A Series of Elections in Central Europe

Article published on April 12, 2009
community published
Article published on April 12, 2009
Written by Dániel Antal Central Europe is in a turbulent political mood. The Czech and the Hungarian republics, once the forerunners of political and economic reform have interim governments. In the newish states, the incumbents have gained further popular support in last weekends election series.

In the Czech Republic, after the resignation of the minority cabinet-leader Mirek Topolanek, Jan Fischer, the country’s top statistician has become the interim prime minister, who must have a steep learning curve: he will be acting as the EU rotating president. In the Czech Republic, politics have been characterized with futile elections between the center-right and center-left, often leading to minority and interim government. Mr Fischer has the support of the two blocks the October early election, probably bending to an increasing pressure from the EU that we need a president.

In Macedonia, as expected, Gjorge Ivanov won the presidential election’s in the run-off. The VMRO-DPMNE candidate can claim a landslide victory, almost gaining a 30% margin over the social democratic Ljubomir Frcskoski. As VMRO-DPMNE has been in power and the incumbent had not run for the seat, you can expect pretty much the same politics and a smooth transition. The naming game countinues.

In Moldova, Europe’s pariah-state, which is as poor as a third-word country, a part of its territory is occupied by Russian ‘peacekeepers’, the incumbent Communist party has won the elections. The pragmatic comrades are actually pro-EU, and claim to have grabbed 49,92 of the vote and a 60% majority of the parliamentary streets. The three-party, nationalistic opposition fiercely protests the results and their supporters are on the streets. They are also pro-Europe, but Moscow is not. Expect the frozen conflict to melt as slowly but surely as the ice cap. As Moldova is not a fully working state with a not fully workable democracy, this is the only place in the series where you could have bet on trouble. There are violent demonstrations against the result.

In Slovakia, the nationalist Ivan Gasparovic has won the presidential elections with a 11% margin in the run-off. He has heated up his base with attacking ethnic Hungarians who comprise some 10% of the electorate. As things stand today, after a peaceful period, the two countries might turn against each other. Slovakian nationalims fuels Hungarian nationalism, and the most dovish Hungarian government ever has just failed. Mr Gasparovic enjoys the support of a very strange coalition of the PES member, somewhat populist centre-left Smer party which has to junior partners who are die-hard right-wing populists. He has faced the candidate of a fragmented centre-right plus the Hungarian minority.

And at last, in Hungary, after a tragicomic search for a new prime minister the smoke seems to clear. When Mr Gyurcsány, a strong tactician had resigned, he had to announce his will a second time because nobody believed in it. Within a week, Hungary was flooded with a dozen of candidates to replace him for a mere year until the next elections. A week later his party forced him to quit the party chairmanship as the no serious candidates have accepted a nomination. At last, Mr Gordon Bajnai, Mr Gyurcsány’s young and calm ally, the current economy minister emerged and collected more than enough written promises from Left-wing MPs to support his election. Like in Germany, a Hungarian prime minister can be replaced with a motion that immediately give a majority to a new leader. Mr Bajnai is planning to include a number of technocrats into his cabinet to fight the economic and financial crisis. The populist right-wing would probably get a two-third majority that can change the constituion if elections were held today.

Overall, Central and Eastern Europe is very strongly hit in the current economic crisis that had divided the European Union as well. In some countries, which are in a nation-building state, candidates have expressed unfaltering support for nationalistic parties. In the more established countries, such as the Czech Republic or Hungary, the political elite is divided among ideological, not ethnic or nationalistic lines, and the political elite is in a deep crisis.