Slovakia Election Update: Gap widens to 79:71

With all but 2 precincts reporting, the gap has widened slightly to give an additional seat to SDKU at the expense of Smer, so a potential SDKU-led coalition would have an 8 seat (i.e. 4 defection) margin.  Other governments have worked with less.

I’m off to bed unless the final precincts come in in the next five minutes.  Tomorrow look for a quick roundup that will include a look at party system size and volatility and a look at the relative success or failure of particular pollsters and other methods (hint: say yes to Polis, MVK, bookies and my own “two months out” model; say no to Median and AVVM.)

Slovakia Election Update: 78:72 opposition victory

It may be possible finally to call the final parliamentary distribution.  Smer has been dropping but at a relatively slow level and with the most recent result it has dropped to 35.4 which by my calculation means 63 seats in parliament.  Add this to SNS’s 9 (about the fewest it is possible to get) and you have 72.   The opposition’s 78 will be divided, as far as I can tell, 27 for SDKU, 22 for SaS, 15 for KDH and 14 for Most-Hid. Amazingly, this is the exact same coalition-opposition ratio as the 2002-2006 Dzurinda government, with the potential for basically the same parties (envision Sulik’s SaS as a 2010 version of Rusko’s ANO) to form a government.  But this one would have a prime minister who is more of a consensus builder (though probably also less likely to crack the whip) and will also lack the more nationally-oriented wing of Slovakia’s Hungarian party spectrum.

And for the first time Slovakia will have a female prime minister.  After years of male-dominance unusual even for central Europe, this would be a welcome change.

Slovakia Election Update: Fico’s point of no return?

With  56.5% of the vote counted, Smer shows a gently declining trend while SDKU, SaS, and Most-Hid show gently increasing trends. If these trends continue, then those three parties plus KDH should have enough seats to form a government.  Even if the trends do not continue and the lines merely flatten out, the current ratio of SDKU-SaS-KDH-Most-Hid seats to Smer-SNS seats is a bare minimum majority of 76:74.  The current trend and Smer’s 2006 record suggest that the party will not begin now to recover its seat share (indeed Smer dropped 0.3 in the last 10% of the precincts in 2006 as Bratislava and Kosice reported results) and so the election is probably over.  And the government formation process may be relatively uninteresting as well, but I am getting way ahead of myself wotj  40% of the votes still to count.

Slovakia Election Update: Deadlocked coalition options at the halfway point.

A quick calculation.  Even at current levels (which include the absence of MKP-SMK, which is looking increasingly likely), a Smer-SNS coalition would have just barely enough to sustain a majority.  If Smer loses even 4 points from its current level (down to 34%) or Smer loses 3% and SDKU gains 1%, then Smer loses its ability to form a government with SNS.  The final result may not be as resounding a victory as the exit polls suggested, but it still bodes fairly well for the current opposition (except, maybe, MKP-SMK).

Slovakia Election Update: Trends in the early returns

With 35% of precincts in, Smer is still in a commanding lead with 37% that is way above what the exit polls predict, while SDKU is considerably short of the predicted 18% (in the FOCUS poll) and MKP-SMK well short of the 5% threshold at 3.2%.  But we need to take the process of reporting into account.  This year’s trends look like those of 2006 only a bit sharper, as the graphs below show.  These are a bit misleading as the trendlines invariably smooth out toward the horizontal.  Draw these into curves and you get Smer above the predicted 29 but not by much.  SMK is the only one whose current trendline does not look like what the exit polls predict.  This is just a preliminary look.  (Smer in orange, SDKU in dark blue,  Sas in turquoise, Most in gold, SNS in dark green, HZDS in brown, MKP-SMK in bright green, SDL in pink.  More soon.

Slovakia Election Update: End of an era

I have lived my entire professional life with HZDS, frequently visiting its offices, often taking it to task for what I regarded as serious accountability violations.  And with this set of results for the SUSR, I think it is gone.  (I think it is the first time HZDS has ever fallen below 5% in any official count.  I suppose it may come back, but its demographics suggest it won’t).  I can’t say that I weep for Slovakia or for Meciar, but it does feel a bit weird to think that this part of Slovakia’s political life–and my own personal life–is now “history” in both senses of the word.l

Slovakia Election Update: First post-election polls suggest big win for the opposition.

