Freedom and Solidarity
|Chairperson||Richard Sulík MEP|
|Founded||28 February 2009|
|Headquarters||Čajakova 18, 811 05 Bratislava|
|Youth wing||Young Liberals|
|European affiliation||Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists|
|European Parliament group||European Conservatives and Reformists|
|Colours||Green and Blue|
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Freedom and Solidarity (Slovak: Sloboda a Solidarita, SaS) is a liberal political party in Slovakia. The centre-right party was established in 2009 and is led by its founder, the economist Richard Sulík, who designed Slovakia's flat tax system. In the March 2012 parliamentary election, it lost half of its 22 seats in the National Council. The party had held four positions in the government of Slovakia before the election.
Besides advocating social and economic liberalism, the party is civil libertarian, including advocating liberalisation of drug laws and same-sex marriage. It is moderately eurosceptic. Freedom and Solidarity launched a campaign called 'Referendum 2009' to hold a referendum on reforming and cutting the cost of politics. The party makes heavy use of the Internet: fighting the 2010 parliamentary election through Facebook and Twitter, with the party having 68,000 'fans' on Facebook by the election.
The party narrowly failed to cross the 5% threshold at the 2009 European elections, but came third, winning 22 seats, at the 2010 parliamentary election. It became part of the four-party centre-right coalition, with four cabinet positions, with Richard Sulík elected the Speaker of the National Council. In the 2012 elections, however, the party suffered a major setback and lost half its seats. In the 2014 European elections the party returned a single Member of the European Parliament (MEP).
The party is member of the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists (AECR). Leader and MEP Richard Sulik, left the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group (ALDE group) in the European Parliament to sit with the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) on 2 October 2014.
Richard Sulík was special adviser to two Ministers of Finance, Ivan Mikloš and Ján Počiatek, with whom he worked to simplify the tax system and implement Slovakia's 19% flat tax. He announced his intention to found Freedom and Solidarity on 10 October 2008, calling for a party dedicated to economic freedom and questioning the commitment of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union – Democratic Party (SDKÚ-DS) to that objective. Analysts cited a lack of any liberal party in the country. After securing the 10,000 signatures required to found a party, SaS made its public debut in February 2009, ahead of the European election in June. The party set publicly declared goals of entering the National Council in 2010 and entering government in 2014.
At SaS's founding congress in Bratislava on 28 February 2009, Richard Sulík was elected as Chairman, and Jana Kiššová as General Manager. SaS selected economist Ján Oravec, to be its candidate for the 2009 European elections. The party supported the SDKÚ-DS candidate, Iveta Radičová, in the presidential election in March and April 2009; she was defeated in the second round.
With others, Sulík was approached by Declan Ganley to join the Libertas.eu alliance of eurosceptic parties for the European elections, but turned down the invitation in order to remain independent. While he was also a sceptic of the Lisbon Treaty, and more generally a critic of European intransparency and bureaucracy, he didn't share the isolationist position of Libertas. In the elections, SaS received 4.71% of the votes: just missing the 5% threshold. The SDKÚ-DS accused Freedom and Solidarity of unnecessarily furthering the fragmentation of the political right in Slovakia. In the 2009 regional elections, SaS won one seat, in Bratislava.
The 2009 referendum and 2010 election
Later in 2009, SaS promoted a referendum striving for major cuts to politicians' privileges. The demands include downsizing the Slovak parliament from 150 to 100 MPs, scrapping their immunity from criminal prosecution and limits to be placed on the public finances spent on government officials' cars. Furthermore, they demand that the radio and television market should be further liberalized, abolishing concessionary fees, and public officials' right to comment and reply to media coverage should be removed from the press law. In January 2010, SaS announced that by the end of 2009 it had managed to collect the 350,000 signatures needed in order to call a referendum. SaS forwarded the signatures to the Slovak president Ivan Gašparovič, requesting him to schedule the referendum for the date of the National Council elections on 12 June 2010.
In March 2010, people reported Sulík to the police for the content of the manifesto for the 2010 parliamentary election, arguing that the party's manifesto commitment to legalisation of cannabis constituted the criminal offence of 'spread of addiction'. This was thrown out by the prosecutors, who refused to press charges. The party's candidates were the most open about the state of their personal wealth. In the election to the National Council, SaS received 12.14%, coming third, and won 22 seats. The party was the only one in opposition that took votes from Direction – Social Democracy (Smer-SD), although it was estimated that more of its votes came from former SDKÚ-DS voters.
The party entered into coalition negotiations with the three other centre-right parties: the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union – Democratic Party (SDKÚ-DS), Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), and Most–Híd. The parties agreed a common programme, and allocated ministries, with the SaS controlling four ministries, as well as choosing the Speaker of the National Council. During the negotiations, Igor Matovič, one of the four MPs elected on the SaS list from the 'Ordinary People' faction, alleged that he had been offered a bribe to destabilise the talks, prompting Sulík to make a formal complaint to the prosecutor. On 29 June 2010, the President decided that the 2009 Referendum petition met the requirements, and the vote will go ahead on 18 September 2010. Four of the six issues in the referendum are part of the agreed programme of the new coalition government. However, when the referendum was held, the turnout fell far below the 50% required.
In February 2011, Igor Matovič was ejected from the caucus for voting for Direction – Social Democracy's proposed restrictions on dual nationality. Ordinary People filed to become an independent political party on 28 October 2011, and are running in the 2012 election as a separate list, along with two small conservative parties.
In the 2012 parliamentary election, SaS received 5.88% of the vote, placing it the sixth-largest party in the National Council with 11 deputies.
In the 2016 parliamentary election, the party received 12.10% of the vote, coming in as the second-largest party in the National Council with 21 deputies, exceeding expectations and making it the most successful election in SaS history.
Freedom and Solidarity believes in economic liberalisation and fiscal conservatism, being led by the father of Slovakia's flat tax, and party prides itself on its economic expertise. In the 2010 parliamentary election, the party emphasised that it had economic policies completely opposed to those of the centre-left government of Robert Fico, and ruled out cooperating with him. The party cites a need to close the budget deficit, and advocates reforming the social insurance system. Sulík's proposal for a welfare and tax system reform, Contribution Bonus, is based on a combination of flat tax, basic income and negative income tax. It aims to streamline the system and cut unnecessary expenses and bureaucratic overhead.
The party is Eurosceptic, opposing the 'bureaucratic machinery' that it says that the EU represents. The party opposed the Treaty of Lisbon, EU economic harmonisation, and an increased EU budget. It is particularly wary of the European Union restricting the free market. The party opposed the ECB's bailout of Greece during the 2010 debt crisis, while Sulik has proposed drawing up plans to withdraw Slovakia from the Euro. However, despite the party's Euroscepticism, Freedom and Solidarity initially joined the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), most of whose members are in favour of European integration.
SaS is notably civil libertarian, being the only major party to campaign for same-sex marriage or for the decriminalisation of cannabis. This put it at odds with its more socially conservative coalition partner when in government, the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH).
Following the 2014 European election, party leader Richard Sulík questioned the involvement of SaS within the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) Group, with speculation that the party could instead join the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR). However, Sulík joined the ALDE group as MEP for the start of the 8th European Parliament. He later defected to the ECR on 2 October 2014.
Freedom and Solidarity has 21 members of the National Council.
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