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Slovakia Modern History

Despite the re-establishment of Czechoslovakia as a state after World War II, Slovak nationalism and the dream of its own state lived throughout the Cold War. When Slovakia became independent in 1993, the nationalist currents came to characterize politics and affect minority populations, something that still lives today. Slovakia has been a member of the EU since 2004 and is part of the Euro-cooperation.

In the first election after the Second World War, 1946, the Communist Party became the largest, but electoral success for Slovak nationalists prevented the Communists from gaining their own majority in Parliament. A coalition government was formed, led by the Communist Party. In 1948, however, the communists took full control of the country through the so-called Prague Cup.

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Slovakia. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

Now the Slovak farmer community changed rapidly. The church was attacked, agriculture was collectivized and an industrialization was carried out according to the Stalinist model. Emphasis is placed on heavy industry. The Communists turned down anything that could be interpreted as Slovak nationalism.

It was not until the second half of the 1960s that Slovak self-government was discussed again. At that time, a deep economic and political crisis had led to a large part of the Czechoslovak Communist Party leadership being deposed. Slovakian Communist Party leader Alexander Dubček took power in Czechoslovakia.

In April 1968, an action program was presented that gave Parliament greater power, equal rights for Czechs and Slovaks, and freedom of expression and press. The democratization process, called the Prague Spring, was interrupted when troops from the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact countries (except Romania) marched into Czechoslovakia on August 21, 1968.

Contemporary History of SlovakiaParty leadership was dismissed and Slovakian Gustáv Husák took over as party leader in April 1969. Large purges were undertaken within the Communist Party. The only reform that survived was the transformation of Czechoslovakia into a federation of two national republics. Slovakia had its own government and parliament, but in practice these institutions were powerless during the communist era.

In January 1977, a group of oppositionists with the Czech playwright Václav Havel published at the head of the Charter 77 manifesto condemning crimes against civil liberties and rights in Czechoslovakia. Many of the signatories were imprisoned, but the group continued its regime-critical activities.

After Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev began his reform policy in 1985, pressure on the Czechoslovak leadership to democratize the country. A mass demonstration in Prague in January 1989 was violated, but was soon followed by new protests. On November 17 of that year - a week after the fall of the Berlin Wall - 50,000 people, most of them students, demonstrated in Prague. When the police forcibly tried to disperse the protesters, more than 500 people were injured. After a rumor spread that a student would have been killed in the demonstration, more and more people around the country gathered for new protests against the regime.

The Velvet Revolution and Slovak Independence

Opposition movements now merged into broad alliances: in Slovakia, the Public Against Violence (VPN) was formed and in the Czech Republic Citizens' Forum. On December 10, 1989, Husák resigned. His last action was to set up a new government, in which the Communists were in the minority. Václav Havel, who became the symbol of the peaceful "velvet revolution", was elected president on December 29, 1989 and the country was rapidly democratized.

In the first democratic elections in June 1990, the VPN won just over a third of the Slovak vote and its leader Vladimír Mečiar was elected Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic. At the federal level, the VPN and Citizens' Forum formed a coalition government together with the Slovak Christian Democrats.

The question of the future of the federation soon dominated Dominican politics. Mečiar increasingly advocated full independence for Slovakia. In April 1991, Parliament's presidency forced him to resign on the grounds that he had damaged Slovak-Czech relations. This led to large demonstrations in Bratislava in support of Mečiar, who left the VPN and formed a new, leftist nationalist party, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS).

When the parliamentary elections were held in Slovakia in June 1992, HZDS won 74 of the 150 seats. In the Czech Republic, the right-wing Democratic National Party, led by economist Václav Klaus, won equally clearly. The conquerors' perception of the future of Czechoslovakia went very far apart. Klaus advocated a rapid transition to market economy in a unified Czechoslovakia, while Mečiar wanted continued state financial subsidies in a confederation between two largely independent states. When unity could not be reached, Mečiar was offered more than he wished: Klaus proposed a division of the land. So it was, even though, according to opinion polls, the proposal did not support the majority of the population of any of the republics.

In July 1992, the Slovak Parliament adopted by a large majority a declaration of sovereignty. In January 1993, the Republic of Slovakia was formed and Michal Kováč, Vice President of HZDS, was elected President.

The HZDS government continued to govern after independence, but resigned in 1994 after Prime Minister Mečiar lost a vote of confidence in Parliament. He was replaced by Jozef Moravčík, former Foreign Minister, who was allowed to lead a transitional government with representatives from both right and left parties. The transitional government's main task was to hold new elections, but during its half-year in power several political initiatives were taken. The privatization program was revived and foreign policy was focused on the West.

All parties that were members of the transitional government went back to the 1994 parliamentary elections. The largest party again became HZDS. Mečiar formed a new government, this time in collaboration with the Slovak Nationalist Party (SNS) and the Slovak Workers' Association (ZRS), a party far out on the left. The government pursued a nationalist and authoritarian policy. President Kováč now belonged to those who became increasingly critical of Mečiar.

