Slovakia as of late held parliamentary elections that brought about the triumph of a pro-Russian politician, Robert Fico, and his SMER-SSD party. Fico’s return to power has raised concerns both within Slovakia and across Europe, as it signifies a potential shift in the country’s foreign policy, especially regarding its stance on Ukraine and its relationship with the European Union (EU) and NATO.
Slovakia, a small eastern European country with a population of roughly 5.5 million individuals, has encountered political instability in recent years, with frequent changes in leadership and shaky coalition governments.
The recent elections denoted the nation’s attempt to choose its fifth prime minister in just four years, highlighting the challenges of maintaining political continuity and stability.
This result was surprisingly good, as earlier opinion polls had suggested a close race between SMER and the liberal Progressive Slovakia (PS) party. PS, a pro-Ukrainian and pro-European party, secured 17% of the votes, making it the second-largest party.
The moderate-left Hlas (Voice) party, drove by a previous SMER member, came in third with 15.03% of the vote. This party’s role in potential coalition negotiations could be crucial in determining the future government’s direction.
With no single party winning an outright majority, the formation of a coalition government is almost certain. Slovakia’s Leader Zuzana Čaputová is supposed to request the leader from the winning party, Robert Fico, to form the government.
Robert Fico will need to seek coalition partners to secure the necessary parliamentary support, as his party did not win a large enough share of the vote to govern independently.
One potential coalition partner is the ultranationalist Slovak National Party, which received 5.68% of the vote and shares pro-Russian sentiments.
If these parties join forces, they could hold a parliamentary majority, potentially giving Fico the opportunity to shape the government according to his agenda.
One of the main worries emerging from Robert Fico’s victory is his position on Ukraine and the European Union. Fico has openly expressed pro-Russian sentiments, including advocating for the immediate cessation of Slovak military support for Ukraine.
He has also pledged to block Ukraine’s NATO ambitions, which contradicts Slovakia’s previous staunch support for Ukraine.
Slovakia has been a vital supporter of Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in February 2022. The nation has given military hardware to Ukraine and opened its borders to refugees fleeing the conflict.
Fico’s proposed policy changes could strain Slovakia’s relationship with both NATO and the EU, as they have both been supportive of Ukraine in its conflict with Russia.
During his time in opposition, Fico shaped a nearby alliance with Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, especially in their analysis of the European Union.
There is speculation that if Robert Fico returns to power, he and Orbán could collaborate to create obstacles for the EU’s decision-making process, potentially leading to tensions within the bloc.
Furthermore, if Poland’s governing Law and Justice party wins a third term in its upcoming parliamentary elections, it could strengthen this bloc of EU member states that have been critical of Brussels, thereby complicating EU governance and foreign policy.
The new political race in Slovakia additionally raised worries about disinformation and the role of social media.
European Commission’s top digital affairs official, Věra Jourová, characterized the election as a “test case” for evaluating how effective social media companies have been in countering Russian propaganda in Slovakia.
Disinformation campaigns can influence public opinion and sway election outcomes, and addressing this issue is crucial for the integrity of democratic processes.
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