Political instability risk has increased since the parliamentary elections in March 2016, in large part owing to the rapid demise of SIEŤ, one of three parties that joined Prime Minister Róbert Fico’s Smer in a governing coalition that controls 84 seats in the 150-member National Council. Although the government’s majority has not been reduced as a result, a shift in the relative weight of Smer’s remaining junior coalition partners—the ethnic Hungarian Most-Hid and the far-right SNS—will increase the challenge of balancing the smaller parties’ sometimes conflicting demands.
Five SIEŤ dissidents have announced their intention to join Béla Bugár’s Most-Hid, with the effect that Bugár’s party has increased its seat total to 15, equaling that of the SNS, whose leader, Andrej Danko, is currently the parliamentary speaker. The SNS has consistently maintained a stance in opposition to immigration, and the EU refugee crisis has presented it with an opportunity to expand its base of support, while also creating pressure on party leaders to ensure that the government maintains a hard line on the issue. However, appeasing the SNS will care a risk of alienating Most-Hid and falling afoul of the EU.
The fragility of the governing alliance is cause to doubt that the government might deliver major reforms, but the three coalition partners did manage to reach consensus on a budget and the recent passage of an anti-corruption measure indicates that there is a clear basis for constructive cooperation among the parties. The budget plan is designed to appeal to the financial markets, but the deficit target assumes favorable economic conditions. As such, spending restraint will be crucial, and will require a commitment to resist pressure for increases in public-sector wages, which is especially strong in the education sector.