote went to parties that were created in the first two years after the fall of communism.
  • New parties appeared, but they almost never survived.  It is remarkable that even though dozens of new parties appeared in the Czech Republic between 1992 and 2006, the combined vote totals for those parties in 2010 was less than 1%.  The Czech Republic’s political scene today contains parties that are (by Czech standards of 20 years of democracy) rather old (60%) or entirely new (39%) and almost none in between.
  • Given that, pattern, the question is what the Czech Republic looks like in 5 or 10 years.  If the current new parties show the same survival patterns as their “new” predecessors, they will not exist in one or two election cycles (this is the pattern elsewhere in the region).  The old parties may recover some of their voters but probably not all of them and the rest will go on to other new parties which will be equally short lived.  The larger this space gets, the larger space it may create for the next election and the more likely the Czech Republic is to find itself with the same patterns as the Baltics and other countries in the region.  The Czech party system dog has stopped not barking.

Czech Election Update: Getting it wrong

No time right now for fancy graphs but since the Czech election produced a result that was not predicted by the polls (the best pre-election scenario was a narrow center right majority if KDU-CSL made it into parliament,  whereas what we appear to get is a substantial center right majority even without KDU-CSL) I want to make a quick post of the data on results and polls for 2010 and, for comparison’s sake, for 2006 (thanks to STEM which posted a similar analysis in that year, largely because their numbers looked the best).

Quick conclusions from this data:

  • The Impact of Firm. Factum and CVVM did best in terms of raw numbers in 2010 while Factum and SANEP did best in percentage terms.  Stem, which the best of the major players in 2006 by a wide margin, finished in the middle of the pack this year.  Median, about which I have written elsewhere, did very well on the two largest parties, but was so wrong on the others that it finished last in both percentage and raw stats.  (To badly paraphrase Marshall McLuhan the [problem with] Median is the method).   The overall range, however, was quite narrow: between 19.4 points and 23.4 points.
  • The Impact of Time. Everybody did badly this election compared to last time.  Factum maintained about the same performance in 2010 as in 2006 but its relatively poor performance in 2006 was good enough for first or second place (depending on the measure) in 2010.  Part of this, though, depends on the number of parties in the sample.  Limit it to just the three long-standing parties and the difference between polls and reality for 2010 is not that different from 2006; similarly, the average of percentage difference (raw difference divided by party’s actual score) is also only slightly worse in 2010 than in 2006.
  • The Impact of Party. The biggest single differences between polls and reality were for CSSD (6.7 points less) and TOP09 (5.5 points more), with all of the rest falling into a narrow range between 1.1 and 1.9.  In percentage terms, however, it was SPO and SZ whose results were most at odds with the polls (+43% and -48% respectively), followed closely by TOP09 (+33%) and CSSD (-30%).
  • The Asymmetry of Error. While 2006 had its share of non-predictive polls, 2010 is notable for the ways in which the polls did not correspond to the actual parliamentary (and presumably governmental) outcomes in the way that differences accumulated on the two main sides of the political spectrum.  In 2006 poll predictions averaged 3.0 points lower than actual results for CSSD but this was counteracted by polls that were on average 3.5 points higher than actual results for KSCM.  In 2010, by contrasts, the difference between polls and reality tended to enhance the difference: results were 6.7 points lower than polls for CSSD and 1.9 points lower than polls for KSCM (they were 1.9 points higher than average for SPO, but this provided no compensation in seats because SPO failed to enter parliament.  On the right, there was some compensation but not much: results were 1.1 points lower than polls for KDU-CSL and 1.7 points for ODS, but these were more than outweighed by results that were 5.5 points higher than polls for TOP09 and 1.5 points higher for VV.  The result was a 10.9 point difference in favor of the right in 2010 compared to 4 points in 2006 (9.8 to 1 if SZ is counted as right).
    This was more than enough to compensate for the loss of all seats belonging to KDU-CSL and still give the center-right a significant majority of votes and, especially, seats in parliament.
2010 Actual Factum CVVM STEM Median SANEP SC&C Average Absolute difference Factum CVVM STEM Median SANEP SC&C Average
CSSD 22.1 -4.2 -8.4 -8.8 -4.1 -7.8 6.7 -19% -38% -40% -19% -35% 30%
ODS 20.2 -2.7 1.2 -1.2 1.2 -2.1 1.7 -13% 6% -6% 6% -10% 8%
TOP09 16.7 5.8 2.7 6.3 6.0 6.6 5.5 35% 16% 38% 36% 39% 33%
KDU-CSL 4.4 -1.1 0.9 -0.1 -3.1 -0.3 1.1 -25% 20% -2% -71% -7% 25%
KSCM 11.3 -1.8 -1.7 -2.2 -2.0 -1.6 1.9 -16% -15% -20% -18% -14% 17%
SPO 4.3 1.7 2.3 1.7 -2.5 -1.2 1.9 40% 54% 39% -57% -27% 43%
SZ 2.3 -0.3 -2.2 -1.2 -1.2 -0.6 1.1 -13% -95% -53% -52% -26% 48%
VV 10.9 -1.7 -0.6 0.7 3.3 1.1 1.5 -16% -6% 7% 30% 10% 14%
Sum of absolute difference for all Major Parties 19.4 20.0 22.1 23.4 21.3 21.2 22% 31% 25% 36% 21% 27%
Sum of absolute difference ODS, CSSD, KSCM 8.7 11.3 12.1 7.3 11.5 10.2 16% 20% 22% 14% 20% 18%
2006 Actual Factum CVVM STEM Median SANEP SC&C Average Absolute difference Factum CVVM STEM Median SANEP S-C&C Average
ODS 35.4 7.6 3.4 2.2 -0.2 4.4 21% 10% 6% -1% 12%
CSSD 32.3 3.8 4.3 0.9 4.3 3.0 12% 13% 3% 13% 9%
KSCM 12.8 -4.5 -2.7 -3.4 -1.2 -3.5 -35% -21% -27% -9% 28%
KDU-CSL 7.2 -1.8 1.7 0.4 0.5 0.1 -25% 24% 6% 7% 18%
SZ 6.3 -2.3 -4.2 -2.5 -3.6 -3.0 -37% -67% -40% -57% 48%
Sum of absolute difference for all Major Parties 20.0 16.3 9.4 9.8 13.9 26% 27% 16% 17% 23%
Sum of absolute difference ODS, CSSD, KSCM 15.9 10.4 6.5 5.7 9.6 23% 15% 12% 8% 16%


Guest Blogger: Tim Haughton on Czech Electoral Politics

The smiling gentleman pictured here–Tim Haughton of the University of Birmingham–is not a blogger, but he should be, and so I have pressured him into sharing his impressions of electoral politics in the Czech Republic in the run-up to today’s election.  I have the good fortune not only to profit from Tim’s insightful analysis of European politics on an almost daily basis but also to be able to call him a close friend.  With less than an hour to go before we get the results, I want to share his first-hand observations of the Czech political scene in Prague on the ground level on the last day of campaigning, a piece that is not only astute but also beautifully evocative of the city from which he is writing.

