Election Maps 2016: Ferndale Edition, part 2

For a blog ostensibly dedicated to Central and Eastern Europe, I’ve been spending a lot of time here on local politics.  I hope my Central European friends won’t mind another (and the third that will inevitably follow the Presidential election, if that election campaign doesn’t eat its way through my brain by then).

So quick news on the Ferndale area voting results.


First, who voted: The answer, as usual, is the Woodward corridor, with highest turnout in the north.  Pleasant Ridge always does well in the turnout stakes but by my quick calculations this year its turnout was the highest of any community in the county (both of its precincts were in the top 10 in a county of over 500 precincts).  Ferndale, too, got one precinct into the top 20 (Northwest Ferndale’s precinct 1).  Lowest turnout within the city of Ferndale was, as usual, in the eastern precincts, and in the region overall the turnout was lowest in Oak Park’s 12th precinct.  The Charter Township of Royal Oak sometimes has low voter turnout but this summer’s spirited primary election campaign brought its turnout into line with central Ferndale and east Oak Park.

ferndale election maps 2016 August_Page_1

2016 August Turnout


This is a primary so we cannot look at head-to-head contests between candidates from different parties, but we can look at differences between turnouts of parties in their respective primaries.  This is sometimes quite misleading because differences in the competitiveness of some races can raise a party’s relative turnout.  In this case there were relatively few contested races on either side and nothing to skew the results.  Nor does this phenomenon affect our look at local precincts as I present them below:

ferndale election maps 2016 August_Page_4

2016 August Voting Partisanship

Again, there is little surprise.  There is no stronger Democratic bastion than the Charter Township of Royal Oak where only one—ONE—voter out of hundreds voted in the Republican Primary.  Eastern Oak Park is almost equally Democratic, and within the city of Ferndale it is again the south-central precincts of Ferndale that are the most Democratic (with the addition this time of the central precinct 8 which proved unusually Democratic this time).  But it’s always worth keeping in mind that the differences between these Democratic bastions and the least democratic precincts in a place like Ferndale is only about 10%-12% with even the least Democratic precinct still at 70%.


The millages both passed by significant margins: 72%:28% for the school millage and 65%:35% for the library millage.

For the schools this is a smaller margin than the 79%:21% in the 2015 Non-Homestead millage, (this was not a new tax and not one that affected homeowners, though not all voters knew that) but a bigger margin than the 69%:31% margin in the 2012 Bond millage (this had a large price-tag attached to it, though it was also seen by many as a renewal).   For the library, this is a slightly smaller margin than the 69%:31% in the 2007 millage.  The regional patterns tend to endure in both, despite shifts in margin.

The library pattern shows higher opposition in the east and strongest support in the center (right around the library) and in the west, but it is noteworthy that in the 9 years between the first vote and the second one, the regional differences dropped sharply: extremes of 97% and 44% (a 53 point gap) in 2007 fell to 72% and 58% (a 14 point gap).

ferndale election maps 2016 August_Page_3

2016 Library Millage

library millage results map 2007_Page_1

2007 Library millage

The schools’ regional pattern more or less echoes that of the library, though the addition of communities to the north and west (and the absence of precincts in the east) changes the dynamics.  Within Ferndale the northern precincts on both sides of Woodward have been the most skeptical in all three of the most recent millages (and the pattern goes further back).  Pleasant Ridge has been consistently the most supportive of school millages and Oak Park has been reasonably supportive as well, on one occasion slightly less than in southern Ferndale and on two occasions (including yesterday) slight more.  Royal Oak Township has bounced a bit more strongly between high and low levels of support, but the precinct’s highly variable levels of turnout (Township elections run on different cycles than other forms of local government) could explain the shifts.


ferndale election maps 2016 August_Page_2

2016 School Sinking Fund Millage Results


ferndale school board maps with updated turnout 2012

2012 Schools Bond Millage

ferndale election maps 2015 local millage

2015 Schools Non-Homestead Millage

Overall, we see communities that are fairly stable in their preferences, and communities that, unless given a strong reason to think otherwise, tend to support millages for public goods.  I am proud to live in that kind of community.

Political Parties and Flying Cars (a brief and mostly irrelevant interlude)

One extremely belated note on Slovakia’s elections.  I was delighted in 2015 when my colleague and co-author Tim Haughton snapped this picture of a pre-pre-pre-election poster for the Slovak Civic Coalition SK-OK (Slovakia OK and also in acronym terms “JU-MP” or “LE-AP”):


Aside from the clever name pun, the interesting color scheme, the solid font, I was surprised to see the triumph of the hipster iconography in Slovakia’s politics: tablets, bikes, hats, beards, big round glasses.  (I shouldn’t be surprised in the current international media environment that there is an almost universal visual dictionary of hip, but it saddens me slightly to find it everywhere without much local or regional variation).  The most fascinating touch of all, however, is the flying car.  For years I’ve been a constant follower of Matt Novak’s Paleofuture blog (http://paleofuture.gizmodo.com/) and I’ve appreciated his sardonic take on each announcement that flying cars were just around the corner.  But I did not expect his blog to intersect so directly with my own.


