Slovakia is on the verge of appointing a new populist, nationalist government.
Robert Fico, the former Prime Minister, and his left-wing nationalist Smer party clearly won the elections earlier this month. Fico has just launched negotiations to form a coalition with the most pro-Russian political force in Slovakia – the SNS (Slovak National Party) – and the social democratic Hlas party.
If he is successful, Slovakia’s foreign policy orientation will change, most visibly regarding the war in Ukraine.
How did this happen, and why did the nationalist SNS do so well in the elections?
This is a very different SNS from the one Slovakia used to know. Of the ten people on its list who entered parliament, only its chairman Andrej Danko, is a member of the party. The rest are various conspirators and stars of the disinformation scene, given a place at the top by Danko.
Some of them used to be on the list of the Slovak fascist party, People’s Party Our Slovakia (ĽSNS). Another pair of new MPs come from the pro-Russian internet television channel, TV Slovan.
Affection for Russia is not their only strong theme. They want to unblock all disinformation websites and repeal the decrees on transgender people. Also, a doctor who spoke out against Covid vaccination and would like to deal with chemtrails (a conspiracy theory about trails left by aircraft) is also on board.
Thanks to them, Danko entered parliament, but it is questionable whether he can keep the non-party members under control, and not pay for the fact that he has turned a Nationalist party into a vehicle for conspiracy theories.
The only person who could have been able to stop this coalition is Peter Pellegrini, chairman of Hlas, who sees himself as pro-European and who came third in the elections. Pellegrini left Smer and founded his own party after the murder of Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak in 2018.
As kingmaker, Pellegrini could also have tried to form a government with the liberals led by Progressive Slovakia and the Christian Democrats. But in the end, he chose the populist and nationalist option.