Any questions ?

Phone +31 62 72 41006

Slovakian’s 2024 Presidential Elections: The Fear of a Filo-Russian Agenda

Peter Pellegrini © PES Communications, 2018, via Flickr.

Slovakian’s 2024 Presidential Elections: The Fear of a Filo-Russian Agenda

Author: Laura Libertini

Department: Europe

  1. Introduction

On Saturday, April 6th, 2024, Slovakia’s nationalist, left-wing government candidate Peter Pellegrini defeated the liberal, pro-western opponent Ivan Korčok, winning the presidential election. The first round of this year’s presidential elections saw a total of 11 candidates. The voting firstly took place on Saturday, March 23rd, confirming that the two favourite candidates for the final runoff were indeed Pellegrini and Korčok (The Slovak Spectator, 2024).

This article will summarise the main events leading up to this year’s presidential elections in Slovakia. It will start by  detailing the applicants’ profiles and political agendas, and continue by discussing the main differences between the candidates and Zuzana Čaputová, Slovakia’s previous President. In closing, it will reflect on what  Pellegrini’s successful election as president may mean for the country and for Europe.

  1. The candidates: a short overview

Peter Pellegrini started his career in 2002 as an assistant to Ľubomír Vážny from the Smer party (Slovakia Social Democratic Party). During his years in politics, Pellegrini served as state secretary, finance minister, education minister, speaker of the national parliament, and as deputy minister for investment and information. In 2018, he replaced Prime Minister Robert Fico after Fico’s forced resignation due to the protests following the double murder of journalist Ján Kuciak and his girlfriend Martina Kušnírová in February 2018 (The Slovak Spectator, 2024). At the 2020 general election, the Smer party received the second-highest number of votes, but since they were not able to form a coalition, the new government was not formed. After this internal breakdown, Pellegrini’s collaboration with Fico, who was of the Smer party, escalated into conflict, ending with Pellegrini leaving Smer in June 2020 with a group of party colleagues. They consequently formed Hlas, a new social Democratic Party. During the 2023 early parliamentary election, Pellegrini formed a governing coalition with Smer and the Slovak National Party (SNS) (The Slovak Spectator, 2024).

At the centre of his presidential political program, Pellegrini supports the national interests of Slovakia, and at the same time claims that the foreign affairs agenda of the country will remain the same. While assuring people that he would preserve the alliance with the EU and NATO, Pellegrini has never voiced opposition to the foreign policy practised by Smer, and his own political partner, Prime Minister Robert Fico, both openly supportive of the Kremlin’s political scheme (The Slovak Spectator).

The second candidate is Ivan Korčok. In 1993, he started his professional path at the Foreign Affairs Ministry serving as ambassador to Germany from 2005 to 2009 and to the United States from 2018 to 2020, as well as permanent representative of Slovakia to the EU between 2009 and 2015. He served as state secretary during the second Mikuláš Dzurinda government and later during Robert Fico’s third government. During his political campaigns, Korčok promoted the democratic values of the rule of law, tolerance, and respect, especially towards the minorities living in Slovakia. With his ideas, he urges Slovakia to preserve a clear, Western-oriented foreign policy orientation by remaining involved in the European Union and NATO frameworks (The Slovak Spectator).

Štefan Harabin, firstly a lawyer and then former chair of the Supreme Court between 1998-2003 and again between 2009-2014, was also a candidate in the last 2019 presidential election, where he ended third. Harabin founded the Homeland (Vlasť) party in the same year, which has failed to win seats in any parliamentary elections. In his campaign, Harabin supported values like peace, Slovakia’s dignity, law and justice for everyone while criticising the EU and remaining forthright in his support of Russia’s ideals and the invasion of Ukraine (The Slovak Spectator, 2024).

Igor Matovič is the founder of the Slovensko movement (former Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO)), which since 2012 has been elected to every parliament. In the 2020 Parliamentary election, the Slovensko movement came first, promising efficient anti-corruption measures and the truth behind the murders of journalist Jan Kuciak and girlfriend Martina Kusnirova (Rai News, 2020). As a result, Matovič became Prime Minister, but the misgovernment of the Coronavirus pandemic and turbulent conflicts in the governing coalition of the time led to his resignation after little more than a year (The Slovak Spectator, 2024).

