A centre-right anti-corruption party swept to victory unexpectedly in Slovakia’s first legislative elections since the murder of an investigative journalist shed light on the shady connections between the government and organised crime in the country.
The Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OLANO) party led by millionaire former media boss Igor Matovic won 24.8 percent of the vote on Sunday, topping the polls in 50 of Slovakia’s 79 districts. The governing centre-left Smer-Social Democracy party, led by former Prime Minister Robert Fico, came second with 18.3 percent.
Campaigning under the slogan ‘Together Against the Mafia,’ OLANO, which was established by Matovic as an anti-corruption movement in 2011, waged an unorthodox campaign that included filming himself outside a mansion in Cannes belonging to a former Smer-SD finance minister to draw attention to wealth of Slovakia’s ruling elite.
“People want us to clean up Slovakia. They want us to make Slovakia a fair country where laws will apply to everyone,” Matovic told reporters on Sunday night as the extent of the party’s electoral success became apparent.
“We beat Smer-SD after 12 years. We had two goals: to beat the Smer-SD mafia and to take away voters from Marian Kotleba. It’s clear now that we’ve succeeded,” Matovic said.
Marian Kotleba is the leader of the Neo Nazi Our Slovakia party, which analysts had feared could have a breakthrough election and even a role in government if SMER-SD had had won the election but needed the support of smaller parties to govern.
On the election night, however, it became apparent that Our Slovakia’s share of the vote was down on the last election in 2016, coming in at around 8 percent. While the rise of far-right was a cause of great concern outside Slovakia, it was OLANA’s strident anti-corruption message that hit home with voters.
“It was the death of Jan Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova that woke up Slovakia,” he said, vowing that his administration would have “zero tolerance for corruption”.
The murder of the journalist and his girlfriend triggered massive protests that led to the resignation of Social Democratic Prime Minister Robert Fico and paved the way for the election to the Slovak presidency of the lawyer and anti-corruption activist Zuzana Caputova, last March.
Matovic now faces the difficult task of trying to cobble together a governing coalition with a smattering of small parties, some of whom do not share his pro-EU and pro-NATO outlook, while none know for certain what OLANA stands for apart from its opposition to corruption.