Spot Report: Western diplomats issue warning about Slovakia’s Smer party as election approaches, by Phillip Yonge

After a meeting with top Slovakian opposition parties, including former Prime Minister Robert Fico, top EU diplomats expressed concern over the trajectory of Slovakia should Fico and the opposition Smer party prevail in early elections this September. Fico has made headlines for his nationalistic, populist appeal and his repudiation of Western support of Ukraine. He repeatedly asserts he would stop military aid to Ukraine if elected and would seek closer partnership with neighboring Hungary and Viktor Orban.

Plans were approved on 31 January 2023 to hold early elections after the incumbent center-right cabinet, under Prime Minister Eduard Heger, lost a vote of no-confidence, succumbing to accusations that the government was not doing enough to help alleviate the rising cost of living. The September elections are already being billed by experts and the media as a clash between pro-Western, pro-Ukraine idealism and a growing Western-skeptic faction that includes both conservative and far leftist formations, likely to be led by Robert Fico. Slovakia, which shares a border with Ukraine, was quick to adopt sanctions against Russia after the Russian full-scale invasion and has provided weapons and aid to Kyiv, including infantry vehicles, artillery, and S-300 air defense systems.

Though some 8 months away, both the Slovak elections will be an important litmus test for European unity. ShouldFico, with near pro-Orban, anti-Ukraine rhetoric, succeed in gaining popular support, it will signal growing frustration with the West’s support of Ukraine. While not a foregone conclusion, Fico’s ascension to power would give Viktor Orban an ally in EU proceedings in Brussels and represent a step back for unified EU policy toward Russia and Ukraine. Additionally, it would represent a step back for Western interests in Central Europe, dampening the recent victory of former NATO general and pro-Western politician Petr Pavel in Czechia’s presidential election. The lead-up to Slovak elections will be something to watch during 2023, as competing Western and anti-establishment views will likely grow more polarized with risks of misinformation campaigns. It also represents an important test for the future of aid to Ukraine.