Slovak president offers Fico chance to form new government

Slovak president offers Fico chance to form new government
Fico faces a tough task in forming a stable government.
By bne IntelliNews March 7, 2016

Slovak President Andrej Kiska announced on March 7 that he will offer current Prime Minister Robert Fico a chance to form a new government, after the country’s general elections ended in deadlock.

Fico’s ruling centre-left Smer party won just 28.3% of the votes, securing no more than 49 of the 150 seats in parliament. The result, which saw Smer retreat from 44.4% of the vote in 2012, leaves the party needing at least two coalition partners to form an administration.

Fico is now faced with the task of burying his deep differences with the mainstream centre-right opposition, or joining up with the pair of far-right groups that won seats in the vote, though that would be extremely controversial. The vote was so split that many had expected Kiska to appoint a caretaker administration in order to push through Slovakia's EU presidency that kicks off in July. The chances of that happening still appear decent.

"There are different results from what most of the parties expected. There are several new parties, including radical political extremism in uniform," Kiska said, according to TASR news agency. "There are multiple lines of division between the elected parties. Some just can't be overcome, nor would it be right. Some will have to be overcome, even though it won't be easy. The elected leaders will have to deal with that."

Fico and Smer enjoyed rising popularity last year as the government adopted a series of populist measures, including a 50% cut in VAT, free transport for pensioners and students, and hikes in the minimum salary. Support rose even higher when Fico was very firm in rejecting the EU’s plan to impose migrant mandatory quotas within the bloc. However, recent protests in the healthcare and education sectors shook his credibility and support.

The results showed that the second most popular party is the free market Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), whose hardline Euroscepticism brought down the last centre-right government, but the party gained no more than 12.1% of the votes. It was followed the populist OLANO-NOVA which took 11% of the votes. 

Smer’s most likely partner, the hard right Slovak National Party (SNS), gained 8.6% of the votes, which will entitle it to 15 seats. The two parties would need another coalition partner to form the government, should they decide to form a coalition.

The extreme right nationalist LS-Nase Slovensko (Our Slovakia) led by neo-Nazi Banska Bystrica governor, Marian Kotleba managed to make it to the parliament for the first time, gaining 8% of the votes.

Millionaire Boris Kollar’s protest party Sme-Rodina took 6.6% and the largely ethnic Hungarian party Most-Hid won 6.5%. The centre-right Siet, once considered Smer’s prime challenger, barely reached parliament with 5.6% of the vote. 

The Christian Democrats (KDH) and the ethnic-Hungarian SMK failed to pass the 5% threshold to enter parliament.

"The upshot is that a coalition of Smer, the Slovak National Party, and We Are Family would appear to be the most likely outcome," said Capital Economics in a research note. "However, negotiations look set to be difficult and if a government isn’t formed (coalition negotiations can last up to 30 days), a fresh election will need to be called. What’s more, even if a government is put together, it’s likely to be extremely fragile."