Slovakia. In March, President Ivan Gašparovič vetoed a
contentious law aimed at strengthening Slovak patriotism.
Among other things, the law required that the schools play
the national anthem every Monday and that the flag should be
in the classrooms. The law was a work of a nationalist party
in the government coalition and received much criticism. But
the president's reason for demanding change was that the
schools could not afford the flags and other national
symbols required. According to
COUNTRYAAH, the Slovak National Party (SNS) that
proposed the law saw it as a response to developments in
neighboring Hungary, where nationalist politicians loudly
criticized Slovakia's treatment of its Hungarian minority.
Among other things, a Slovak public servant who spoke
Hungarian in the service could be fined. In Slovakia,
between 500,000 and 600,000 ethnic Hungarians live.
When the extreme nationalist party Jobbik in the spring
succeeded in the Hungarian parliamentary elections,
Hungary's new government proposed that ethnic Hungarians in
neighboring countries such as Slovakia could have dual
citizenship. The Slovak government described the proposal as
an intervention in the country's internal affairs, and Prime
Minister Robert Fico called it a security threat. He accused
Hungary of wanting to rewrite history, a reference to
Hungary giving up most of its territory after the First
World War, which led to the fact that large Hungarian
minorities now live in neighboring countries.
When the Hungarian Parliament voted in May for its new
dual citizenship law, the Slovak Parliament responded on the
same day by adopting a law requiring anyone receiving
Hungarian citizenship to be deprived of their Slovak
citizenship. In addition, Hungarian citizens were prohibited
from holding certain offices in Slovakia.
The conflict with Hungary became a dominant issue in the
electoral movement ahead of the Slovak parliamentary
elections in June. In the election, one of the Hungarian
minority parties was voted out of parliament, but even the
previously successful nationalist and anti-Hungarian HZDS
were voted out. The electorate seemed to reject the harsh
nationalism and seek a more purely nationalism.
Despite the downturn in the economy in 2009 (almost 5 per
cent of GDP minus), rising central government debt, the
large budget deficit (around 7 per cent) and accusations of
illegal party financing, Prime Minister Fico's Social
Democratic Smer SD went ahead. The party increased from 50
to 62 seats and received 34.8 percent of the vote. The
Conservative Party SDKÚ returned slightly but still came in
second place with 29 seats and 15.4 percent. The new Liberal
Party SaS received 22 seats and 12.1 percent. The Christian
Democratic Movement KDH received 15 seats and the Hungarian
minority party Most-Híd 14 seats. The nationalist SNS lost
more than half of its mandate and had to settle for nine.
Fico hoped to be able to reign, but failed to gather a
majority. Despite the s success, the center-right bloc was
the largest in parliament. Iveta Radičová, leader of the
center-right party SDKÚ, therefore succeeded in creating a
majority government with 79 of Parliament's 159 seats. The
coalition consisted of SDKÚ, Christian Democratic KDH,
liberal SaS and the Hungarian minority party Most-Híd.
Slovakia got its first female prime minister when
Radičová, 53, took office as head of government in early
July. She announced financial austerity to stop the rise in
central government debt and to get the economy back on
track. In the election campaign, Radičová had promised to
improve relations with Hungary, and instead of hard-line
nationalists in the previous government, Radičová's
government included three ministers from the Hungarian
minority party Most-Híd. The party emphasized cooperation
between Slovaks and Hungarians and was given the post of
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Minorities.