Progressive Slovakia offers to give up PM post in push for government without Smer

Progressive Slovakia offers to give up PM post in push for government without Smer
Pellegrini may fear for the future of his party if he rejects going back together with Fico, or if he does. / bne IntelliNews
By Albin Sybera October 9, 2023

Progressive Slovakia (PS), which came second in the Slovak general election on September 30, has offered the premiership to Robert Pellegrini, leader of the third-ranked Hlas party, in an effort to stop him forming a government with Robert Fico's leftist populist Smer party, which came first at the election.

“Things have moved forward as [PS leader] Michal Simecka is ready to give up the post of prime minister,” said Milan Majersky, leader of the Christian Democratic KDH, wrote on his Facebook, adding that “it is Peter Pellegrini’s turn”.

Besides Hlas, which broke away from Smer after the 2020 election, PS would need KDH and the neoliberal SaS to form a majority of 82 in the parliament of 150.

Majersky previously ruled out entering the four-party coalition with PS, pointing to parts of the liberal party’s programme that advocate civil partnership for sexual minorities as incompatible with KDH’s conservative Christian outlook.  However, it is not clear that he has his own party's backing for his uncompromising position.

Despite PS’ efforts to keep the option of a four-party possibility alive, the coalition talks led by Fico, a three-time premier, are still likely to end in a coalition between Smer and its breakaway party, together with the ten deputies who entered the parliament on the list of the ultranationalist SNS. This coalition would have 79 seats.

Leader of SNS Andrej Danko is supposed to meet with Fico on Monday, according to Tomas Taraba a former member of the neo-fascist LSNS, who made it to the parliament on the SNS list.

“We will back any government where there will be Robert Fico as prime minister,” Taraba stated. In line with Fico, Taraba also expects the police president Stefan Hamran and special procurator Daniel Lipsic to be removed.  

Danko is the only SNS party member in the parliament, after another nine deputies, including several ex-members of the neofascist LSNS, entered the parliament on the SNS list on preferential votes.  

Even if Pellegrini, a former premier, were given the premier's post again,  and the KDH agrees to participate, Slovak media have reported that Hlas also wants to be in control of the interior ministry, something PS does not want to give up for fear that ongoing police investigations involving several  officials linked to Smer or Hlas could be halted or interfered with. 

Pellegrini may fear for the future of his party if he rejects going back together with Fico, or if he does.

In a recent interview for liberal online news outlet, head of the Bratislava Policy Institute, Michal Vasecka, described Pellegrini’s position as “a fight for survival” as in the coalition with Smer, “we can be almost certain that gradually Fico will takeover his [Pellegrini’s] electorate and will hollow out the Hlas party from inside and marginalise it".

Vasecka added that this experience “was shared by everyone who ever entered into a coalition with Fico”.

At the same time, even if Pellegrini agrees to be premier in the coalition with PS, KDH and SaS, Pellegrini is aware that “many of the deputies of Hlas are former men of Robert Fico, some of whom are his very loyal allies,” Vasecka continued.

“Do we really think that if a very broad, ideologically broad coalition is formed, then [Hlas] is even capable of holding the [deputies] club together?” Vasecka asked rhetorically, adding that in his assessment, it would not be years but months before “Hlas would begin to crumble”.   

Pellegrini keeps putting on a brave face in public. In one of his latest Facebook videos, he reiterated his message from Tuesday, October 3, that he “guarantees that Slovakia won’t be a black hole on the map of Europe” whatever the outcome of the coalition talks is. Slovakia was called a "black hole" by Madeline Albright, former US secretary of state, at a time when it was ruled by Vladimir Meciar, who was refused entry to Nato for his authoritarian practices.