Daniel Martinek über die politische Radikalisierung in der Slowakei für ORF und Kleine Zeitung

Im Nachgang des Attentats auf den Ministerpräsident der Slowakei Robert Fico, sprach Daniel Martínek mit dem ORF und der Kleinen Zeitung über die politische Radikalisierung und Frustration in der slowakischen Gesellschaft.

Die Artikel können sie bei orf.at und kleinezeitung.at lesen.

Darüber hinaus wurden Martineks Analysen in der gedruckten Ausgabe der Kleinen Zeitung veröffentlicht.

IDM Short Insights 34: Presidential Elections in Slovakia


On 6 April 2024, the second round of presidential elections took place in Slovakia. Peter Pellegrini, the leader of the government coalition party HLAS, defeated Ivan Korčok, the opposition candidate. On location in Bratislava, Daniel Martínek analyses the main reasons behind Pellegrini’s victory and what implications it will have for both domestic politics and Slovakia’s position on the international stage.

Daniel Martínek on the recent worrying developments in Slovakia

Daniel Martínek (IDM) analyses Slovakia’s recent democratic decline under the new government coalition led by SMER party. Robert Fico’s return marks systemic changes, including dismantling the Special Prosecutor’s Office and ideological battles eroding democratic institutions. With international isolation looming and media crackdowns, President Čaputová emerges as a democratic bulwark. The upcoming presidential election becomes pivotal, determining Slovakia’s democratic trajectory amidst Fico’s power grab. 

Read the article in German on DerStandard: Slowakei: Robert Ficos Comeback und der Niedergang der Demokratie 

Read the article in English on Eastblog: In the Shadows of Illiberalism: Slovakia’s Democratic Struggle under Fico’s Resurgence 

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico Is the EU’s Latest Headache

Daniel Martínek (IDM) explains to the Fair Observer the background of the current protests in Slovakia and describes the first steps taken by the government of the newly returned Prime Minister Robert Fico. Critics argue that the proposed reforms aim to consolidate power for the Smer party and protect Fico’s associates. Fico’s nationalist agenda faces opposition from both domestic protests and international pressure, with the upcoming presidential election crucial for the country’s democratic future. 

Read the article here. 

Dynamics of the Visegrad Group. Navigating Political Shifts, Challenges and Prospects for EU Enlargement

The political differences in the Visegrad Four (V4) countries that emerged as a result of the elections in Poland (15 October 2023) and Slovakia (30 September 2023) will not significantly impact the dynamics of cooperation among the group. The format remains in crisis due to Hungary’s pro-Russia foreign policy stance and its sceptical approach to the EU’s pro-Ukraine policy direction.

The upcoming European Council meeting on December 14–15, which will see key decisions made on EU enlargement, will once again highlight the lack of unity and cohesion among V4 group members, with Hungary being the outlier. As a result, the V4 will continue to serve as a platform for regional cooperation, but one should not expect a revival of coordinated foreign or European policy as seen in response to the 2015 migration crisis or the “Nutella crisis” in 2017 when the V4 mobilised to fight against the “double standards” of imported food sold in their countries.

What is more, in the long run, the ideological differences are not likely to divide the countries that created the V4, regardless of the political preference of ruling governments. For example, the International Visegrad Fund (IVF), co-managed by V4 countries and supporting regional cooperation projects in the region, or formats such as Think Visegrad—V4 Think Tank Platform, a hub of V4 joint analysis, remain an important aspect of cooperation. On the other hand, there is a threat that due to persisting political differences, the individual V4 countries will seek to engage in alternative formats of regional cooperation. For example, Slovakia and the Czech Republic will most likely invest in the development of the Slavkov Triangle or Central Five Initiative (C5), involving Austria. Poland will focus on rebuilding relations within the Weimar Triangle and will remain active within the Three Seas Initiative (3SI) until the end of President Andrzej Duda’s term in 2025.

What will change and what will not

Poland and the Czech Republic will not allow Hungary, and perhaps Slovakia, to appropriate the V4 as a Eurosceptic or even anti-Western platform. Furthermore, Slovakia will not replace Poland to the same extent as an important partner in activating the V4 format or advocating Slovakia’s own position on the international stage. After its initial declaration, Slovakia will most probably not stick to all its electoral promises related to withholding military aid to Ukraine or pursuing a more assertive European policy. This is because Slovakia does not have a tradition of conducting proactive foreign policy, so it is unlikely Bratislava would use its veto power in Brussels to back Hungary. As the V4’s only eurozone country, Slovakia traditionally advocates for a constructive European policy based on consensus. Robert Fico demonstrated such an approach during his previous term.

