On Saturday, Robert Fico, the leader of the Slovakian social-democratic party Smer, led his party to victory in parliamentary elections, giving him a chance to form the next government. Given Fico’s opposition to aid for Ukraine, his victory has been widely interpreted as a sign of flagging support for the war. But it is also a demonstration of the continuing appeal of a pragmatic, social-democratic politics focused on the concerns of voters, rather than those of progressive activists.

Ahead of the vote, Věra Jourová, the European Union’s chief digital-affairs official, warned that the election would test Europe’s vulnerability to Russia’s “multimillion-euro weapon of mass manipulation.” Czech President Petr Pavel, whose country is Slovakia’s closest ally, stated that the relations between the two would turn worse if Fico wins. After the election, former Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, who chairs the Party of European Socialists in the European Parliament, didn’t congratulate his fellow social democrat Fico on his victory. Instead, he threatened him with expulsion from the PES.


Fico has a long history of defying the consensus of Europe’s social-democratic parties. This shrewd politician spent half of the past 20 years serving as prime minister. He came to be known for opposition to migration and an almost unlimited flexibility on any issue that he didn’t consider vital to his re-election or Slovakian interests. Like Viktor Orbán of neighboring Hungary, he was often labeled as a populist or nationalist.

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