Slovakia’s recent parliamentary election saw the victory of former Prime Minister Robert Fico and his party, SMER-SSD. Fico campaigned on a platform to end military aid to Ukraine and challenge the European Union’s consensus on support for Ukraine. With 98% of the voting districts reporting, Fico’s party secured 23.37% of the vote, placing them in the lead. However, Fico will need to secure allies to form the next government.
The Quest for Allies
Despite emerging as the winner, Fico’s party alone does not have enough support to form a government. The Progressive Slovakia (PS) party came in second with 16.86% of the vote, followed closely by the HLAS (Voice) party at 15.03%. HLAS could become the kingmaker in the formation of the next government. It is led by Peter Pellegrini, a former colleague of Fico. Pellegrini has kept his options open regarding future coalition formations.
A Shift in Policies
Fico’s victory in the election may have implications beyond Slovakia’s borders. A government led by Fico and his SMER-SSD party would align Slovakia with Hungary in challenging the European Union’s consensus on support for Ukraine. This comes at a time when the EU is focusing on maintaining unity in opposing Russia’s invasion. Furthermore, it may signal a broader shift in the region against political liberalism, a trend that could be reinforced if Poland’s conservative PiS party wins an upcoming election.
Fico’s party is known for its nationalist and socially conservative stance. It criticizes the imposition of social liberalism from Brussels. In contrast, the PS is more liberal on issues such as green policies, LGBT rights, deeper European integration, and human rights. The contrasting ideologies of these parties raise questions about the potential direction of the next government.
Uncertainty and Evaluations
While exit polls initially favored the PS, the final results went in Fico’s favor. The distribution of seats indicates that HLAS is a crucial party necessary for the formation of any functioning government coalition. The PS advocates for maintaining Slovakia’s strong support for Ukraine and would likely follow a liberal line within the EU. However, the formation of a coalition including HLAS and other right-wing or socially conservative parties would dilute the PS’s progressive and EU integration drive.
Whoever forms the next government in Slovakia will face significant challenges. The country has a looming budget deficit forecasted to be the highest in the eurozone. Fico capitalized on the dissatisfaction with the previous center-right coalition, which collapsed last year, triggering the early election. He emphasized concerns about the flow of migrants through Slovakia to Western Europe. Additionally, Fico’s views reflect the warming sentiment towards Russia among many Slovaks, which has gained traction on social media since the Ukraine war began.
Fico’s Past and Future
Fico’s political career has seen both triumphs and controversy. He previously served as prime minister from 2006 to 2010 and 2012 to 2018. However, he was forced to resign in 2018 following mass protests against corruption after the murder of an investigative journalist. Peter Pellegrini, a member of Fico’s SMER-SSD party, took over as prime minister until 2020 when a center-right coalition swept the election with promises to combat corruption. Their government also collapsed due to internal disagreements, leading to the early election.
In the face of criticism and the need to secure allies, Fico may moderate his rhetoric if he assumes power, as he has done in the past. The future of Slovakia’s government remains uncertain, as different parties with contrasting ideologies vie for influence and power. The outcome of this election reflects the broader political landscape in Central Europe, where nationalism and conservative viewpoints seem to be gaining traction against political liberalism and progressive values.