In retrospect, I probably should not have been surprised.  The flying car has the same “I’m in on the joke” feel as the handlebar mustache and the panama hat.  It captures the “what’s old is new again, only now with more irony” aesthetic, and maybe even goes one further, since it refers to something that is not only very much “back then” but was then regarded as something to be expected around now, so there’s a kind of triple reflection: an unfulfilled present looking back with fondness at the sweet naïveté of somebody looking forward to something that would never come.  So flying cars are hip and can be a signal to voters that parties are hip to their hipness.  (As Novak points out, John Kasich in the US has also used the theme, though without a lot of conscious thought: http://paleofuture.gizmodo.com/john-kasich-is-the-only-candidate-bold-enough-to-promis-1764651805)

The other reason I should probably not be surprised to see this overlap is that one of the most visible contenders in the “flying car that nobody actually seems to want or need” race is the Slovak firm Aeromobil (http://www.aeromobil.com/) which has been testing an impressive looking product (pictured here in front of that other symbol of a mostly lost future, Mochovice nuclear power plant):



SKOK’s flying car image was always a bit of a risk.  AeroMobil 3.0 crashed on a test flight in May of 2015 (though thanks to the car parachute, the inventor surivived to continue his efforts).  SKOK, the party, had no parachute.  Despite a few polls that showed it at least potentially viable (MVK consistently put it around 3%, though other polling firms showed it closer to 1%), the party did not even manage to jump the one percent threshold, in the 2016 election, it’s 22,000 votes accounting for only 0.84% of those voting.   I haven’t yet seen polls that would tell me for sure, but it may be that the hipster vote went not to the flying car but to the guy with the carefully knotted scarf and red glasses and the ever so slightly ironic (given his own family history) name “We Are Family” (Sme Rodnia): Boris Kollar (seen here either flashing the victory symbol or putting something in quotes”)kollar

And then the question is whether, having gotten off the ground, SME Rodina stays up (like Smer-SD and, more recently, SAS and OLaNO) or follows the trajectory of previous new parties ZRS, ANO, and soon-to-be former-new party SIET).




Election Maps: Ferndale Edition


I learn visually and so to learn about my own community, I graph how people vote.  Just a few quick thoughts here about what the 2016 presidential primary tell us about my part of southeastern Oakland county.


First, wealthier citizens vote.  I don’t have the census tract stats on income or education immediately at hand, but these green spaces correlate quite closely with the education-income corridor that intensifies as Woodward heads north.  This relationship is quite linear and self explanatory.ferndale election maps 2016 primaries_Page_1Partisanship shows different patterns but they are similarly strong:  Republicans in this area are concentrated in the north and east, but it is important (as we can see later) that these are different kinds of Republicans.  And even the highest level of concentration of Republicans in this district is still no more than 1/3.  Democrats concentrate in south-central Ferndale and then even more in the precincts to the West in Oak Park and Royal Oak Township.


ferndale election maps 2016 primaries_Page_2

Within the Democratic vote, the concentrated areas of Democrats in Ferndale are rather different from the concentrated areas of Democrats in Oak Park and Royal Oak Township.  Ferndale’s Democratic areas are also its Sanders Zones, with 2:1 Sanders voters.  The Clinton Zones are in the west, in Oak Park and Royal Oak Township with a nearly 3:1 advantage for Clinton.ferndale election maps 2016 primaries_Page_7ferndale election maps 2016 primaries_Page_4

The result is that even though Royal Oak Township and Oak Park are rich with Democratic voters, they are still among the poorest areas for Sanders, even worse than some of the not-that-Democratic areas in Ferndale’s north and east..ferndale election maps 2016 primaries_Page_3

On the Republican side, the battle lines are not quite as easy to draw, but I’ll start with a simple binary opposition between the candidates that the Republican Party establishment fear (Trump, and in a different way, Cruz) and those who have received more establishment endorsements and support (Rubio and Kasich).  The patterns here are not quite as clear, but what stands out is that the more heavily Republican areas within Ferndale and Pleasant Ridge are actually quite different:  As the map above shows, there are more Republicans than average in a semicircle arcing from the top center of the map (Pleasant Ridge) to the lower-right/southeast.  But this semicircle is intensely split between Pleasant Ridge, which voted Kasich/Rubio 2:1 over Trump/Cruz, to southeast Ferndale which voted for Trump/Cruz by precisely the same ratio.

