Authoritarian Populism Index.

The Authoritarian Populism Index is developed by Timbro.

Timbro is the leading free market think tank in the Nordic countries. Our mission is to promote and disseminate ideas supporting the principles of free markets, free enterprise, individual liberty and a free society. Timbro was founded in 1978 by Sture Eskilsson and the Swedish Employers’ Association, a precursor to the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise.  Since 2003, Timbro is financed by the Swedish Free Enterprise Foundation.


International outreach and translation supported by Friedrich Naumann Foundation and Atlas Network.


Populism Rank: 10


Voter support for radical left in last elections (2023): +2%.
Voter support for radical right in last elections: -6%.
Populist or radical parties in government (March  2024): Smer
Number of radical or populist MEP:s (2019): 5/14

01 Speakers

Slovakia has experienced several sudden political changes throughout its brief history as an independent state. The country has also witnessed the emergence of numerous populist, right-wing, and left-wing extremist parties in parliament, including two populist parties that have held sway in government for multiple terms.

Just like in the Czech Republic, a broad umbrella organisation for oppositional forces emerged here, which split soon after the Velvet revolution in 1989. Vladimir Meciar, the prime minister since 1990, then formed the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), which led the country to independence. Meciar then became the sovereign country’s first prime minister in 1993 and returned after the first elections in 1994. HZDS portrayed itself as a pragmatic centrist party but was in fact both populist and authoritarian, with strong power concentration in Meciar’s hands. He tightened centralised control and weakened democratic institutions. Conflict with the president ensued, with attempts to force a resignation, e.g. by limiting the president’s powers, and reducing the budget and compel the president to halve his staff.


Between 1994 and 1998, Meciar led a coalition government together with a far-left party (ZRS) and a far-right party (SNS). The consequence of Meciar’s rule was that EU entry appeared to be delayed, as Slovakia lagged behind front-runners Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary in reform policies. For example, Meciar was strongly critical of the economic shock therapy implemented in Poland and the Czech Republic.


The far-right Slovak National Party (SNS) rests on a fascist foundation and has sought to revive the fascist Slovak state of the interwar period. Long-time party leader Jan Slota repeatedly incited against Roma and Hungarians – calling Hungarians “a cancer in the body of the Slovak nation” – and warned his followers that Hungary was ready to take over the country if Slovaks did not take a hard line. In 2000, when Slota was mayor of Zilina, the city council voted to dedicate a plaque honouring fascist leader Jozef Tiso, who Slota called “one of the greatest sons of the Slovak nation”. Despite divisions within the party, SNS has persisted for a long time, surviving a split by its former party leader, and has been part of several governments. Economically, the party is right-leaning. It is also strongly eurosceptic.

Vladimír Mečiar

HZDS gradually lost voter support in the early 2000s. Much of their place was taken over by the left-wing populist party Smer (Direction), which was formed in 1999 by Robert Fico who had left the Party of the Democratic Left (SLD) the year before. In 2006, Smer won the election and formed a government together with HZDS and SNS, which once again worsened the country’s international relations and led to a suspension of Smer from the European Socialist Party. The government lasted for four years. After two years in opposition, Fico returned to power in 2012, now with a majority of his own. This government lasted until 2018, and then after five years in opposition, returned to power in the autumn of 2023. The formation of a government which once again led to a suspension from PES and exclusion from the S&D group in the European parliament.


In power, Smer has continued in HZDS’s authoritarian footsteps. Fico has several times described Smer as a party lacking ideology that will run the country like a business. Characteristically, “order, justice, and stability” have been highlighted as keywords in election campaigns. The party has also used nationalist rhetoric that continues along the same lines as HZDS; for example, they have described Slovakia as a nation for Slovaks, not for its minorities. The party’s roots in Slovak social democracy combined with its nationalism characterise it best as a left-wing populist and national conservative party. It is left-leaning on economic issues, conservative on social issues and has become eurosceptic in recent years, with Fico being a close ally to Hungary in Brussels.


Smer exhibits strong authoritarian tendencies, and Fico has in several ways tested the boundaries of democracy. For example, Fico’s government has proposed reforms of public broadcasting (RTVS) that have sparked sharp domestic and international criticism, where the media company would be directly subordinated to parliament and the Ministry of Culture. RTVS Director General Ľuboš Machaj said he felt reminded of the times of communist censorship. Critics of the government have also expressed concerns about threats to press freedom in the country. Fico has also attacked the Constitutional Court, and in early 2020, his government pushed through a reform that weakens the judiciary’s ability to prosecute graft, including by dismantling an anti-corruption office, in defiance of street protests across Slovakia and warnings from Brussels about safeguarding the rule of law.


Smer also has troubling Russian connections. The party has been financed by a Russian bank and has captured a significant public opinion in favour of Russia. When Fico took office as prime minister again in October 2023, the government announced that it would immediately suspend military aid to Ukraine.

Robert Fico.

We Are Family (SR) is a right-wing populist party formed in 2015, that participated in the centre-right government between 2020-23. It achieved its best result in 2020 with eight percent of the votes, but only got two percent in 2023. It is eurosceptic, socially conservative and economically right-wing.


People’s Party Our Slovakia (L’SNS) was founded by Marian Kotleba in 2010 and is an extreme right-wing party. It describes itself as the successor to the fascist government of the interwar period. It has benefited from discontent and poverty and is one of the most openly right-wing extremist parties in Europe. After several successful elections, it completely failed in 2023 and was forced to leave parliament. 


L’SNS MEP Milan Uhrik left the party in 2021 and formed neo-fascist party Republic, which gained four percent in the 2023 elections.

EP elections

Number of authoritarian or populist MEP:s (2019): 5/14


Smer won three seats in the first EP elections in Slovakia in 2004 and subsequently joined the Social Democratic group. HZDS won three seats in 2004 but remained non-attached. However, in 2009, the only remaining MEP from HZDS joined the ALDE group.


SNS entered the parliament in 2009 with one seat and joined the EFDD group.


The liberal SaS entered parliament in 2014, but their members have been part of the ECR group, where the member from OLANO also joined from 2014 to 2019.


The People’s Party of Slovakia won two seats in 2019, which have remained non-attached in the parliament.

SNS summary

Economics: RIGHT
Social issues: CONSERVATIVE
Democratic credibility: LOW

SMER summary

Economics: LEFT
Social issues: CONSERVATIVE
Democratic credibility: LOW

SR summary

Economics: RIGHT
Social issues: CONSERVATIVE
Democratic credibility: HIGH