City of Angels: Impressions of the Czech Election Campaign

Tim Haughton, University of Birmingham

There are two rules for political scientists studying an election in another country: don’t just visit the capital and try not to rely on your closest contacts. Although I’ve fallen into both traps, in response to Kevin’s request for a post for his excellent pozorblog, here are a few impressions.

Thanks to the timing of my students’ exams, piles of undergraduate dissertations to mark and other exciting administrative tasks, I arrived in the Czech Republic late on Wednesday with just one day of campaigning to go. As my wife is a native of Prague the first duty (and pleasure) whenever we visit the Czech Republic is to meet up with the family. In a local watering-hole in the shadow of the Staropramen brewery, with the golden beer quenching our thirst, the debate begins.

My wife’s family all enthusiastically jangled their keys in November 1989 welcoming the end of communist rule. They swung behind Klaus and the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) in the early 1990s keen to see rapid marketization, democratization and a ‘return to Europe’, but as the decade progresses they became increasingly disenchanted by Klaus’s arrogance and the corruption, lies and incompetence of ODS, not just at the national level, but also in the capital where the party has (mis)ruled since the early 1990s. Twenty years after the first time they cast their votes in a free election, they remain largely undecided about whom to vote for this time.

One member of the family is set on voting for the Greens. The party entered parliament in 2006 and became a member of the Topolanek government, but has haemorraged support in the past couple of years and if the polls are to be believed will fall well below the 5% threshold. The support of former president and iconic figure Vaclav Havel maybe doesn’t count for much in Czech politics anymore, but he does offer a sign of where some of the moral, upstanding people may remain in Czech politics.

Another member of the family is inclined to support TOP ’09, a relatively new party formed as the name suggests last year. The centre-right party which offers tradition (‘T’), responsibility (‘O’) and prosperity (‘P’) has at its head Karel Schwarzenberg. The former Foreign Minister (nominated by the Greens to the Topolanek government) is a popular figure who appears everywhere in the TOP 09 material. ‘I am voting for the prince’ declares the family member rather than mentioning the name of the party. The avuncular aristocrat may speak an odd version of Czech betraying his roots and long exile in Austria during communist rule, but he is trusted, not just thanks to his experience and skills, but because he is not afflicted by the disease of Czech politics: corruption.

‘How can you vote for TOP ’09 declares another member of the family? Schwarzenberg maybe a great figures, but ‘what about [Miroslav] Kalousek’. The creator of the new party who shrewdly persuaded Schwarzenberg to join may have been a relatively successful finance minister, but his career is not free from the strains of corruption and dirty dealing. Kalousek – just like leading figures in ODS such as Prague major Pavel Bem and former Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek – is far from being an angel.

All member of the family dislike the Communists with a vengeance and have little sympathy for Jiri Paroubek the leader of the most popular party in the Czech Republic, the Social Democrats (CSSD). Paroubek may have given a very positive impression in CSSD’s party political broadcast as he spoke in glowing terms about his country and vision for the future but put him in a media studio and out comes the street fighter. In the car from the airport my mother-in-law recounts in great detail the insults Paroubek and ODS leader Petr Necas traded during the latest radio debate.
One other round the table is tempted to go for Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDU-CSL). The party lost many prominent members and support when Kalousek left the party to form TOP ’09. The party’s old-new leader Cyril Svoboda is one of the great survivors of Czech politics who has held office in governments led by the left and the right and has not been stained by a major corruption scandal. His moderate, Christian, pro-European stance isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but even those enthused to vote KDU-CSL recognize the possibility that the party won’t cross the threshold and will hence be a wasted vote.

Where else to head this morning in the city of such whiter than white politicians than ‘Andel’ (angel)? In fact I spent most of the day travelling between Andel and Republic Square. ODS is the dominant party in Prague with strong levels of support. The party offers the best pre-election meeting at least for the hungry and thirsty. The smell of sausages and draught beer entices many of the shoppers to stop and listen to the music and collect the party’s material. Elsewhere on the street young, pretty Czech girls decked out in blue T-shirts (the party’s colour) hand out bags of party material to all who come within range.

Just along the road is a small CSSD stall. It doesn’t compete in size with the ODS, but it does offer a fuller bag of goodies including a book written by the party’s Prague bigwig, Peter Hulinsky, and has the clever idea of handing out orange roses – a smart way to get the romantic vote. Even if orange is a slightly odd colour for roses (unlike the party’s sister parties abroad CSSD adopted the colour orange thanks to the advice of marketing gurus in the run-up to the 2006 elections), at least orange looks like an almost natural colour for roses, whereas blue would look decidedly odd.
Further along the street are a couple of Green party activists desperately trying to attract the attention of the passing shoppers. Their efforts, even under a sign declaring the greens are not dead, seem not enough to revive the voters who backed the party in 2006. A stall of the small Party of Free Citizens set-up by the Klausite policy wonk Petr Mach has a greater number of party activists sheltering from the drizzle, but it is not attracting much interest, unsurprising for a party which barely registers in opinion polls.

A short metro journey away the Prague Communists are having their final rally. A small crowd of mostly white and grey-haired citizens have congregated to listen to some of the city’s communists including the leader of the party’s list in Prague Jiri Dolejs. No-one seems especially enthusiastic, although one of the female speakers who bemoans developments in the past twenty years earns plenty of nodding heads. The criticisms of developments of the past two decades seem rather incongruent given the party’s stall is next to one of the new shopping centres. A symbol of capitalism sure, but one the citizens of Prague seem to be enjoying with relish judging by the number of shopping bags in hands. On the opposite side of the square, the Social Democrats also have a stall. No set-pieces speeches here, just more orange roses, a jazz quartet and the presence of the larger-than-life Interior Minister Martin Pecina who towers above the citizens who are asking him questions.

