Populist governance and policies in central governments led by populist parties. National Report Slovakia

Author(s): Andrej Školkay, Igor Daniš, Veronika Vass-Vigh, Rastislav Bednárik, Ivan

After the parliamentary elections in 2016, the government was formed by the social democratic party Smer-SD (Direction -Social Democracy), the (self-defined) national, centreright conservative Slovak National Party (SNS) and Most-Híd (the Bridge), the liberal “civic” party of ethnic minorities, with an emphasis on the Hungarian minority.

In fact there were two rather competing political parties in the government: social democracy Smer-SD introduced social measures and minimum wage upgrades mostly through the Cabinet legislative initiatives (which increased public spending) and some long-term probusiness measures such as de-bureaucratisation packages (to be discussed later), while SNS managed to pass tax breaks for SMEs and other short-term and mid-term pro-business measures (which reduced public revenues) as well as competed in proposing policy measures aimed at employees, pensioners and families (which also increased public spending and debt). Smer-SD for most of the period was rather conservative in governmental spending, in an attempt to show fiscal responsibility. Thus, although it showed occasionally some populist rhetoric, features and initiatives (especially before the general elections), it could not be identified as full-blown populist party. This, however, cannot be said about SNS. In contrast to these parties, Most-Híd represented a moderate, clearly anti-populist part of the government.

From March 2016 to March 2018 the government was headed by the Prime minister Robert Fico (Smer-SD). After a series of public protests related to the murder of the journalist Ján Kuciak, Fico was replaced as PM by his party deputy, Peter Pellegrini, who served as PM from March 2018 to March 2020, when Smer-SD could not find coalition partners after the general elections, to form a new government. It should be mentioned that SNS fared poorly in February 2020 Parliamentary elections, barely passing the 3% threshold that qualified it for state contributions but not for any seat in the Parliament.