Slovakia’s Presidential Election Second Round: Awaiting Results

Polls are just closing now and we shall see what we shall see.

The only thing to pay attention to at the earliest moments is that according to the minute-by-minute returns from the first round (thanks to Sme.sk–somebody has been paying attention to details–http://www.sme.sk/c/7137934/kto-su-volici-fica-kisku-a-prochazku-volebne-grafy.html–Fico’s results at the first five minute point slightly exceeded his final totals (30% to 28%).  Kiska’s were also higher but only slightly (25% to 24%), and those of the losing center-right candidates (Prochazka, Knazko) were slightly lower.  If Kiska picks up some of those right-wing voters, even half, his numbers should stay roughly the same over time, while Fico’s will likely follow the declining pattern.  If, therefore, Kiska is less than 1.5% behind in the first 5 minutes, he is the likely winner.

It is also notable, for those who care, that turnout was slightly lower at the smaller precincts that hand in their results early, so total turnout may end up higher than we see at first glance.

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.

Slovakia Presidential Election: Results

I don’t have a live stream from Slovak channels where I am so I’m obviously saying what others have said already: Fico and Kiska.  

What I didn’t expect was the general strength of the others and the general weakness of Fico.  It’s going to be a very interesting two weeks because Kiska and Fico are separated by 4%, and together the candidates of anti-Fico parties (Prochazka, Hrusovsky, Knazko, Carnogursky, Bardos and Mezenska) have 45%.    

It won’t be quite that simple since voters of some of the anti-Fico candidates above will stay home, and Fico will turnout more voters next time.  But the range of additional turnout may not be that great: this time the turnout was almost identical to last time (around 43.6%) and in last times competitive second round it only rose by 12 percentage points.  Of course some of the voters who support the current non-Fico losing candiates will stay home, but with these results the anti-Fico forces might also smell blood and turn out to humilate their opponent.    It’s not at all impossible for Fico, but this is going to be much harder, I think, than many expected.

The next two weeks will see a very big test of the Fico turnout machine and media machine.  It’s going to be a race between Smer-turnout and Smer-negative ads against Kiska on the one side and Kiska’s soft support plus the existing parties on the other.  The question for the former will be “can we get out enough of our loyalists and sufficiently tarnish our opponents.  The question for the latter will be “do we dislike Fico enough to work for Kiska?” on the other side.  Given the likely strength of the former and weakness of the latter, Kiska would /need/ to have a head start to have a fighting chance.  With these results, he does.

Slovakia Presidential Election: The Fico Connundrum

Last week Jon Stewart got in trouble for mocking media commentators who might say things like “Slovakia’s president is a cow”.  This week, we have the news that its next president might be the current prime minister.  For those who know Slovakia’s constitutional system, this is perhaps even /less/ likely: why would why a politician at the top of his game–at the top of the game in the region–choose an ostensibly ceremonial presidency over his current position as prime-minister and party leader in a strong majority government.  Yet people close to Fico have for years been saying that he’d rather be president, so many of them, in fact, that it was hard to doubt the rumors had something behind them even while it was hard to imagine that Fico would actually do it.  As a result, however, I’ve been thinking about this for awhile and have a few thoughts below about why Fico might do this and why we should care (ranked to some degree in order of ascending probability).

I. For Fico other concerns trump power (possible, though surprising).  There are at least two reasons Fico might be willing to sacrifice power by moving to the presidency

A. Blackmail (probability unclear, but I certainly hope not).  There are persistent but ill-supported rumors that some “they” (primarily corporate interests) have information that could destroy Fico’s career and that they use this leverage in ways that he feels are overly limiting and may make him willing to take a less powerful position just to escape the sword of Damocles.  I am not a fan of conspiracy theories but that may only be because the kind of work I do depends on more or less transparent political systems and this would suggest that Slovakia is not in that category.

B. Health issues (possible, oft repeated).  There are occasional rumors of panic attacks and during his first term Fico certainly was not a model of health (and had the kinds of health problems that often indicate incredibly high stress levels).  This term has seemed, at least from my distant view, to be a healther one for him.  During the previous term there were consistent claims that “Fico doesn’t like the day-to-day fighting of politics (even if he is good at it), and that the presidency offered him a position of relative ease that he would be willing to accept at the expense of his ability to shape Slovakia’s destiny.