The polls are closed and we have poll numbers, delayed a bit by  storm-related power outages.  There will be a shorter lag than usual between the exit polls and the election results and the isolated nature of the delay may mess up the percentages in the previous post (or not.)

FOCUS did a telephone survey today and MVK appears to have done a traditional in-person exit poll.  The results are below.

If these are correct, then the results are a clear victory for the current opposition, and would, indeed, allow a 4 party rather than a 5 party  government from the current opposition (though 5 parties would give a much bigger margin of error along with a much bigger set of headaches).

Even if these numbers follow the norm of 2 point average error and the beneficiary is in each case the current coalition, the current coalition would not come near a majority, unless  one of the Hungarian parties falls below the threshold (and even then it would be a narrow thing)

Of course these are still polls, however recent they may be.   The next step is estimation from the preliminary results.  We only have 4% of precincts in at present, and they do give Smer a commanding lead, but this is actually pretty much what we would expect from the way that election results come in in Slovakia and when I extrapolate the lines, they actually correspond fairly closely with the exit polls.  Twenty minutes more and we should know.

FOCUS Seats MVK Seats
Smer 29.7 51 28 49
SDKU 18.1 31 15.8 28
SaS 11.6 20 12.4 22
KDH 9.1 16 9.9 17
SNS 6.3 10 5.7 10
HZDS 4.3 0 4.7 0
MKP-SMK 6.3 11 5.7 11
Most-Hid 6.7 11 8.2 14
SDL 2.9 0 3.0 0

Slovakia Dashboard News: At The Last Minute (or Catch a Falling Smer)

This is, I think, the last “dashboard” post for quite some time.  The next time you see me post on this kind of thing, it will be an “election” post, but for the moment we have the kind of unusual situation we usually only see just before elections: three major polls appearing on the same day.  Let me follow my usual pattern and deal with these party-by-party with a few words about coalition v. opposition.

Smer took a huge hit this month, with its lowest results in years: since May 2005 in FOCUS, since June 2006 in Polis, and October 2006 in MVK, an average drop of 4.5 (slightly more in FOCUS and Polis, somewhat less in MVK).  Why the drop should be so large is a bit of a mystery to me.  some journalists attribute it to party financing scandals, but I have a hard time believing that that news was particularly surprising or likely to pry voters away from the party.  I’m more inclined to think that it’s a bit of frustration by soft Smer supporters forced finally to think about making their choice (and it’s notable that SDL has risen significantly in the polls for which we have information, suggesting voters looking for the next best alternative, particularly those with more culturally liberal values).  It’s important to remember that in 2006 the final-week drop in Smer did not play out in the actual election and that the more accurate poll was one taken two weeks before the election, so some of this may be ephemeral.  But nobody in Smer can be happy today.  And for a party which has embodied the slogan “nothing succeeds like succcess,” some must be thinking of how to avoid failing like failure.   I reprint the graphic from the dashboard here only because it is so dramatic:

SNS gets a reprieve this month, probably thanks in part to the assistance of Hungary’s Fidesz, with a 1.5 point gain in FOCUS, a .7 point gain in Polis and no gain at all in MVK (which, however, showed a 1.2 point gain in its previous poll).  National issues may count more than clientelism for some voters and the SNS campaign on this question (which some see as quite effective) may have helped here.  It is hard to say whether the party will lose more from time in opposition (lost clientelist revenues, but time re-purify its image and play the outsider) or another stint in government (posts and money but ever more chances for people to find out how those were obtained).

HZDS also gets a small reprieve losing slightly in FOCUS but recovering to some degree in MVK and Polis, for an overall average of 5.2, far too close for anyone’s comfort.  This recovery may actually help it a bit as those who were on the fence for the party feel comfortable voting for it one last time, but its overall negative momentum and air of decline may be to hard to overcome.  This one is very tough to call

Overall the current coalition dropped three full points in June, to an overall average of 42.0, a remarkable drop for a coaltion that in less than two years ago polled 69.8.  Smer alone had poll averages of 41.0 as recently as January of this year.  The drop is so quick that it is hard to fully accept it and I suspect the overall election final will be a bit more, but we need not wait long now.

