The chaotic rule of Slovakia’s center-right coalition government under Prime Minister Eduard Heger ended Thursday evening, less than three years into its four-year mandate, after parliament supported a motion of no-confidence with a simple majority of 78 MPs out of 150.
The country now faces three possible political outcomes — early elections, a caretaker cabinet appointed by President Zuzana Čaputová, or a new ruling coalition cobbled together from the parties in the current parliament. Heger was expected to meet with Čaputová and Speaker of Parliament Boris Kollár within hours of the no-confidence vote to agree a course of action.
Heger was ultimately seen as less to blame for his government’s collapse than was his immediate predecessor in the post, Igor Matovič, leader of the OLaNO party. After winning March 2020 elections as a political maverick on 25 percent support, Matovič brought his populism and abrasive independence to the role of PM as well, until he was ousted in favor of Heger last year.
“Igor Matovič was the one who brought all these problems that weakened the unity of the government,” said Bratislava-based political scientist Grigorij Mesežnikov. “It’s a great misfortune for this government … that they were unable to eliminate the negative impact of the problematic personalities of its leaders, above all Igor Matovič.”
The collapse of Heger’s administration will be a bitter pill for democratic and pro-Western elements in Slovak society. The government was swept to power in March 2020 by a wave of public revulsion at the murders of a young Slovak journalist, Ján Kuciak, and his fiancée Martina Kušnirová; and at the corruption and misrule that characterized the eight-year tenure of former PM Róbert Fico from 2012 to 2020.
But given a choice between the left-wing Fico and discredited politicians on the right, voters at the time took a chance on Matovič, who until then had positioned himself as an anti-corruption firebrand.
“Matovič was always a peculiar kind of politician, but voters were in a mood to show Fico that he was beaten,” Mesežnikov said. “And Matovič served that purpose.”