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Back from the dead–better late than never?

So I need to ask Slovakia not to hold elections during my winter teaching term.  It is highly inconvenient.  Research and teaching have taken precedence over blog updates recently, but now it’s election day and I’m looking forward to doing some live-blogging this election night.  I’ll keep updating as the time permits. 

First, my own highly unscientific guesses about the results:

Turnout: 54%
Party Votes Seats
Smer 40.5 78
OL 4.5 0
SDKU 6.5 12
KDH 12 23
Most 8.5 16
SaS 6 11
SNS 5 10
SMK 4.5 0
99% 4 0

Next, a brief guide to exit polls.  Here’s what happened last time:

Type Source Average raw difference Average percent difference
Final Monthly Polls Polis 1.5 12%
MVK 1.8 22%
FOCUS 1.9 19%
ASA 2.0 21%
AVVM 2.2 22%
Presov 2.9 30%
Median 3.2 41%
Exit Polls MVK 1.4 12%
FOCUS 1.7

16%

In other words, even the exit polls were off by an average of 1.4% or 12% per party. I’ll try to post the specifics about the exit polls from MVK and FOCUS in a short while

Finally, a few brief words about how to read the very early results:

Party Expectation at certain levels of counting
  Very early (200-500) Early (1000 polling stations)
Smer May be much too high Will drop by about 5%-7%
SDKU May be very low May rise by 10-15%
KDH May be a bit high Should stay approximately the same (2010) or fall slightly (2006)
Most-Hid May be very low should rise considerably 10% (2006 SMK) to 30% (2010 Most)
SNS No clear pattern Should stay the same (2006) or rise slightly by a about 5-6% (2010)
SMK May be very low should rise considerably 10% (2006 SMK) to 30% (2010 SMK)
SaS May be very low Should rise by about 5-7% (2010)
OLaNO No clear pattern May rise slightly? 2-5% (2010 based on SaS)
99% No Clear pattern SF rose in 2006, SDL fell in 2010, SaS rose in 2010

A view from someone else’s window

A brief interlude of beauty and sorrow, courtesy of Fulbrighter Kimberly Zarecor.

Flag flying from the Ostrava City Archives to honor the memory of Václav Havel (1936-2011) Photo by Kimberly Zarecor, 21.12.2011

 

Just in time for Christmas

Slovakia’s first winter election creates all sorts of new possibilities. Several weeks ago the Slovak National Party tested the limits with a new billboard guaranteed to raise eyebrows:

The most surprising thing about this, however, is not its characterization of the EU stabilization (benefiting Greece, and Spain and Portugal and Italy) as the work of the devil.  That’s pretty normal for Slovakia’s politics (and particularly so for SNS).

Equally unsurprising, but rather more unsettling, is the depiction of a Santa wearing a political armband, and not just any red armband, but one that includes an eagle clutching a round symbol with clear straight lines set against a deep red background.

Slightly more surprising is the demon’s choice to wear fashion with designer labels not only by the current government parties SDKU, KDH and Most-Hid, but also SNS’s recent (and, from its perspective only potential future) coalition partner, Smer.  Of course Smer joined with the others in supporting the Euro stabilization, but this may be a sign that SNS will (like SaS on the other side) make strong use of the Euro question in its campaign.  The question is whether in trying to pull voters back from Smer, it also pushes Smer to the other side, though this may not be that big a risk since Smer has shown itself inclined to pick the weakest coalition partner, and it is hard to imagine that not being SNS (assuming it crosses the 5% threshold).

But the surprises don’t end there.  I had a nagging feeling about this that was confirmed by Martin Votruba of the University of Pittsburgh.  Martin writes:

The telling thing … is that SNS [despite its nativist approach] is dragging in an alienimage for Christmas, [using the traditional American icon of Santa Claus instead of the] traditional depiction of Jezisko (Baby Jesus) who brings presents.

[Furthermore,] images like the one on the SNS billboard were first imported from the Soviet Union as Dedo Mraz (Grandfather Frost) to replace Jezisko and imposed on people, with no success except in public St. Nicholas and Christmas events, and now by advertisers as Santa.

