Slovakia in “information storm”, president warns as parliamentary chaos deepens

Slovakia in “information storm”, president warns as parliamentary chaos deepens
President Caputova comforts people following a hate crime during which two men were gunned down in front of an LGBTQ+ friendly bar in Bratislava. / bne IntelliNews
By Albin Sybera in Prague March 29, 2023

Slovak President Zuzana Caputova has warned the country is in an “information storm,” with the country’s “foreign policy at its epicentre”.

"There is a growing gap between decisions made by the state based on our values and national interests, and the stance of citizens," she told a conference. "I am afraid that the starting election campaign will not help to improve this."

Slovakia is heading for snap elections this autumn and the country’s foreign policy stance supporting Ukraine as well as minority rights are becoming politicised topics in a heated campaign, with disinformation sites playing an outsized role. 

Slovakia last week became the first Nato country to deliver fighter jets to Ukraine.

Opinion polls show that Slovaks are the most ambivalent in the EU about supporting Ukraine, and that the opposition populist Smer party of former premier Robert Fico, who has criticised the government stance on Ukraine, has moved into an early lead.

Caputova’s comments came hours before the Slovak parliament passed a resolution disagreeing with the October European Parliament statement calling on Slovakia to do more to protect LGBTQ+ persons following a hate crime in October in which two men were gunned down in front of an LGBTQ+ friendly bar in Bratislava.

The Slovak resolution states that not only “expressions of hate towards minorities […] harm the social peace,” but also “insensitive enforcement of ideologies, which conflict with the democratic principles of our country,” and “the cultural heritage of our ancestors in the sense of the [Saint] Cyril-Methodius spiritual heritage”.

The resolution was filed by deputies Anna Andrejuvova and Anna Zaborska from the populist OLaNO party of former premier  Igor Matovic.

OLaNO’s resolution was criticised by the non-parliamentary party Progressive Slovakia (PS), which Caputova was part of before her presidency. PS chairman Michal Simecka criticised the parliament as virtually defunct, chaotic and incapable of passing legislation necessary to implement the EU's National Recovery Plan. Instead, populist proposals are passed, finding “a great, constitutional majority to complicate lives of transgender people”, he said.

Snap elections are scheduled for September 30 after the centre-right cabinet collapsed late last year. Polls  are dominated by two opposition parties – Fico's pro-Russian Smer-SD  and its more moderate party breakaway Hlas-SD party of Robert Pellegrini, followed by PS, with the governing parties lagging far behind.  

Fico's support has been rising amid the energy price and political crises in Slovakia. He has also targeted the country's military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine as another topic to boost his vote.

Disinformation campaigns amplified by Fico and other extremists and populist politicians are dominating the Slovak information space. According to a December survey  by Bratislava-based think tank Globsec, 39% of Slovaks think Nato and the USA are responsible for the war in Ukraine.   

In a poll conducted by the Focus agency published by the television station TV Markiza at the weekend, Smer-SD has 17.6%, followed by  Hlas-SD with 17.1% and centrist PS with 12.1%.