Polish-Hungarian relations will not improve, and Hungary will be isolated within the V4 over Russia. Prime Minister Orban deliberately plays the role of a disruptor in the EU and NATO decision-making process, openly challenging the model of liberal democracy and steering the country towards an authoritarian regime. On the other hand, soon-to-be new/old Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk is known for his critical stance towards Viktor Orban. Bilateral disputes between Slovakia and Hungary (related to Orban’s controversial historical policies) further complicate the situation and isolate Hungary within the V4.

The V4 also faces an image problem in the EU, with a prevailing negative perception of its member countries. Therefore, Poland is not likely to heavily leverage the V4 in the coming years. In recent years, other formats such as the Bucharest Nine (B9), Three Seas Initiative (3SI), Slavkov Triangle, or Central Five Initiative (C5) have gained prominence, with V4 countries actively participating.

Finally, Poland is not necessarily seen by other Visegrad countries as a leader in the region. Poland’s reputation has also been damaged due to the deterioration of the rule of law (Slovakia, under the previous government, became more sceptical of Poland’s actions and pushed V4 activities aside) and the conflict with the Czech Republic over the Turow coal mine.

To sum up, looking back on 2023 and trying to foresee the developments on the international stage in 2024, we can be sure that the V4 will stay on the map of regional groupings in the EU in the years to come and will keep being used as a passive platform for regional cooperation. However, one should not expect a revival of coordinated foreign or European policy among the V4 unless Hungary adjusts its stance on Russia to align with the European mainstream.

Robert Fico Returns: Will Slovakia Become the New Hungary?

Left-wing populist Robert Fico, who was removed from power in Slovakia in 2018 after corruption scandals, has returned to power and formed a coalition with leftist and nationalist parties, which could have significant implications for Central Europe and the European Union.

Read the whole article by Daniel Martínek and Péter Techet here.

The Slovaks Opted for Stability and Peace – Will It Work?

For months, Slovaks have been worried about the chaos and confusion affecting their country. Three and a half years after the last parliamentary elections, Slovakia stands at a pivotal juncture in its political journey. 

To find out more about the political situation in Slovakia, continue reading Kinga Brudzińska‘s article:

The Slovaks Opted for Stability and Peace – Will It Work?

En quête de stabilité et de paix : les Slovaques ont-ils fait le bon choix ?

Parliamentary Elections in Slovakia 2023

Read the briefing by Daniel Martínek here:

The whole discussion will be available on the YouTube channel of the IDM:


Wieder keine ungarische Partei im slowakischen Parlament?

Bei den Wahlen in der Slowakei Ende September hat keine der antretenden Parteien der ungarischen Minderheit eine Chance, in das Parlament einzuziehen. Warum wird die ungarische Minderheit keine Vertretung im neuen slowakischen Parlament haben?

Unser Kollege Péter Techet über die Nachbarländer Österreichs:



Slovakia ahead of the parliamentary elections: End of military support for Ukraine?

After months of political turmoil, the Slovaks will decide on a new parliament in the upcoming early elections in September. The new government could align Slovakia with the Russia-friendly states in Central Europe. Daniel Martínek analyses the election scenarios and their implications in the region. 

It is hard to imagine a more challenging time to govern than what former Slovak Prime Minister Igor Matovič experienced. The Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the related migration, as well as inflation and energy crises have certainly contributed significantly to the downfall of his governing coalition, which was formed after the 2020 parliamentary elections. However, the main cause of instability and the potential collapse of the government stemmed not only from all these crises but also from a series of personal hostilities between the leaders of the coalition parties. The vote of no confidence and the gradual withdrawal of coalition partners and their ministers eventually culminated in the establishment of an expert government in June of this year. It is intended to lead the country until the early elections scheduled for 30 September. 

Four opposition parties, amidst three years of internal and inter-party conflicts, have pledged to establish a stable government. According to current opinion polls, Slovak citizens are inclined to believe in this commitment, especially as all the former governing parties are grappling to surpass the five per cent electoral threshold. Robert Fico, the former long-serving prime minister and leader of the left-wing nationalist party SMER-SSD, currently holds the highest approval rating (20 per cent as per July polls). His party promises experience and order, with a particular focus on countering the liberal “Progressive Slovakia” party led by Michal Šimečka, which, according to current polls, might secure second place with around 16 per cent of the vote. 

Rise of political defectors 

Behind them in third place (at 11 per cent) are the defectors from the SMER-SSD party, who have been organising themselves under the leadership of Petr Pellegrini, the successor to Fico as prime minister (2018-2020), within the party “HLAS – Social Democracy” (HLAS-SD) since 2020. Although party members attempted to distance themselves from the corrupt and mafia-associated SMER party in response to the lost elections three years ago, many Slovaks still view them as partly responsible for the decline of the rule of law and the erosion of democratic institutions during the years of the SMER government. 

