top of page

Pellegrini's Promise: A Pledge to Unify Divided Slovakia

Updated: May 11

On Saturday 6th, Slovakia held its sixth Presidential election since its independence. The winner of the race was the socio-democrat Peter Pellegrini with 53 %. It is expected that as President, Pellegrini will strengthen the power of the coalition set in place between the conservative left and the far right, whose authoritarian and pro-Russian tendencies tend to cause concerns nationally, as well as across borders. 

The man who started his political career in Robert Fico’s party, ‘SMER’ (direction), has been long in the shadows. In 2014, he was appointed Speaker of the Slovak parliament, and in 2018, he was propelled to the post of Prime minister. This promotion came in the midst of a political crisis the Government was enduring, following the death of an investigative journalist, Jan Kuciak and his fiancée. At that time, Pellegrini was seen by the former Prime minister, Robert Fico, as a friendly puppet, who could be controlled from the side-lines. 

However, after SMER’s defeat in parliamentary elections in 2020, P. Pellegrini parted ways with his mentor, R. Fico, and created his new party Hlas (voice), which  finished third at the parliamentary elections last September

Following their break up, despite SMER’s dissonance and animosity towards Pellegrini, they managed to join forces in the new parliamentary alliance, resulting in a coalition with the Slovak nationalist party, which implemented controversial reforms concerning the justice system and public media. 

Peter Pellegrini’s alliance and the subsequent reforms were the key elements  criticised by Ivan Korcok, his main opponent in the second round of the presidential race. Korcok, who was strongly demonised as a future ‘President of war’, was a career diplomat, and minister of foreign affairs in the previous government. 

Pellegrini's campaign narrative was built upon a societal friction – the cities against the rural areas. As Ivan Korcok represented strong beliefs that Slovakia has its place in the West, and a solid right to be a part of the EU and NATO, he was popular in Bratislava (i.e. 77 %) and in other big cities. Peter Pellegrini stands on the other side, supported by rural voters who share his more ambiguous stance. Even though he admitted not wanting to change Slovak’s membership in neither EU nor NATO,  support from far-right political parties raises concerns. 

Surprisingly enough, the pivotal point of the campaign wasn’t EU/NATO adherence but the war that is taking place in neighbouring Ukraine. Whilst Korcok took up the Western position; explicitly designating Russia as an aggressor, and considering Ukrainian sovereignty as something worth fighting for,  Pellegrini played himself as the ‘candidate of peace’. He promised not to send Slovak troops to Ukraine. A promise that is vain as in Slovakia, this role doesn’t fall upon the President who has no competency in that matter. 

This campaign fragmented Slovakia. As the last parliamentary elections have indicated. Peter Pellegrini and Ivan Korcok had two different visions for Slovakia, its society and  which way the country should be heading. This strong dichotomy has created fear in the electorate at both ends, resulting in an exceptionally high voter turnout, at slightly above 61 % . The mobilisation of voters was robust, with many expats going to the polls to have their voice heard in the second round. Regional participation was also higher than in the first run. 

It should be that politics doesn’t mingle with emotions - but that’s an unrealistic standard. Ideally, an elector should vote on the ground of common sense and reasoning;not fear of the other side. It is to be seen how Slovakia can rebuild national cohesion, after this divisive election. Considering the President's role as a symbol of leadership and the inherently restricted scope of his powers, the true impact of his actions becomes clear only when they are aligned with the broader capabilities and actions of the government. Thus, we must observe over time to understand the outcomes of this interplay between the President's limitations and the government's power.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page