Polls of SDKU usually lack a clear monthly pattern and this month is no exception: stable at a high level in Polis, dropping from a middle level in FOCUS, rising from a low level in MVK.  The median stays around 14 where it has been for quite some time.  For SDKU it is especially hard to say whether poll numbers are related to final numbers as for the past 4 elections the party has outperformed its poll, though Martin Slosiarik and others note that the emergence of SaS may diminish that undercounting based on last minute shifts.

KDH has some of the same low-level chaos as SDKU.  No big trends like Smer or HZDS, but lots of movement and poll shifts ultimately adding up to 10% (as it has more or less for almost two decades).  This month the pattern is converging: Polis and MVK dropping from high levels to just over 10%; FOCUS rising from low levels to just under 10%.

SaS finally falls back into the earth’s gravitational pull this month, still rising but by a lower margin (.60) than in all but one month since October 2009.  Both FOCUS and MVK show it stabilizing at around 12 points and while Polis still shows a rise it is to that same 12 point level.  How much of this the party will sustain in the election is an open question: past new parties in Slovakia have lost in the voting booth, but as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, TOPo9 and VV in the recent Czech election managed to mobilize voters.  Could this have something to do with their mastery of social networks and other technological turnout mechanisms?  Hard to say, but if it does, then SaS might manage the same trick.

It is interesting that despite the significant drop in the current coalition, the Slovak right did not see corresponding gains this month.  In fact it dropped slightly from 36.7 to 36.1 (suggesting that supporters of the current coalitions are going elsewhere, either from Smer back to HZDS and SNS or to “new” parties like SDL).  This probably is not bad news, as it suggests a certain solidity to the overall vote total of SDKU, KDH and SaS (and indeed the core vote of this population has been quite solid at about this level from one election to the next and its relative success in seats has been affected more by the distribution of the vote between parties over and under 5%.  This year despite lots of expectations to the contrary even a year ago, the right is relatively coherent and, thanks to the small/new party vacuum effect of SaS, should lose little to small parties and so has a good chance of getting seats in proportion to its base).

Both Hungarian parties continue to pass the threshold in all major polls, if only by a hair.  This continues to astound me: if you take two parties whose total support averages 10.6 for the last year and divide the 10.6 at random the chance of getting two parties above the 5% threshold is itself only about 5%, and yet these two parties continue to manage that 1 in 20 shot at not undercutting Hungarian parliamentary representation in exchange for a small chance at maximum gain (though this of course is not what the two party leaders themselves are thinking).  We will see very soon whether their luck will hold out.

Finally, I think it is necessary to say a word about SDL about which I have said nothing for the entire campaign, largely because until this month it averaged less than 2% and never exceeded more than 2.8%.  Suddenly, the party has jumped by a significant margin in every poll and stands at 3.8% and is staring closely at the 5% threshold.  Only two other non-parliamentary parties have exceeded even 3.3% in the past four years and both of them–SaS and Most-Hid–have a good chance of getting into parliament.  It is doubtful that SDL will be able to cross that remaining 1.2% in the final week (SPOZ in the Czech Republic could not manage it, though that’s not much of a guide here) and it is likely that its preferences reflect frustration that will translate into staying home or reluctant Smer voting, but its emergence is a sign of weakness that Smer does not wish to have revealed:

Slovakia Election Update: Pictures worth at least 300 words

I love polling results and I am always surprised and unhappy when they are abused.  Recent articles in SME and Pravda put needless stress on these results by, on the one hand, treating them as unique and absolute indicators of a party’s success or failure (at least until the next one comes out) and, on the other hand, lumping them together into time series regardless of their origin or methodology.  Toward this end, I propose that we fix this by, on the one hand, treating each poll as a unique series which is to be compared to other series, and, on the other hand, when we do lump them together into time series, we smooth them out and look less at individual polls and more at overall trends.  I’ve tried to do both of those things here with some overall coalition/opposition graphs that, I think, speak for themselves in various ways (though that probably won’t stop me from trying to speak for them at some future point.

