The Affluent Slovak Town Where Neo-Fascism is Vogue
In recent European Parliament elections, 16 per cent of voters in the Hlohovec district backed the People's Party Our Slovakia (LSNS), widely seen as neo-fascist. In one of the town's electoral districts, support for the party topped 30 per cent.
That compared with 12 per cent backing for LSNS nationwide, putting it in third place behind a coalition of progressive parties and the ruling Smer party.
The result in Hlohovec left experts scratching their heads.
"I'm not sure about looking for rational reasons," Hlohovec Mayor Miroslav Kollar said. "The social dimension of support for the radicals that might be understandable in areas with high unemployment rates and low salaries doesn't apply here."
The received wisdom is that extremism tends to thrive in areas of socio-economic deprivation where far-right populists can jab at festering resentments and scapegoat easy targets: minorities, migrants, liberal elites in distant cities.
But that hardly squares with this affluent town of 20,000 people.
Located close to two of Slovakia's four big auto factories and the Jaslovske Bohunice nuclear power plant, Hlohovec boasts an unemployment rate of under two per cent, according to the Central Office of Labour, Social Affairs and Family.
And with the capital, Bratislava, an hour's commute away, the town is not exactly in the boondocks.
Despite its advantages, locals from Hlohovec and its surrounding municipalities have disproportionately backed LSNS in recent parliamentary, presidential and EU elections.
Led by Marian Kotleba, a former schoolteacher known for his admiration of the Slovak puppet state of Nazi Germany during World War II, LSNS has held 12 seats in parliament since 2016. Kotleba ran for president in March,...