Many don’t care, of course, but there’s been a good deal of internet comments in the past on advertising that uses Santa Claus, in which people ridiculed ad statements like “Santa Claus will bring you…” [and noted that] that the manufacturers/advertisers clearly don’t have a clue that presents in Slovakia are brought by Jezisko.

This “alien” image brought in to represent the Slovak National Party is very much like when HZDS in its nationalist fervor put up billboards in the 1990s with images of “Slovakia” where the pastoral landscape in front of the the highly symbolic Tatras mountains turned out to be a stock picture of the Swiss countryside.

I am personally glad to see this usage by SNS as it helps to reinforce a point raised by a colleague of mine during Detroit’s Noel Night celebration as we passed an “Occupy Detroit” activist dressed in a Santa suit.  He noted the interesting juxtaposition between Santa’s apparently left-wing socio-economic ideology (giving stuff away for free) and his rather right-wing cultural predispositions: demanding to know who is naughty or nice, engaging in surveillance about whether children are awake or asleep.  This insight actually helps me solve a teaching problem that has been troubling me for a long time.  When I teach American politics (or indeed the politics of almost any country), I try to point out that political competition may be multi-dimensional, and that in many countries there is a disconnect between the economic and the cultural.  I often have students take online tests like, The Political Compass or Idealog which print out their results on 2-dimensional charts like this one.

One of the problems with this, however, is that of the empty quadrant: America’s two major political parties occupy the lower left and upper right, and students can see that the Libertarian party occupies the lower left, but who’s the opposite of the libertarian?  Who in the United States believes in widespread distribution of selective benefits while at the same time demanding strict adherence to cultural norms?  Pat Buchanan?  Maybe, sometimes.  The real answer, clearly, is Santa.

Postscript.  Santa’s hot these days.  If you don’t like the SNS ad or my own infographic, try this one.

Thank you, Vaclav Havel

I know no better way to mourn the death Vaclav Havel to remember the congratulations on his birth that friends snuck past censors back in 1989.  Then they wished him health and continued success.  Now I thank him for that success–success I not in his fame or political success but in his constant attempt to live honestly and responsibly, whether as prisoner or president–and I extend to him my vague hope that effort to live in truth somehow endures after death.

havel closeup1

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

Thanks to my student Daniela Brabcova from Plzen who knew enough about Havel to spot this gem when it came out, kept a copy and shared it with me in the spring of 1991. More here: http://www.pozorblog.com/2009/10/it-was-twenty-years-ago-today-or-the-audacity-of-hoax-prequel/.

What little they have shall be taken away from them

While it has not always been easy to feel sorry for Vladimir Meciar’s Movement for a Democratic Society, this week’s FOCUS poll offers yet another way in which insult has added to injury.  I have waited for some time for the results of the October FOCUS poll and when it did not come out around the end of October, I guessed that the firm had waited for things to settle down rather than conduct a poll during the collapse of a government.  Yesterday’s early release of November numbers seemed to confirm that, but a look at the actual FOCUS press release reveals that they /did/ conduct an October poll and simply did not release it during the turmoil.  So now we have yet another set of numbers.  For the most part these are nothing interesting, falling roughly in between the numbers for September and those for November, but in one case they are quite different: in October 4.7% of respondents opted for Meciar’s HZDS.  Does this mean anything?    Probably not, since the month before it got 3% and the month after it got 2.5%.  But the only reason it was ignored is that we did not get the October numbers until after we got the November ones which showed October to be simply an irrelevant blip.

I take two things from this:

First, I have commented frequently on the tendency of the Slovak press (and to be fair, the press of any country) to treat polls as if they are a real, actual indicator of political attitude rather than simply a sample that must be understood in context of other samples.   The Slovak press ignores blips only if they are clearly just that, but without context we have a harder time knowing whether they are simply a blip.  With context, we can make a better judgement.  Had I in October received the news of a 4.7% score for HZDS, I would have looked at the numbers and said a) This is at least a full point out of line for HZDS for FOCUS polls and a reversal of the trendline and b) all of the other polls are mixed, showing either a small rise or none at all.  I hope I would then have said, “this is probably a blip” and then taken the easy way out by saying “time will tell.”  Had the Slovak press received this news in October, I would not have been surprised to read a headline saying “HZDS back in the game” (though to be fair the article might have contained somewhere below the fold a quotation from one of the usual suspects of Slovakia’s political commentary that said “this is probably just a blip but time will tell.”)

