February 29, 2020
Igor Matovic’s OLANO party came in first with 25% of the vote (53 seats), comfortably ahead of incumbent party Smer-SD, which picked up 18.3% (38 seats). However, OLANO did not receive enough to form a majority. In March 2020 Matovic announced that OLANO would form a broad four-party coalition with Sme Rodina (8.2%, 17 seats), Za Ludi (5.8%, 12 seats), and Freedom and Solidarity (SaS, 6.25%, 13 seats). Together, the parties will hold a 95 seat majority, surpassing the 90 votes necessary to make constitutional changes. The pro-European and pro-NATO Progressive Slovakia + Together coalition did not pass the 7% threshold needed to gain seats in the parliament. Smer-SD, which has not lost an election since 2002, is now the country’s largest opposition party.
- Unicameral parliament in a parliamentary republic; there are 150 members in Slovakia’s parliament, the National Council.
- Proportional voting for all seats, with a 5% voting threshold for parties and 7% threshold for coalitions and party alliances on the ballot; members serve a 4-year term; voting age is 21.
- The leader of the majority party or coalition usually becomes prime minister and recommends cabinet members to the president (head of state) to formally appoint.
- Incumbent: PM Peter Pellegrini (Smer-SD) leads a coalition government with the Slovak National Party and Most-Hid; he took over for Robert Fico as PM in 2018 after the latter resigned due to public outrage over the assassination of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak, and his fiancé.
- Smer—Socialna Demokracia (Smer-SD): center-left populist party led by Robert Fico; socially conservative; anti-immigration; increasingly Euroskeptic; running under the slogan of “responsible change.”
- Ordinary People (OLANO): center-right, populist party led by MP and oligarch Igor Matovic; focused on anti-corruption and improved social spending; moderately pro-EU.
- People’s Party—Our Slovakia (LSNS): far-right, neo-fascist party led by Marian Kotleba, who is facing charges for alleged use of neo-Nazi symbols; supports state economic intervention; anti-immigration; very Euroskeptic; supports leaving NATO and closer ties with Russia.
- Progressive Slovakia + Together (PS + SPOLU): center, liberal alliance of parties (President Zuzana Caputova was affiliated with PS before her election); socially progressive; economically liberal and anti-corruption platform; pro-European; pro-NATO.
- For the People (ZL): center/center-right party led by former president Andrej Kiska; signed a non-aggression pact with PS; supports improved public services; pro-EU.
- We Are Family (Sme Rodina): right-wing populist party led by Boris Kollar, a Slovak businessman; socially conservative; economically libertarian; anti-immigration; soft Euroskepticism; potential kingmaker for a coalition.
Impact on U.S. Interests
- A member of NATO since 2004, Slovakia provides troops to NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan and to a NATO Battalion in Latvia; its defense spending was 1.73% of GDP in 2019.
- In 2017, U.S. FDI to Slovakia reached $867 million and the U.S. imported $3 billion worth of goods from Slovakia; Slovakia has been termed a “Carpathian Tiger” for its strong economic growth fueled by its auto sector.
- Slovakia has grappled with corruption and declining governance standards for a decade, which is impacting its foreign and security policy; in addition to documented misuse of EU funds, Russian malign influence has aided these declining standards and amplified rising far-right forces as well as support for the Kremlin.
- Young voters are attracted to LSNS and Kotleba’s neo-fascism and the revival of the Slovak leader, Josef Tiso, allied with the Nazis during World War II, who was responsible for the death of 70,000 Slovak Jews. Kotleba is currently on trial for promoting neo-Nazi ideology.
Key Issues to Watch
- The election will foretell the future democratic health of Slovakia and the generational transition of leadership. Yet the election has been almost entirely focused on corruption and its interaction with the political elite, fueling an anti-elite backlash. The ongoing trial of former economy minister and Slovak oligarch Marian Kocner (alleged to have ordered the assassination of Jan Kuciak and his fiancé in 2018) is fueling this backlash, including his ties to senior levels of the government.
- There is a moratorium on official polls 15 days ahead of the election but in the last one, Smer (in government for 12 of the last 14 years) was in the lead despite its ties to numerous corruption scandals. Smer’s current coalition partners, the Slovak National Party (SNS) and Most-Hid (inter-ethnic party), are polling below the threshold and may not enter parliament, making Smer’s return to government more difficult.
- Turnout is lower than in most EU countries and public trust in government is low; 70% of people say they do not trust their national parliament or government. This could boost anti-corruption parties and bring about the defeat of Smer (OLANO has risen in the polls in the last few weeks).
- LSNS is polling in the top four and its steady political rise is worrying, as Smer could consider some form of power-sharing arrangement with LSNS, though the math would be challenging. Such a coalition would negatively affect Slovakia, Europe, and the transatlantic relationship.
- Other parties have refused to cooperate with LSNS; if polling is accurate, there could be a center-right/right-wing coalition that would include Sme Rodina, PS + Together, ZL, and the Christian Democrats (KDH), which could keep LSNS out of government.
- Upward of 9 parties could enter parliament, making coalition formation difficult and unstable, with new early elections as a potential consequence.