Slovakia sees substantial shift in public opinion towards Nato after Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Slovakia sees substantial shift in public opinion towards Nato after Russia's invasion of Ukraine
Former premier Peter Pellegrini´s Voice-SD, which leads opinion polls, has been gaining new voters thanks to his ambivalent stance on stationing Nato troops.
By bne IntelliNews March 8, 2022

Public opinion in Slovakia has recently swung significantly behind its membership in Nato compared to surveys before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. While before more than 60% of Slovaks did not feel threatened by Russia, after February 24, 61% of Slovaks believe that Slovakia´s membership in Nato is a good thing for their country, according to a survey by Focus Agency for TV Markiza. More than 77% of Slovaks see Russia's actions in Ukraine as an act of aggression.

Before, three quarters of Slovaks (74.1%) believed the US and Nato are responsible for the increasing tension between Ukraine and Russia and more than 50% of citizens considered Russia a strategic partner; now half of the population would agree to station Nato troops in the country. 

Slovaks are traditionally among the most sympathetic to Russia in the region, and the least enthusiastic about Nato membership. This is partly a product of the rapid industrialisation carried out in the country during the Communist period as well as the longstanding tradition of pan-Slavism.

The new shift in views, as Euractiv reported, comes with a little caveat. 45% of Slovaks still do not want Nato´s troops on their soil. 67% of Slovaks also do not want Nato soldiers present in their country to be of US nationality. They would only support foreign troops if Slovakia were to choose which nationality the soldiers would be. 

Slovakia is currently hosting a Nato military exercise to be held in the first half of March. “When, if not now, is our membership of Nato proving to be important? When, if not now, it is being demonstrated that Putin's regime is a big threat not only to its immediate neighbours, but also to the whole of Europe?” wrote Defence Minister Jaroslav Nad earlier in February.

Last week, the Slovak National Security Authority decided to block one of the largest disinformation websites spreading Russian propaganda - Hlavne Spravy. Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok stressed that members of the Slovak opposition also contribute to public confusion on the country´s foreign policy. Former premier Robert Fico has made opposing the stationing of Nato troops a cornerstone of his campaigning, while his erstwhile colleague, former premier Peter Pellegrini has been at best ambivalent.

As shown by the Slovak News Agency, a total of 87% voters of the extra-parliamentary party Progressive Slovakia, 76% of the senior governing party OLaNO’s supporters, 75% of the junior government party Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) supporters and 63% of the co-governing We Are Family supporters agree with the Nato´s presence in the country. 

Among  supporters of the extra parliamentary Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) and Pellegrini´s Voice-SD, 61% (for both) are in favour of the presence of these soldiers. 

On the contrary, 82% of voters of the far-right non-parliamentary Republic party reject Nato's presence in Slovakia´s territory, followed by 66% of Fico's Smer-SD supporters.

Thanks to their anti-American rhetoric, both Fico´s Smer-SD and Pellegrini´s Voice-SD have been gaining new voters, and at the same time managing to bring back old ones, and thus continue to lead the recent public polls

According to the polls by a Focus agency conducted for TV Markiza, had a general election taken place between February 22-March 1, it would have been won by Voice-SD with 18.5% of the votes, followed by Smer-SD with 15.6% and SaS with 12%. 

Very similar results have been seen by the poll carried out by the AKO agency for TV JOJ from the end of February. 

The extra-parliamentary party Progressive Slovakia would have gained 8.1%, followed by OLaNO (7.8%), the Republic (7%), We Are Family party (6.3%), and KDH (6%). 

The fourth coalition partner For the People, as well as the far-right parliamentary party LSNS (People’s Party Our Slovakia) wouldn’t have reached the 5% threshold. For the People would have gained 2.7% of votes and LSNS 3.8%. The Slovak National Party (SNS) would have been backed by 3.8% of voters.  

Together Voice-SD and Smer-SD would have gained 63 seats in the parliament, while the current government coalition would have had only 48 seats. However, if this scenario were to materialise, the ruling coalition might still be able to retain power with the support of Progressive Slovakia and the KDH.