Second, I take from this a sign that HZDS simply cannot get a break these days:  after months of irrelevance its one (in-retrospect meaningless) piece of good news, a story that might have helped its chances at election (by persuading some people that it had a chance at election) gets wiped out by a change of government.  Alas.

Volby 2012: FOCUS poll actually does show what Slovak press says it does… but context matters more

According to press reports in SME and Pravda, the most recent FOCUS poll shows the party Smer-SD with a commanding lead and the capacity to gain a majority of seats in parliament.  And for once those press reports are correct.  This does not mean that Smer will win the majority, but this FOCUS poll is a fairly strong sign of the party’s raw level of support.

Three quick points:

  • First, this is the first time I have seen a convincing suggestion of the possibility of a one-party government for Smer, because here Smer manages to go above 75 even without have all other factors in its favor.  In many scenarios, Smer is able to get into power on its own only if all of the small parties (including SNS) should fail.  In this case, however, Smer’s gains its majority at the same time that SNS narrowly beats the threshold.  I would still put the odds well against this outcome, but I am now at least willing to take it seriously.
  • Second, it points to the relative role of the two factors that will affect Smer’s success: it’s own level of support and the support of those around it, particularly those near the threshold.  Smer’s 45.1% in November translated into 79 seats while its only slightly lower performance in previous FOCUS poll in October–43.1%–translated into only 70 seats.  Why the 9-seat difference?  The 2% rise in Smer’s preference actually contributed only 2 or 3 seats and would not alone have given the party a clear majority.   What is crucial here is that in the November poll 13.8% of the population supported parties that did not exceed the 5% threshold, whereas in October the share was only 7.4%.  That, plus a few small differences in the way the opposition vote is distributed explains 5-6 of Smer’s seat total.  In a rather literal sense here, it is not the size of the Smer vote, but the motion of the small waves around it that make a difference.  
  • Third, it is worth noting that if Smer becomes convinced that it can achieve a consistently high level of support at this level, it may begin take a different approach toward SNS.  In 2010 Smer’s failure to form a goverment had quite a bit to do with the significant drops of both SNS and HZDS–drops that Smer helped to encourage–and its inability to find other partners.  According to that thinking, Smer has clearly set out to make sure that other parties might consider it (particularly Most-Hid and perhaps KDH or even SDKU), but it has always kept SNS in its pocket as well, if only as a bargaining chip.  According to the current FOCUS scenario, however, at any level of Smer support above 35%, the failure of SNS to pass the 5% threshold actually help Smer, because half of the 8 seats that would have gone to SNS go to Smer and raise it to majority status.  It might be a bit too early for Smer to gamble on undercutting its closest political partner, however, because as the previous point suggests, relatively minor changes in circumstances have a big effect on the level at which SNS goes from hindrance to help.  Even having both Hungarian parties exceed the 5% threshold would give Smer pause, since in that case Smer would need over 41% to be able to regard SNS as a hindrance.   But don’t take my word for it: try your own scenarios in the online calculator: online results calculator.

Slovakia Party Tree 2011

Thanks to Sme for publishing a nice version of my 2010 Party Tree diagram (the tree is a helpful format I’ve been using for the last decade and first posted here in 2008) .   I wish SME had asked me though, as there is a newer version that might have saved them some work (I try to keep this up to date).  Attached below are my updated graphic and table (click to expand them to readable size).  They are not as pretty as Smer’s, but they have more information (and my graph does not cast Smer as “Red”).  A pdf version is here: Slovak Party Tree 2011.

Family Tree and Data for Slovakia’s Political Parties, 1990-2011

I must say, though, that I am much taken with another version “mapastran”, which I am ashamed I had not seen.  I am much taken for its sheer attractiveness and inclusion of information which is not in my version.  Check it out at :  http://www.mapastran.sk).