ferndale election maps 2016 primaries_Page_8

In specific terms of support for Trump, we see his support concentrated in Ferndale’s northeast (with a share of Republican voters for Trump that is slightly above the statewide average) and also in Ferndale’s southwest i precinct 2.  But this latter phenomenon is at least in part a question of the precinct’s relatively small number of Republican votersferndale election maps 2016 primaries_Page_6

Looking at the map overall, we can see that the combination of high Republican support and high Trump support makes northeast Ferndale Trump’s core..  This is Sanders’ weakest precinct in Ferndale but not Clinton’s, so the battle there (if both get the nomination) will be one worth watching.

ferndale election maps 2016 primaries_Page_5

Source: http://results.enr.clarityelections.com/MI/Oakland/59377/163183/en/summary.html


Slovakia Election 2016 at halftime

Later than usual and weirder than usual, Slovakia’s election results are starting to take definite shape.  And what a shape.

First, I have to apologize to the Exit Poll team at FOCUS for doubting them.  The results they found were so far from the February polls that I simply couldn’t believe them.  And yet the results are not at the moment very far off.  The ranking is essentially the same and the degree of difference is so far not much different from in 2012.  So congratulations to FOCUS and shame on me for believing it (As Groucho Marx would say, “who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?”)


Slovakia Election 2016 Liveblogging

Trying to do a little bit of live blogging tonight (and also commenting here, albeit in Slovak, http://domov.sme.sk/c/20110328/osobnosti-o-volbach-nazivo.html)

Exit polls from FOCUS are surprising at a minimum.  I’m having a hard time knowing what to do with them.  I’ve got some methods for adjusting exit poll results but these don’t even look like the polls so I don’t know what to do with them.

We’ll now have a better idea once the first 200 or so precincts submit votes.  Until then, we’re playing the same game as sports commentators, only for politics:




Political Parties in Eastern Europe, a Special Section of East European Politics and Societies

For those interested in political parties, politics in Europe and broader themes of democratic development I’m happy to announce the publication of: http://eep.sagepub.com/content/29/1?etoc

eepsEast European Politics and Societies Special Section: Political Parties in Eastern Europe


Kevin Deegan-Krause
Political Parties in Eastern Europe


Stephen Whitefield and Robert Rohrschneider
The Salience of European Integration to Party Competition

East European Politics & SocietiesFebruary 2015 29: 1239, first published on February 6, 2015 doi:10.1177/0888325414567128

Jan Rovny
Party Competition Structure in Eastern Europe: Aggregate Uniformity versus Idiosyncratic Diversity?

East European Politics & SocietiesFebruary 2015 29: 4060, first published on February 9, 2015 doi:10.1177/0888325414567535

Tim Haughton and Kevin Deegan-Krause
Hurricane Season: Systems of Instability in Central and East European Party Politics

East European Politics & SocietiesFebruary 2015 29: 6180, first published on February 6, 2015 doi:10.1177/0888325414566072


Herbert Kitschelt
Analyzing the Dynamics of Post-Communist Party Systems: Some “Final Thoughts” on the EEPS Special Section

East European Politics & SocietiesFebruary 2015 29: 8191, first published on January 22, 2015 doi:10.1177/0888325414567327


All Tomorrow’s Parties?
The Future (and Past) of Politics in Eastern Europe
Stephen Whitefield, Jan Rovny, Tim Haughton, and Kevin Deegan-Krause

Slovakia Voter’s Guide, Part II

2010 Slovakia Voter’s Guide.

Four years ago in preparation for the 2010 elections, I came up with an (intentionally) simplified voter’s guide for Slovakia, designed as a flowchart.  No elections are coming up (unless Fico is serious about calling new elections, which I doubt but can’t rule out) but Ben Stanley did such an amazing job with a guide for Poland’s upcoming election in the Why We Study Eastern Europe facebook page) that I wanted to try again.

Poland Voter's Guide, Ben Stanley 2014

Poland Voter’s Guide, Ben Stanley 2014

It has been only four years but circumstances are already different.  One party from the 2010 chart is formally gone–HZDS–and several others are in significant decline–SDKU, SaS–and we are seeing an amazing proliferation of entrants (a sort of “Hundred Flowers” campaign, only for parties).  The new chart highlights that newness in a way that is perhaps more biting than I intended, but /is/ remarkable to see one part of the political landscape of any country so divided.  Slovakia’s “right” (by which I mean non-nationalist, non-Hungarian, non-Fico parties) is split up among more parties than the entire Swedish parliament and it has the same adjusted party system size (over 5.0 according to the Taagipera and Laakso formula), and more seem to be popping up every week.