Coalition, Slovak Right and Hungarian total support according to various polling agencies (and averaged), 2008-2010

Monthly averages of public opinion preferences, smoothed with LOESS, in Slovakia 2002-2010

Monthly averages of public opinion preferences for all major parties in Slovakia, 2002-2010, smoothed with LOESS

Opposition party support, smoothed

Polls, Politics and Parties, Part 9: How Experts (and Bookmakers) Second Guess the Polls

In the eight previous posts in this series (and in this blog in general) I’ve used public opinion as the basic raw-material, but pollsters in Central Europe are quick to note that public opinion only talks about the “current” state of affairs and does not predict what people do once they enter the voting booth.  They walk a fine line on this point, between irrelevance on one hand (if pollsters admit that polls do not predict elections, why should we pay attention to them?) and embarrassment on the other (when the “normal” 24% gap between polls and actual results causes people to notice that polls do not do a very good job of predicting elections).  But the world is full of people who, like myself, who are uncomfortable with waiting for news and need some early indicators, at least, of how things will turn out (my wife has learned from my uncomfortable fidgeting when she says “I have news…” to include a spoiler like “and it’s not bad news, or at least not very bad news.”  This inability to deal with uncertainty in the political world drives me (and perhaps a few other people) to use whatever resources are available to look for the best way to predict the future.

If polls aren’t it, then what is?  In a previous post, I’ve looked at alternative quantitative measures for second-guessing the polls–committed voters, committed turnout, past trends–of which only the last seems to have much value (hence my rather cautious use of it).  But the human brain is a marvelous thing, and the answers may not be easily found in the aggregation of statistics, however interesting they are in their own right.  The secret is to find the right brain, or perhaps better said, to know which brain is the right one.  In this we are limited to those who are willing to share the Slovak-election-related contents of their respective brains.  Ideally we would have a significant number of people who have looked carefully at the available information and made an educated guess.  How do we know if they have done so?  Well without close attention to their study habits, the best way is to see whether they have something to gain if they are right (or something to lose if they are wrong).   The discussion boards of SME, Pravda, HN and other news outlets are full of people willing to hazard a guess, but with few consequences for failure (especially since so many are anonymous).  I am left, therefore with two main sources:  those who stand to lose their reputations and those who stand to lose their money.  Among those with reputations at stake, I do not include politicians, whose prognostications are never expected to be true (Pal Csaky predicts 10% for SMK) and so we are left with a small cadre of political scientists and pollsters who are willing to make their guesses public, and I will reference them here.  In particular, I am grateful to Martin Slosiarik (this is only one of the many realms in which I owe him gratitude) for being willing to make his predictions public, and to make them narrow enough to be useful (though he cleverly shies away from one of the hardest questions).

Among those with money at stake, there is the growing field of those who bet on politics (actually has been extremely common in certain past eras) and a whole discourse has arisen about the predictivness of odds markets.  In my own experience, these markets have done quite well in predicting obscure (to me) local races in the US.  They are subject to manipulation, of course, but the more people become involved, the more difficult this becomes.  Slovakia lacks a true odds market for politics.    SME‘s “crystal ball” at is a great first step, but the gains, as far as I can tell, are not particularly valuable (the S€ used in the betting cannot yet be used to buy beer) and so participants may make guesses without much genuine forethought, and since this is the first attempt, we won’t be able to tell until the results are in and the markets close (though this is something I will follow closely).  The only other source we have are the people who make their money by encouraging others to bet.  Bookmakers have a strong vested interest in setting the odds right and they can only do that if they make the right kind of predictions.  So in addition to the political scientists and pollsters, it is interesting to look at what the bookies say.

What I have therefore done is to create charts for each party that show the range predicted by Martin Slosiarik, a rough guess based on current poll average projected out two months based on current trends (my own rather superficial method, though one that did not work badly in the recent Czech election) and then the four bookmakers I have been able to find.  In each case a dark bar represents the baseline: in Slosiarik’s case it is the center point of his predicted range, in my case it is the current poll average, and in the case of the bookmakers it is the inflection point of the bet itself (“Will SaS exceed 10% or fall short”).  The small vertical line leading from it shows direction: in Slosiarik’s case the lines show his full range; in the case of the average poll results it shows the what the “two-month-out” method would predict; in the case of the bookmakers, it is a rough assessment of which side the odds favor.  The longer the line, the more the odds favor a result in that direction (it is not a direct measure of what result the party will actually achieve).

