The political terrain in Slovakia witnessed the triumphant return of former Prime Minister Robert Fico and his leftist Smer party, signifying a potentially transformative moment for Europe and a concerning development for Ukraine. In an election marked by what some have labeled “the least predictable” in recent memory, Fico, a leader often criticized for his pro-Russian sentiments and pragmatic stance on Ukraine, emerged victorious, earning his party 22.9% of the votes to gain 42 seats in the 150-seat Parliament.
This victory heralds more than just a political comeback; it may very well reshape the dynamics between Slovakia, Russia, and Ukraine. Fico, known for his unwavering opinions against Ukraine’s incorporation into NATO and his opposition to EU sanctions on Russia, seems to stand on a platform of equilibrium, one that resonates with Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s Prime Minister, who greeted Fico’s victory with a warm “Always good to work together with a patriot,” posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Hungarian Prime Minister Orban congratulated the head of the Social Democratic Party of Slovakia SMER Robert Fico on his victory in the elections.
“Guess who's back! Congratulations to Robert Fico on his undisputed victory in the parliamentary elections in Slovakia. It's always… pic.twitter.com/qaWDVJ9IG1
— Zlatti71 (@djuric_zlatko) October 1, 2023
Fico’s triumph is seen as a blow to Ukraine, a nation Slovakia has supported steadfastly since Russia’s invasion. Slovakia, until now, not only backed all sanctions imposed on Russia but also rendered substantial military support to Ukraine. However, the winds of change are blowing, as Fico’s victory now foreshadows a plausible curtailment of military and political backing for Ukraine.
While Fico’s return signifies a transformation in international relationships, it is not an aberration but rather a reflection of the growing discontent and disillusionment with the war in Ukraine. The reaction against the war paved the way for Fico’s return, echoing a sentiment shared by many countries grappling with the Ukraine crisis.
Despite Fico’s reputation for a pro-Russian and anti-American stance, his ascendance represents a broader, more pragmatic view of international affairs. Fico, on numerous occasions, has advocated for a compromise peace deal between Russia and Ukraine, championing dialogue over conflict. This perspective aligns him with other pragmatic leaders such as Orbán.
He perceives the enduring Ukrainian war not as an isolated regional conflict but as a matter with far-reaching implications, affecting even the day-to-day lives of the Slovak people, stating, “People in Slovakia have bigger problems than Ukraine.” Fico’s victory and ensuing policies could be a precursor for renewed stability and calm in the region, redirecting focus toward domestic issues rather than international discord.
Fico’s possible coalition with other like-minded parties, such as the ultranationalist Slovak National Party, which is distinctly pro-Russian, is poised to consolidate this new direction. Together, they wield the power to sway the parliamentary majority, setting the stage for a more balanced, less interventionist foreign policy, allowing Slovakia to tread a middle path in the ongoing geopolitical chessboard between the West and Russia.
It is crucial to acknowledge that Fico’s win is not an isolated phenomenon but part of a larger political tapestry where several nations are questioning the prevailing norms of international involvement, with countries like Germany, France, and Spain witnessing a surge in support for populist parties skeptical of intervention in Ukraine.