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EU Election, Day 3: the Slovakian definition of unpredictability

On Saturday 25th May 2019, more than 4.4 million Slovakians will be able to cast their vote in the European Parliamentary Election. However, it is highly unlikely that more than 1 million of them will actually get up and cast their vote. Therefore, it is extremely hard to predict or accurately predict any substantive outcome. Recent trends in opinion polls have, however, indicated a couple of trends. Some politicians and journalists suggest that there is a real chance that the Neo-nazi, far-right extremist ĽSNS (Non-Inscrits in the EU Parliament) may win a plurality of votes.

Slovakia joined the European Union in 2004; and ever since, its turnout in the European Election has been always the lowest in the whole EU – 17% in 2004, 19.6% in 2009 and only 13% in 2014 (an all-time-low in the EU’s history). The turnout is expected to reach a higher number on Saturday; however, it is still unlikely to exceed more than 21% according to the latest Focus poll. With such a low turnout, it is extremely challenging to predict the result, though it is not entirely impossible. 31 parties/lists are standing in the election; though, no more than 8 or 10 have a chance to get at least one seat.

 There has been only one opinion poll conducted for the European election, which did not differ from the opinion polling for a national election. Thus, predictions can only be made by the numbers from ‘standard’ opinion polls conducted for the national elections. As shown in 2014, making predictions based on national election opinion polls is not correct – there is a different level of motivation amongst supporters of the various parties. Luckily, Focus has conducted such a poll back in April, where it asked supporters of different parties about whether they plan to vote in the upcoming European election. In order to predict the outcome, I am going to use the data from the latest opinion polls combined with the intention to vote in the European election.

Latest opinion polls & intention to vote in the European Election (article continues below the charts)
And … Intention to vote in the EP election (% of party supporters) by Focus

Using the data from the latest polls, including the voting intention of individual parties’ supporters, it appears that three parties have an equal chance of gaining a plurality of votes – far-right, extremist ĽSNS (NI), pro-European coalition PS/S (ALDE/EPP Groups in the EU Parliament) and centre-left Smer-(S&D Group in the European Parliament) . According to the data, all three parties have the potential to receive between 14-17% of the popular vote each. However, it has to be noted that Smer-S&D, which is currently polling only at 19%, generally struggles to persuade its voters to actually turn up (for example, in 2014, it was polling at 42%, but received only 24% in the actual European election), meaning that it is possible that it will come second or third. If it does not gain the plurality of votes, it is going to be for the first time since 2006 that the party did not win the election on a national or European level. In addition, at least two of these three parties should win three seats.

Next, considering the opinion polling and other data, centre-right liberal SaS (national-conservative ECR Group in the EU Parliament) is likely to win at least two seats. The party had spent a lot of time campaigning around the country, and it’s candidates are all high-profile politicians – meaning that it is not entirely impossible that it will get a higher percentage of votes than the centre-left Smer (S&D).

Conservative OĽaNO (ECR) is currently polling at around 10% nationally, and considering the data, the party should receive at approximately 8-10% of the popular vote and win one seat. However, there has been a minor split in the party as their only MEP defected to a newly created centre-right, conservative KÚ (ECR/EPP). The European election result will reveal whether this has any significant impact.

 Salvini’s ally, right-wing Sme Rodina (right-wing ENF Group in the EU Parliament) and national conservative SNS (ECR/EFDD) are both expected to win one seat each and gain approximately 6-9% each. Sme Rodina (ENF) had been established in 2016 and thus never before contested in the European election. SNS had failed to cross the 5% threshold in 2014, and it had only one MEP during 2009-2014 European Parliament.

Centre-right KDH (EPP) is expecting the worst result in a European election in its history. While the party received more than 13% in 2014 (3 MEPs), it is unlikely to receive more than 7% of the popular vote and win more than one MEP.

Centre-right, ethnic minority Most-Híd (EPP) and SMK (EPP) are in danger of not receiving any MEP. In 2014, both parties managed to win one MEP each. However, both parties have been stagnating in opinion polls, and according to the latest data, their voters are not motivated to turn up. A similar pattern has been observed in the Presidential election in March. Together with an increase in the overall turnout, both parties are likely to fail to cross the 5% threshold needed to win a seat.

In addition to the above, many other parties and lists are standing in the election. It is improbable that the majority of them will receive more than 1% of the popular vote. Newly founded KÚ (ECR/EPP) has the potential to get more than 3% of the popular vote as was founded by two incumbent MEPs who defected from KDH (EPP) and OĽaNO (ECR). It is, however, very unlikely that they will manage to cross the 5% threshold – but at a low turnout, ‘anything’ is possible.

To conclude, the turnout will be a deciding factor – not only the overall turnout but also the turnout of supporters of different parties. While mainstream polling analysis media predict three seats for Smer-S&D, it is possible that it is going to win only two seats. Meanwhile, ĽSNS (NI) is predicted to win 2 seats, but if they mobilise their voters, they can easily win three seats. SaS (ECR) is predicted to win two seats, which likely. PS/S (ALDE/EPP) is expected to win 1-2 seats, however, it can easily win three seats as their voters are most likely to turn up in the election. All other parties are predicted to win a single seat – which seems to be correct. It has to be noted that while 14 seats are ‘up for grabs’ in this election, only 13 MEPs will be able to take their seats until Brexit takes place and British MEP’s seats will leave the European Parliament. It is impossible to predict which Slovakian party will be impacted by this, as it will depend on the popular vote shares of all parties combined.

Edited by Euan Healey