Slovakia applied for EU membership in 1995, but did not join the countries that were allowed to start membership negotiations in 1997. According to the EU, the country was well on its way to meeting the economic conditions, but it did not meet the political requirements for membership. The EU referred to the regime's authoritarian features, its involvement in criminal activities, the suppression of the opposition and the vulnerable situation of the minorities.

The dislocated Slovak Parliament failed in 1998 to agree on a new president. Therefore, when Kováč's term expired in March of that year, most of the President's powers were automatically transferred to the Prime Minister.

Prior to the September 1998 elections, a five per cent block was introduced to Parliament, which also applied to individual parties within electoral unions. A series of opposition parties formed a joint party, the Slovak Democratic and Christian Coalition (SDKÚ-DS). The three Hungarian parties also joined forces in the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK-MKP) and approached the other opposition parties. The largest opposition party, the reformed former Communist Party Democratic Left Party (SDL), did not join the SDKÚ-DS but promised to support the coalition in office.

In the 1998 elections, HZDS became the largest party with 27 percent of the vote, but the opposition agreed to form a coalition government with SDKÚ-DS leader Mikuláš Dzurinda as prime minister. The government included both parties formed by reformed communists and liberal right-wing parties. For the first time in independent Slovakia, the Hungarian SMK-MKP also joined the government, which had obtained a sufficient majority to be able to change the constitution on its own.

One of the first steps taken by the Dzurinda government was to change the constitution so that the president is elected in direct elections. Government candidate Rudolf Schuster won clearly in the 1999 presidential election.

The coalition government implemented reforms required for EU and NATO membership. It strengthened the independence of the judiciary, freedom of expression and the position of minorities. In addition, the influence of the regions and municipalities was increased. Many of the privatizations of state-owned large corporations carried out under the Mečiar regime were annulled and subsequently legally enforced.

Ahead of the September 2002 parliamentary elections, HZDS split when Mečiar refused to put several party members in an elective seat. Led by Ivan Gašparovič, the outbreakers formed a new party of the Democracy Movement (HZD).

In the 2002 parliamentary elections, Prime Minister Dzurinda's coalition government was given a renewed mandate to govern, despite the fact that HZDS again got the most votes (19.5 percent). HZD did not pass the block to Parliament.

Membership in the EU and NATO

The Dzurinda government quickly reaped two important victories: both the EU and NATO gave the go-ahead for membership in 2002. In a May 2003 referendum, 93 percent of voters voted yes to the EU. In May 2004, Slovakia became a member of the EU, while NATO accession took place a month earlier.

The government took financial measures to strengthen the country's competitiveness and balance the state budget. The pension system, unemployment benefit and other social insurance were reorganized to lower costs. However, the measures were unpopular. Unemployment was high and many wage earners had seen their real wages fall. The government's savings policy hit the Roma hard, especially the halving of the social contribution in March 2004, which led to riots among Roma in eastern Slovakia.

In the 2004 presidential election, HZD leader Ivan Gašparovič unexpectedly managed to reach the second round, defeating Mečiar.

Despite the financial successes, the contradictions within the government increased in 2005. Minister of Economy Pavol Rusko, as Minister, still engaged in private business and was dismissed. His Liberal Party The New Citizens Alliance (ANO) was forced to leave the government coalition. In February 2006, another of the coalition parties, the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), left its ministerial posts in protest that Dzurinda did not want to enact a treaty with the Vatican that would give employees the right to say no to work contrary to their religious beliefs. After KDH's resignation, Dzurinda asked Parliament to move the upcoming parliamentary elections from September to June 2006.

Prior to the election, the Left Party Riktning (Smer) merged with SDL and two other Social Democratic parties and formed Direction-Social Democracy (Smer-SD). In the election became the largest party and formed government together with HZDS and the right-wing extreme SNS. The Prime Minister became Smer-SD's leader, popular politician and lawyer Robert Fico.

In the European Parliament, the socialist group was upset by Smer-SD's cooperation with the SNS and excluded the party from the group for a time. Following the Fico government's accession, racial slurs became more and more common, not least through the SNS leader Ján Slota's outcome against Hungarians and Roma. Violence against, above all, the Roma minority increased.

Although he promised radical changes during the election movement, Fico pursued a cautious economic policy. This is to meet the conditions for the transition from the national currency koruna to the euro, which was scheduled in January 2009. Later that year, Gašparovič was re-elected president.

In the June 2009 European elections, only 19.6 percent of Slovak voters voted. However, this was a slight increase compared to 2004, when Slovakia had the EU's lowest turnout so far with 17 percent.

