On Saturday 30 September, Slovakian voters went to the polls to elect 150 representatives to the National Council of the Slovak Republic in the country’s latest general election. Direction: Social Democracy (Smer-SSD), emerged as the largest party, but did not reach the number of seats required for a majority. Party leader, and former PM Robert Fico, must now coordinate coalition talks. This Just the Facts will look at the parliamentary system in Slovakia, the key issues which dominated campaigns, and the results of the election.
Slovak Republic’s Parliamentary System
After a short period of multi-party democracy following World War II, Czechoslovakia became a communist state following a coup in 1948. In 1989, the Velvet Revolution peacefully ended the communist regime in Czechoslovakia. Slovakia became an independent state on 1 January 1993 after the peaceful dissolution of Czechoslovakia, sometimes known as the Velvet Divorce. Slovakia’s name roughly means the “Land of the Slavs”. Slovakia joined the European Union in May 2004, along with nine other countries.
Today Slovakia is a democratic unicameral democracy. The head of state and commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces is the President, who is directly elected for five-year terms. The position is largely ceremonial, but it holds limited powers, such as nominating and appointing the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister is the head of government, who is elected to the National Council of the Slovak Republic (Národná rada Slovenskej republiky). The National Council is made up of 150 deputies, who are elected every four years by proportional representation.
Since June 2019, the President of Slovakia has been Zuzana Čaputová (born 1973). While an independent as President, she was previously a member of Progressive Slovakia, which is a member Renew Europe group. Since May 2023, the current Prime Minister is Ľudovít Ódor, who leads a technocratic government of non-party experts.
The previous centre-right minority coalition government under Eduard Heger’s Ordinary People and Independent Personalities lost a motion of no confidence in December 2022, tabled by the main opposition party Freedom and Solidarity over soaring energy costs and inflation. Other coalition parties included We Are Family, and For the People.
2023 Campaign Issues – Slovakia
Former PM, and leader of Direction: Social Democracy, Robert Fico led his campaign with a clear message of ending military aid to Ukraine, and a willingness to provide only humanitarian aid. On the campaign trail, he vowed to send ‘not a single round’ if elected, and to oppose Ukrainian membership to NATO. Progressive Slovakia, led by Vice President of the European Parliament and MEP Michal Šimečka, remained supportive of Slovakia’s commitment to Ukraine. Given its proximity, support for Ukraine has become a contentious topic for Slovakian voters. Fico’s electoral victory has now sparked concerns that NATO-member Slovakia will join Hungary in challenging EU consensus on addressing Russian aggression in the region.
Rising Energy Costs
Following the motion of no confidence in December 2022, rising energy prices became a key campaign issue for left wing parties against the governing centre-right coalition. Slovakia has the Eurozone’s highest inflation rate and is expected to have the highest public sector deficit of 2023 at 6.85% GDP. This poses major challenges to the Slovakian healthcare system. As a result, left-wing parties promising reform to social benefits dominated the election results.
In addition, some parties such as Direction: Social Democracy openly criticised Russian sanctions, citing them as harmful to the European economy and pledging that if elected, new sanctions would be scrutinised for their direct impact on the Slovakian economy.
Rule of Law
Before his 2023 electoral victory, Fico was forced to resign as PM in 2018, following the murder of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée. The event sparked mass protests against corruption and a series of trials against business leaders, judicial staff and police officers, and politicians have taken place since.
While Fico was investigated, charges were later dropped. During the campaign, analysts and foreign diplomats said moves affecting the justice system would be monitored by the EU, which has a mechanism to stop flows of European subsidies to countries deemed to be infringing the rule of law.
Results of the 2023 General Election
At 68.42%, turnout for this election was slightly higher than the general election of 2020. In the days before the election, polls showed Direction: Social Democracy and Progressive Slovakia in a dead heat. Despite early exit polls indicating Progressive Slovakia might take the lead, the results ended with success for Direction: Social Democracy earning 22.95%, and 42 seats. PS followed closely at 17.96% and 32 seats. Since neither party reaches the 76 seats needed for a majority, a coalition will be necessary. The outgoing right-wing coalition suffered major defeat, attracting just 8.9% of the vote.
Despite polarisation within Slovakia, Robert Fico is strongly positioned to return to power with the support of Voice, a social democratic party which split from Direction: Social Democracy in 2020 and finished third in the election with 15% of the vote. According to Voice leader, Peter Pellegrini, his party and D:SD are ‘closer’ both ‘politically and ideologically’. Fico may also approach the nationalist Slovak National Party as a third coalition member. Together, the three parties control 79 seats within the 150 seat parliament.
|Party||Est.||Feb. 2020||Sep. 2023||Seat Change||European Parliament Group||Irish Parties in that Group|
|Ordinary People and Independent Personalities/Friends||2011||53||16||-37||European People’s Party||Fine Gael|
|Direction – Social Democracy||1999||38||42||4||Socialists and Democrats||Labour Party, Social Democrats|
|Voice||2020||N/A||27||N/A||Socialists and Democrats||Labour Party, Social Democrats|
|Progressive Slovakia||2017||0||32||32||Renew Group||Fíanna Fáil|
|Christian Democratic Movement||1990||0||12||12||European People’s Party||Fine Gael|
|Freedom and Solidarity||2009||13||11||-2|
|Slovak National Party||1989||0||10||10|
|We Are Family||2015||17||0||-17||Identity and Democracy||–|
|People’s Party Our Slovakia||2010||17||0||-17||None (far-right)||–|
|For the People||2019||12||0||-12||European People’s Party||Fine Gael|
|150 seats – National Council of the Slovak Republic||150||150||–|
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