After a decade of infighting, ethnic Hungarian parties in Slovakia finally form a coalition

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Three of Slovakia’s parties representing the sizable Hungarian minority in the country will form a pre-election coalition, acccording to an annoucement on March 23. The coalition, consisting of Magyar Közösség Pártja (MKP), Most-Híd, and Összefogás (Cooperation), will form a new party called Szövetség (Alliance).

The Hungarian minority in Slovakia numbers around 400,000 members, which is the second largest Hungarian diaspora community after the one in Transylvania. Despite the numbers, Hungarians have had no effective parliamentary representation for almost a decade. The only party with some Hungarian MPs was Híd (Bridge), but since they were a strongly pro-Brussels liberal party made up of Slovak and Hungarian MPs, they did not present a clear voice on behalf of ethnic Hungarians.

Joining other European liberal critics, the Híd party has also attacked the Hungarian governing party Fidesz and its leader Viktor Orbán, thus directly jeopardizing the interests of Hungarians in Slovakia, who are traditionally conservative and have a nation-oriented political outlook. The government of Orbán had also actively supported cultural and educational projects in Slovakia, something that Híd politicians have branded as interference with the country’s internal affairs.

As a result, during the 2020 elections, no Hungarian party has achieved the 5-percent threshold to obtain a mandate in the Slovakian parliament, which is the worst result since the separation of Czechia and Slovakia in 1993. Although discussions about forming a coalition were held before the elections, due largely to Híd’s demands for a disproportionate share in MP’s if the coalition were to successfully enter parliament, no agreement was reached.

Currently, the Hungarian minority, which forms roughly 8 percent of the country’s population, has no representation in the Slovak parliament.

The new party called Szövetség (Alliance) is expected to change the situation. Together, the coalition has a good chance of reaching the required electoral threshold, effectively ending the infighting that divided the Hungarian community home and abroad. One of the chief obstacles that have previously hindered the success of such an agreement was the political ambitions and the divisive personality of Béla Bugár, leader of the liberal Híd, who is no longer a candidate for the party. His resignation after the party’s shameful election defeat in 2020 has opened a way not only for a common platform in Slovakia but also to a renewed dialogue with the Hungarian government.

Krisztián Forró, president of the MKP, stated that the creation of the new political party was “not the goal but an instrument for preserving and growing the Hungarian minority.” Although the new party is a Hungarian one and is meant to support the Hungarian community, it aims to represent all other minorities living in regions where they have a candidate, added Forró.

László Sólymos, leader of Híd, has called the merger a development of huge importance. Hinting at the ongoing government crisis in Slovakia, he stated that “while others fall apart, we are uniting, while others destroy, we are creating unity”. In his view, currently there is chaos not only in government circles but also in society as a whole. The government has given up on regions that are being left behind in terms of development, and this is what the new party aims to remedy.

Answering questions from the press, the leader of the MKP has revealed that the new party is willing to cooperate with other Slovak parties, except for the far-right ĽSNS (Our Slovakia People’s Party) or with the social democrat party of former Prime Minister Robert Fico. This is a crucial development given that one of the founding members of Alliance was previously a coalition partner to Fico’s government. For the liberals of Híd this is a notable break with their own past, but a pivotal reason may have to do with the fact that there are currently a dozen top ranking police officers in police custody as well as members of the judiciary and former politicians with close ties to the former Fico government. Most of them are accused of links to organized crime. 

Híd were members of Fico’s government between 2016 and 2020 and have previously shown little opposition to the corruption and links to criminal groups the former social democrats have been accused of.

The formation of a new party is potentially embarrassing news for opposition parties in Hungary itself, who have controversially campaigned against the interests of the Hungarian minorities living in surrounding countries. Members of the Hungarian far-left student movement Momentum have often campaigned in Romania and Slovakia in order to convince minority Hungarians to support liberal pro-Brussels political parties instead of voting alongside ethnic loyalties. Hungarians living outside the borders of Hungary are generally viewed as strongly adhering to their national identity and culture in contrast with the affluent Hungarian metropolitan elite represented by parties such as Momentum, who often see themselves more as global citizens than bearers of local identities and traditions.

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