The surprise package of Czech politics in recent months has been the new party Veci Verejene (‘Public Affairs’). No day of campaigning would be complete without seeing something of the party led by Radek John, which if polls are to be believed, could win around tenth of the votes. The party has a stall opposite its Prague HQ. Under a billboard calling for the end of the dinosaurs in politics, but reminiscent of ODS’s event near Angel, VV has arranged young pretty girls to distribute cakes and chocolates to entice the passing citizens, and for some musicians to persuade those who congregate to tap their feet. Moreover, they have a candy floss (cotton candy) machine.

After lingering for awhile I decide to leave and start walking back to Andel to take the tram back to the in-laws. A few hundred metres from the VV stall a German family with three young children are walking in the same direction as me. They probably know little about Czech political dinosaurs or Radek John, but they are really enjoying the taste of the candy floss. Not everything in Czech politics has such a bitter taste, but the tastiest things are sometimes the offerings of the new to the ignorant.

Guest Blogger: Sean Hanley on Czech Electoral Politics

Editor’s note:  For the first time on this blog I welcome a guest blogger, and there is no better way to start than with Sean Hanley of University College London, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, Centre for the Study of Central Europe.  It is Sean’s Blog, made me realize how useful blogs were for academic communication and gave me the inspiration to take mine much more seriously.  Sean writes:

“I think that we are seeing the rise of new parties – and actually if you track other things including the world of Czech extra-parliamentary parties there is a clear ‘below the radar’ trend that has been underway for several years. I tend to see the challengers as still very much (as they have always been) on the centre-right.  On the left the challenges are not so serious. SPO(Z)  given their current inability to go beyond 3% in the polls, are not, and I think will not become, a serious challenger to CSSD as TOP09 and VV are for ODS and KDU. Crucially, SPO(Z) lack the element of novelty.  Suverenita, if they could get the resources and pick up the political momentum needed for lift off, would be a better bet for real a centre-left populist breakthrough: populist message, well known leader, element of novelty including having a female leader (Veci verejne have also traded on the same formula and have done well despite being led by the bluff Radek John).  On the other hand, this type of formula was tried in 2006 by Zelezny and the Indepedent Democrats and flopped. There is also the possibility of a recurrence of the 1999-2002 surge of KSCM, but I wonder about how likely that would be to repeat since KSCM lacks the broad appeal and tactical flexibility to capitalise on such opportunities.

It would be interesting to compile a dashboard window for support for non-parliamentary parties (including TOP09, which has not made it independently into parliament) to see what trends there are As regards, disillusionment/new party cycles, I would be a little cautious about the viewing this as a very general model to which the CR — after an odd and exceptional period of historically conditioned party system stability — will tend gravitate.  An underlying question is the nature of the disillusionment cycles and demand for new parties and specifically whether there is a certain cyclical/fixed background layer of frustration with established parties held in check by diminishing stock of organizational and political robustness or whether we are seeing eruptions of discontent, which fit with some longer term unfolding pattern linked to social change or the changing nature of reform politics in the region.

To return to the short term the election looks to be shaping up for the predicted battering for ODS and Pyrrhic victory for CSSD.  It will be interesting to see if Klaus blocks a minority CSSD government as promised to avoiding a CSSD-KSCM entente, although if KDU-CSL make it into parliament (and their apparent loss of all but their core support has the positive electoral implication that such voters will tend to turn out, whereas I think TOP09 and VV might poll less than polls suggest) it could leave us again with the familiar deadlocked situation. Grand Coalition anyone?”

Sean makes his electoral predictions on his blog today!  Check it out:

Tomorrow: guest blogging from Tim Haughton of the University of Birmingham

Slovakia Dashboard News: May Polis Poll Closely Follows Trends

Today’s Czech election (and tomorrow’s Eurovision song contest) are the big news (except that Slovakia and the Czech Republic failed to make it into the final yet again) but there’s actually no actual news just yet, so there’s time for a brief comment on reports of today’s Polis poll in Slovakia.  I still wonder about the viability of telephone polls like that of Polis, but to the extent that the firm did fairly well last time in its prediction and tends to follow the same trends as all of the other pollsters (except Median), I am willing to give it a certain amount of credit and build it into my averages.  Polis just released a poll conducted between May 15 and May 20 with a fairly large sample.  Here’s what we see:

Polis’s 34% for Smer is the lowest score the party has received in any major poll in the last two years, but Polis tends to under-poll for Smer, at least compared to the others.  The patterns, however, are extremely consistent:  Polis, MVK and FOCUS all show nearly identical seven point drops for FOCUS since January and all, including Median, show approximately ten point drops since a year ago.  Why this should be is open to question:  the emergence of SaS (I accidentally wrote VV; Freudian slip) and perhaps a few points to the new SDL and perhaps some last minute hesitation by Smer’s many soft supporters who, as election nears, are now forced actually to consider their vote.    It is important to remember that in the 2006 election Smer actually outperformed final polls, but these are never a good indicator (or more precisely they are sometimes a good indicator but it is difficult to predict when).

Polis also tends to underpoll for SNS–by quite a significant margin–but its trends tend to follow, and it is interesting that after a rise in April in both FOCUS and Polis (large in FOCUS, small in Polis) SNS is in both polls back to levels below its March result, suggesting that the Fidesz boost was short lived.  Of course since the Polis and FOCUS polls were taken, we have a new, and perhaps more significant dual-citizenship question which may help SNS, but Smer is also hitting this hard and may pick up much of that reservoir.

Polis also underpolls HZDS–interesting that it underpolls all three coalition parties, and strong reason never to consider its numbers alone, especially for predicting government composotion–but as with the other parties, Polis numbers do follow basic trends and here they show the same slow slide as all of the others except Median (about which I have commented frequently elsewhere).  There’s not much to see here, but Slovakia’s next goverment may depend on whether its shrinking voting base turns out to vote more than others’.

Overall the current coalition dropped two points in this month’s Polis poll, a smaller amount than in FOCUS (4) or Median (3) but this is perhaps to be expected since Polis starts with a lower baseline for the coalition parties (and so they have less to lose).

Even discounting SDKU’s jump in recent Median polls, both FOCUS and Polis show increases for Polis in April-May, though Polis’s is much larger and to levels not normally seen for this party.  I have some doubts about the magnitude, but (like Smer above) SDKU also tends to perform better than polls in the final election (though this time they have SaS to contend with)

Every single poll shows KDH dropping from a March peak to a lower (but still relatively high) level in May.  The question is not the trend but the magnitude.  Polis, MVK (and Median) show the party between 11 and 12.  FOCUS, by contrast, shows it between 8 and 9.  No data that I have tells me which side of this range the party’s scores actually fall.

