Will support for Ukraine crumble after Slovakia's election?

Ex-Prime Minister Robert Fico has emerged the clear winner of Slovakia's parliamentary elections: his left-wing nationalist party Smer won around 23 percent of the vote, followed by the liberal Progresívne Slovensko with 18 percent. To form a government, Smer will probably need at least the votes of the third-placed Hlas, which however does not support Fico's announced refusal to provide further military support to Ukraine.

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Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Toxic pro-Russian rhetoric

Together, Slovakia and Hungary could weaken the West's united front against Russia, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung fears:

“Politicians like Fico and Orbán are telling people that everything will go back to the way it was if the West just shows more consideration for Russia. ... As the path of least resistance, this tactic could set a precedent in Europe. That is the sobering lesson of the Slovak election for Europe. The Janus-faced nature of this policy is undoubtedly dangerous: the pro-Russian rhetoric has a toxic effect on the Western united front and makes aid for Ukraine increasingly difficult to justify, the longer the conflict drags on.”

Landesecho (CZ) /

Fico isn't PM yet

Slovakia's course has not yet been decided, writes the German-language newspaper Landesecho, published in Prague, commenting on the complicated formation of the government:

“Fico faces tough coalition negotiations now that President Zuzana Čaputová has given him the mandate to form a government. There will be no getting around the third-placed Hlas, a social-democratic party that split off from Fico's party and wants to support Ukraine right down to the last cartridge. And there are numerous other hurdles standing in the way of cooperation. So the coalition negotiations could still fail or at least take the bite out of Fico's plans for Slovakia. The return of the mafia state is not yet a done thing, the last word has not yet been spoken.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Effective opposition will prevent the worst

Fears expressed before the elections that Fico could push Slovakia in the direction of Orbán and Kaczyński are unlikely to be realised, Lidové noviny argues:

“Fidesz and PiS have both achieved an extraordinary status in their countries. The loss of the opposition's position of strength and thus the lack of parliamentary control gradually led to a series of excesses. In Hungary, the main concern is to change the electoral law in Fidesz's favour. ... Nothing comparable happened in Slovakia on the weekend. If Fico's Smer governs, it will face controlling forces in the government and in parliament, which is an important prerequisite for any democratic regime.”

Politiken (DK) /

EU stronger and more united than ever

Politiken is also optimistic that the EU's cohesive forces will prevent Slovakia from drifting away from the bloc:

“Is Fico's election victory a sign that it was a mistake to admit Slovakia to the EU back then? No, of course not. On the contrary. Because how did it go the last time Fico was in power? He turned out to be far more moderate in his EU policy than he had been in the election campaign. We can expect it to go that way again. The EU is stronger and more united than it has been for many years. The war in Ukraine has - contrary to Putin's hopes - revitalised the European community. The strength of the EU lies precisely in the fact that its membership and its lucrative market and support programmes act as a moderating force.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Hope for pragmatic politics

The election winner is unlikely to block further Western support for Kyiv for the time being, The Irish Times believes:

“In power in the past Fico proved somewhat more pragmatic and sympathetic to fellow EU leaders than his election rhetoric suggests. He will certainly have to be mindful of the need to maintain support for badly needed EU funding to the country's indebted economy. His campaign slogan 'Not a single round' for Ukraine came after Slovakia, previously a staunch supporter of Ukraine, had already supplied most of the arms it can spare to Kiev.”

Seznam Zprávy (CZ) /

Two tables for two for the Visegrád Four

The election result is bad news for Ukraine, Seznam Zprávy fears:

“On the western border of the war-torn country, a government is coming to power from which, instead of principled democratic positions, one can expect at best immoral manoeuvres and at worst even more immoral pro-Russian appeasement. The fact that Slovakia's international influence is not so great that it could automatically weaken the Western alliance is scant consolation. As far as Ukraine is concerned, Prime Minister Fico's rhetoric will probably be no different from that of Viktor Orbán. The Czech Republic, Poland - Hungary, Slovakia. Set up two tables for two for the next meeting of the Visegrád Four.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Support for Kyiv could wobble

Fico's election victory adds to the EU's worries, NRC comments:

“Fico also talked big in his previous terms in office, analysts say, but ultimately adopted a pragmatic stance in Brussels and avoided unnecessary confrontations. ... But support from Orbán and possibly other nationalist leaders could now embolden him. There are elections in Poland on 15 October, and if the ruling PiS party wins there again, the populist, anti-liberal trend in Central Europe could intensify and further undermine the rule of law in the region. This could have serious consequences for the European Union's common foreign policy on Ukraine and weaken support for Kyiv.”

Pravda (SK) /

Overcome division and tackle challenges

Divided Slovakia needs dialogue now, Pravda appeals:

“Perhaps the most important task for the new government is to build bridges and reconcile a divided society. ... Slovakia is facing difficult times and great challenges. The unfavourable economic situation, the ongoing Russian aggression, the green transformation, the transition from European assembly plant to innovation tiger, an insufficiently functioning democracy. ... All this is just the tip of the iceberg of the challenges we must overcome together. But without dialogue, understanding and cooperation we won't get very far.”

Taras Zahorodniy (UA) /

No big surprise

Even after these elections Slovakia will hardly become a second Hungary, political scientist Taras Zahorodniy stresses on Facebook:

“I see that the election results in Slovakia came as a big surprise for most people. But in reality nothing extraordinary happened. Russia's influence on this country was already quite substantial. Gazprom, for example, has controlled the local gas transmission system since the 1990s. Many incumbent Slovak politicians are graduates of Moscow universities. That's enough given how small the country is. When Slovakia actively helped Ukraine after 24 February, it was an exception, not the rule.”

Népszava (HU) /

Unscrupulous chameleon

Népszava has doubts about whether Fico intends to make good on his promises:

“The secret of Fico's success is that he is a chameleon and has no scruples. For years he has promised things that voters wanted but that no major party was willing to take on: opposition to vaccinations during pandemics, a 'Hungarian' solution to the wave of migration, closed borders, 'peace' in the face of war. ... But it is questionable whether Fico wants to implement all that he has promised.”