Slovakia’s Leftist PM Seals Populist Coalition For Third Term With Centrists And Nationalists

Leftist Premier Robert Fico sealed a coalition deal with three right-wing and centrist parties Wednesday, handing his party a third term in office and averting the risk of an early election ahead of Slovakia’s EU presidency.

Robert Fico’s populist Smer-Social Democracy (Smer-SD) clinched an 81-seat majority in the 150-member parliament along with the right-wing, eurosceptic Slovak National Party (SNS), Siet liberals and the Most-Hid party Hungarian minority party.

As the senior coalition partner with 49 seats, Smer-SD controls the prime minister’s office as well as the culture, economy, foreign affairs, finance, health, interior, labour and social affairs portfolios, Fico told reporters Wednesday in Bratislava.

A settlement had been given added urgency with Slovakia to take on the revolving six-monthly EU presidency from July.

Three Siet MPs and one from Most-Hid refused to enter the government.

The new government has vowed to create 100,000 new jobs by 2020 in the successful eurozone economy of 5.4 million people and to slash corporate tax from 22 to 21 percent.

A record eight parties entered parliament in the March 5 election, a fragmented result that had threatened to trigger fresh elections.

Pavol Babos, a political analyst with the Slovak Academy of Science, told AFP the new government is a marriage of convenience forged to avoid an early ballot, but the partnership is likely to last “at least until the end of the Slovak EU presidency” in December.

Zsolt Gal, a political scientist at the Bratislava-based Comenius University, said that tackling corruption would also be among its most urgent tasks.

“Public procurement and the drawing of EU funds is riddled with corruption, it is a system-wide phenomenon in Slovakia,” Gal told AFP.

Wednesday’s coalition deal is in part a return to the 2006-10 partnership Fico forged with what was then a more stridently nationalist and xenophobic SNS.

Both parties campaigned on a strident anti-Muslim and anti-refugee platform, something analysts say paved the way for the extreme right Our Slovakia to enter parliament for the first time with 14 seats.

Its leader Marian Kotleba is known for harsh anti-Roma and anti-migrant views and for leading street marches with party members dressed in black neo-Nazi uniforms. All parties have ruled out cooperating with him.


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