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Zuzana Čaputová fears Robert Fico’s comeback after early parliamentary elections in Slovakia

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Slovakia – The social democrats are on the rise in Slovakia and, according to opinion polls, the parties of former prime ministers Robert Fico (Smer) and Peter Pellegrini (Hlas) are set to win the early elections scheduled for September 30. The two conflicted social-democrat leaders previously belonged to the same party. Slovakia currently has an interim “government of experts” after the Heger government was outvoted in parliament last December. This was after years of continual government crises that marked the centre-right coalitions led by Igor Matovič (2020-2021) and Eduard Heger (2021-2023).

Indeed, in an opinion survey carried out in May by the Focus agency that was analysed on the website on June 4, Fico’s Smer party came out on top with 18% of voting intentions, ahead of Peter Pellegrini’s Hlas, which is an offshoot of Smer, with 17.4%. This confirmed previous polls.

In terms of voting intentions, the other political parties ranked in the following order:

  • President Zuzana Čaputová’s Progressive Slovakia party (12.5%);

  • Republika (9.7%), a nationalist party born in 2021 out of a split within Marian Kotleba’s L’SNS;

  • Sme Rodina, a right-wing “populist” party (6.6%);

  • the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), which is currently not represented in parliament (5.5%%);

  • the Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OL’aNO) of former Prime Minister Igor Matovič, a conservative party (5.3%);

  • and Liberty and Solidarity (SaS), the economically liberal party which left the coalition led by Eduard Heger and caused its fall (5.3%).

The other parties in that list are the nationalist SNS (4.7%) and Demokrati (3.2%), a new party created by Eduard Heger following his departure from OLaNO.

The divisions on the right and the drop in support for the centrist and right-wing parties – except for the Republika nationalist party, which is up over 3 percentage points from the previous month – make a return to power look increasingly likely for Robert Fico and Peter Pellegrini. Interestingly, although a social democrat, Robert Fico has often been labelled “populist”. When he was the Prime Minister of Slovakia in the years 2012–2018, he led a coalition of social democrats and nationalists who supported Hungary’s hard-line stance on immigration. During the Covid pandemic, Fico was also an outspoken opponent of mass vaccination and lockdowns.

In an interview with Politico, Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová expressed concern that Slovakia could well become the European Union’s second black sheep after Viktor Orbán’s Hungary. On her country’s foreign policy, Čaputová told Politico that, if Robert Fico were to become the country’s Prime Minister again,“maybe it will be more similar to the Viktor Orbán style of foreign policy”. Fico has indeed repeatedly criticised Bratislava’s support for Kyiv, particularly concerning arms deliveries such as the transfer to Ukraine of the country’s fleet of MiG-29 combat aircraft.