Direction – Social Democracy
|Founded||8 November 1999|
|Split from||Party of the Democratic Left|
|Headquarters||Bratislava, Slovak Republic|
|Youth wing||Young Social Democrats|
|European affiliation||Party of European Socialists|
|International affiliation||Socialist International|
|European Parliament group||Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats|
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|Politics of Slovakia
Direction – Social Democracy (Slovak: Smer–sociálna demokracia, Smer-SD) is a social-democratic political party in Slovakia. It is led by Robert Fico who serves his second term as a Prime Minister of Slovakia. Smer-SD is the largest party in the National Council, with an absolute majority of 83 seats (out of 150) following the Parliamentary Election held on 10 March 2012.
Originally named Direction, the party emerged as a breakaway from the Party of the Democratic Left (SDĽ) on 8 November 1999. Under Fico, at the time one of the most popular politicians in the country, it quickly surpassed the SDĽ. In 2003 it changed its formal name to Direction (Third Way) (Slovak: Smer (tretia cesta)). In 2005, it absorbed SDĽ and several other centre-left parties and adopted its current name. Following the party's victory in 2006, Smer entered into a coalition with the nationalist Slovak National Party (SNS). For this, it was suspended from membership of the Party of European Socialists (PES). The PES Chairman, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, explained in The Slovak Spectator that "Most of our members stood solidly behind our values, according to which forming a coalition with the extreme right is unacceptable." Smer was readmitted into the PES in 2008.
The party arose as a breakaway from the Party of the Democratic Left (SDĽ) in 1999 (Robert Fico being the most popular SDĽ member at that time) and quickly became one of the most popular parties in Slovakia, while the SDĽ, which was the successor of the original Communist Party of Slovakia and was the governing party from 1998 to 2002, was steadily decreasing in popularity.
As of 2004, it was the third largest party in the National Council of the Slovak Republic, with 25 out of 150 seats. As of early 2005, it was in the first place among all Slovak political parties in opinion polls with 30% support.
As from 1 January 2005, Smer merged with the smaller social-democratic parties:
- Party of the Democratic Left (see above)
- Social Democratic Alternative; a small social-democratic party that split from the SDĽ somewhat later than Smer did, and
- Social Democratic Party of Slovakia; founded in 1990, the party became known under the leadership of Alexander Dubček.
The resulting entity was named Direction – Social Democracy (Smer – Sociálna demokracia).
In the parliamentary election of 17 June 2006, the party won 29.1% of the popular vote and 50 out of 150 seats. Following that election, Smer-SD formed a coalition government with the People's Party – Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and Slovak National Party (SNS), a nationalist party. Smer was then temporarily suspended from membership in the Party of European Socialists (PES) on 12 October 2006. The resolution to suspend Smer referred specifically to the PES Declaration “For a modern, pluralist and tolerant Europe”, adopted by the PES Congress in 2001 in Berlin which states: “all PES parties adhere to the following principles… to refrain from any form of political alliance or co-operation at all levels with any political party which incites or attempts to stir up racial or ethnic prejudices and racial hatred.” Smer was readmitted on 14 February 2008 after Smer-SD chairman Robert Fico and SNS leader Jan Slota pledged in a letter to respect European values, human rights and all ethnic minorities.
Although the party won the most votes in the 2010 parliamentary election, with a lead of 20% over second-placed SDKÚ, they had not been able to form a government because of losses sustained by their coalition partners. Their result, 34.8%, won 62 seats in the National Council for them, but the HZDS failed to cross the 5% threshold, losing all their seats, and the Slovak National Party was reduced to nine seats. As a result, the four opposition centre-right parties – the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union – Democratic Party (SDKÚ), Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) and Most–Híd – were able to form a new government.
With the Parliamentary election held on 10 March 2012, Smer-SD won 44.4% of the votes and became the largest party in the National Council, with an absolute majority of 83 seats (out of 150). The Smer-SD formed the first single-party government in Slovakia since 1993.