 

 

 

Slovakia Polling Update, November 2: MVK and Polis

In the wake of the fall of the government, we’ve now gotten a few new polls from firms that are less frequent to offer them, particularly Polis (last week) and MVK (t0day).  Despite the headlines which regard these as items of “news,” both of these are interesting in the ways that they show very little shift.  Full results are on the dashboard, but a few thoughts without the fanciness of including party logos.

First, it is notable that in the last two elections Polis has produced results closer to the actual outcome than any other firm.  MVK has done rather worse, with some quite significant problems.  This does not undercut MVK a priori, but it does suggest caution regarding any trends that appear only in MVK data.

Now on to the party-by-party:

  • Smer shows stable preferences in both of the new polls but the difference is quite significant: high 30’s in MVK and mid-40’s in Polis, a difference of about 20 percentage points.  FOCUS and Median have tended to side with Polis in this, suggesting that the actual share of  preferences may not be as low as MVK finds, though how this plays out in terms of turnout could be a different story.
  • SNS is also stable for both, with a slight decline for both MVK and Polis.  But since SNS was already below the threshold for both, its absence from parliament according to these predictions is relatively old news.  FOCUS and Median, however, tend to put SNS above the threshold, allowing it a strong claim to the status of “most uncertain.”
  • HZDS is also stable in both.  Stable here, however, is extremely bad news for the party which appears to have flatlined around 3%.  Jumpstarting the heart here looks unlikely.
  • SDKU shows a big post-Euroval drop, probably not due here to the news about Radicova’s departure from the party (which hadn’t yet become public when the polls were taken) but due to its inability to master the difficulties of a difficult coalition (and perhaps, though I can’t say) because of the return to prominence of Miklos and Dzurinda…  It is fascinating to me that one of the questions in SME’s betting pool is “will SaS get more votes than SDKU” and that at present a significant number of bettors say “yes.”
  • Toward that end, SaS does show a big leap in both polls (as it did in last month’s FOCUS poll.  The party may really have figured this one out in the short run, finding an issue to resurrect its long slow slide to obscurity (a la ZRS, SOP, ANO, VV).  Whether it pays in the long run depends on who gets to form the next coalition, but even there it is hard to expect that a right wing coalition would rather go with Fico than SaS, however unreliable it may seem.
  • KDH maintains its stable 9% with no clear patterns.  This one seems simply to depend on the polling and who’s at home on a given day.  I wonder, though, if the party will be able to maintain that stability if it goes into coalition with Smer, something party leaders are not now ruling out.
  • With the Hungarian parties there is a drop for Most-Hid and a bit of a drop for MKP-SMK as well.  The real question here, however, is the relative strength and ability to cross 5%.  On this Most-Hid still seems to have the upper hand, but there will be a lot of strategic voters on election day who could tolerate either one and will be voting to get the other one in.  The problem comes if too many do that and the leader then falls short (as may have happened with last-minute shifts from SKM to underdog Most-Hid in 2010) .  For the moment the two parties have rejected coalition so they may be willing to risk defeat for the possible chance of a significant gain.

None of these results provide much new information.   Except for the recovery by SaS (which may fade) not much has changed from previous months.  That in itself may be news.  And so (to a lesser degree) is the fact that this blog is going ot have to change to offier placements and lines in the graph for the new parties Ordinary People (OL) and Nation and Justice (NAS) which are going to need their own lines and pages.  Both appear in the new MVK poll (MVK had included them even before their formal registry and while neither would make it into parliament, both appear to have a dampening effect on related parties: OL gets nearly 4%, while NAS gets 1%.  More on that in another post.

Post-Halloween Edition: Vlad the Impaled

I’ve wanted to post this for some time but did not dare to do so until I knew it would work out. Now it has and I can reveal the identity of the guest in yesterday’s Democracy class:

But before you say, “what a bad Photoshop job!” you should know that I would never stoop that low to put myself into a picture with a famous person.  I might, however, resort to this:

More complicated?  Sure, but much more practical for Trick-or-Treat (and for classroom dialogs about Russia).
But, you might ask, “Where can I get a cardboard cutout of Putin to use in my own quest to scare adults and/or engage students in discussion?”  Well you could try one of the many vastly overpriced cardboard cutout vendors online, or you could find a high-rez picture of Putin, photoshop out the background, print it across multiple sheets, arrange them on a piece of cardboard, secure them with spray adhesive and add a stick. 