This must be a prelude to some sort of consolidation but if it doesn’t happen /before/ the election, then Slovakia’s right will (again) give away its chance to triumph over Robert Fico.  Even if the right doesn’t lose its necessary margin to small parties, it will face problems: according to FOCUS’s most recent poll, the right and Hungarians could scrape together a majority only if all five elected parties joined together.  The last so-called “zlepenec” coalition had only four (with a fifth one inside, to be sure) and lasted less than two years..  No wonder that some say KDH is thinking seriously about a coalition with Fico.  Or that new parties keep popping up to try to unify the right under /their/ banner.  Alas, the result is usually simply more fragmentation (see xkcd.com: http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/standards.png).

So with all that buildup, here’s the chart.  And here it is in PDF: slovakia voting flowchart 2014 portrait

slovakia voting flowchart 2014 portrait_sm


New Publication: Party Law and Regulation in Slovakia

EPP coverQuick note, for those who care, that I’ve got a new article coming out with Fernando Casal Bertoa and Peter Učeň, “Limits of regulation: party law and finance in Slovakia 1990–2012” in East European Politics, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/21599165.2014.933412 (or just email/message me and ask for a copy). This article is part of a much bigger project on party regulation spearheaded by Ingrid van Biezen (and coordinated in part by my friend and co-author Fernando Casal Bertoa).  See: http://www.partylaw.leidenuniv.nl/news


East European Politics, Volume 30, Issue 3, September 2014 is now available online on Taylor & Francis Online.

Special Issue: Party Regulation and Party Politics in Post-communist Europe

This new issue contains the following articles:

Party regulation and party politics in post-communist Europe
Fernando Casal Bértoa & Ingrid van Biezen
Pages: 295-314
DOI: 10.1080/21599165.2014.938738

Party regulation and the conditioning of small political parties: evidence from Bulgaria
Ekaterina R. Rashkova & Maria Spirova
Pages: 315-329
DOI: 10.1080/21599165.2014.933413

Regulating Polish politics: “cartel” parties in a non-collusive party system
Fernando Casal Bértoa & Marcin Walecki
Pages: 330-350
DOI: 10.1080/21599165.2014.933415

Limits of regulation: party law and finance in Slovakia 1990–2012
Fernando Casal Bértoa, Kevin Deegan-Krause & Peter Ucen
Pages: 351-371
DOI: 10.1080/21599165.2014.933412

When permissiveness constrains: money, regulation and the development of party politics in the Czech Republic (1989–2012)
Tim Haughton
Pages: 372-388
DOI: 10.1080/21599165.2014.933414

Engineering party competition in a new democracy: post-communist party regulation in Romania
Marina Popescu & Sorina Soare
Pages: 389-411
DOI: 10.1080/21599165.2014.933416

From party cartel to one-party dominance. The case of institutional failure
Gabriella Ilonszki & Réka Várnagy
Pages: 412-427
DOI: 10.1080/21599165.2014.938739


Slovakia’s Presidential Election: What the numbers say.

I thought there was not much to say about the results of the recent presidential elections in Slovakia, but I after writing the 2000 words below, I seem to have been wrong (or I have written a lot of words about nothing. Having taken a closer look at the numbers, I see in them both a confirmation of conventional wisdom—the strength of the right-wing vote, the weakness on the left-wing vote—along with often overlooked considerations about the role of political supply in addition to political demand and the pivotal role of new faces. 

The Big Picture:
Fico gets some voters back, but Kiska takes the center right

After the first round, I made the (rather obvious) argument that this election would be decided by 1) the degree to which Fico the degree to which he could mobilize his own voters and simultaneously 2) could delegitimize Kiska and thereby pry center-right voters away from him, and that some combination of both would be necessary.  The results of the second round suggest that his efforts fell short on both counts, but especially on the second.  On the first front, Fico managed in the second round to increase his support in areas where he was already popular, suggesting that he did manage to increase turnout among his own supporters by a significant, but even among these he did not reach the mobilization levels he obtained in the (admittedly unusually pro-Smer) 2012 parliamentary election. On the second front, Fico’s efforts appear to have failed completely: evidence suggests that in the second round Kiska won nearly all of the votes of the supporters of other center-right parties in addition to his own (relatively fewer) first round voters.   In a way that is not surprising since voters of the Center Right are unlikely to listen to critiques coming from the mouth of Fico.

Several tables and charts provide an effective overview of the election.  These are, in a way, massively oversimplified, suggesting, among other things, an undifferentiated spectrum within the center right, when in fact it ranges from strong Catholics to strong agnostics, from doctrinaire free-marketeers to those who are willing to accept a social market hybrid, and from ethnic Hungarians (whom I classify under Center Right for convenience) to ethnic Slovaks with a strong national sense.  It also suggests there is /any/ connection between the ‘other’ presidential candidates from the Communist Party with those of more nationally-oriented forces, with a series of rather idiosyncratic efforts).  In the case of the Center Right, there are enough similarities and historical ties of similarity that the comparison is warranted; in the case of the “others”, the number of such voters is so small as to not have great impact on the overall outcome.