Former diplomat Ján Kubiš served as Slovakia’s ambassador to the United Nations and in high functions in the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). He was appointed UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon in 2019 and as head of the UN Support Mission in Libya in January 2021. Between 2006-2009, during the first Robert Fico’s government, Kubiš acted as Minister of Foreign Affairs. During the 2024 Presidential elections, his political agenda revolved around the “Love to Slovakia, respect abroad”, stressing that he would exercise his knowledge and experience as a diplomat to settle conflicts (The Slovak Spectator, 2024).

Leader of the Slovak National Party (SNS) candidate Andrej Danko is an admirer of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Hungarian Premier Viktor Orbán. His political campaign for this year’s elections is centred on topics like economic stability and the conservation of the present ruling coalition (The Slovak Spectator). Five days before the voting day, Danko retired from the candidacy due to the latest developments in his electoral consensus. During a press conference he was supported by presidential candidate Harabin (Agenzia Nova, 2024). 

Chair of the non-parliamentary Hungarian minority political party Aliancia – Szövetség, Krisztián Forró is the only ethnic Hungarian candidate in the 2024 elections. Forró joined the Party of the Hungarian Coalition (SMK) in 2004 and served as its last chair in 2020-2021. He supports the idea that Ukraine deserves humanitarian aid, and advocates in favour of its candidacy as a member of the European Union (The Slovak Spectator, 2024).

President of the far-right Kotlebovci – People’s Party Our Slovakia (ĽSNS) party, the eighth candidate Marian Kotleba served as governor of the Banská Bystrica Self-Governing Region between 2013 and 2017. In April 2022, Kotleba was found guilty of sympathising with neo-Nazi sympathising movement that suppresses basic rights and freedoms. He was given a conditional sentence but lost his seat as MP. After proving to the Specialised Criminal Court that he could lead a proper life, he was able to run for the 2024 Presidential elections (The Slovak Spectator, 2024).

Candidate Patrik Dubovský worked at the Ministry of Culture and at the Government Office. His career as a politician started in the 1990s in the Democratic Party (DS). In 2020 he ran for the parliamentary elections on the Za Ľudí party slate. Dubovský became well-known when he filed a criminal charge against Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ľuboš Blaha (Smer) for replacing the official portrait of the President with a picture of Cuban communist revolutionist Che Guevara in his office (The Slovak Spectator). 

Amongst the last candidates, there is Milan Náhlik, a former police officer running on the slate of the nationalist party Voice of the People (Hlas Ľudu) and supporting Slovakia’s withdrawal from the EU, and Róbert Švec, chair of the nationalist party Slovak Revival Movement (Slovenské Hnutie Obrody), rooting for the country’s departure from the EU and NATO. Švec also wants to reintroduce the Slovak crown as national currency and establish a ban on LGBTQIA+ symbols (The Slovak Spectator, 2024).

  1. Peter Pellegrini: What To Expect 

On Saturday April 6th, 2024, Slovakian people elected their new President, Peter Pellegrini, who succeeded against  his opponent Ivan Korčok by obtaining 53,85 percent of votes versus the 46,14 percent gained by Korčok. This victory made Pellegrini the sixth president after the country’s independence from Czechoslovakia in 1993 and succeeded Slovakia’s first female head of state, Zuzana Čaputová. She decided not to run for a second mandate after personal considerations and after reportedly receiving death threats in June 2023 (The Guardian et al., 2024). In December 2023, during an interview aired on national television, Čaputová affirmed that she has been receiving death threats stating that “People who are threatening to kill me are using the vocabulary of some politicians. It does not only concern me, but also my loved ones.” (Agence France-Presse, 2023).

During her six years as  President, Čaputová has been defined as the most trusted Slovak politician, addressing her agenda towards a genuine change for a better future. She fought for a long time in favour of the environment, government transparency and the fight against corruption, and ardently defended fundamental and minority rights, especially LGBTQIA+ rights (Calandra, R., 2019).