Since that’s too complicated for all but the most obsessive (of which I am obviously one), I offer below a completed version of the first 3 steps: your-own-life-sized-putin-cutout.pdf.*  Print out pages 2,5,6,7,8 for the short form, or add 9-20 for the long (if not quite full length) version.  Just print out, add cardboard, and stick, and voilà.  

*Wetsuit, equestrian and tiger-tranquilizing gun outfits sold separately.

I realize that this introduces a significant gender bias to the costumes, so I promise that by next Halloween I’ll finish the long-awaited Yulia-Tymoshenko-in-a-leather-space-suit cutout, though at the moment of my writing, the space available to her is rather smaller.

 


 

Credits:  While I am the proud owner of the Tymoshenko poster, I am thankful to Dominic Nonni for snapping the picture at the top and to the Slovenian Press Agency for putting its pictures in the public domain under a Creative Commons license (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vladimir_Putin_in_Slovenia_in_2011_(11).jpg), though perhaps they just want everybody to see how Prime Minister Pahor towers over Prime Minister Putin.

 

Slovakia, what comes next? Scenarios and results generator.

I always bury the lead in these stories and I’m trying not to, so here’s the four sentence summary:

According to current polls Smer is likely to be able to form a government with SNS and would almost be able to form one on its own, but polls are often misleading and obscure narrow margins (particularly with regard to the 5% electoral threshold).  The post below details how I produced several scenarios and a scenario calculator which suggest that the most important role will be played by Smer’s margin (43% produces very different results than 35%) and by the likelihood of some parties to push related parties below the threshold (SNS and Belosouvova’s NaS, SaS and Matovic’s OL) and the ability of others to reach some kind of agreement (the Hungarian parties).  The parties of the Radicova government can theoretically return to government but they will need good luck in the form of some combination of poor Smer results, mutually-assured-destruction among the nationalist parties, and lack of similar MAD by SaS/OL and the Hungarian parties.  But don’t take my word for it: at the bottom of the post is a link to a spreadsheet where you can try your own assumptions.

Now for the interesting (but usually only to me and a few other poor souls) details

I live for elections and while it’s always a bit melancholy to see a government fall (some more than others), it also means a new chance to look at the numbers and think about what they mean.  I’ve been channeling my inner Sabermetrician in the last few day and have started to put together some very rough models that might help us think about the important factors in Slovakia’s upcoming elections.  For Slovakia this means thinking about the relationship between polling numbers and votes, shifts in polling numbers over time, the potential for coalition formation and each party’s chance of crossing the 5% threshold.  While it would be possible to start anywhere, I think we can take a few things as given (at the moment–but I promise to revisit them) and take an initial probe into the rest.  For now I will leave aside the question of coalition formation and simply assume that the easiest coalition partners for Fico’s Smer are the Slovak National Party (SNS), or the smaller Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) or the new Nation and Justice (NaS), and that (with the potential exception of Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) all the other major parties are capable of making a coalition with one another.  I will also leave aside the question of poll predictiveness because as I found in an analysis conducted before the 2010 (which I will soon repeat using the data from 2010 as well), the predictiveness of poll numbers is actually at its worst about 5-7 months before an election (and there are just under 5 months left until the 10 March 2012 election).  What’s left to us in this case?  The inter-related questions of translation of poll numbers into actual voting statistics and some considerations about the ability of particular parties to cross the 5% threshold. And even with only those two factors at hand the situation is still remarkably complex.

The main cause of complexity is the relatively large number of parties that might be expected to come close to the 5% threshold.  In my estimation there are only three parties for whom the threshold question is not in doubt:  Smer, the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU) and the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH).  Far more questionable are the prospects of eight additional parties: SaS, SNS, Most-Hid, MKP/SMK, HZDS and perhaps also SDL, along with two emerging parties, Ordinary People (OL) and Nation and Justice (NaS).   Assuming that any of these parties might or might not pass the threshhold, there are 2^8 or 256 possible combinations of threshold passage among these 8.  As much as I like playing amateurishly with numbers, that is more than I want to deal with.  I will therefore make two simplifications.