Table 1. Votes and percentages for candidates in the first and second rounds of Slovakia’s 2014 presidential election
Raw votes (rounded to the nearest 1,000)
2nd round vote compared to first round vote
Round Change, 2nd-1st rounds
1st 2nd Narrow (candidate only) Wide (candidate and associated)
Kiska            456,000          1,307,000 +851,000 -15,000
Right            866,000  –  –
Fico            532,000            894,000  +362,000 +316000
Other              46,000
2nd round vote compared to first round vote
Round Change, 2nd-1st rounds
1st 2nd Narrow (candidate only) Wide (candidate and associated)
Kiska 24% 59% 35% -10%
Right 46%  –  –
Fico 28% 41% 13% 10%
Other 2%

Source for all tables and charts: http://prezident2014.statistics.sk/Prezident-dv/download-sk.html, and http://volby.statistics.sk/nrsr/nrsr2012/menu/indexd.jsp@lang=sk.htm

What does Table 1 show us?  Assuming my a priori logic about the existence of a programmatically coherent bloc of Center Right voters (taken as a bloc the largest single group), it appears that the bloc shifted en masse to Kiska, and gave him his second round victory.  Surveys (http://www.sme.sk/c/7137934/kto-su-volici-fica-kisku-a-prochazku-volebne-grafy.html) suggest that Kiska was a viable option for nearly all voters of the Center Right whereas Fico was not, and the number of voters gained by Kiska nicely matches the number of those who supported losing Center Right candidates (differing by a mere 15,000).  Since we do not know who these voters are, however, such evidence is purely circumstantial unless we go deeper.   What we discover is that while appearances may sometimes be deceiving, in this case they are not.

A Collage of Small Pictures:
Little pieces tell the same story

The second table shows a new set of patterns based on correlations between vote share among candidates at the municipal level.  These compare patterns of performance of Kiska and the Right, Fico and the other candidates and do so across the first and second rounds.

Table 2. Correlations between municipal-level votes in various categories
in the first and second rounds of Slovakia’s 2014 presidential election.

Relationship between candidate vote and potentially associated candidates in the first round:

  • No relationship between the Kiska vote and the Right vote
  • No relationship between the Kiska vote and the “Other” vote

Relationship between the combined vote of the candidate and associated candidates in the first round and the votes for the candidate himself in the second round

  • A very strong relationship (.94) between voting for Kiska and the right in the first round and Kiska alone in the second round.
  • An identically strong relationship (.94) between voting for Fico and the “other” candidates in the first round and Fico alone in the second round.

Relationship between candidate vote in the first and second rounds

  • Moderate relationship for Kiska (.41) suggesting that something major affected his geographical appeal (and since his vote total rose, it suggests that it is related to the new voters)
  • Strong relationship for Fico (.94) suggesting that his vote increased across the board without changing geographical patterns

Relationship between candidate vote and gain in the second round

  • No relationship for Kiska (.04)  suggesting that new votes came from areas outside the candidate’s initial base
  • Moderate relationship for Fico (.34) suggesting that the 2nd round efforts tended (at least more than in the case of Kiska) to mobilize voters from the candidate’s base.

Relationship between “related vote” in first round and candidate gain in second round

  • Extremely high for Kiska (.92) suggesting that most new voters came from the base of the right candidates (if not the same exact voters)
  • Moderate for Fico (.30) suggesting that some new voters may have come from the “other” candidates but that these were drowned out by those coming from the candidate’s base.

So this gives quite direct evidence for what I already strongly suspected (and what other pollsters knew long before I did, http://spectator.sme.sk/articles/view/53464/2/ficos_voters_boosted_turnout.html): that Fico’s new voters in the second round came from newly remobilized supporters in his existing regional support bases while Kiska’s new votes came as a transfer of the already mobilized first round center right voters  (Of course not all of Kiska’s vote came from previous center-right voters: some of those no doubt stayed home and some new voters no doubt turned out, but the overall pattern is remarkably strong and so they appear to have canceled each other out.)

A few graphs can help make this rather concrete (I’ve decided to put the labels in even though they are mostly illegible where the cases bunch up.  It’s ugly but it allows for a look at some of the outliers, mainly the Hungarian cases, but explaining those is a job for another day).

Figure 1. Kiska first round and second round. Vertical cluster suggests that improvements were largely independent of first round performance

Figure 1. Kiska first round and second round. Vertical cluster suggests that improvements were largely independent of first round performance

Figure 2. Center right first round and Kiska second round. Diagonal pattern suggests that Kiska's second round was closely related to first round performance of the center right.