Since 2021, former members of the “People’s Party Our Slovakia” have also joined the “Republic” movement. According to current election forecasts, the national-conservative party led by Milan Uhrík can expect to secure around 10 per cent of the vote, which means that seats in the parliament – whether within the governing coalition or the opposition – are guaranteed for them. Although the four party leaders swiftly ruled out cooperation with one or another party upon media inquiry, various post-election scenarios for collaboration are conceivable at this point. However, one thing is certain: the majorities in the new parliament will significantly hinge on which small parties surpass the five per cent threshold and thereby become the “kingmakers” after the election. 

Scenarios: Return of old suspects and their controversial mafia-like politics? 

If the “Bulgarian” scenario – meaning the impossibility of coalition formation and recurring snap elections – does not occur, and the victorious parties reach an agreement, two directions of post-election development can be anticipated. The future government could form from a coalition of the parties “HLAS-SD” and “Progressive Slovakia”, alongside the participation of smaller parties such as “KDH” (Christian Democratic Movement), “SaS” (Freedom and Solidarity), and “Sme Rodina” (We Are a Family). A clear pro-European and pro-Atlantic foreign policy direction, coupled with continued efforts to combat corruption, enhance judicial independence, and build trust in governmental institutions, would be expected in such a case for the upcoming electoral cycle. 

Another post-election scenario might not appear as promising to proponents of the EU project and transatlantic cooperation. This year’s election could mean the return of experienced Prime Minister Robert Fico and his party SMER-SSD, which, despite its willingness to form a coalition with its social-democratic offshoot party HLAS-SD, possesses limited coalition potential. This could compel Fico’s party not only to partner with the HLAS-SD party but also to join forces with the nationalist “Republic” party, labelled as radical and extremist by some experts. By forming a coalition alongside the SNS party (Slovak National Party), these four parties could even secure an absolute majority in the parliament. The revival of the SMER-SSD party is viewed by many as a resurgence of party members associated with corruption and controversial political practices. After a three-year hiatus, a revival of a mafia-like political culture could be on the horizon. The end of this culture was the hope of many protesters during the mass demonstrations triggered by the murder of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová in 2018, which rallied against the government. 

Pro-Western liberals versus pro-Russian conservatives  

Dissatisfaction with current Slovak domestic and foreign policy, deteriorating living conditions due to ongoing crises and the war in Ukraine, as well as frustration with the conflict-ridden government of the past three years are leading significant portions of the Slovak population to support parties that offer simple – often populist and radical – solutions. This explains the current high popularity of the SMER-SSD party as a symbol of corruption, as well as the extremist, strongly nationalist Republic party. 

Such a government coalition would not only deal a heavy blow to the development of liberal democracy in the country, but with the involvement of the Republic party, Slovakia could follow the ideological path of the Hungarian Fidesz party or the Polish PiS party. Equally important, however, is that these elections are also of fundamental importance at the regional and European level. In the event of Fico’s return as prime minister, which will depend on the support of the Republic movement led by Uhrík, in addition to a strongly EU-sceptic and anti-Western foreign policy, an end to Slovak military support for Ukraine is to be expected. This development would be supplemented by a clear rejection of EU sanctions against Russia and the restoration of friendly relations with the Russian Federation. Both party leaders do not hide their support for Orbán’s style of neutrality and have even become some of the biggest disseminators of pro-Russian propaganda in the country, as evidenced by Uhrík’s speeches and Fico’s social media activities. 

Decreasing support for Ukraine? 

These increasing pro-Russian narratives and sympathies are not unique to Slovakia. They can be observed across nearly all European countries, as evidenced by the growing support for parties like the FPÖ in Austria or the AfD in certain German states. While the Republic party, unlike the SMER-SSD party, consistently questions Slovakia’s membership in the EU and NATO, the country will likely remain firmly anchored in Euro-Atlantic structures even after the election. 

However, an entirely different dynamic could emerge in Central Europe following the elections, where Slovakia, by discontinuing its military support for Ukraine, might align with the ranks of so-called neutral states, like Hungary or Austria. Ultimately, this could also signify a realignment of forces within the currently geopolitically inactive Visegrád Group. As a result, two camps would emerge: those actively providing military and humanitarian support to Ukraine (Czech Republic, Poland) and those refusing to provide arms to the beleaguered state while aiming to maintain close relations with Moscow (Hungary, Slovakia). Such a development could contribute to even greater dysfunctionality within this once-significant Central European cooperation format. 

The original version of the article (in German) has been published at Eastblog of the University of Vienna and in the daily newspaper DerStandard.