Fico signs agreement to create left populist government in Slovakia

Fico signs agreement to create left populist government in Slovakia
Coalition agreed. President Zuzana Caputova has said she may withhold appointments of some ministers as she cannot appoint persons who face criminal charges or lack any evidence of qualifications to head individual portfolios. / bne IntelliNews
By Albin Sybera October 17, 2023

Incoming Slovak premier Robert Fico, leader of the populist leftist Smer party, has signed a coalition agreement with Robert Pellegrini, leader of Smer’s breakaway party Hlas, and Andrej Danko of the far-right SNS.

The three stated that Slovakia is to remain an EU and Nato country, in an attempt to calm fears their incoming government could undermine the rule of law in Slovakia and redraw the country’s relationship with Ukraine, which Slovakia has been backing militarily.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs won’t be a spokesperson of foreign interests, but will be a spokesperson of Slovak interests,” Fico stated after the Slovak national anthem played and the three leaders sitting in front of cameras signed a coalition agreement distributing portfolios between the parties.

The agreement is based on the memorandum signed last week, when Smer reached a deal with the other two parties after winning the snap vote held on September 30 with nearly 23%, ahead of liberal Progressive Slovakia with nearly 18%.   

Following the signing, Fico also told the media that “a Slovak foreign policy will be made” and that “a healthy patriotism will be built and sovereignty strengthened”.

Fico singled out the change in foreign policy, increasing living standards and real wages within three years, and consolidating public finances as the three priorities of his government.

He stressed that consolidation won’t threaten the “existing social standards” and will occur at “a pace which at the same time enables Slovakia to go into large investment projects”.  

Besides the foreign policy portfolio, Smer will also be in charge of the defence, justice, transportation, finance, agriculture and development portfolios, with Fico also having the post of prime minister.

Hlas will control the interior, economy, labour, education, health, and investment ministries.

SNS will be in charge of the environment and culture ministries and the new ministry of sport and tourism.

In response to the signing of the coalition agreement, Slovak President Zuzana Caputova stated she is ready to carry out the next steps, which include designating Fico as premier. Her spokesperson reiterated that Fico has “not yet delivered the list” of cabinet members to Caputova.

Caputova may withhold appointments of some ministers as she stated earlier that she could not appoint persons who face criminal charges or lack any evidence of qualifications to head individual portfolios.  

This may pose a problem if Fico’s right hand, Robert Kalinak, who faces investigations, is nominated or if SNS will push Rudolf Huliak, a known climate change denier, to head the Ministry of Environment.

Smer and Hlas were suspended from the European grouping of Socialists for pursuing a coalition with SNS and for Smer’s stance on Ukraine.  Fico’s parroting of Kremlin propaganda and his pledge to end military aid to Kyiv raised international concerns already during the election campaign.  

Fico slammed the move and stated that Smer “cannot allow gender ideology to be artificially introduced into elementary schools”. In a video with English subtitles addressed to the Party of European Socialists (PES), Fico also described the war in Ukraine as having origins in 2014 “when Ukrainian fascists murdered civilians of Russian nationality”.