Ahead of the Slovak elections this Saturday, the country’s Bishops urged voters to remember the “Gospel and common sense” as a far-right surge in polling threatens the stability of the very European Union project, according to analysts.
– Bishops to voters: “Beware of those who incite enmity”
Ahead of the parliamentary vote February 29, the Slovak Catholic Bishops’ Conference issued a statement recalling that although the Church stays out of politics, it encourages participation in elections.
The prelates said that although they wouldn’t instruct the faithful to vote for one particular party over another, they urged voters to familiarise themselves with the programs of the different political formations.
“Let us always test the political goals of the parties against the values of the Gospel. Let’s vote, and as faithful people decide with a great deal of responsibility!”, the Slovak Bishops urged.
Calling on voters not to get carried away by watchwords that play on emotions and by slogans that evoke non-existent threats, the Bishops urged Slovak citizens to keep to “peace and common sense”.
“Let us beware of those who incite enmity. Fast and radical solutions are appealing, but real life is more difficult. We are pilgrims and the journey is difficult. The goal is not shortcuts, but perseverance”, the prelates insisted.
“If we want a better Slovakia, we need constructive approaches that have real perspectives”, the Bishops insisted.
“We are disgusted with fraud and corruption. Material and moral. But let’s not lose hope!”, the prelates continued, urging voters not to “give in to dishonesty or new ideologies”.
“Our conscience will never be in conflict with a decision made in the light of the Gospel and common sense”, the bishops said, before asking for prayers for the elections and blessings on voters and candidates.
– Liberal democracy at stake: experts
Exactly what is at stake in the Slovak elections this Saturday was well explained to Al Jazeera February 28 by Michal Vasecka, the director of the independent think-tank Bratislava Policy Institute.
Vasecka said that with the surge in polling of “the neo-Nazi” People’s Party Our Slovakia (LSNS) – a formation that attacks Muslims, Jews, Roma and the European Union, and is predicted to win at least 10% of votes, or 18 seats in the 150-seat parliament – the very place of Slovakia in Europe is at stake.
“Slovakia is the last country of central Europe where at least officially we are full-fledged liberal democracy. Now we either confirm it… or Slovaks will join others in a region in backsliding in some sort of soft authoritarianism, illiberal democracies at best”, Vasecka told Al Jazeera.
“In this sense, these are the most important parliamentary elections in the last 20 years”.
Grigorij Meseznikov, the president of the Institute for Public Affairs, Bratislava, added also to Al Jazeera that even though the two principal parties – the ruling populist leftist Direction-Social Democracy (SMER) party and the centrist Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OLANO) party – have ruled out forming a coalition with the far-right LSNS, that eventuality couldn’t be taken entirely off the table.
If the LSNS did end up in government, “it would be a fundamental threat to the Euro-Atlantic direction of Slovakia”, warned Meseznikov, also a fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM) of Europe’s Future programme in Vienna.
“On the other hand, the threat to the EU may be to the extent that this type of political party would begin to dominate more in central and eastern European countries. This would threaten disintegration and weaken the EU as a whole”.