By Stefan J. Bos
Center-right party leader Igor Matovic has reason to smile when casting his ballot with his daughter and his wife in Slovakia's parliamentary elections. The latest polls suggest that his Ordinary People party or OLaNO will beat the governing leftist Smer-Social Democracy party. Former prime minister Robert Fico leads the party.
Matovic, who is 46, has made fighting corruption and attacking Fico the central theme of his campaign. If he wins as predicted, Matovic is the likeliest candidate for prime minister of the Eurozone nation.
Commentators expect him to govern with a coalition of liberal, conservative and pro-business parties.
It comes as a significant setback for Fico's Smer. It ruled Slovakia for most of the past 14 years. But his party was damaged by political turmoil after the 2018 assassination of the young investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova.
The journalist had been reporting about cases involving business people with connections to Slovakia's ruling Smer party and other politicians. It led to the biggest protests in years.
Incumbent prime minister Peter Pellegrini says he fears for the future of Slovakia if his Smer party is not allowed to participate in a new government. "What could be the future of the Slovak Republic if there are parties with no experience really, not well-prepared people? It can be dangerous for the stability of Slovakia, and it can be dangerous for the stability of the European Union," he said.
Don't tell that to Eduard Heger, a legislator of the opposition Olano party that is like to win Saturday's ballot. "The mafia was able to kill a person, and it was not a regular person, he was a reporter. So the corruption level is really, really high in Slovakia, people feel that we are at the end of the EU," he argued.
"And people want to live in a healthy country, you know, we are in the middle of Europe," added Heger.
Amid the tensions and public dissatisfaction with politics, an extreme far-right People's Party Our Slovakia is doing well. The party, whose members use Nazi salutes and which wants Slovakia out of the European Union and NATO military alliance, is expected to strengthen its hold in the 150-seat parliament.
But mainstream parties have riled out cooperation with the People's Party Our Slovakia as it promotes the legacy of what was once a Slovak Nazi puppet state during World War Two.
Slovaks go to the polls in a vote overshadowed by murder of journalist
By Stefan J. Bos