What do we learn from these?  For lack of a better method, let me go party by party as I usually do with poll results:

Smer.  I will begin the analysis of Smer numbers in reverse order on the graph below, beginning with the four wagering firms (British firm, and firms operating in Slovakia, Doxx, Fortuna and VictoryTip [unlike last election, and do not appear to be participating].

Betting odds can be hard to compare because the bets of this type are intrinsically binary and must begin from a particular baseline.  In the case of Smer, each of the four begins from a different baseline, though these are relatively close together, spanning a narrow range between 32.0 and 33.5.   These baselines appear in these cases to reflect the odds firm’s baseline guess, and the odds then suggest its subsequent adjustment.  For Bwin and Doxx the odds were even at last check, but both Fortuna and VictoryTip put slightly shorter odds on Smer receiving more than their respective 32.5 and 33 suggesting an outcome slightly above 33.  Average these together and you get an outcome of about 33% predicted by the odds markets as of 8 June.  This is not far from the 34.8 minus 1.4 = 33.4 suggested by the (two-month-out”) poll prediction.  Interestingly, however, it is rather higher than Slosiarik’s 30-33 range or the 30.5/30.6 prediction I derive from two separate but highly consistent SME odds markets ( and  Which of these is more accurate is impossible to say at the moment.  SME readers tend to be somewhat more free market oriented than others and this may represent a bit of wishful thinking.  Slosiarik, on the other hand, knows these numbers inside and out and and seems convinced of the softness of Smer support (he may well be right, but we won’t know for 4 more days).

SNS. For SNS the baseline measures of three of the four betting firms is the same–7.5 while the fourth is lower at 6.5.  All but one suggest a slight downward trend with an implied average of around 7.0.  This is also the median of Slosiarik’s 6-8 range.  It is interesting that for this party–the betting and expert models are most out of sync with the average polling results, which are under 6 or the trend, which would point the party even lower.  This may be because these experts believe in the (not insignificant) effect of recent Hungarian policy decisions and/or believe that some Slovaks may be hiding their vote for a party that says publicly what some people think privately but might not be willing to admit.   It is difficult for me to disagree with the experts in order to engage in some wishful thinking of my own.

HZDS. HZDS is even more consistent than Smer or SNS.  Only one betting firm even put HZDS’s baseline above the magical 5% threshold and that one, like all the others, put shorter odds on the party falling below the baseline, which in three out of the four cases means below the threshold for entry into parliament.  Likewise Slosiarik puts HZDS in a 4-6 range that sets its median at 5%, though he carefully does not make any predictions about whether it will be slightly above or slightly below.  The opinion polls here weigh in on the negative, both in terms of absolute numbers and two-months-out trend which puts it closer to 4 than to 5.  (The SME odds markets also give HZDS a less than even chance of returning to parliament: 42.8:57.2.  (

SDKU. SDKU has a relatively narrow range of baselines but rather broader range of odds spreads (even though one of the firms, Bwin, does not include the party among its range of bets.  The range hovers between 14.5 and 16.  Public opinion polls put the party at 15 with no discernible trend while Slosiarik puts it higher, on the grounds that it may pick up some voters who at the last moment decide that they are not comfortable voting for SaS (This may be the grounds for Fortuna’s quite short odds on the party receiving more than the baseline).  Still, even this does not change the range particularly.

KDH. KDH produces very consistent results: 9.5 or slightly above.  This is true whether you look at the four betting firms, all of which chose the same baseline, or at Slosiarik’s 8-11 range or at the current polls which put the party at 10%.  This is, not coincidentally also the party’s basic result for nearly every parliamentary election in which it has run independently since 1990, though that itself is rather odd since the party has changed, its voters have changed, its leaders have changed, the country has changed and yet KDH manages the same old 10% every time.

