With a population of approximately 5.5 million people, Slovakia may not be one of the world’s largest nations, but its upcoming September 30 election carries significant implications, drawing attention not only within the European Union but also on the international stage. This small Central European country has consistently shown strong support for its neighboring nation, Ukraine, especially in the face of Russia’s invasion last year. However, the latest polls indicate that the party currently leading the race is headed by Robert Fico, a politician who has expressed admiration for Moscow and has pledged to cease arms shipments to Ukraine, as reported by the New York Times. Should Fico and his SMER party secure victory, Slovakia’s stance could shift towards a more neutral position favoring Moscow, according to the Times.
This potential outcome would also mean that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban would no longer be the sole leader within the EU and NATO opposing assistance to Ukraine, as highlighted by the Times. Fico previously served as Slovakia’s prime minister from 2006 to 2010 and again from 2012 to 2018, when he resigned amidst public outrage over the murder of an investigative journalist who had been uncovering corruption allegations within the country. Lubos Blaha, the deputy leader of Fico’s party, has been critical of pro-Ukraine government officials, labeling them as “American puppets” and framing the Ukraine conflict as a battle against “Russia protecting its cultural and national identity against the liberal trends prevailing in the West.”
Analysts have suggested that Russia has conducted propaganda campaigns in Slovakia, and it appears that these efforts have yielded results. According to the research conducted by the Globsec research group, only 40% of Slovaks attribute blame to Russia for the Ukraine war, while 51% point fingers at Ukraine or Western nations as “primarily responsible.” Slovakia is known for its last-minute political swings and intricate coalition-building processes, making it challenging to predict which party will eventually form the next government. As John Kampfner notes in The Guardian, what remains undeniable is Fico’s resurgence as a significant political figure, along with the resurgence of the political ideology he represents. This development underscores the erosion of faith in liberal democracy in the heart of Europe.
In conclusion, Slovakia’s forthcoming election may be geographically small in scale, but its implications are of broad significance. The potential victory of Robert Fico’s party could result in a shift towards a more Russia-friendly stance, a change that would impact the country’s role in the European Union and NATO. Moreover, it reflects a broader trend of declining faith in liberal democracy, raising concerns not only within Slovakia but also throughout Europe and the international community. As Slovakia heads to the polls, the world will be watching closely, recognizing the potential far-reaching consequences of its choice.