Figure 2. Center right first round and Kiska second round. Diagonal pattern suggests that Kiska’s second round was closely related to first round performance of the center right.

Figure 3. Fico results first round and Fico gain second round.  Diagonal pattern suggests that Fico's second round performance was closely related to his first round performance.

Figure 3. Fico results first round and Fico gain second round.  Diagonal pattern suggests that Fico’s second round performance was closely related to his first round performance.

Figure 4. "Other" first round and Fico gain in second round. Vertical cluster suggests that improvements were largely independent of gains from "Other" candidates.

Figure 4. “Other” first round and Fico gain in second round. Vertical cluster suggests that improvements were largely independent of gains from “Other” candidates.

These snapshots of “obvod” (subdistrict) level voting show a strong correlation between right candidate support in round 1 and Kiska gains in round 2, but they do not show much of a relationship between Kiska’s own results in round 1 and 2 (more of a vertical distribution).  The opposite pattern is apparent for Fico with a very slight contribution from “other” candidates and a strong correlation between his round 1 and 2 results.  Fico drew second round voters where he had already drawn first round voters, but he drew more of them.

A Moving Picture:
Old patterns filtered by new choices

The patterns here draw attention to the ways that this election fits into the broader sweep of Slovakia’s political history.  Looking at the ways in which Fico’s second-round presidential vote followed first round patterns tells us something about the stability of his support (and the lack of influx from other sources).  Looking at the relationship between candidates’ 2014 performance and that of their respective parties in 2012 helps explain why the election was so (unexpectedly) lopsided.  As the graph below shows, the Fico’s results in 2014 almost perfectly followed his party’s results in 2012, but they were lower, much lower.

Table 5. Fico vote share in first and second rounds compared to Smer vote share in 2012. Note that in most obvods even Fico's second round performance falls short of the diagonal line that indicates parity with 2012.

Table 5. Fico vote share in first and second rounds compared to Smer vote share in 2012. Note that in most obvods even Fico’s second round performance falls short of the diagonal line that indicates parity with 2012.

In the first round, Fico received an average of fewer 11,000 votes per sub-region.  In the second round that gap dropped but Fico still turned out 5,000 fewer voters per sub-region than his party had in 2012.  Of course some drop is natural since presidential elections usually have lower turnout levels than parliamentary elections in Slovakia, but it only works if your opponents also have lower turnout levels than in the past.  As the third table shows, the 2014 vote did not work that way.

Table 3. Presidential candidates’ 2014 vote totals as a share of the vote totals of their respective parties in 2012
2014 vote as a share of 2012 vote
First Second
Fico 47% 79%
Right 84%
Kiska 127%

After turning out fewer than half of his 2012 voters in the first round, Fico managed to increase that in the second round to nearly 80% of his 2012 performance, but—and this may be the single most interesting statistical result of the election—the six candidates of the center right had together already achieved a mobilization level above 80% in the first round, not including votes that went to Kiska.  In fact, the candidates from center-right parties attracted nearly as many votes in the first round as Fico did in his much improved performance in the second round.  And when the center-right voters shifted joined with the already significant share of voters who had already opted for Kiska, Fico did not have a chance.

Even without Kiska in the race, Fico faced big challenges—bigger than I saw at the time.  In running for president, Fico needed to outperform his own party’s parliamentary support level by something over 5% (since Smer had only managed 44.4% in the previous election), and the degree of necessary outperformance increased with every drop in Smer’s support.  By early 2014, the Smer’s preference levels had dropped to the high 30%’s , requiring Fico to outperform his party by at least 12 percentage points.  In the second round, Fico probably did outperform his party, but if we use the latest FOCUS polling numbers (http://www.focus-research.sk/files/168_Preferencie%20politickych%20stran_jan-feb_2014.pdf) that outperformance was probably in the neighborhood of 3% rather than 12%.

Of course elections are not about the level of preference alone but about comparative preferences.  The right seems to have managed its high first-round mobilization not through skillful campaigning or inspiring candidates but through a wide degree of choice (each slightly different flavor bringing out a slightly different group of voters) and a common enemy (the prospect of Fico and his party occupying every major political institution).  Had a center-right candidate gotten into the second, however, Smer could have benefitted from some of the same logic in the second round: the right could no longer provide such a high degree of choice and Smer voters would also have had a common enemy (the prospect of, say, Prochazka, occupying the presidency).  This might have increased the Smer turnout above 80% and also limited the gains the center right could make in the second round, and at least produced a close election.

