Slovakia: 2023 Prime Minister’s Elections

Who were the leading candidates and what will be the consequences of Fico's eletion. What is the expected impact on the EU and the War in Ukraine?

On the 30th of September 2023, Slovakia has hosted the elections aimed at deciding who the next Prime Minister will be. Results came out on the 2nd of October and have revealed a challenging scenario. Even though Slovakia is a small country with a population of just over 5 million people, Fico’s populist coalition’s win is expected to have a significant impact on the European Union, NATO, and the conflict in Ukraine.

Who were the leading candidates and what are the results?

The leading candidates of the 2023 Slovak elections were the Progressive Slovakia Party and the Social Democratic Party.

The former is led by the Vice President of the European Parliament Michal Simecka. It is a liberal and social-liberal party, characterised by a pro-EU and pro-Western stance, in accordance with the current government.

The latter is a left-wing coalition headed by Robert Fico. This candidate is not new to the Slovak political scene. In fact, he has been Prime Minister twice before, from 2006 to 2010 and from 2012 to 2018. He was forced to resign during his last mandate due to a scandal involving the murder of the investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova.

Before the election took place, many argued that, although Fico’s Party had a slightly bigger chance of winning, no coalition would have been able to achieve the votes necessary for the creation of an independent government. The predictions were correct as Fico did indeed manage to win the elections but with a small difference of solely 5%. In fact, he obtained 22.9 per cent of the votes, against the 18% of the Progressive Slovakia party.

As the results have shown, the ex-Prime Minister has not succeeded in gaining enough votes to be able to govern on his own. Despite this, he still has a significant chance to advance his policies and change the posture of the Slovak government. In fact, the candidate can count on smaller parties to create a coalition that can allow him to increase its influence on political processes. Potential cooperators are the moderate-left party of Peter Pellegrini, which has expressed support for Fico and the pro-Russian far right coalition, Republika.

What will be the consequences of Fico’s election?

Fico’s win in these elections is expected to have a significant impact not only on the country but also on the whole of the European Union. The risk is that Fico can start cooperating with the Hungarian President Orban, with whom he already has a close bond fed by the anti-EU views, and Poland’s Law and Justice Party. These three can create a group of states ready to challenge the European status quo. In a moment where Europe is seeking unity to fight against the Russian threat, this can become an important challenge.

The second change is a complete shift in the policies of the country towards Ukraine. Up until now, Slovakia has been one of the greatest supporters of Ukraine, being also the first state to send aid in February 2022, when the invasion had just started. Fico has repeatedly expressed his discontent for this stance and clearly claimed that he is planning on cutting off aid to Ukraine completely and side with Russia on this matter. Given that Slovakia is a member of both the European Union and NATO, frictions are bound to take place in both institutions.

Consultant at London-based Control Risk, Tatyana Valyaeva, in an interview to the CNBC has argued that although much fuss is made about these elections, the results cannot have a big impact on the war and on the EU due to the country’s limited capabilities. In fact, military aid is not significant to begin with, given the small weapon stock of the country and the challenging economic situation Slovakia is facing.

Although some agree with this opinion, the election of Fico can be considered threatening not for its material aspect but the ideological one. Not only could the new Prime Minister ally with leaders who share his views but also, these elections could become a model to be followed for other countries in the region.

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