SaS follows the same trend in every poll: continued rise in May.  Polis’ jump here is slightly smaller than that of FOCUS (which shows a correspondingly smaller jump for SDKU, so the difference may lie in different measures of supporters of those two parties, or it may not).  The party continues to rise and is not facing the sort of “switcher’s remorse” that we saw for SOP in 1998, for ANO, Smer and HZD in 2002 and for SF in 2006.  At least not yet.

Overall the right shows a point and a half gain in this most recent Polis poll, more or less the same that we saw in FOCUS a week ago and slightly smaller than that of Median.  This trend, too, continues.

Amazingly both Hungarian parties cross the threshold in this poll even though the total Hungarian electorate as measured by this poll is only 10.4.  The actual electorate is probably somewhat larger, so this is good news for Hungarians in Slovakia.  It is amazing that these two parties continue in their head-t0-head duel which maximizes both the potential gain–if both do well–and the potential risk–if one drops only slightly below the threshold.  I frankly never expected the parties to maintain this kind of parity, and whether they can keep it up is the thing that most intrigues me about the upcoming election results.

Polls, Parties and Politics, Part 8: Coalition Math, now with Thresholds!

Having just spent quite a bit of time thinking about Czech politics (and expecting to do so again once we get Saturday’s election results) I am struck by how different much of it is from Slovakia–and how much is quite (perhaps increasingly) similar.  Unlike Slovakia’s politics, Czech politics still revolves around a left-right axis on economic issues, but the two parties that anchor that axis have weakened and the emergence of new parties clearly suggests the underlying role of at least one or two additional dimensions (corruption is the most obvious).  The flux of party death and party birth also seems likely to be similar this year, if not greater on the Czech side.  And as in the Czech Republic, the composition of government looks to depend on the ability of parties to cross the 5% threshold of electibilty (see yesterday’s post).  But this points back to another difference, extremely narrow but highly consequential for thinking about elections and government formation: in the Czech Republic there is only one party that is hovering around the 5% threshold.  In Slovakia, there are four.  This is a big deal because those parties are on opposite sides of the spectrum, and every one of the 16 (4^2) permutations has a significant potential impact on who will govern Slovakia.

Before we can look intelligently at the effects of the thresholds, however, we need to look at the broader issue of viable coalitions.  As I’ve discussed before, coalitions are a combination of math (are there enough seats) and “chemistry” (can they get along).  In a post in mid-February, I made certain guesses about both math and chemistry that I summarized in this image:

Since then several things have changed.  First, we have much more recent polling data (showing a trend away from the current coalition) and second we have both new statements by parties about potential coalition partners (a feed of relevant articles is here), and new data from FOCUS/IVO about what party supporters think of other parties (the original report is here).  From this data I can create a new version of the graph on a slightly sounder but still quite imperfect basis.

The first imperfection is that I will foolishly make utterly unwarranted guesses about what I think the data now suggests about the final election results, based on the one prediction tool that seemed to work in 2006: pre-existing trendlines.  This is, of course, mindbogglingly stupid, when in 2006 I made predictions based on one prediction tool they were in many cases far off.  But without a prediction, I can’t go any further.  So here I … jump:

Party Terribly fraught guess
about election outcome
(trendline projection adjusted
by common sense)
of seats
based on
fraught guesses
Smer 35.0% 57
HZDS 5.0% (see below for nuance) 8
SNS 6.0% 10
MKP-SMK 5.8% 9
Most-Hid 5.2% (see below for nuance) 9
SaS 9.0% 15
KDH 11.0% 18
SDKU 15.0% 24

For the moment, we do not need to worry about the threshold (and in any case the recent averages show all eight parties above the threshold, though in some cases just barely).  This will come later.  From the percentages above, I calculate a raw number of seats for each party (that can later be nuanced based on threshold questions.)

The second imperfection relates to some way to quantify the “chemistry” (or usually the lack thereof) in a coalition.  To do this I have simply taken IVO’s measurement for the overall level of antipathy that supporters of each party has toward each of the other parties.  This is imperfect at best but it actually worked quite well as an indicator of most likely coalitions in both 2002 and 2006 (where I ignored it to my peril).  That doesn’t mean it will work this time, but it is also fairly consistent with the kinds of statements that parties make about one another, so it is adequate as an initial proxy.

Putting the number of seats on the vertical axes and the level of chemistry (inverse of antipathy) on the horizontal axis yields this lovely graph showing the position of each coalition.

But since neither of these indicators is perfect, it is less misleading about the specificity of the data (and more interesting and attractive) to recast the graph like this:

Here the orange dots represent Smer-based coalitions while orange and dark green/brown represent the Slovak national members of the current coalition.  Blues represent parties of the Slovak “Right” while light green and gold represent Hungarian national parties.  The quick conclusions:

  • No combination achieves the grail of significant size and positive internal chemistry.
  • The closest aspirants are the current coalition and the current opposition, which by this estimation each have exactly the same number of seats–a deadlocked 75.  In a parliament in which all eight parties enter, a comfortable margin above 75 seats requires broadening the coalition to include somebody from the “other side” either Smer including a Hungarian party or two, or the current opposition including HZDS.  More coherent coalitions, by contrast, have almost no chance for electoral success (and, given Slovakia’s complicated 2+ dimensional political landscape, almost never have).

BUT…  This assumes that all parties will make it over the threshold.  By my estimation, this is actually fairly unlikely

Party Terribly fraught
guess about chance
of passing
5% threshold
Smer 100%
HZDS 50%
SNS 75%
Most-Hid 55%
Both Hungarians* 60%
SaS 99%
KDH 99.9%
SDKU 99.9%
* More than the product of the two Hungarian parties individually because if one falls short of the threshold, it is probably because the other has gained some of its votes

As the asterisk above, suggests, however, it is not enough simply to run an analysis of these parties individually above and below the threshold because there are reciprocal relationships among parties that affect shifts in voters. Although this is certainly true for SDKU, KDH, and SaS, shifts among those three do not have much effect on overall outcomes since they are all above the threshold. The same is not true for the pairing of SNS and HZDS, and especially of Most-Hid and MKP-SMK, whose reciprocity is almost perfect to the extent that it is difficult for MKP-SMK to gain except at the expense of Most-Hid, and (almost) vice-versa. If MKP-SMK falls below the threshold, Most-Hid will almost certainly rise above by about the same margin. The same is true to a lesser extent for SNS and HZDS. As a result, I have built these parings into the overall equation (realizing, but for the moment not caring, that some lost HZDS or SNS vote may go instead to Smer).

