Slovakia

Background

Slovakian history at a glance

As a result of the "Ausgleich" which resulted in the creation of the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy in 1867, Slovakia fell under Hungarian domain. An era of national oppression and de-nationalization of ethnic minorities was initiated. In response to these developments, the Slovak national movement grew stronger. Czech-Slovak cooperation improved, and in 1915 representatives from both communities signed the Cleveland Agreement concerning the establishment of a common federal state. After World War I, the Allied forces supported the dissolution of the Habsburg Empire and the creation of an independent Czechoslovak parliamentary democratic republic in 1918. Unlike its neighbouring countries, parliamentary democracy was preserved throughout the period between the wars.

The Czechoslovakian state disintegration started with the Munich Agreement in which Czechoslovakia was forced to cede Sudetenland to Germany in September 1938. In March 1939, Slovakia declared its independence and became a puppet state of Germany under the leadership of Prime Minister Jozef Tiso. After the war, Czechoslovakia was reunited. Within a three-year period, the communists were able to abolish the parliamentary democracy and establish a communist dictatorship. In 1960, the country is renamed the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. Communist control was retained for the next forty years. The period was shortly interrupted by the Prague Spring in 1968 in which the newly elected (Slovak) reformist Communist Party leader, Dubček, proposed slight political and economic reforms in order to create "socialism with a human face". Concerned with the developments, Soviet, Hungarian, Bulgarian, East German, and Polish troops invaded the country in August the same year and replaced the Communist Party leader. In November 1989, public protests known as the "Velvet Revolution" brought down the Communist Party and in 1990 the first democratic elections were organized. On January 1, 1993, the Czech Republic and Slovakia proclaimed their independence.

Politics in the new era

Slovakia forms a parliamentary republic. The president, who serves as the head of state, has largely ceremonial functions but is also equipped with the opportunity to veto legislation (although the veto can be easily overturned by the simple majority in the parliament). Legislative powers are vested in the unicameral National Assembly of the Slovak Republic (Národná rada Slovenskej republiky , NRSR). The NRSR consists of 150 representatives. The prime minister, who serves as the head of government, is appointed by the president, but is accountable solely to the NRSR. Prior to 2001, the independence of the judiciary was impeded as the constitution stipulated that after being appointed by the parliament, judges were on a four-year probation before becoming eligible for a lifetime appointment.

Vladimir Mečiar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) has been the largest party throughout the independent years, both in terms of votes in elections and in terms of representatives in the national assembly. The HZDS formed the government after the 1994 election together with its nationalist ally, the Slovak Nationalist Party (SNS). Meciar, whose nationalist rhetoric triggered the split of the Czechoslovak Federation in 1993, was accused of having steered Slovakia into diplomatic isolation by trying to stifle political opposition and push through a pro-Russian foreign policy.  During his second term as prime minister in 1994-1998, Slovakia found itself excluded from the first NATO enlargement round in 1997 when Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic were invited to join the alliance.  The 1998 general elections became a turning point, bringing about the victory of pro-Western opposition forces, the so-called "Rainbow coalition", led by Mikulas Dzurinda comprised the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK), Party of the Democratic Left (SDL), Party of the Civil Understanding (SOP) and Party of the Hungarian Coalition (SMK). While marred by internal squabbles, the coalition retained the government offices throughout the period. Dzurina formed his second government after the 2002 election. This time around, he found support among the parties of the centre-right, namely the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SKDÚ), Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), New Citizens Alliance (ANO) and the Party of the Hungarian Coalition (SMK).

Being the candidate of the largest party group in parliament, the HZDS, Michal Kováč was elected president by the national assembly shortly after the "Velvet Divorce" in 1993. After his election, he became one of the major opponents of the Mečiar regime, and in 1995 Kováč was expelled from the party. After his term ended, the national assembly proved unable to elect a new president as no candidate could achieve the necessary support as required by the constitution. In January 1999, the parliament amended the constitution thus paving the way for direct presidential elections. In the first election, Schuster (backed by the Party for Civic Understanding (SOP) won the second round of the election against Mečiar. In 2004, Mečiar was again defeated in the second round, this time by Ivan Gašparovic (backed by HZD, a splinter party of the HZDS). Slovakia joined NATO in March 2004 and became a full member of the EU on May 1 2004. 

The 2006 Slovak general election marked the end of the era of democratic and economic transition launched by Dzurinda’s centre-right government. The highest number of seats (50) was won by left-wing party Direction - Social Democracy. Its chairman Mr Fico advocates the social security model and thus plans to pursue a citizen-friendly agenda by abolishing the flat tax and patient participation as well as reintroducing social benefits. On June 28, Fico announced that his government coalition would consist of his Direction - Social Democracy and two partners: Slovak National Party and People's Party - Movement for a Democratic Slovakia.

Sources

Slovakia. 2009. In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved June 3, 2009, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: http://search.eb.com/eb/article-9109751

Recent History (Slovakia), in Europa World online. London, Routledge. University of Bergen. Retrieved 03 June 2009 from http://www.europaworld.com/entry/sk.is.4