II. Fico does not believe this entails a loss of power (entirely possible).  There are several possible reasons for this.

A.  (Rather unlikely) He plans to change the current formal institutions to increase the power of the presidency: Fico’s party does not have a constitutional majority, and so this seems unlikely at the moment, and if this has a negative effect on Fico’s party, then it may be unlikely for the forseeable future, but it is at least theoretically possible

B. (Somewhat more likely) He plans to use the current formal institutions in ways that increase the power of the presidency.  Fico may believe that he can play a central role even if he is no longer prime minister.  As Milos Zeman has demonstrated most recently in the Czech Republic, presidents can be powerful even in systems where they are formally weak.  There are at least two possible paths to this:

  1. (Relatively unlikely but possible) Fico is willing to accept the decline of his party or even its splintering (some say because he sees it as inevitable, though I find this doubtful) and knows that the president becomes more important in a more chaotic party environment.  This would mean sacrificing what has been Fico’s most remarkable accomplishment: creation of a party that has had less defection than any major party in Slovakia’s history, even as it has become the biggest party in Slovakia’s history.  That’s not something that goes into the record books but for those in the know, it’s the World Cup of politics.
  2. (Relatively more likely) Fico thinks he can retain control of his party even as president.  There is no precedent for this in Slovakia but there are limited precedents in other countries.  It would be a bit of a challenge but Fico may be able to do it where others could not.  It would become a job change rather than a fundamental disruption to the system.  The maintenance of power could be enhanced by the odd little provision of Slovakia’s constitution that gives Slovakia’s president, “the right to be present at meetings of the Government of the Slovak Republic, to chair them, and to demand reports from the Government or its members.” (Art. 102r)  

It’s also possible that there is some combination of these or others that I am not imagining.  If Fico imagines the presidency to be a slightly easier job without a huge decrease in power, then his choice is less inexplicable.  Of course he may be wrong on both counts, especially the latter.

III. Finally, what follow-on questions does this raise:

  1. Can Fico win.  Yes.  It is hard to see him losing to the current crop of candidates, though these things are always potentially surprising.
  2. What happens to Smer?  This is /the/ question.  If II.B.2. above is correct then maybe not much, but he will need to impose a new model in which even as president he can still act as the decisive voice among factions within Smer.  He will need a kind of Medvedev-like servility from his successors in party and government.  Perhaps that’s the case.

Whatever the case, Slovakia continues to fail to be boring.

Czech Election Update: Statistical Roundup

A few thoughts continuing from yesterday:

First, in a post-election debate (the first I’ve ever seen and kudos to CTV for arranging it (it helps that polls close at 2 in the afternoon), the moderator asked various parties for their opinions about many things including coalition partners.  Here’s a list of the relevant answers:

  • Usvit: Nobody.  Will support anybody who supports a referendum law but will not go into government
  • ANO: No coalition but might consider ‘toleration’.  (But not of KSCM-CSSD, and unlikely for ODS-TOP09.  Would prefer to go law-by-law)
  • TOP09: CSSD but they don’t want us.  Will probably go into opposition.
  • ODS: Would go with TOP09 and KDU-CSL but there are not enough votes. Party will go into opposition
  • CSSD: Anybody except ODS and TOP09.  Would not be in minority government depending on Communist support.
  • KDU-CSL: Not with KSCM.  CSSD would be ok, or CSSD-ANO or Center-Right coalition.
  • KSCM: Happy to support or join government with CSSD.

This is like a hard SAT logic question and I need to draw it out, but if these statements are predictive (they may mean them now but leaders often change their minds on this kind of thing), then I think there is no actual answer for a majority government.  The best would be a minority government of CSSD-KDUCSL tolerated by ANO, though I suppose there is the mathematical possibility of a center-right government supported by ANO and Usvit.

A few numbers worth presenting (graphs to follow).  The first relates to various measures for determining the size of the Czech political party system.  By Czech standards this is a huge political party system.  And it is very evenly distributed (no single pole).  In fact the gap between the largest and smallest parties in parliament is a remarkably low 13.5%.

The second set relates to volatility–change in this election compared to the previous one.  Again, change this time is huge: 39%.  As huge as last time.   And it is evenly distributed between losses/gains among existing parties and entrants/exits of existing parties (about 19% each).

