Prime Minister Igor Matovic (Ordinary People and Independent Personalities, OLaNO) is facing growing pressure to resign from two of the governing coalition parties. While Matovic’s resignation would help keep the four-party coalition intact, it is unclear whether he is willing to sacrifice his post. If Matovic refuses to step down, an OLaNO-led minority government would become the most plausible scenario. A technocratic cabinet led by an independent prime minister or a snap general election are also possible but unlikely scenarios.
Yesterday, 15 March, two of OLaNO’s junior coalition partners, Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) and For the People (ZL), announced their intentions to leave the government unless Matovic steps down by Wednesday, 24 March. Both SaS and ZL have long been critical of Matovic’s governing and communication style, and a dispute over the acquisition of the Sputnik V vaccine from Russia in early March escalated the tensions. Meanwhile, OLaNO’s third coalition partner We Are Family (Sme Rodina) has adopted a neutral stance and is urging all sides to come to an agreement.
Negotiations within the ruling coalition are set to continue in the coming days. In addition, President Zuzana Caputova (independent) has called for a private meeting with Matovic today, 16 March.
Despite the protracted crisis, OLaNO is most likely to continue leading the government. Neither of OLaNO’s coalition partners would benefit from leaving the government and losing the ability to oversee the allocation of up to EUR 6bn in the EU post-pandemic support. Moreover, the SaS party is already linked to the downfall of the Iveta Radicova’s government back in 2011 and the destabilization of the Matovic cabinet – particularly during the pandemic – could stain its reputation. Instead, the SaS and ZL parties are seeking to force a compromise that would see the replacement of Matovic as prime minister with a less controversial politician, such as, for example, the finance minister Eduard Heger (OLaNO). Such a replacement would likely keep the four-party coalition intact but would result in more changes in the cabinet.
The situation would get more complicated if Matovic decides to remain in office. This likely departure of SaS and ZL from the coalition government would leave it without majority support in parliament. In such case, Matovic could attempt to lead a minority government in partnership with Sme Rodina if the latter party agrees. OLaNO and Sme Rodina together hold 70 out of 150 mandates in parliament and could seek support from other deputies. However, their cooperation either with the left-wing (Direction – Social Democracy) or the far-right (People’s Party – Our Slovakia) parties appears unlikely.
The current distribution of mandates in parliament leaves few alternatives to the OLaNO-led government apart from a technocratic government led by an independent prime minister supported by a wide range of parties in parliament. While there is no precedent for this, such a scenario should not be ruled out as a temporary solution during the pandemic.
Finally, an early general election is the least likely option for now. From a procedural perspective, it would require the passage of a constitutional law by at least three-fifths of all members of parliament (at least 90). This is unlikely as most parties in parliament would risk losing mandates in an early election, and opinion polls suggest a decisive victory for the center-left Voice – Social Democracy (Hlas-SD) party.