Freedom in the World
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Slovakia received a downward trend arrow due to an increase in civil defamation cases against journalists, with plaintiffs including the prime minister and the head of the Supreme Court.
Ivan Gasparovic won a second term as president in an April 2009 runoff vote against Iveta Radicova of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union–Democratic Party. New signs of discrimination against the Romany community emerged during the year, including police abuse of Romany children and the construction of an ethnic separation wall in an eastern Slovakian town. Separately, rising numbers of libel cases, including suits brought by the prime minister and Supreme Court president, contributed to self-censorship among journalists.
Meciar lost the 2004 presidential runoff election to a former HZDS ally, Ivan Gasparovic. After the government lost support due to unpopular economic reforms, the KDH left the coalition in February 2006, prompting early elections in June. The leftist, populist Smer (Direction–Social Democracy) party won 50 of 150 seats, followed by the SDKU, now allied with the Democratic Party (DS), with 31; the far-right Slovak National Party (SNS) with 20; the SMK with 20; the HZDS, now allied with the People’s Party (LS), with 15; and the KDH with 14. Smer’s leader, Robert Fico, formed an unusual coalition with the SNS and LS-HZDS, raising concerns abroad that the allied left and right wings of Slovak politics could adopt destabilizing policies.
A two-round presidential election held in March and April 2009 was considered free and fair. Gasparovic, supported by Smer and the SNS, outpolled five challengers in the first round, winning nearly 47 percent of the vote. His leading opponent, sociologist Iveta Radicova of the SDKU-DS, took 38 percent. Gasparovic then defeated Radicova in the second round, securing 55 percent of the vote. Slovakia, which had formally adopted the euro currency in January, posted the EU’s lowest voter turnout for European Parliament elections in June, with less than 20 percent participation. The three opposition parties each won two seats, while Smer garnered five and its coalition partners each took one.
Slovakia is an electoral democracy. Parliamentary elections in 2006 and the presidential election in 2009 were considered free and fair. Voters elect the president for up to two five-year terms and members of the 150-seat, unicameral National Council (parliament) for four-year terms. The prime minister is appointed by the president but must have majority support in the parliament to govern.