The political agenda that Pellegrini will adopt during his six years as president is still unclear. What is certain, however, is his strong alliance with newly elected Prime Minister Robert Fico. Fico became Prime Minister of the country for the third time in September 2023, after serving this role between 2006-2010, 2012-2016 and lastly 2016-2018, when he was forced to resign after the political crisis and revolution caused by the assassination of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his girlfriend Martina Kušnírová in February 2018. 

It is commonly believed that Fico’s influence on Pellegrini’s mandate can lead the country to abandon the pro-western course adopted and maintained during Čaputová’s presidency and follow Viktor Orbán’s Hungarian directions and vision (The Guardian et al., 2024). In fact, one of the first decisions of Fico’s government was to halt any arms deliveries to Ukraine. Consequently, thousands of people have taken to the street to protest against Fico’s pro-Russian policies, among other,including strategies to revise the penal code and gain control of the public media. While Korčok was critical of the government’s decisions and protesters were concerned that this could threaten the rule of law, Pellegrini backed the new government without questioning its choices (The Guardian et al., 2024).

It is widely deemed that during the campaign leading to the final victory, Pellegrini has imitated the tactics adopted by President Orban during the Hungarian’s 2022 elections, where his ruling party falsely accused the main opposition leader of wanting to send Hungarian people to fight against Russia in Ukraine. It appears that Pellegrini accused his opponent Korčok of wanting the same thing, by sending Slovakian soldiers to fight in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict (Higgins, A., 2024). Korčok immediately denied this, particularly because the President does not have power to do this. The Slovakian president’s tasks will now include choosing the prime minister after parliamentary elections, swearing in the new government and appointing constitutional court judges. The president can also veto laws while the parliament can overrule the veto with a simple majority (The Guardian et al., 2024).

  1. Conclusions

Lastly, it can be concluded that the winning of Peter Pellegrini over Ivan Korčok can represent a big enhancement for Fico’s government, who can keep pursuing his political agenda without interfering from the president. This stands in contrast to the previous head of state, Zuzana Čaputová, who was “an outspoken, pro-Western liberal who used her limited powers to resist Mr. Fico’s drift toward Russia and his efforts to limit the judiciary’s ability to prosecute corruption […]” (Higgins, A., 2024). Moderated by President Caputova, Prime Minister Fico refrained from facing fellow leaders over Russian-Ukrainian war during the January 2024 European Union summits in Brussels, where Hungarian President Orbán expressed his opposition once again (Higgins, A., 2024). Even though Pellegrini has not yet defined the course of his presidential agenda, he is a leader of the ruling governmental coalition and,  according to Petr Just, an academic at the University of Prague, it is very likely that he will not hinder the agenda of the Fico government. Pellegrini is “still playing this two-sided or two-face role. So we’ll see how he’s going to turn up once he’s the president” (Euronews & AP, 2024).

Sources and further readings:

Agence France-Press (July 20th, 2023). Slovakian president Čaputová says she will not run for re-election. The Guardian. Retrieved on 09/04/2024 from

Agenzia Nova (March 18th, 2024). Slovacchia: Andrej Danko (Sns) ritira la candidatura alle elezioni presidenziali. Agenzia Nova. Retrieved on 07/04/2024 from

Calandra, R. (March 31st, 2019). Chi è Zuzana Čaputová, prima donna alla guida della Slovacchia. Il Sole 24 Ore. Retrieved on 09/04/2024 from

Euronews & AP. (April 8th, 2024). New Slovak president Peter Pellegrini yet to define political stance – analyst. Euronews. Retrieved on 09/04/2024 from

Higgins, A. (April 6th, 2024). Pro-Russia Candidate Wins Slovakia’s Presidential Election. The New York Times. Retrieved on 09/04/2024 from

Rai News. (March 1st, 2020). Slovacchia, vince le elezioni il partito di opposizione di centrodestra anti-corruzione. Rai News. Retrieved on 07/04/2024 from

The Guardian et al. (April 7th, 2024). Ukraine-sceptic government ally Peter Pellegrini wins Slovakian presidential election. The Guardian. Retrieved on 09/04/2024 from

The Slovak Spectator (March 11th, 2024). Who are the 2024 presidential election candidates? The Slovak Spectator. Retrieved on 7/04/2024 from

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *