Significant potential for protracted coalition negotiations and an election rerun could impact sentiment into 2024
Given our base-case scenario, MNCs should be prepared for a government that may implement sectoral taxes and wider redistributive measures with a populist bent, particularly aimed at sectors that could be perceived to have been benefiting during the inflationary episode. The potential complexity implied by coalition negotiations means MNCs should liaise closely with government relations teams and monitor developments in any post-election talks to ensure the best possible understanding of the shape of policy emerging in any new government. Businesses operating in Slovakia should also be aware of the non-insignificant risk of an election rerun being required for a stable government to be formed, an outcome that could sustain policy uncertainty and prolong relative economic weakness.
- Smer-SD, led by former Prime Minister Robert Fico, leads the polls at 21% with just days to go. The liberal Progressive Slovakia (PS) is in second place with 16% of the vote, while HLAS-SD follows with around 14%. Another four parties are considered likely to enter parliament, all of which are generally polling between 5% and 8%, close to the 5% threshold to enter parliament.
- Mr Fico has taken a stance generally perceived as being amenable to Russian interests regarding the war in Ukraine, saying that the country would no longer send weapons to the country, while also attacking the US, sparking concern of a foreign policy pivot.
- Polling shows that Slovaks are among the most likely in Europe to blame the West for provoking the war in Ukraine, with 34% holding this view in a March poll by GlobSec, and a Bratislava Policy Institute survey found that 70% are against sending further weapons supplies to Ukraine. Russian disinformation is particularly active in the country, with 253 estimated disinformation outlets by one count, most of which are aligned with the Kremlin.
Fico’s Smer-SD party is leading polls, and our base case is that a government led by Smer, most likely in coalition with HLAS-SD and the Slovak National Party (SNS), occurs in the greatest number of scenarios after September 30. We put this outcome at a 45% likelihood, which underscores the significant chance that either no government will be formed (30%), or that an alternative government could coalesce around Progressive Slovakia (PS) should Smer fail (25%). We note that there is a high chance that coalitions will prove unstable, however, presenting ongoing political and policy reversion risks in the medium term, potentially undermining efforts to tackle the burgeoning deficit and increasing the risk of policy deadlock.
Coalition building post-election is set to be complex. HLAS-SD seats will be crucial to government formation, and the party is likely to be closely courted by any side hoping to form a majority. Notably, HLAS leader Peter Pellegrini has at varying times declared a potential aversion to working with Fico or to joining a liberal government, statements likely to be aimed at maximizing the party’s negotiating position. It is unlikely that Smer and HLAS will be able to secure a majority alone based on recent polling, and support from a further party may be required to form a majority government. Which party this would be will depend on precise results, with several parties close to the 5% parliamentary threshold, including the nationalist SNS, which represents the most likely first choice, having worked with Fico in government before.
While it will almost certainly enter parliament, any inclusion of far-right Republika in a coalition would likely spark pushback from more moderate potential members. There remains the possibility that Republika could offer confidence and supply support to a Smer government in exchange for specific policies while remaining outside of any formal coalition, but this would likely render the resultant government extremely weak, forcing it to implement its agenda on a case-by-case basis.
Widespread reporting has highlighted the concern that a return of Smer and Fico to office would cause clashes with the EU over Russian sanctions and strengthen the hand of Viktor Orban in Hungary, who has advocated for a less confrontational approach toward Russia and has previously blocked aid packages to Ukraine. While an uncooperative Slovakia would complicate EU policymaking, Fico has displayed pragmatism during previous periods as prime minister, and we note that a domestic focus and the need to compromise with coalition partners may temper his approach to foreign policy.
Outside of the base case, polling suggests that there remains a route for a non-Smer government to assume office, a possibility we place as a 1-in-4 chance, buoyed by increasing engagement from younger voters and persistent anti-Fico sentiment from several political groups. Any non-Smer coalition would need to be broad-based, however, complicating negotiations and subsequent policymaking. While opposition to Fico provides a compelling reason for cooperation, the expected absence of natural bedfellows for PS increases the likelihood of any non-Smer government experiencing further political instability within its parliamentary term.
Given the complexity of the electoral math, there remains a non-insignificant possibility of a potential rerun of the election within the first half of 2024. In all cases, uncertainty during any protracted coalition negotiations or in the case of a further election if no government can be formed is likely to begin to place a drag on investment and stall Slovakia’s ability to respond to a complicated macroeconomic picture. In a potential downside case, this could weigh on sentiment and delay the benefits from a forecast upswing through 2024.
At FrontierView, our mission is to help our clients grow and win in their most important markets. We are excited to share that FiscalNote, a leading technology provider of global policy and market intelligence has acquired FrontierView. We will continue to cover issues and topics driving growth in your business, while fully leveraging FiscalNote’s portfolio within the global risk, ESG, and geopolitical advisory product suite.
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter The Lens published by our Global Economics and Scenarios team which highlights high-impact developments and trends for business professionals. For full access to our offerings, start your free trial today and download our complimentary mobile app, available on iOS and Android.