Monday

6th Apr 2020

Slovakia kicks out centre-left rulers

  • Jan Kuciak and his fiancee were shot dead in 2018 (Photo: Peter Tkac)

Slovak people have ejected their old government in a vote marked by the murder of a journalist in 2018.

The centre-right Ordinary People party of Igor Matovic came first in Saturday's [29 February] election, winning 53 out of 150 seats in parliament.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

It beat the centre-left Smer, which had held power for more than a decade, into second place with 38 seats.

Matovic, a 46-year old MP, swept to victory from relative obscurity by hammering Smer on the murders of Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova two years ago.

They were killed while Kuciak was investigating Smer-era corruption, causing national and Europe-wide shock.

And it took their deaths for Slovakia to "wake up", Matovic said again after Saturday's results came out.

"We've sent a positive signal to Europe - that Slovakia isn't some corrupt country where journalists [are killed]," he said.

He would form "the best government Slovakia has ever had", he promised.

Slovaks would once again "breathe hope" and "rule of law will apply to all," he said.

Matovic is expected to forge a coalition with the centrist Za Ľudí (which won 12 seats on Saturday) and the libertarian SaS (13 seats) parties.

Almost two-thirds of Slovak voters turned out to give him a mandate.

And Smer's defeat was the second vote marked by the Kuciak killings, after Slovaks also elected anti-corruption lawyer Zuzana Čaputová as president last year.

But the upcoming coalition talks might be difficult despite the wind of change.

Za Ľudí holds socially conservative views, while SaS wants to legalise same-sex marriage and marijuana.

Matovic might need the support of the far-right Sme Rodina party, which won 17 seats on Saturday and which verbally bashes LGBTI people, to have a stable majority.

And his own style has also attracted criticism.

He attacked the Smer "mafia" in his campaign slogans and he called on voters to "cut off the last head of the Hydra of corruption" as he cast his ballot on Saturday.

Virtuous populism?

"Matovic is a textbook populist," Pavol Hardos, from Comenius University in Bratislava, told the Bloomberg news agency.

"He's the loudest and he's been doing it for longest. He won because he's become the most authentic voice of anger and frustration," Hardos said.

"He has good marketing, but we will be interested in how he will handle his office," Peter Pellegrini, the outgoing Smer prime minister, also said.

Meanwhile, if "anger and frustration" have a new place in Slovak politics, there will be no shortage of nasty rhetoric in its parliament for the next four years.

The openly fascist L'SNS party did not do as well as it had polled, prompting Czech president Milos Zeman to remark that he was happy that "the [Slovak] elections were not won by extremists".

But L'SNS still won 17 seats - making it the joint third largest party alongside the far-right Sme Rodina in the Slovak lower house.

'Fragmented' Slovakia votes amid corruption woes

Saturday's elections in Slovakia could herald the rise of the far-right People's Party Our Slovakia, or the emergence of a populist anti-corruption candidate, in a country wracked by mistrust since the assassination two years ago of an investigative journalist.

New push to kick Orban's party out of centre-right EPP

Member parties from the largest European political family have called for the expulsion of their Hungarian partner - again. This time, two prime ministers joined, but so far the heavyweights have again stayed away.

Already doubts over Belgium's new 'anti-corona government'

Belgium's King Philippe has given interim prime minister Sophie Wilmès the task of forming a government, after seven opposition parties agreed to support it. The agreement came after a political drama - and there are doubts if it will hold.

Five new post-Brexit MEPs to watch

Five MEPs to keep an eye on from the 27 new members who are joining the European Parliament this week, following the UK's departure from the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking Europe’s Economy Circular – the time is now
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  3. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms

Latest News

  1. Coronabonds clash continues This WEEK
  2. EU depicts Africa's health system as a threat
  3. Greenland watches ... and waits for virus
  4. Coronavirus exposes lack of common data approach
  5. Virus recovery talks should ditch old taboos: EU's Vestager
  6. EU's 'Irini' Libya mission: Europe's Operation Cassandra
  7. Slovak army deployed to quarantine Roma settlements
  8. Lockdown: EU officials lobbied via WhatsApp and Skype

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us