The result of these various calculations is the chart below which identifies eight possible arrays of parties in parliament along the top and eleven possible governing coalitions down the side, identifying the probability of the arrays based on the electoral guesses above, the likelihood that all potential coalition members pass the 5% threshold, and the approximate number of seats gained by each coalition given the parliamentary arrays. Red boxes indicate that a coalition should fall well short of a majority; green boxes indicate a safe likelihood of a majority; yellow boxes indicate something in-between.  (The task at hand has so many data points attached to it [and my attempt to squeeze it onto a single page is so obsessive] that it is difficult to compress into something that will fit into this blog column, so it is probably necessary to click on the image to see the full graph.)

So here is all the data in one place, but what does it mean.  We can cut the data in two ways: by coalition type and by parliament type.

Category Party Competition Likelihood of parties crossing threshold Possibilities and Constraints
Left + Slovak National (current coalition) Smer +
38% If all parties in this coalition make it into parliament, it will likely have a majority. But there is a less than even chance (by my estimation) that both HZDS and SNS will make it.
Left Smer 100% Smer will make it into parliament but there is no scenario according to current preferences that would allow it to govern alone (except as a minority government)
Left + Slovak National Smer +
50% These two coalitions depend both on the ability of Smer’s coalition partner to get into parliament and on the absence of at least one (or more than one) other party to provide the necessary seats for a majority. It appears that these coalitions are not viable if both Hungarian parties make it into parliament.
Smer +
Left + Slovak National + Hungarian National Smer +
HZDS + (MKP-SMK or Most-Hid)
50% It would theoretically be possible to add one one Hungarian party to a Smer and HZDS (but not Smer and SNS) coalition, though worsening relations make this increasingly unlikely. Fico would have to be desparate to chose this option, but if trends continue he may indeed face relatively few options.
Left + Hungarian National Smer +
MKP-SMK or Most-Hid
100% The members of such a coalition are almost certain to get into parliament (it is highly unlikely that both Hungarian parties will fail), but it only becomes really viable if the other Hungarian party does not make or if both SNS or HZDS fail. Fico may, however, have a hard time forming a coalition with a party (MKP-SMK) that has become the most recent direct target of his campaign.
Smer +
MKP-SMK + Most-Hid
60% This coalition would have a clear majority but it is only as likely as the weakest of the Hungarian parties getting into parliament. It is also highly unlikely that Smer would opt for two feuding Hungarian parties (a recipe for disaster) if he could manage any other coalition.
Left + Right Smer +
100% This coalition–which is almost certain to have both members in parliament at levels that produce a majority–actually stands in for any coalition between Smer and one of the current “right wing” Slovak parties. But it is almost impossible to imagine either of the members of this coalition wanting to do this, since both would not suffer with their supporters and especially since KDH unconditionally excluded the possibility and Smer excoriated KDH in response.
Right + Hungarian National SDKU + KDH + SaS +
MKP-SMK + Most-Hid
60% This coalition would probably have enough votes for a majority (though if both Slovak national parties enter parliament that is in question) but it is dependent on both Hungarian parties entering parliament which is far from a sure bet. Several months ago this coalition did not seem likely to have a majority. Today with declines in the Smer and increases in SaS it has become plausible. The recent citizenship-law issue, however, raises questions about the acceptability of MKP-SMK for the Right that are difficult to answer at present.
SDKU + KDH + SaS +
(MKP-SMK or Most-Hid) + HZDS
100% If one Hungarian parties does not make it into parliament, there is still a chance for it to come close to a majority but only two of three of the parties currently on the line fail. Interestingly a failure by one of the Hungarian parties actually helps magnify the chances of a coalition including the other, making the current sharp competition between the two Hungarian parties more rational than it might seem. If we see a continuation of the emerging differentiation between MKP-SMK and Most-Hid related to Hungary’s dual citizenship law, then only the variant involving Most-Hid becomes viable, but this, of course, would depend on Most-Hid actually making it into parliament.
Right + Hungarian National + Slovak National SDKU + KDH + SaS +
(MKP-SMK or Most-Hid) + HZDS
50% If both Hungarian parties do not make it into parliament, the current opposition could theoretically top it off with HZDS but this is unlikely since SaS and KDH have expressed reluctance to join with HZDS and it is in any case dependent on HZDS making it into parliament (at best 50-50). This unlikely option is probably Meciar’s last chance to play kingmaker before the end of his political career: if both SNS and HZDS enter parliament, then HZDS’s choice matters; if SNS does not make it, then the likely coalition combinations to not offer much hope for Meciar to play any role. This is the way the [party] may end, not with a bang but with a whimper. (If, however, the current right parties continue to distance themselves from SMK, Meciar’s bargaining power increases slightly as he could offer his party as an alternative to SMK in a coalition with Most-Hid)
SDKU + KDH + SaS +
MKP-SMK + Most-Hid + HZDS
30% There is a slight chance if all of the current major parties succeed that this coalition of all current opposition parties and HZDS would be theoretically possible alternative, but its likely that some other smaller combination would still gain a majority.

Or we can look at it another way: What are the consequences for coalition and government formation depending on who crosses the threshold and who doesn’t:

Who’s missing from parliament: Likelihood of scenario: Possibilities: Most likely government
No one 23% If all of the major parties make it over the threshold, these numbers give roughly equal numbers of seats to the current coalition and the current opposition (plus the two new opposition parties). One of these might just get enough seats to govern. If there is a perfect deadlock, a government would require one party to switch slides. This is becoming increasingly unlikely and could lead to a Czech Republic scenario of weak, bare majority or minority governments until the disintegration of one of the parliamentary parties (not impossible in current circumstances) allows for a new configuration or new elections. Current coalition or current opposition
HZDS 23% If either HZDS or SNS fail to make it into parliament, then the current opposition actually has a chance at a majority coalition given the current estimates. Alternatively Smer could try and pry either KDH or one Hungarian partys away from the current opposition but it is hard to imagine the magnitude of promises this would take to get them to leave a more ideologically consistent, if far more ungainly coalition of opposition parties. The dynamic chances if MKP-SMK becomes anathema to both sides, in which case there is no clear majority for either side. Current opposition
SNS 8%
One Hungarian Party 15% If one of the two Hungarian parties is the only one not to make it into parliament then the stage is set for a continuation of the current coalition or force some sort of cross-the-lines coalition such as the (now ruled out) Smer-KDH coalition or the ungainly coalition of the current opposition plus HZDS. The latter might be possible if the it is MKP-SMK that falls below the threshold, but the numbers make the slightly less likely of the two scenarios. Current coalition
HZDS & one Hungarian 15% If one Hungarian party fails and one of the Slovak national parties fails, there are a variety of possibilities very close to a majority: Smer+SNS, Smer+the Hungarian Party, or the current opposition. Current Coalition, current opposition, or Smer plus a Hungarian party
SNS & one