Instead, it would appear, the presence of Kiska in the second round gave the center right the best of both worlds: it preserved the first round center-right mobilization by offering a (marginally) acceptable candidate who could promise to stop Fico, and who could also attract voters for whom center right candidates were also anathema.  At the same time, Kiska presented Smer with significant problems since, for all the claims about scientology, usury and inexperience, he was apparently not frightening enough to push Smer voters and sympathizers to the polls.

Previews of Coming Attractors?
What this election might tell us about the next one(s)

Let me finish with some half-baked speculation that deserves to be looked at with a very critical eye.  For all its infighting and its poor choices—of which there are many examples—Slovakia’s center right has managed to remain a player because it has managed to retain the allegiance of the Hungarian minority and has managed to accommodate the emergence of multiple, sequential new players (SOP, ANO, SaS, OLaNO, and now Kiska) who provide outlets for dissatisfied voters whereas with the exception of the period between about 1999 and 2003, the opposite side of the political spectrum has been dominated by a single party that tries (successfully in the case of Smer, ultimately less successfully in the case of HZDS) to present itself as an unstoppable force and to prevent the emergence of rival players.  The result on the right has been a surprising degree of success (1998, 2002, 2010, now Kiska in 2014) usually followed by paralysis among the multiple players whose presence in the electoral market allowed the victory in the first place.  The result on the left has been political forces that win big pluralities but often lack sufficient allies to create a majority.

Toward this end, Fico’s poor performance in the 2014 presidential election may hold a certain perverse hope for Slovakia’s left.  If the result of this election is to produce cracks in that party or even just to open a space in the minds of some voters (and, especially, some funders), then we might see an end to Fico’s skillful institutional monopolization of political space.  If Fico and his party cannot preserve their one-party parliamentary majority, then the emergence of new parties on the center left might be able to sop up some of the dissatisfied voters who seem to have decided that Fico is just the same as all the others.  Kiska, a candidate not unfriendly toward the center right picked up those pivotal floating voters in this presidential election.  New center right parties such as Prochazka’s and NoVa will try to pick them up in the next parliamentary election but with varying degrees of success.  Fico can hope that the center right continues its intra-familial feuds and ends up with a bunch of parties just below the threshold (not necessarily a bad bet given the past track record of the right), but by relinquishing a little control on the left and allowing a new party somewhere on that side of the spectrum might actually help him remain prime minister.  (As to whether that’s what Fico actually wants, I’ve decided to stop speculating on matters that exist only in the heads of distant leaders.)

Slovakia Presidential Elections: Morning-After Thoughts on Results

A few quick supplementary thoughts:

  • What can we expect in the second round?  I’ll try to avoid speculating on the nature of the campaigning except to say that I suspect all gloves are off.  What I am more interested in is the nature of the shifts in voters between this round and the next. 
    • If we assume that both Fico and Kiska votes who turned out yesterday will turn out again, that gives us 530k votes for Fico and 455k votes for Kiska, a difference of 75k votes. 
    • But of course we have to look at other voters.  Some of those are voters who did not vote in the first round.  Between the first round and the second round in the 2009 election, turnout rose from 1890k to 2240k, an increase of 350k I would guess that we could assume a similar increase this time.  

      Turnout for various elections in Slovakia, 1990 to the present. Note that turnout in every election category has stabilized since 2005. In the 2009 presidential election, first round turnout was just over 43% and second round turnout was 55%. In the 2014 presidential election, first round turnout was also just over 43%

    • We also have to look at what happens to those who participated in the election but voted for candidates other than Fico and Kiska now have the option to vote for the candidate closest to them or to stay home. 

      • The voters for candidates who were in clear opposition to Fico (and who more or less agreed to encourage their voters to support the not-Fico candidate) actually total about 850k, divided among 400k (Prochazka, formerly KDH) + 240k (Knazko, formerly DU, SDKU) + 100k (Bardos, SMK) + 60k (Hrusovsky, KDH, a surprisingly small share perhaps showing the strains within KDH between old and new guards), + 40k (Mezenska, OLaNO) + 10k (Carnogursky, formerly KDH, a not surprising but rather humiliating total).

      •  The voters for candidates with more pro-Fico or overall less readable voter profiles total about 45k: 12k (Jurista, KSS), 10k (Fischer, formerly HZDS, but also ZZ), 9k (Behyl, apparently formerly Smer), 8k (Melnik, formerly HZDS), 5k (Simko, unclear to me but formerly supported Gasparovic), 3k (Martincko, unclear). 

  • What can we say from these numbers?  Let us make some unrealistic but clarifying assumptions

    • that 1/2 of voters for losing candidates will simply stay home because they no longer care about the outcome if their candidate isn’t in the race,

    • that about 1 in 1o voters of losing candidates will shift across the aisle from an anti-Fico candidate to Fico and from a non-right candidate to Kiska.  This seems odd but in my experience about 1/10 voters do things that seem odd to the outsider but for which they have their own idiosyncratic reasons.

