Robert Fico has managed to form a coalition cabinet composed of four very different parties that brings together centre-left and right-wing parties, nationalists and a Hungarian party. EURACTIV Slovakia reports.
After difficult, yet relatively short, post-election talks, the new government and National Council of the Slovak Republic was sworn in yesterday (23 March) in Bratislava.
Fico will serve his third term as prime minister. He has been in office since 2006 (with a short break in 2010-2011 during the Radičova cabinet). After yesterday’s inauguration, the only current head of government in the EU that has served longer than Robert Fico is Angela Merkel of Germany.
Fico’s centre-left party Smer-SD will be the strongest component of the coalition, taking seven out of 13 ministries.
The minister of foreign and European affairs Miroslav Lajčák, minister of finance Peter Kažimír and minister of the interior Robert Kaliňák will stay in their posts and thanks to the relevance of their portfolios they will probably be prominent figures in the context of the looming Slovak Presidency of the Council of the EU starting in July 2016.
The new government pledges to stay firmly on a “pro-European” and “pro-Atlantic” course.
Patchwork of parties
The first junior coalition partner is the Slovak National party (SNS). After accepting SNS as a partner for the first time in 2006, the membership of Fico’s party in the Party of European Socialists (PES) has been suspended as it violated the social-democratic principles of non-cooperation with nationalists. The suspension was lifted while SNS was still in government.
SNS has since changed its discredited leadership, but stays highly suspicious towards European integration and even NATO, as well as being openly anti-immigration. In the government, SNS will be responsible for defence, education and agriculture.
The second partner is Most-Híd, the Slovak-Hungarian party. It is seen as a great paradox that SNS and Most-Híd will sit in the same cabinet given the track-record of SNS blaming the Slovak Hungarian minority of the lack of loyalty towards the state.
Most-Híd is a centre-right member of the EPP, with a liberal touch. Within the Slovak political landscape it is perceived as being pro-European and mobilising soft rhetoric against refugees, which thanks to Smer-SD and its hard-line positions has been a hot-button topic of the election campaign, even though there are hardly any refugees in Slovakia.
Most-Híd managed to get the ministry of justice portfolio, which will be led by Lucia Žitňanská, who is believed to be tough on corruption, although many are sceptical how autonomous she will be able to act.
Centre-right Sieť is the smallest partner and a party that has experienced a huge drop-off in results compared to previous polls. It was only able to get one ministry: transport.
The post-election period has greatly polarised the country, as many Most-Híd and Sieť voters feel betrayed by the parties joining Smer-SD in the government. This particular part of the electorate sees Fico’s Smer-SD as the main obstacle to the country’s progress and eradication of deep rooted problems like corruption in the healthcare sector, neglected education system, etc.
Slovakia’s Presidency of the Council of the EU begins on 1 July.
Robert Fico is in fact one of the most experienced participants to EU summits, having attended 51 of them.