Slovak Premier Meets With Former Foes to Discuss Coalition

  • Premier, three partner parties agree on government priorities
  • Four parties set to join forces to prevent early vote

Slovak Premier Robert Fico and his three possible coalition partners made progress Monday in their first talks on forming his third administration, built around their desire to avoid an early vote after inconclusive March 5 elections brought a far-right party to parliament.

Fico’s Smer party; leaders of Most-Hid, a party that represents mostly ethnic Hungarians; Siet, which pledged tax cuts and anti-corruption measures; and the Slovak National Party approved draft program priorities of their joint coalition at a meeting in Bratislava, the premier told journalists. The talks will resume Tuesday at 2 p.m. after the priorities are endorsed by leaderships of individual parties, he added.

The four parties, traditional foes with diverging program priorities including tax cuts and more welfare spending, have a combined majority of 85 seats in the 150-member parliament, though three Siet deputies have said they would leave the party to protest against a coalition with Smer. Even as economic growth accelerated during Fico’s second term and unemployment fell to almost a seven-year low, the migrant crisis, persistent regional differences and rising concern over corruption led voters to pick protest groups such as the People’s Party, whose leaders have praised the country’s fascist regime during World War II.

“Fico has relatively good chances of forming a coalition,” Otilia Dhand, an analyst at Teneo Intelligence in Brussels, said by e-mail. “However, this will likely be an unstable and temporary arrangement. Cooperation of the four disparate political forces would be tenuous.”

Fico, who has a presidential mandate until Friday to form the government, ruled previously with the Slovak National Party in a coalition from 2006 to 2010, a period during which the country adopted the euro. The party, whose former leaders used to blame Hungary for undermining the Slovak state, advocates a strong country with higher taxes for monopolies.

Smer, which won the most seats on pledges to boost welfare spending, will need to find common ground with Most-Hid and Siet, which criticized Fico’s administration for what they said was non-transparent public procurement and failure to adequately fund health care and education.

The election has had little impact on the Slovak bonds, which have been supported by the European Central Bank’s asset purchase program, keeping the country’s borrowing costs as the third-lowest in the euro area, after Germany and the Netherlands. The yield on the benchmark 2025 bond fell 1 basis point to 0.47 percent, the second day of declines.

Fico brushed off program differences , saying he doesn’t see any major difference in programs that would prevent Smer from teaming up with former opponents Most-Hid and Siet. The parties haven’t yet discussed personal issues, he said.

“We discussed program priorities since these are four subjects with different views and values" Fico told reporters after the meeting. “We didn’t find any topic that would divide us.”

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