In 2009, Parliament voted to restrict the right of minorities to use their own language in contact with the authorities (see Population and Languages). In neighboring Hungary, the extremist nationalist currents also grew. In May 2010, Hungary decided that ethnic Hungarians living in other countries should be able to become Hungarian citizens. The Slovak government responded by adopting a new law in which the residents who apply for citizenship in other countries risk losing their Slovak citizenship.

Short-lived bourgeois government

Before the parliamentary elections a month later, anti-Hungarian rhetoric was harsh. The Hungarian party SMK-MKP lost their seats in parliament, but at the same time a new party, Bro, was voted into parliament. Backed by Bro were former SMK members who raised questions about the rights of minority populations and increased understanding between the peoples. At the same time, the anti-Hungarian HZDS left Parliament.

On paper, Smer-SD was the election's big winner with 62 seats. Nevertheless, four bourgeois parties that received a total of 79 seats were able to form government under the leadership of Iveta Radičová of SDKÚ-DS. She promised an economic policy with strict budgetary discipline and a reconciling line with Hungary.

However, the new government did not become long-term in power. Greece's budget and loan crisis, which forced the 17 eurozone countries to approve a strengthening of the Union's crisis fund, forced the cooperation between the Slovak government parties.

Radičová had, upon his accession, said that Slovakia would not contribute to the crisis fund, as it was one of the poorest euro countries and had already made great sacrifices to meet the conditions of entry into the euro. However, she broke her promise in 2010 and promised in May 2011 to raise more money. In a vote in parliament in October 2011, the liberal SaS opposed its prime minister. There was opposition in the people's opinion that Slovakia would help large and old euro countries that misunderstood the economy and violated the rules.

Although Radičová threatened to resign unless the entire government voted in favor of strengthening the crisis fund, she lost the vote. However, Slovak support for the crisis fund went through after the left opposition supported Radičová in a subsequent vote in Parliament. In exchange, the Prime Minister announced a new election until March 2012. In anticipation of that, President Ivan Gašparovič appointed the old government to an interim government. The EU leadership praised Slovakia's ability to make a cross-border settlement. In domestic politics, the tone was different. Voter support for the government collapsed.

When it was revealed in December 2011 that the former SDKÚ-DS-led government (2002–2006) had been involved in severe corruption deals, the support collapsed even more. Through leaks to the media, it became clear that politicians and entrepreneurs, who were intercepted by the security service in 2005-2006, received bribes in connection with the privatization of state-owned companies. The revelations came to be called the Gorilla Heritage (after the name of the security service's operation) and led to popular protests. Voters were reminded of the dubious connections that existed between politicians and business in the 1990s.

In February 2012, hundreds of protesters gathered in Bratislava where they threw eggs and bananas at government buildings. The support for the left opposition and Robert Fico, leader of the Direction-Social Democracy (Smer-SD), was enormous when the polling stations were opened on March 10, 2012.

As expected, the new election led to a shift in power, with Smer-SD receiving just over 44 percent of the vote and its own majority in Parliament. The former government parties were severely punished by the electorate. It was best for SDKÚ-DS, which received just over 8 percent. The newly formed Conservative Party Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO), which consisted of defectors from SaS, received almost 9 percent. The Slovak Nationalist Party (SNS) did not pass the five per cent block and left Parliament.

Smer-SD and Robert Fico could now form the country's first one-party government. Prime Minister Fico promised to support the EU and the European Central Bank in the fight to protect the euro. For Slovakia, his goal was to reduce the budget deficit to less than three percent of GDP by 2013. The so-called flat tax system, that is, all employees pay the same tax rate (19 percent) introduced in 2004, would be replaced by a more progressive one. systems where high-income earners would pay 25 percent in income tax while low- and middle-income earners were allowed to keep the lower tax rate. He also promised to raise corporate taxes. To combat youth unemployment, he wanted to subsidize jobs for people under 29.

In June 2012, Parliament approved the EU's new European Stability Mechanism (ESM), which would replace the former EFSF crisis fund from 2013. The ESM could lend up to EUR 500 billion to member countries in crisis.

In March 2014, multi-millionaire Andrej Kiska was elected president after defeating Prime Minister Fico in the crucial round of elections. A widespread concern for total social democratic dominance at all political levels is believed to have led a large majority of voters to end up behind the politically inexperienced Kiska, who has been most known for philanthropic activities in the last decade.

Widespread politician disdain and increasing popular anger against the corruption led Smer-SD to step back in the 2016 election, but the party nevertheless became the largest.

The electoral movement was largely characterized by anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric, and for the first time, the right-wing extremist, closest to the Nazi party Kotleba - the People's Party of our Slovakia (L'SNS, see Political system) entered the parliament. In principle, the entire Slovak Parliament got a blow to the right.

After the victory, Smer-SD formed a coalition government with the Slovak Nationalist Party (SNS), Bro (Most-Hid) and the Network / Siet '(read more in Current politics).

 
 

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