Fico reaches quick deal on populist Slovak coalition

Fico reaches quick deal on populist Slovak coalition
The three horsemen? Peter Pellegrini, Robert Fico and Andrej Danko (from left to right). / bne IntelliNews
By Albin Sybera October 12, 2023

Opposition leader Robert Fico, head of Slovakia's populist leftist Smer party, has quickly reached a deal to form what will be his fourth government after the snap general elections two weeks ago, and will form a broadly leftwing and nationalist government that pledges to end military aid to Ukraine.

Fico announced on October 11 the signing of a memorandum with his future coalition partners, Smer's breakaway party Hlas, led by Robert Pellegrini, and the ultranationalist SNS of Andrej Danko.

The incoming Slovak government has drawn international attention because of Fico's campaign against military aid to Ukraine and his opposition to further sanctions on Russia. There are also fears that he could try to hollow out Slovak democracy like Hungary's radical rightwing populist leader Viktor Orban, though Pellegrini has vowed to prevent the country becoming another "black hole" in Europe.

The three leaders announced the memorandum at a press conference on Wednesday, October 11, after Pellegrini pointed to Smer and SNS as his future coalition partners a day earlier.

“If [we’re] going to hell, then on a white horse,” Fico said in response to his critics, and slammed those who warned of risks to democracy in the country under his rule.

Hlas came third in the September 30 snap elections, making the party a kingmaker of any post-election arrangement, but at a press conference, Fico appeared to be back in charge.

Under the memorandum, Smer should take six ministries and the post of the prime minister, Hlas should take seven ministries, and SNS three.

According to the liberal online news outlet, some of the key portfolios going to Smer would be finance, foreign affairs, defence and justice, Hlas' key posts should be the economy, interior, health and education. SNS should be left with culture, environment, and a new portfolio focused on tourism.  

At a press conference, Fico again attacked the police for allegedly failing to tackle the increased flow of migration from Hungary, and he stated that “we reject gender ideology” and  “want to return to ‘healthy reasoning".

Slovakia’s former premier, who has adopted Kremlin talking points in recent years, is widely expected to meddle with the ongoing criminal investigation launched into Smer’s 2010’s era in power and involving several party-linked officials and party members.

The three leaders made a number of nationalist appeals, with Danko saying that “what unites us is Christian nationalist policy” and the need “to address issues of people who live here” in Slovakia.

Danko also said that a “common fight with migration is awaiting us” and looking at a hall filled with journalists, he said that “it is important that politicians and media learn to respect the election results”.

Pellegrini said that the new government will bring “peace in Slovakia” after political turmoil, adding that “Slovakia needs a new government as soon as possible”.

All three leaders appeared confident that their coalition would last. Both Pellegrini and Danko pointed to Fico as the future premier and called on President Zuzana Caputova to cooperate on the swift formation of the new government.

Fico made it clear he wants to take part in the EU October 26 summit as premier.     

Fico, who took questions from the media pointing out the country’s economic challenges, said that he would aim to consolidate the public finances but stressed that “we won’t have to lower achieved social standards” in Slovakia.