HZDS & SNS & one Hungarian 5% If a Hungarian party fails and both Slovak national parties fail, then it will again come down to who–if anyone–can (and is willing to) draw the remaining Hungarian party. The current opposition would have the upper hand here, but would they take it? Current opposition

Any way we slice it, it looks as if the thresholds will be key. More than half of the coalition possibilities rely directly on parties that are just on the threshold of survival and those that do not are still dependent on threshold effects to determine whether they will muster a majority and whether there are coalition possibilities that may be more attractive to some potential members. We will not have a very good idea of what is even possible until we the results are in. The announcement of KDH’s exclusion of Smer at the beginning of the week led me to think that there may not be quite as much coalition speculation as in the past because of the hardening of opposition-coalition lines, but the increasingly sharp reaction of both Smer and SDKU to MKP-SMK’s position on the Hungarian citizenship law may bring us back to a position of active coalition jockeying but as the case of the Czech Republic shows, government coalition-making gets much harder if one major party is not coalitionable.

Czech Dashboard News: Final Factum Poll and Coalition Math

Only three days to go and we have now the final allowed-by-law pre-election poll numbers in (the big three of CVVM, STEM and Factum-Invenio; SANEP and Median did not report, but this is probably all right since I am not yet certain how to think about SANEP and I am certain that Median has significant problems).  And the result is….

Well the average of the big three is CSSD 29, ODS 21, Communists at 13, TOP09 and VV at 11 and KDU-CSL just under 5%.  But Factum’s poll puts CSSD at 26, ODS at 23 and KDU-CSL just over 5%.   As I’ll discuss in a moment, this makes a big difference.  But first a schadenfreude interlude.

I have been reporting for a very long time about the insufficiencies of Slovakia’s reporting on public opinion polls, particularly the tendency to treat each new poll as an utterly independent news item without any regard for previous polls by the same firm or contemporary polls by other firms.  As somebody who has frequently championed equality of status between Slovakia and the Czech Republic, I am happy to report the otherwise sad news that Czech reporters are just as limited as their Slovak counterparts. Dnes reports “Left has lost its majority, ODS strengthened” but ODS improved by a mere 1.2% (well within any margin of error for such a poll, though of course the story did not mention any margin of error) and by my estimation of seats, the left has not had a majority in the Factum poll since February, so it’s only in comparison to other polls that the left lost ground.  But of course that’s not the right comparison to make. To be fair a better Dnes article published twelve hours later interviews the directors of the three major firms and uses their responses to compare the major polls, how they ask questions and why they differ.  It also does a good job of looking at the consequences of the elections.  But this is not an excuse, I think, for bad reporting of the results on the fly.  It does not take a conversation with Kunstat, Hartl and Herzmann to have a sense of why polls differ or why an article should not report on more recent polls as if they are more accurate polls.

The mid-range parties are actually quite consistent in the polls, with KSCM around 13%, occupying an incredibly small range from 13.0% to 13.5%, while for the other parties the range is a bit wider: VV is around 11%, ranging from 10.2% to 12.6%, and TOP is around 12% with a wider range, from 10.4% to 14%.   But the more important differences are at the top and bottom of the party scale.

At the top, CSSD produces two quite different sets of numbers–CVVM and STEM put it around 31% while Factum puts it at 26%–while ODS produces an equally large but more evenly distributed range of responses: Factum puts it a 23%, STEM at 21% and CVVM at 19%.  In percentage terms these differences are not much bigger than those for VV or TOP, but in actual terms these differences are large enough to be crucial for determining the composition of the next government.  At the bottom of the spectrum there is a small difference in the results for KDU-CSL–3.5 in CVVM, 4.5 in STEM and 5.5 in Factum–but a difference with extremely significant results.  Not only does this difference of 2 percentage points represent about 50% of KDU’s average result, but it also means the difference between life and death for the party and perhaps for the coalition.

Given the significance of these two sets of numbers–they Are responsible for the difference between the “Left has majority” and “Left lost majority” headlines–it is time to do what the Czech daily press simply has not done (if any magazines or blogs have done it, I would like very much to hear about them), which is to examine the underlying math.  To do this is more complicated than I would like.

Ebb and Flow of Voters, Czech Republic, 2006-2010. Click here for larger image.

Unlike Slovakia, where a single district makes calculation of seats from votes a simple exercise (which Markiza still managed to get wrong in 2006), the Czech Republic’s combination of many, differently sized districts and parties with varied regional strengths makes a quick estimation impossible.  The best data, of course, would be a fairly significant sample size within each region, but since I don’t have that (and neither do most pollsters) or even a too-small sample size in each region, I am forced to rely on the large but dated data source of the last election.  If parties’ regional strengths are consistent over time (and Kostolecky’s work suggests that they are), then we can guess what overall numbers mean for particular regions and calculate seat results on that basis.  Of course we don’t have historical data for new parties and so I have made a guess that VV will have the same regional strengths and weaknesses as the Czech Greens in 2006 and that TOP09’s regional distribution will be an equal mix of ODS and KDU-CSL.  Those aren’t great guesses but they do at least correspond to the ebb and flow charts a recent Dnes article (see right).  I have no idea if this will work.  We will see in a few days when I can plug in the electoral numbers and see if the 2006 regional distributions predicted those of 2010.

That done,  we can then test various other assumptions, namely the relative performance of CSSD and ODS and whether KDU-CSL makes it over the threshold.  The outcome is not unexpected but it is useful to take a look at the data which I present here in two formats:  a color table and (because I can and have always wanted to) in a piece of (hard to read and pointlessly flashy) topography.

The simple take on this is that if KDU-CSL and ODS do well, there’s a strong possibility of a right wing government with a slight majority; if they do not do well, then they won’t be able to form a government and we’ll be in some odd realm of CSSD-led government where they key will be whether KSCM provides the (silent) supporting votes or one or more of the new parties fills that role.

