Economy Elections Slovakia

Economist becomes Slovakia’s first Hungarian-minority PM

| 2023-05-18 2 min read

Economist becomes Slovakia’s first Hungarian-minority PM

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Former Slovak Central Bank (NBS) deputy governor Ludovit Odor was sworn in as the country’s interim prime minister this week. Odor’s appointment ended six months of political limbo, and he is expected to lead his 15-member caretaker cabinet until national elections are held on 30 September.

Watershed moment

Due to his previous role at the NBS, Odor, 46, is a well-known economist, author and independent public figure in Slovakia. He has served as a visiting professor at the Central European University and as a member of the Slovak Council for Budget Responsibility. Hailing from Slovakia’s Hungarian minority, his appointment as prime minister is an unprecedented moment for the country.

Other members of the new cabinet include central bank chief economist Michal Horvath as finance minister, and career diplomats Miroslav Wlachovsky and Martin Sklenar, who will be foreign minister and defence minister respectively. None of the interim cabinet members will stand in the September election.

Slovak President Zuzana Caputova tweeted: “Today, I appointed a new government of experts led by a respected economist @LudoOdorPM. I wish them every success in their mission.” For his part, Odor said: “We won’t work miracles but you can expect us to ensure the proper functioning of the state.”

Slovakia hopes for stability, as Fico heads polls

Observers hope that the appointment will draw a close to three years of political turmoil that began when OL’aNO (Ordinary People and Independent Personalities) Party leader Igor Matovic unexpectedly gained power on an anti-corruption and reform ticket, only to become the country’s least trusted politician after a string of controversies.

Former finance minister Eduard Heger, also an OL’aNO member, succeeded Matovic as premier of the conservative-populist government. However, Heger’s tenure lasted only six months before a vote of no confidence in his government in December 2022 resulted in a downgrade to caretaker prime minister.

Heger’s minority government also struggled to pass reform legislation necessary for accessing EUR 1.7bn from the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility. The government finally collapsed last week, prompting Caputova into action.

Populist former PM Robert Fico’s Smer party is currently ahead in the polls. The return of Fico would mean a less liberal and pro-Western foreign policy than under Heger, who gifted Ukraine S-300 air defence systems and 13 MiG-29 fighter jets.