Finally a table on the use of the preference vote.  The last election in the Czech Republic saw an enormous increase in the use of votes for individual legislators (40 of 200 deputies elected on that basis if memory serves, an increase from 6 in the previous period).  This time it is not quite as high but it is still very big: 27 out of 200.  It is the parties with larger and more robust organizations that saw the biggest changes: ODS (also suffering from member rebellion), KDU-CSL  and KSCM (not suffering from member rebellion) and CSSD (whose voters don’t seem especially pleased with some of its elite).  Below these were the new and organizationally weak parties:  ANO (one of whose members was elevated beause he shared the name of the party founder), and TOP09, and Usvit (with exactly zero)

Party Preference vote winners %
CSSD 7 14%
ANO2011 5 11%
KSCM 6 18%
TOP09 2 8%
ODS 4 25%
Usvit 0 0%
KDU-CSL 3 21%

Source: Czech Statistical Office

Czech Election Update: Not much left to the imagination

Almost all the votes are in and it’s a mess:

Party Share Seats Share of seats
CSSD 20.69 52 26.00%
ANO 18.7 48 24.00%
KSCM 15.1 34 17.00%
TOP 11.63 25 12.50%
ODS 7.59 15 7.50%
KDU-CSL 6.81 14 7.00%
Usvit 6.98 12 6.00%
Greens 3.1 0 0.00%
Pirates 2.64 0 0.00%
SSO 2.42 0 0.00%
Zemanites 1.53 0 0.00%
Others 2.81 0 0.00%
Total 100 200

100%

There is little way out of this.  With no parties above 25% of seats, there can be no coalitions with fewer than three parties.  This means that some of the big options are off the table, particularly CSSD-KSCM.  That was really the only chance for KSCM so despite their improvement by nearly 2%, they’re in just as bad a situation as before.  The problem is that all of the /other/ government options seem equally impossible at the moment. 

I’ve spent the last 2 hours listening to interviews with every party leader on CTV (and I mean every, since the station has made the very odd decision of bringing the leaders of all tiny parties into the studio and interviewing them, mainly, it seems, with the goal of taking them to task) for insisting that they should participate in the debate) and what we see from that is:

  • Usvit’s leader claims they won’t enter into a government with anybody but will support any government that supports their goal of unrestricted refendums
  • ANO’s leader claims they won’t enter into government with ODS or TOP09 or the Communists and says he can’t imagine supporting a Social Democratic government, 

Which pretty much rules out any majority government.

More soon.

Czech Election Update: With half the votes in:

Halfway there, decreasing room for change what do we see:

  • Seven parties in parliament, 2 new ones
  • No party with more than 25% (maybe 22%)
  • New parties with over 25%.
  • Parties founded since 2009 with 35%
  • The possibility, increasing over the last few minutes, of a situation in which the left does not have a majority and the CSSD-KSCM coalition (in whatever form) is not a possibility.
  • The sharp difference between the top 7 and the next set.  Of the parties hovering within 2% of 5%, three are well above 5% (Usvit, ODS, KDU-CSL) and all of the rest are far below 5% (Greens, SPOZ, Hlava Vzhuru and the Pirates). 

Here’s the graph:

Czech Election Update

With about 1/3 of the vote in, the Czech Election is shaping up to be rather shocking, notably in the degree to which new parties outperform original polls.  I’ve been following and recording results every 5 minutes and what I get is the following graph.  The key point is that these results are /extremely/ stable from minute to minute.  Things do tend to change in the last 20% as big precincts from urban areas come in, but my experience with Slovakia is that they don’t change more than a fraction (I haven’t done this minute-by-minute in the Czech Republic before)

CSSD looks stuck around 22, KSCM is on a steady decline.

Of course votes aren’t seats, but CT has [translated this (how, I’m not sure) into seats and says that the results produce a parliament with 55 for CSSD and 46 for KSCM.  But if KSCM’s current trend continues and if affects distribution of seats in the regions, as it might–and if TOP09 continues its rise, this could produce yet another 100 v. 100 parliament or even a slight majority for the non-CSSD-KSCM.  It may also produce the potential for a CSSD-ANO 2 party coalition but it is not clear whether that would be politically possible.  More soon.  (By the way, trends have continued while I was writing htis.  No reversals in TOP09 or KSCM)