Monday, July 10, 2006

Voting for Thugs: Nationalism, Authoritarianism and the Market in Slovakia's Electorial Politics

June 29, 2006 12:30-1:30

Speakers: Kevin Deegan-Krause, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Wayne State University

Kevin Deegan-Krause spoke about his research on Slovakian politics from his recently published book, Elected Affinities: Democracy and Party Competition in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. He spoke specifically about Slovakia’s new Prime Minister, Robert Fico, whose social democratic party won the elections by a substantial margin. Deegan-Krause examined the potential for Fico to assume an authoritarian style of rule similar to the repressive style of Vladimir Mecier from 1994-98.
First, Deegan-Krause spoke about the reasons for Mecier’s and Fico’s popularity. Mecier, Deegan-Krause argues, focused on nationalism, security, stability, and order. People were willing to sacrifice freedoms for these goals. Fico’s supporters like Fico’s pledge to reverse economic reforms that increased inequality in Slovakia. Next, Deegan-Krause questioned why people voted for candidates (Mecier and potentially Fico) that might restrict or eliminate voting rights. Some people voted for Mecier not realizing he was going to limit democracy, while others believed his authoritarianism was the lesser of two evils. Deegan-Krause does not yet know why people were willing to sacrifice democratic rights to vote for Fico. Next, Deegan-Krause explained how both Mecier and Fico quickly built effective coalitions to marginalize opposition. Additionally, both Mecier and Fico’s parties are very centralized and organized, though Fico’s party’s level of organization is still questionable. Finally, Mecier effectively overpowered weak and rival institutions, thereby consolidating power for himself. Fico could potentially try to do the same thing.
However, Deegan-Krause noted important differences between Mecier’s and Fico’s governments. For one, Slovaks recently experienced an authoritarian ruler, and may be less likely to look the other way should Fico start to consolidate power. Also, Fico’s coalition partners are stronger than Mecier’s. These partners may decide to restrain Fico’s power or break away from him if they do not agree with his policies. Also, Fico’s organizational structure is largely untested. Fico’s deputies are mostly new, and may potentially leave should Fico lose popularity. Finally, Slovakia is now a member of the EU, and the EU might take action to restrict Fico’s attempts to consolidate power. While Fico may want consolidated governmental power, he faces more obstacles than Mecier did in 1994.
by Adam Perry

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