SaS. SaS shows a relatively narrow range of baselines–from 8.5 to 10.0 with odds pointing in opposite directions (the lowest baseline, Doxx giving short odds for a higher score and the highest baseline, Fortuna, giving short odds for a lower score.  They meet somewhere around the middle–around the 9.5 that is in the middle of Slosiarik’s range.  As with SNS, SaS odds and experts differ from the polling average for the party and its trend, perhaps reflecting insider knowledge (or the belief therein) that new parties poll high and then end up lower (as I’ve discussed above, this was true for almost every new party to enter Slovakia’s system: ZRS, SOP, ANO, Smer, HZD, SF) but, interestingly, it was not true for the Czech VV which in many ways is quite similar to SaS or for the rather different but equally new TOP09.  I tend to agree with the experts in pegging SaS down a few points but the Czech case gives me just a bit of pause.

MKP-SMK. MKP has an extremely evenset of baselines–between 5.5 and 6.0 with only the barest hint of a trend in one or two. This is identical to the public opinion average.  Both are lower than Slosiarik’s range of 6 to 8.  The betting firms may just be playing it safe here since there is really no way of telling here.  Slosiarik clearly expects voters to fall back to MKP from Most (just as he seems to expect them to fall back to SDKU from SaS.  As above, there is good reason to agree but past precedent may not always dictate current action.  This is the question I will be most curious to see answered on election day.

Most-Hid. Surprisingly to me, Most-Hid has the most consistent set of baselines–all at 5.5–and odds (nothing shorter than 1.75 or longer than 1.85).  The reason that this is surprising is that Most-Hid has perhaps the most unpredictable electorate.  We really have little basis for judging whether they will switch back to the tried and true MKP at the last minute, as Slosiarik clearly thinks many will.  He says Most-Hid will be “very close to 5%” but if you look at his prediction for MKP-SMK and assume that the total electorate for Hungarian parties is less than 12%, his actual prediction seems to be slightly lower than 50-50 that Most-Hid will make it into parliament, something that he probably avoided saying directly lest it produce the headline “FOCUS expert rules out Most-Hid”

So what happens when we put all of these together?  The table below gives a rough estimate of the median point of the odds-makers. (There is no simple way to calculate these because there is no pure way to factor in what the odds mean for preferences.  Very short odds on a party that has a baseline of 5.0 might mean that the pollster is absolutely certain that the party will finish with 4.9 or that it will finish with 2.0.  Of course all things being equal the shorter or longer odds are likely to be somehow proportional to the distance from the baseline since that distance is the most probable basis for certainty.  If there’s anybody in the odds business who can set me straight, I’d very much appreciate it.)

Party Odds Markets Slosiarik
Percentage Seats Percentage Seats
Model Minus
Model Minus
and HZDS
Smer 33.0 58 62 31.5 52 55 55 59
SNS 7.0 12 13 7.0 12 12 12 13
HZDS 4.8 0 0 5.0 8 9 0 0
SDKU 15.5 27 29 16.5 27 29 29 31
KDH 9.8 16 17 9.5 11 12 12 13
SaS 9.0 10 11 9.5 16 16 17 17
MK 5.5 17 18 7.0 8 0 9 0
Most 5.5 10 5.0 16 17 16 17
Current Coalition 44.8 70 75 43.5 72 76 67 72
Current Opposition 45.3 80 75 47.5 78 74 83 78

The results are not particularly auspicious for the current coalition as it depends on two narrow chances: HZDS in parliament and Most-Hid out.  Without both of these conditions–the odds makers narrowly predict HZDS’s exclusion–the best Smer could hope for (according to the oddsakers, at least) would be for the failure of Most-Hid which in this case would produce a 75-75 split.  Otherwise, Smer will need to reach across the aisle or face the possibility of an opposition coalition.  Slosiarik’s slightly different numbers produce the same conclusion.  Only the presence of HZDS and absence of Most-Hid produces a coalition majority in his model, and then only a very narrow one.

Indeed the striking piece of information here, beyond the importance of thresholds to which I’ve alluded on numerous occasions, is the narrowness of governmental margins.  Slovakia may be entering a period that looks a bit like recent Czech political history with fragile or even minority governments (especially if MKP-SMK were to become untouchable”).

Of course all this depends on whether the odds makers and experts know what they are talking about.

P.S. Want to bet on this?  You can figure out from the above where the best odds are.  Here are the oddsmakers: