Slovakia has bucked the trend of far-right gains in Europe, with the People's Party-Our Slovakia losing in regional polls. But the ruling leftist party Smer also took a hit.
The far-right governor of Slovakia's central region of Banska Bystrica, Marian Kotleba (top photo), has been voted out in regional elections after a single four-year term in office, near-complete results showed on Sunday.
The winner of Saturday's election in Banska Bystrica was Jan Lunter, the joint candidate of an anti-fascist alliance, who received the endorsement of all parties except the far right.
Kotleba, chairman of the People's Party-Our Slovakia, became governor after a surprise first-time win in 2013 elections. His party won its first-ever seats in national parliament last year.
Support for the party, which has petitioned for a referendum on leaving the European Union and NATO, has lately been on the increase amid rising public anger over graft scandals linked to mainstream parties. It has also found approval in some quarters for its anti-immigration platform, even though Slovakia has seen very few migrants trying to enter the country.
But Saturday's elections saw it suffer another defeat, with the party's deputy chairman, Milan Uhrik, also losing the race for governor in the southwestern Nitra region.
The results go against recently growing support for far-right parties in many European countries, including Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic, fueled by years of slow economic growth and the arrival of more than a million migrants and refugees from the Middle East and Africa.
The entire party has faced efforts from prosecutors to have it banned on the grounds that it poses a threat to the democratic system. Kotleba and two other party members are also facing extremism charges.
Although the party denies any association with fascism, some members have held torch-lit marches where they wore black uniforms modelled on those worn during the so-called First Slovak Republic, a puppet state of Nazi Germany that existed in the majority of the present-day country during the Second World War. They have also carried out partly armed patrols on trains in regions with a large Roma population.
Another loser in Saturday's elections was the ruling leftist Smer party of Prime Minister Robert Fico, which won only two of its regional re-election bids. Four regions were instead won by center-right opposition candidates.
Hower, Smer remains the strongest party in Slovakia, well ahead of the euroskeptic Freedom and Solidarity party whose candidate won the governorship of the Bratislava region.
The election also saw a premiere: Erika Jurinova, the candidate of an alliance of business-friendly and conservative parties, became the first female governor ever to be elected in Slovakia, winning well ahead of the social-democratic incumbent in the region of Zilina.
tj/rc (dpa, Reuters)