More interesting are the other combinations: ODS does well but not KDU; KDU does well but not ODS.  In the first case, it would appear that KDU in parliament is equal to a three point swing between CSSD and ODS.  In other words, KDU brings as many seats as would a shift in the CSSD:ODS ratio from 29:21 to 27.5:23.5 (from a 7 point gap to a 4 point gap, which is about the same as the difference between Factum and STEM).  As the experts relate in the aforementioned Dnes article, if KDU falls short, then a majority right wing government will require ODS to outperform all but the most favorable polls vis-a-vis CSSD and for TOP09 and VV to maintain their current levels.  If KDU succeeds, then a narrow majority government becomes possible even with the ODS-negative results offered by STEM and CVVM.

Perhaps most remarkable result here is the renewed chance of deadlock of both CSSD and KDU do well: the amber “plain of indecision” on the graph above.  It is remarkable that in the middle of the Czech Republic’s greatest period of volatility since 1992, one marked by the emergence of two new parties and the probable death of at least one other, the outcome in the middle of the possibility graphs is yet another 50-50 split, yet more deadlock.

Czech Dashboard News: New parties and the big picture

I will deal with the actual poll results in a few future posts, but I want build on the introduction of the Czech dashboard by talking about broader trends and in particular by assessing the magnitude of “new party eruptions,” the dominant feature of the current Czech campaign.

In my own recent study of populism and new parties, the Czech Republic has become interesting to me for two reasons: first because it is a “dog that didn’t bark”–its “new party cycle” remained confined to a small segment of the political spectrum for over a decade; and second because (as in Hungary, which just saw its highest degree of new party vote since the fall of communism) the Czech “dog” has begun to scratch at the door and looks set to start yapping.

It is useful to start with a graph of the overall picture of party preferences in Czech Republic in the last eight years (a graph presented in dynamic and updated form on the dashboard)

Key: █ ODS █ CSSD █ SZ █ KDU-CSL █ KSCM █ VV █ TOP09 █ SPO █ US █ DS █ Suverenita

Several features stand out. First is the relative stability of the three largest parties. The two larger parties, the orange CSSD and the dark blue ODS swapped positions twice during this period but (with the exception of two dark years for CSSD under Spidla and Gross in the early 2002, remained in competition for the top spot well ahead of the others. The red line which denotes the Communist Party stays remarkably stable between 12% and 20%, almost unchanged from month to month for the last four years. Below them the lighter blue KDU-CSL remained in stable fourth place (usually) but showed a slightly declining trend. Together, these four parties have formed the core of the Czech party system from 1992 until the present. Thus far stability.

The second interesting feature is nearer the bottom of the graph, where parties are born and die. The Czech Republic has regularly seen activity in this zone but it has usually been of a particular type, usually a fifth party with market liberal and cultural libertarian positions.  These parties kept the zone filled because they usually exhibited a limited lifespan: ODA lasted from 1992 until 1998, US from 1998 until 2006, SZ from 2006 until (and perhaps beyond) the present. (In the mid-1990’s the Czech system also included a sixth party, the anti-Roma Republicans, but their demise did not lead to a substantial replacement except for the vocal but small DS and NS). The center-right parties account for a considerable degree of the variability of the system shown above, and the combination of stability among the main four parties and the failure of other new parties to emerge kept the “extra-system” volatility low.

This seems to be changing.  The graph below shows the a smoothed line for the combined share of preferences for the top 1,2,3 and 4 parties. Between the early 2000’s and mid-2009 this remained stable, within around 5 points of 90%. But in the last year something new has emerged.

The stability of the Czech system now faces significant changes, and there are good arguments to be made that these are fundamental changes rather than merely cosmetic ones.

First, as the graph shows, the position of the top four parties have dropped considerably to the point that the share obtained by the top party is now smaller than the share obtained by parties outside the top four. Despite similarly high past levels of dissatisfaction with the major parties, this same trend did not emerge before the 2002 or 2006 elections.

Second, the opinion shifts are poised to have a significant shift on the actual composition of the Czech party system. In the past four elections the Czech system has worked like clockwork: the four stable parties gained seats in parliament and the fifth faced a birth-death cycle every two elections (ODA elected in 1992 and 1996, dead in 1998; US elected in 1998 and 2002, dead in 2006) but the cycle has intensified and spread. According to the most recent poll results (available in the Dashboard) SZ does not look likely to follow ODA and US by retaining seats in parliament. Furthermore, there is a not insignificant chance (though also no guarantee) that 2010 will exclude two parliamentary parties–not only SZ but also KDU-CSL is at significant risk–and the birth of two others–both TOP09 and Veci Verejne (VV).

The third shift, a bit smaller, is paradoxically signified by the stability of the Communist Party. In past election campaigns, voters on the left have signaled dissatisfaction with the Social Democrats by opting for the Communists. This year, despite significant dissatisfaction and declining CSSD preferences, the Communists have seen no gains at all. Instead, voters from CSSD have left for Zeman’s SPO and probably (though I don’t have the data) for VV. It is unlikely that SPO will be elected to parliament (its rise has stalled according to the most recent polls), but its ability to attract a a measurable share of the vote suggests that the Communists are no longer the only (or indeed the main) reservoir for the newly dissatisfied (or that if they are, SPO is attracting some of those dissatisfied in turn with KSCM).

The graph below offers a very loose, schematic hypothesis about the ebb and flow of voters within the Czech system. It suggests that the current situation is characterized by the potential for new alternatives on the left and by the emergence of alternatives on the right that draw not only from ODS–there has always been a significant share of voters that agreed with ODS’s positions but did not like the party itself–but also from KDU-CSL.

This would be a significant change even if TOP09 were simply a replacement for KDU-CSL and VV simply replaced the Czech Greens, but we are not talking one-for-one replacement here. KDU-CSL has had a substantial membership base and a strong internal organization and a fairly broad intra-party elite; SZ has seen significant internal change but with fairly significant internal competition. By contrast both TOP09 and VV seem to be largely top-down creations without strong membership bases or independent elites outside the top figures. In our research on Slovakia, Marek Rybar and I have found a strong correlation between the date of party establishment one one hand and the degree of party organization and intra-party democracy on the other. Lack of organization in turn weakens the ability of parties to survive the ordinary ups and downs of party fortunes; centralization makes it difficult for parties to cope with the weaknesses of individual leaders (ODS and CSSD have shown a strong ability to recover from crises by changing leaders; in leader-driven projects, voters and intra-party rivals are more likely to turn elsewhere, usually to other new parties. If Slovakia (or almost any other country in the region) is any guide, new parties are shorter lived. Replacement of KDU-CSL by TOP09, therefore, strongly implies the subsequent replacement of TOP09 by some other party. The Czech Republic could therefore come to resemble its neighbors in the region with a churn of new parties that extends beyond the narrow realm of volatility in the Czech center-right.  As Czech dogs say, “haf haf.”

Introducing the CZECH Dashboard

There’s a new button on this blog that leads to a new page with graphs of all major Czech political parties in all major polls.  This took longer than I had hoped, but I introduce it today with delight because it allows me to return to something I have always loved.

I started my life in Eastern Europe in Bohemia (in Plzen) and the Czech Republic was central to my dissertation and book research.  My interest waned a bit in the early 2000’s, however, as the country’s politics seemed to be settling into a rather dull alternation between left and right governments.  But the emergence of the Greens in 2006 sparked my curiosity and the developments in the last several years have brought me back to the Czech Republic with great interest.  This is not necessarily good news for the Czech Republic: “May you live in interesting times” is not really a Chinese curse, but there should still be some sort of travel advisory for countries frequented by political scientists.

So what is new about the Czech dashboard.  Those who read this blog’s posts on Slovakia may already have seen the Slovakia dashboard.  The Czech version is both more and less functional.  Here’s what you get:

First, the long term view showing the development of party preferences over the last eight years:

The second feature of the dashboard is a shorter term view for each party showing the level and trend of each public opinion poll as well as an overall monthly average.  The use of multiple polls is a far better approach than approaching each poll tabula rasa and drawing conclusions that change dramatically from day to day.  Several sites including Lidove Noviny and MFDnes and the idiosyncratic but excellent Volebni Preference have begun to aggregate surveys, but they do only for individual polls or, at best, trends found by individual polling firms over time.  The following graph, for example, shows development of preferences for the last 18 months for ODS for all major firms.

This dashboard is not the final word–it lacks an estimate of the overall number of seats (more complicated in the multiple-district Czech Republic than in single-district Slovakia) and a more contextual analysis.  The first of these tasks will have to wait until the coming election provides me with a baseline.  The second is much easier and in coming days I will provide much more detailed analysis of Czech public opinion dynamics and, with a bit of luck, more extensive election-eve coverage.

One last note: unfortunately these graphs don’t work on older versions of Internet Explorer (and for all I know, new ones too).  I hate it when websites say “best viewed with…” but in this case there simply is no analog that I can use for these graphs that works with IE.

Dashboard News: May FOCUS confirms April Trend, shows SNS at March levels

FOCUS has put out new numbers for early May (though we still only have results for the bigger parties since they appear now to have an agreement with TA3 that embargoes the full press release until later).  I do not have time to do a full post here but I’ve posted the graphs on the dashboard.  The results are not particularly surprising and we cannot say much until we see the other parties, but there are a few points worth mentioning:

  • First, with one exception these results are highly consistent with last month and they are generally consistent with the previous months of FOCUS polls, both in terms of levels and trends.  We do not yet know how these will translate into final results (their validity for predicting the outcome is uncertain) but they seem to be measuring the same thing consistently over time (their reliability appears to be high).
  • The one exception I mention above is SNS which leapt up by 2.3 points in the April poll and has now dropped by 2.5 to 6.1, the second lowest result for the party in a FOCUS poll since 2004.  I had a feeling that the April number was much too high, though the Fidesz victory in Hungary and the smaller rises in other polls offered reasons for thinking there could also be some substance to the increase.  Just as journalists attributed the rise to the Hungarian election, they are now attributing the fall to the SNS billboard scandal.  My impression is that neither of these had a major effect and that much, though not all, of the shift was an artifact of the poll itself.  In any case, this newest result is far closer to the overall trend and puts SNS quite close to the deadly 5% line.  I’m still inclined to think they will cross it, but I have less reason to believe that today than I did yesterday.
  • Otherwise, the trends continue:
    • Smer drops a point a month, a loss it can afford in electoral terms but perhaps not in terms of government formation
    • HZDS drops a third of point a month, a loss it cannot afford. The HZDS score for this month is the lowest in almost a year and since November 2009 the party has yet to see a month that did not bring stasis or decline.  Of course HZDS has recovered in the past, but this is its absolute last chance.  If HZDS cannot make it over the threshold in a month’s time, it is dead.  (Even if it does, I suspect it will be dead as an electoral organization by winter of this year)
    • SDKU stays remarkably stable around 14
    • SaS rises yet again, probably well above its final results but enough (as Pavol Haulik noted this week in HN) to bring it safely into parliament.   Where these voters are coming from is a question to me.  Some are coming from outside last election’s voting pool (especially new voters, I suspect) and some from the SDKU/KDH field (see below) but it does seem that some are coming from Smer, which seems improbable given the two parties’ economic positions but is not as strange as it might seem to the extent that some Smer support has always come from those who sought “clean” and “new.”
    • KDH falls slightly.  With SDKU staying stable, there does seem to be a slight reciprocal relationship between KDH and SaS.  This is not because the core voting bases are interchangeable–they are in fact quite different–but I think because KDH has often gained as the second choice of voters who shared SDKU’s positions but did not like SDKU.  Those voters now have another home in SaS.
    • The Hungarian parties continue to duel around 5.5% each.  In FOCUS polls the parties have varied, with Most-Hid overtaking SMK-MKP in March, then falling back, and then recovering to within .3.  Had one or the other of the Hungarian parties shown a commanding lead, I think we would have seen the other die or try to merge.  As it is they neither party (and neither party’s voters) has any motive to do so.  This is a high-risk game:  if it works, there will be more Hungarian representation in Slovakia’s parliament than ever before (and very probably in government as well); if it doesn’t, the representation will be at its lowest level since the early 1990’s.

There will be more to say on this when we see the full FOCUS numbers later this week.

UPDATE:  The full FOCUS numbers are in and do not show much new.  FOCUS is the only firm to look closely at smaller parties but these do not get much attention from voters: the KSS and the renewed SDL together and even the residual ZRS attract only 3%, less than KSS regularly attracted only a year ago, suggesting that the Smer is losing its support not to other “left” parties but to somewhere else.  It is also worth noting that despite considerable attention, and thought that it might compete with SNS, the radical anti-Roma party Our Slovakia (NS) attracts only 0.4%.  (Of course people may be unwilling to admit it but I tend to doubt that NS will do much better than this.)  It is also interesting to note that among the splinters of HZDS, Mikus’s New Democracy (ND) attracts 0.7% while Urbani’s AZEN, again despite a rather prominent media profile, did not receive a single preference from among the 1000 people surveyed!