Populist candidate wins Slovak parliamentary elections. An addition to the populists of Europe?

A student discusses the state of Europe after the Slovak Parliamentary elections, another populist party rising to the top.

Jude Ventress
24th October 2023
Slovakians went to the polls this September electing the populist and two-time prime minister Robert Fico, giving him the opportunity to form a government.

At the end of last month Robert Fico won the Slovak parliamentary elections with his party Smer winning a plurality of the vote with 22.94%. The president, Zuzana Čaputová, has now invited Fico to form a coalition.

The leading party of the previous coalition government, OL’aNO’s vote share has diminished significantly from 25% to 8.9% after a no confidence vote caused their coalition to fall apart. Allowing for the populist party Smer, Progressive Slovakia, and the social democratic party Hlas all to gain popularity in these elections with Smer achieving the largest vote share.

Smer, having won 42 seats in this election, does not have the 76 seats required for a majority in the National Council, the Slovakian parliament.

The potential kingmaker is Hlas, a social democratic party led by former PM Peter Pellegrini, with the third largest vote share - although Pellegrini remains cautious of a coalition with Fico.

Populists across Europe are gaining traction

A key issue of this campaign was the question of continuing or cutting aid to Slovakia’s neighbour Ukraine. Fico ran a campaign with the pro-Russian stance of cutting aid to the war-stricken nation, similar to Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, who recently decided to stop sending weapons to Ukraine. Contrastingly, Progressive Slovakia, a pro-European party, advocated to maintain support for Ukraine and a more pro-Ukrainian approach. In wider Europe, this pro-Russian position is seen as controversial, especially since Slovakia is a member of both the European Union and NATO.

Populists across Europe are gaining traction. Fico seems to be the latest of this trend currently sweeping the continent. Other populist figures and movements such as, Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban, Italy’s Giorgia Meloni (leader of the party, Brothers of Italy), and the growth of the far-right party, Alternative for Germany, have all exemplified the growing electoral success of populism in Europe.

Fico’s success is yet another victory for populism in the EU, degrading the democratic culture of politics on the continent, and for Ukraine, a nation at war in need of all and any allies it can get.

Populism may seem to be a foreign concept to us, but it is alive and kicking in the UK. Not so long ago we had a populist prime minister, and populist figures like previous leader of UKIP, Nigel Farage, and home secretary Suella Braverman are gaining traction.

Populist sensationalism is growing from being just a whimsical trend to a concerning feature of political systems across the globe.

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