Slovakia's populist left-wing Smer-SD party of former premier Robert Fico is once again leading opinion polls, five years after Fico resigned amid mass protests following the killing of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak. Slovakia faces early elections this September, though there is pressure to bring them forward to June.
This is the first time during the country's rolling political crisis that Smer-SD is in the lead. Support has steadily collapsed for the right-wing coalition that came to power in 2020 on the wave of widespread resentment against Fico's rule, but until now the Hlas-SD of Fico's former colleague Peter Pellegrini has been in the lead.
Smer leads with 17.9% in the Median SK poll, just ahead of Hlas-SD with 15.6%. At the 2020 election Smer (which then included Pellegrini's supporters) won 28.3% of the vote, so the two leftwing parties are now running 5 percentage points above that level.
Hlas-SD splintered off Smer-SD in 2020, and with Pellegrini there are together 11 legislators elected to the Slovak parliament on the Smer-SD list that are now Hlas-SD party members.
Smer-SD has moved to more extremist positions, with Fico openly holding pro-Russian views and the party maintaining ties to the Russian and Belarusian diplomatic corps.
Unlike Fico, Pellegrini refers to Russia as an aggressor and differs from Smer-SD over the issues of Slovak arm deliveries to Ukraine, which Fico and Smer-SD have opposed.
Although Hlas-SD is profiling as a more moderate, social democratic party, deputies backing Pellegrini did not vote for the resolution designating Russia as a state supporting terrorism passed by the parliament earlier in February.
Czech liberal daily DenikN recently surveyed Hlas-SD politicians over the possibility of joining Smer-SD in a coalition after the September elections, and the responses were varied. While some feel an affinity to Smer-SD, for others Smer-SD is too compromised in the corruption scandals from its era in the government.
Moreover, Pellegrini could be further discouraged from a coalition with his former party and cabinet boss, Fico, if Fico’s Smer-SD were to have the upper hand.
Fico has backed Pellegrini in the media on issues connecting Pellegrini to Smer-SD’s corruption scandals, but in his press statements – monologues serving as Fico’s political manifestos attacking Slovak President Zuzana Caputova or the head of the caretaker cabinet Eduard Heger as alleged US puppets – the Smer-SD leader also criticises Pellegrini and Hlas-SD.
The Median SK poll puts the support of the parties of the former ruling coalition at 10.9% for the populist Sme Rodina [We are a family] led by parliamentary spokesperson Boris Kollar, while the right-wing OLaNO of designated prime minister Eduard Heger and controversial ex-minister of finance Igor Matovic sits at 8.7%, and the neoliberal SaS of Richard Sulik is at 7.8%.
The non-parliamentary Progresivne Slovensko [Progressive Slovakia], a liberal party from which Caputova hailed before becoming the country’s president and revoking her membership in an effort to respect the non-partisan idea of the presidency, has been steadily climbing up in the polls for some time and sits at 9.6%.
Christian KDH sits at 6.4%, while the extremist Republika is at 4.5%, just short of crossing the 5% threshold to enter parliament. Hungarian minorities party Alianca-Szovetseg is at 4%.
Slovakia is heading for snap elections on September 30 after parliamentarians agreed late in January on legislative measures to shorten the parliamentary term to end the protracted political crisis plaguing the country since last summer.