  • First, the range for Hungarian parties is between 2 and 1, not between 2, 1 and 0.  Slovakia has two parties appealing to its Hungarian electorate: Bridge (Most-Hid) and the Party of the Hungarian Coalition (MKP/SMK) but since the Hungarian electorate constitutes approximately 11% of the total, it is mathematically impossible that both will fall below the threshold unless there is some suppression of the Hungarian vote or Hungarians opt for other parties.  Neither seems likely, so I will limit the four options to two.
  • Second, because HZDS has never yet shown an increase in its share from one election to the next, I will therefore eliminate it from the list, and further justify this with the additional argument that it is unlikely to see the rise of both HZDS and NaS.  If HZDS manages to pull it together (unlikely–Meciar has been utterly silent during the whole crisis–either that or, from his perspective worse, nobody’s bothering to ask him), you can substitute “HZDS”  for “NaS” and have more or less the same picture.

This brings our perumation count down 2^6 or 64, which is not small but workable.  We can bring it down a bit more by putting any options with SDL in the background for the moment.  The performance of the resurrected SDL surprised some in the last election, but since then the party has failed to sustain its preferences.  It could rise again–or another new party could rise again–but with NaS and OL running campaigns, the field looks rather crowded for yet another new party to jump in.

These choices bring us down to 32 options in the foreground and 32 in the background.

Having simplified, we need to add a bit of complexity (though not much).  The chances of each of these parties to pass the threshold is not independent of the others–especially of certain others.  Some of these small parties compete for votes with one another.  If one does well the likelihood is that the other will do poorly.  I’ve therefore made certain overall “vote potential” estimates and certain baseline ratios for each combination.  The linked pairs are as follows:

  • Most-Hid and MKP/SMK.  I assume that the total electoral potential for these two parties is approximately 12% which I presume to be the total share of the vote received by the two if they form an electoral coalition or if both exceed the 5% threshold.  If one falls below 5%, I assume that it will do so narrowly and I give the winner in the “one Hungarian party” scenario 7%.
  • SNS and NaS.  I assume based on past experience that the total electoral potential for these two parties is about 8%.  If SNS does well, I assume that it will attract about 6% and NaS only 2%.  If both split evenly, I would assume them to both receive about 4%.  If NaS does well and SNS does not, I will assume a narrower margin, with NaS just above 5% and SNS at 3%.  I also leave open the possibility (though unlikely) that both parties will manage to squeak over the 5% threshold.
  • SaS and OL.  This one is a bit harder since OL, although it got elected on the SaS list, may appeal to some other voters including dissatisfied voters from Fico and Radicova alike.  But without the time and energy at the moment to calculate a more detailed assumption, I assume that these two parties together have an electoral potential of around 10% (again my least certain assumption).  If OL does not get it together, I assume a lopsided 8% to SaS and 2% to OL.  If OL manages somehow to displace SaS, I give OL 6% and SaS a residual 4%.  I also allow for scenarios in which both manage to exceed the threshold with just over 5% and in which both come close but fail just short of 5%.

These scenarios are not all equally likely of course, so we can also weight them.  Here again I have just gone ahead and made guesses:

  • I guess a fairly high probability that M0st-Hid and MKP-SMK will realize the danger of one falling short and make an electoral deal (while holding their respective noses), and there is also the chance that they will not but that they will run neck and neck as they are doing now and both make it over the threshold.  Together I give these two scenarios about a 70% probability and the “one-Hungarian-party” scenario about 30%
  • I guess that the most likely outcome on the nationalist side is the victory of SNS and poor performance of NaS–say 50%–but put my second bet on each cancelling out the other as they did in 2002–say 25%.  The remaining 25% I split between “both” at 20% (especially if both Slota and Belousovova can manage to get in some attacks on Fico related to the EFSF) and NaS only at around 5%.
  • Likewise, I give SaS an advantage in the last group and put the chances of its passing the threshold and leaving OL out at around 40%.  I put the chance of “neither” at around 30% and the chance of “both” at around 15%.  I think it is equally unlikely (but not impossible) that OL could seize the mantle of SaS and give it 15%.  All of this will be a lot clear in a month or so when we see the first polls.
  • Finally, I put the odds of another party–SDL or HZDS or something new–emerging and I put it at 5%.  The only caveat in this is the fairly unlikely but never-say-never possibility of a new party starring Iveta Radicova.  That would fundamentally change the balance of the race, but it would probably not shift things too much as it would simply tap the SDKU electoral base.  If that happens, I’ll come back and redo this analysis.

