On Sunday, Slovakia awoke to the high possibility of having a leftist-populist government led by Robert Fico and his pro-Russia Smer party, after their strong success in Saturday’s election.
The party Smer received 23% of support, five percentage points more than the liberal and pro-Western Progressive Slovakia (PS), which received 18%. Fico will need to form a coalition in order to have a majority in parliament.
The political divide in Slovakia is evident through the actions of two parties. Fico opposes punishing Moscow for their invasion of Ukraine and suggests withdrawing military assistance for Kyiv. On the other hand, PS leader Michal Šimečka supports Slovakia’s commitment to the EU and NATO, and advocates for the rights of LGBT+ individuals, which is uncommon in the traditionally conservative nation.
After the final results of the ballot were released, Šimečka stated that a government under the leadership of Robert Fico is a persistent wrongdoing.
Fico stated that he did not comment on Smer’s win until Sunday afternoon and would only begin discussing coalition possibilities after receiving a formal invitation from President Zuzana Čaputová.
“If the opportunity arises for us to establish a government, I would request your patience. It is crucial for Slovakia to stabilize the situation,” stated Fico during a press conference. Fico previously served as prime minister of Slovakia from 2006-2010 and 2012-2018.
Šimečka was more communicative. “In light of the number of mandates, there are two realistic coalition possibilities,” he said during a morning talkshow on the RTVS public channel. “One led by Smer, and another by Progressive Slovakia and other partners, which would ultimately have more mandates.”
Peter Pellegrini, leader of the Hlas social-democratic party, was a strong contender in the recent elections, securing almost 15% of the vote. He may play a crucial role in forming a government. Hlas broke away from Smer last year, and both Fico and Pellegrini have expressed interest in forming a political alliance.
Pellegrini acknowledged that Hlas and Smer share similar political and ideological views, stating that “Slovakia hoped for Robert Fico’s victory.”
“Pellegrini suggested giving the president the opportunity to empower him, and if the negotiations led by Fico do not succeed, alternative discussions can be considered.”
President Caputova responded to Fico’s victory with a restrained reaction. In a statement, she acknowledged that the winner of the election holds the greatest responsibility for shaping the future and meeting the high expectations of the public. She emphasized the importance of fulfilling these expectations for the betterment of all citizens of Slovakia.
Caputova announced that she intends to extend an invitation on Monday to the victor of the election to attempt to forge a coalition.
According to the outcome of the election, Smer and Hlas would hold 69 out of 150 seats in Slovakia’s parliament, falling short of a majority. The nationalist SNS party, which has previously been in a coalition with Smer for two terms, has 10 seats and would be a suitable ally to form a majority coalition.
However, Šimečka is determined to continue his efforts to separate Hlas from Smer’s control. He stated, “It all hinges on Hlas’ decision. They have a crucial choice to make…Our objective is to prevent Robert Fico from being in power.”
At the moment, Pellegrini is refraining from sharing his thoughts. During an interview on RTVS, he mentioned, “I’m finding some enjoyment in this situation.” He also stated, “Previously, we didn’t seem favorable to them, like we were causing harm. But now, they are interested in negotiating with us. I’m not offended though, I’m a realist.”
Pellegrini stated that Hlas will only be a part of a coalition with Smer if all of the concerns mentioned by Mr. Šimečka are addressed. He also mentioned that Smer will need to make concessions and revise some of their statements.
Fico’s victory received the most attention from Central European countries outside of Slovakia, specifically from other governments that are friendly with Russia. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was one of the first to congratulate Fico, posting on social media, “Guess who’s back!” Orbán praised Fico’s clear win in Saturday’s election.
“I extend my sincere congratulations to Robert Fico on his victory,” stated Aleksandar Vučič, the authoritarian ruler of Serbia. “I firmly believe that we will strengthen our partnership in the upcoming days.”
Former Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš — himself a Slovak — also saluted Fico on his win, at the same time hailing Pellegrini for “his fantastic result.” Babiš, like Fico, was a member of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia before 1989.
The President of Czech Republic, Petr Pavel, emphasized the significance of maintaining positive relations between the two countries. He stated, “It is in our best interest for the Czech Republic and Slovakia to remain united.”
Czech Republic’s Interior Minister Vít Rakušan, who identifies as a liberal, commented that the outcomes in Slovakia are a cautionary tale and a learning experience for their own country.
Rakušan stated on social media that in order to preserve liberal democracy in the Czech Republic, it is important to educate and inform those who may not currently benefit from it. This includes individuals living in rural areas, those who are economically disadvantaged, and those who feel disillusioned. The goal is to build a society that is immune to fear.