The Ordinary People’s Prime Minister

by Ján Tkáč

Photo: Prime Minister Igor Matovič and President Čaputová

Slovaks have voted, democracy has been upheld. But who is Igor Matovič, the new Slovak Prime Minister?

A couple of years ago, he covered the country with posters saying, “All politicians lie”. He didn’t bother stating the fact that he is also a politician.

In 2012, he asked some of his most trustworthy and prominent political partners to undergo a lie detector test to demonstrate their loyalty. They left him.

Igor Matovič has been one of the strongest fighters in the war against corruption and state crime. However, now he does not mind a coalition with Boris Kollár, a reputed former black-market trader who has also allegedly been involved in drug smuggling and is unapologetic over his previous ties to mafia groups, and his new party called “We are family”.

Shortly before the election, our new Prime Minister set up a webpage with something he called a referendum. He asked people 11 questions and promised to take the most popular policy responses into his government’s programme statement (a document that constitutes a new government and its priorities).

Now guess his party’s name. It’s “Ordinary People”.

This is the new Slovak Prime Minister. A man who has earned his position through his 15-year crusade against a corrupt government. A millionaire who entered politics when he realised that he’s been paying taxes for years while the government is playing “House of Cards” and doing business with the mafia. A father of a Christian family and with pro-life views but who has also protested against aspects of the Church. His closest coalition partner, Boris Kollár is a bachelor, who has fathered 10 children with 9 different women, most of whom come from show business.

And yes, he is a conservative. But what will it mean for Slovakia and its position in Europe?

First, there will be a divide between Slovakia on the one hand, Poland and Hungary on the other. Poles are defending their Christian politics and Hungarians are proclaiming their “National Conservatism” throughout the EU, and have intellectuals working around the clock to further solidify their positions. Slovakia’s new leader does not have a strong policy message nor the support of prominent Slovakian political thinkers. 

Second, the Prime Minister and his “ordinary people” will have to learn how to do European politics. They have one MEP at the European Parliament. But they have never fought over a single issue in Europe and the only MEP they have, a former National Special Envoy for the Roma minority, is isolated. Indeed, this lack of foreign policy awareness and diplomatic experience was shown by Matovič admitting that he does not have an opinion on Angela Merkel´s politics, arguably the most important politician in the European Union.

Third, they will cause a significant quarrel. Ordinary People consists of four different groups. In fact, they are four different micro-parties; essentially, he has managed to get Christians to stand on the same platform as liberals. The Christian faction claims that they will prevent Parliament from even thinking about legalising gay marriage and that they will work towards bringing forward new pro-life legislation. However, the liberal faction has gay marriage in their political programme. The Prime Minister will need to manage and reconcile these opposing beliefs and attempt to avoid serious friction but also a deep misunderstanding among conservatives in Central Europe. 

Igor Matovič’s success is the result of a well-crafted populist, emotionalist, and well-focused campaign. However, his success lacks a solid foundation and time will tell if his party and political positions collapse along the intrinsic fault lines in his party and with his allies.

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