  • This yields the following results:

    • For Fico, 40k from right wing candidates, and 18k from non-right wing candidates;

    • for Kiska, 5k from non-right wing candidates, and 160k from right-wing candidates. 

    • That yields a new balance of 588k for Fico (530k+40k+18k) and 620 for Kiska (455k+160k+5k). 

  • But that depends heavily on the assumptions above.  If, by contrast, only 1/4 of losing candidate voters stay home, the balance is more in Kiska’s favor:

    • 597k for Fico against 700k for Fico. 

  • Of course this does not factor in the new voters who will come into the electorate in a second round.  Between the first and second round in 2009, the vote total rose from 1890k to 2240k.  Assuming a similar increase and given the kinds of dropoff discussed above, this means an influx of about 1 million voters who did not vote the first round.  What can we say about these?

    • If Fico wins those in the same ratio that votes were distributed between him and Kiska (about 7:6 or 1.16:1.00) then he could expect about 80k more than Fico among the new voters, which is enough to beat Kiska if right wing voters stay home at the 1/2 ratio, but not if they stay home only at the 1/4 ratio.  

    • If Fico wins votes only in the same ratio that votes were distributed between him and Kiska plus the right, (about 2:3 or 0.66:1.00, then Fico loses the second round no matter what.   

  • It doesn’t take a political scientist to figure out that the key to the next round will be Fico’s ability to demobilize the right-wing voters who voted in the first round and to prevent any non-voters on the right from turning out in favor of Kiska.  If he does that absolutely perfectly, he can win without any additional turnout on his side, but perfection is unlikely, so he is also going to have to fire up the Smer turnout machine.  For every potential right-wing voter he can’t demobilize (and that number probably ranges from 400k to maybe 800k, he is going to increase his own turnout by the same amount).  This is a party that has pulled in 1.1 million before, and probably had a lot of complacent voters in this last round, so an addition of 400-600k isn’t impossible, but it is going to take a lot more work.  The challenge for Kiska is now going to be getting the full /and active/ support of the right, not only their tacit recommendation but the efforts of their own (rather less effective) turnout machines.  If the right can provide even a modicum of unambiguous support, then they have a decent chance of winning a mid-term political victory and a creating counterweight to what they see as an over-reaching left-wing majority government.

  • Why Slovakia has Never Had A Centre-Right President.   This doesn’t even require morning-after “thought.”  Why? Because they rarely get to the second round.   Because–as with nearly everything else on Slovakia’s centre-right–they can’t agree who should get to campaign.  In a very practical sense (and here I discard any attempt at theorizing), Slovakia has a rough balance between two camps, (earlier it was democratic-cosmopolitan against more authoriarian-national, now it is economic left versus economic right with some residual feelings that the former is authoritarian-national and the later is democratic-cosmopolitian).  In each case  the former has often been better at organizing around a single individual: Meciar in the first case, Fico in the second (which is not to say that these two represent the same values or the same camp).  At times the right has managed to do the same in more of a “first-among-equals” model (Dzurinda in 1998, Radicova in 2009 and 2010), though these came almost by accident, and only when the powers that be were willing to compromise on a second-tier but electorally gifted common candidate.  The success of the right has also depended on the emergence of a third-force willing to work with the established right parties but able to attract votes from those who were disillusioned with both sides: Schuster in 1998, Rusko in 2002, Sulik in 2010 (this also happened with Matovic in 2012 but it still wasn’t enough).  These additional draws helped the established parties of the right in each case to form a majority in parliament even when the opposing force was numerically stronger, sometimes by a large margin.  It is fascinating to me the degree to which the strengths and weaknesses of both sides are so linked together.  The left has, at the moment, a large and fairly coherent party, but its organizational near-monopoly leaves fewer opportunities for attracting  those who are sympathetic to the side but do not like those who are actually in charge of it.  We may see that in this presidential election where Fico’s reservoir of active supporters of losing candidates is significantly smaller than Kiska’s.  The right, has, at the moment, a very wide spectrum of offerings that attract people of many different stripes and that probably helps them attract a few extra voters (though again it was insufficient in 2012 in the wake of gorilla scandal), but a poor track record of coordinating those multiple streams into a single voice (hence the coalition disarray in 2011, and the inability to avoid multiple candidates in 2004 and 2013).  It will be interesting to see if a loss by Fico (or even a tiny-margin victory) will produce some move toward a new force that can attract those disillusioned but left-leaning voters, either from within Smer or from without.  As for the right, perhaps this most recent example will bring some move toward consolidation, but that’s hard to envision as long as every single ambitious person on the right believes that /he/ is the only one who can accomplish the task.