OK, finally, having guessed about vote share and and probabilities to each of these threshold possibilities, I must still make guesses about the vote share of the three larger parties if we are to make any assessment about what kinds of coalition are or are not possible.  I will use three scenarios.  One based on current polling numbers (Smer 43, SDKU 15, KDH 10), one based on the 2010 election numbers (Smer 35, SDKU 15, KDH 9) and one “from the gut” best guess which also happens to be a middle way between these (Smer 39, SDKU 16, KDH 9).   Here are the results (the full results in .pdf format here) and then an explanation:

 

What all of this means

  • With current polling numbers (Smer 43, SDKU 15, KDH 10), the only way that Fico won’t be able to muster an easy coalition with SNS is if SNS and NaS split the vote and keep both out of parliament.  Under these polling numbers and probability assumptions, a Smer-SNS (and/or NaS) coalition could expect an 83% chance of gaining a majority, with the size of that majority ranging 76 to 94 seats, averaging about 83 seats.  The opposition would have only about a 9% chance of gaining a slim majority and only if, in addition to the SNS-NaS self-destruction, the parties above the threshold included both Hungarian parties and also SaS or OL.  It is notable that Smer manages to achieve its own a 76 seat majority in 36% of these cases.
  • Using numbers from the 2010 election (Smer 35, SDKU 15, KDH 9), which are probably unrealistically low for Smer, the situation changes even further and the number of scenarios won actually shifts in favor of the parties of the Radicova government (56%) rather than a Smer-led coalition  with SNS or NaS (38%) or a Smer-only government (only 2%).  But the right would have little margin for error–to return to government it would two Hungarian parties in government along with SaS or OL, and a coalition that contained Radicova and Miklos/Dzurinda, and Figel, and Bugar, and Csaky, and Sulik and/or Matovic could not exactly be greeted with excitement.  Ironically the only way for the Radicova coalition to gain a majority without Sulik and/or Matovic (or Bugar and Csaky) is for the infighting at the nationalist pole to be even worse.  If 2010 results prevail, so might 2010-style politics.
  • If, however, past predictors are usable (and I am not sure that they are), Smer will perform worse than its 6-months-left-before-election poll numbers and SDKU will perform better.  This case (Smer 39, SDKU 16, KDH 9) resembles the scenario with 2010 numbers but even narrower margins.  The advantage here is to Smer (winning in 61% of scenarios over the current government’s 25% with quite a few ties).  Even if Smer’s numbers drop to this level it would still need two of the following three things to go wrong for it to lose a majority: 1) a unified front or even performance by the Hungarian parties and 2) success of SaS and/or OL in passing the threshold, and 3) Nationalist self-destruction.   This scenario would, however, cast some cold water on Smer’s stated hopes of governing alone (13% of the scenarios).
And in an unexpectedly simple twist (most things I do online prove unexpectedly complex) I have been able to upload the entire spreadsheet basis for this onto google documents so that anyone can go and modify any of the assumptions and see what would happen to the results.
I’m pretty excited about this because it really changes the kinds of things we’re capable of (a lot like the “D.I.Y. Electoral College Calculators” in the US.  I would ask only that if you modify the numbers, you change them back so that others can use the spreadsheet as you found it.  Thanks.

Finally, it is worth noting that polling numbers taken 5 months before an election in Slovakia have very little relation to the final result, so while there is a general stability in Slovakia’s preferences–they don’t shift by more than a few percentages in any direction over time, how those votes are split up among specific parties–especially small parties near the threshold–can really matter.  This is what keeps Slovakia’s politics (for better or worse) interesting.