Slovakia

5,440,000
Bratislava
Europe
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The first indications of man in the area we now know as Slovakia go back 250,000 years. The first known invaders were the Romans in 6 B.C and prior to that the area was largely controlled by tribes.

In the second and third centuries the Huns invaded the area and used it as a base for expansion and raids elsewhere. They were followed by the Slavs around the 6th Century A.D. A kingdom known as Great Moravia ruled by Mojmir I grew up around 830 A.D. but by the 10th Century the Hungarians or Magyars had taken over.

There was a brief invasion by the Mongols in 1241 but it didn’t last and the country was slowly absorbed by the Habsburgs. Apart from another brief period when the Ottomans attacked and were defeated in 1686, the Habsburgs continued their rule.

The first signs of a nationalist movement in the area occurred around the 18th Century and in 1848 the Slovaks joined with the Austrians in the Hungarian Revolution.

In 1867 the Austro-Hungarian Compromise established a dual monarchy and Slovakia was absorbed into Hungary.

By the early 1900s the first political parties had been established, namely the Slovak People’s Party and the Slovak National Party.

In World War One the Slovaks joined with the Czechs and when the Austro-Hungarian Empire was dissolved at the end of the war a new state of Czechoslovakia was born. This remained a parliamentary democracy from 1918 until 1938.

In 1939 the Germans invaded and allowed the Slovak Republic to exist as an Axis ally under the leadership of Jozef Tiso. By 1945 the Russians had invaded and restored the state of Czechoslovakia. By 1948 the Communist Party of Slovakia had seized control and were to rule Slovakia as a single party state for the next 40 years.

In 1989 the first protests known as the Velvet Revolution had started and later that year the Communist government fell and a transitional government was put in place until elections could be held. Those elections took place in June 1990 and Civic Forum was the winner. Parallel elections were also held for the Czech and Slovak Assemblies.

Following the election, delivering a federal constitution became more difficult and in 1992 the two sides agreed to dissolve Czechoslovakia. On 1st January 1993 the Slovak Republic and the Czech Republic came into existence.

Vladimir Mečiar and his Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) won the first election in 1992 and they went on to win the 1994 election, ruling until 1998.

In the 1998 election the HZDS were the largest party by one seat, but a coalition government under Mikuláš Dzurindra and his Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK) ruled for the next four years, winning the 2002 election and only being defeated in 2006.

The winners of the 2006 general election were Direction – Social Democracy (Smer-SD) and their leader, Robert Fico was made Prime Minister. They led a three party coalition.

In the 2010 general election Smer-SD was by far the largest party but was unable to form a coalition. Instead a four party coalition led by the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union – Democratic Party (SDKU) was established and its leader, Iveta Radičová, was made prime minister.

In 2011 the Eurozone crisis was creating political fallout in a number of countries. In Slovakia the government tried to pass a vote to ratify the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) but was defeated. It was all a ploy to get a general election called. One small coalition partner refused to ratify the deal and the opposition wanted the government to fall; a few days later the vote was ratified after the opposition had done a deal to call an election in March 2012.

The election was dominated by a series of scandals and the governing coalition parties were punished by the voters. The SDKU lost 17 of its 28 seats, Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) lost 11 of its 22 seats, Most–Híd (MOST) lost one of its fourteen seats and only the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) managed to increase its tally of seats by one to 16 seats.

Meanwhile the former Prime Minister Robert Fico and his Smer-SD party increased their tally of seats by 21 to take them to 83 seats in the 150 seat Národná rada or National Council (parliament). Although Fico was open to forming a coalition with other parties none came forward and Smer-SD went on to form a one party government; only the second time this had happened since 1993.

In March 2014 it was time to elect a new President. Robert Fico announced his intention to stand for the post and to make it a much more important position than the largely ceremonial role previously held. Concerns grew, not only about Fico’s ambitions but also who would replace him as Prime Minister. If Fico won then Smer would be in control of every level of government.

In the first round Robert Fico won a narrow victory against Independent Andrej Kiska who ran on a slogan of “The First Independent President”. Kiska went on to win the Presidential election in the second round with 59.38%. Fico was humiliated but returned to his position as Prime Minister.

The President is elected by popular vote for a five year term.

Slovakia has a unicameral National Council of the Slovak Republic with 150 members elected to serve for four years.

The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Slovakia at 54th out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 51 (where 100 is least corrupt).