Governance of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Slovakia


This paper analyses presence of populistic rhetoric in the behaviour of two Slovak prime ministers who have been responsible for managing the COVID-19 pandemic. It is based on Brubaker's (2017) work on populism and tries to identify his six elements within the area studied. The main argument is that even though these two actors have different political backgrounds and experience, both use a populist repertoire in their communication and actions and having to deal with a crisis such as COVID-19 pandemic is not the reason to not use it. It is important to analyse societal structures as the COVID-19 pandemic not only put lives at risk, but also economic and social rights and the security of the state.

Keywords: populism; Slovakia; COVID-19; government; elements of populism


Act no. 387/2002 Coll., Act on the Protection, Promotion and Development of Public Health and on Amendments to Certain Acts.

Adler-Nissen, R. (Ed.). (2013), Bourdieu in International Relations. London: Routledge.

Applebaum, A. (2020), Súmrak demokracie, N Press. (Slovak translation)

Auel, K. and T. Christiansen, (eds.) (2015), “After Lisbon: National

Parliaments in the European Union, special issue of West European Politics 38(2).

Borońska-Hryniewiecka, K., & Grinc, J. (2021), Actions Speak Louder Than Words? The Untapped Potential of V4 Parliaments in EU Affairs. East European Politics and Societies. //

Brubaker, R. (2017), “Why Populism?”. Theory and Society, 46: 357–385.

Brubaker, R.(2017a), “Between nationalism and civilizationism: the European populist moment in comparative perspective” Ethnic and Racial Studies

Brubaker, R. (2019), “Populism and Nationalism”. Nations and Nationalism, 26(1): 44-66.

Brubaker, R. (2020), “Paradoxes of Populism during the Pandemic”, Thesis Eleven, 1-15.

Bugarič, B. (2019), “Central Europe’s Descent into Autocracy: A constitutional analysis of authoritarian populism”, International Journal of Constitutional Law, 17(2): 597–616.

Buštíková, L., and P. Guasti. (2019), “The State as a Firm: Understanding the Autocratic Roots of Technocratic Populism”, East European Politics and Societies 33(2): 302–30.

Buzalka, J. (2018), „Post-peasant Memories: Populist or Communist Nostalgia“, EasCrict European Politics and Societies, 32(4) : 988–1006. doi: 10.1177/0888325417736806.

Buzogány, A., and M. Varga. (2019), “Against “Post-Communism”: The Conservative Dawn in Hungary”. In New Conservatives in Russia and East Central Europe, edited by Katharina Bluhm and Mihai Varga. London, New York, NY: Routledge: 70–91.

Canovan M. (1999), “Trust the people! Populism and the Two Faces of Democracy”, Political Studies, 47(1): 2–16.

Collier D. (2011), “Understanding Process Tracing”, PS: Political Science and Politics, 44(4): pp. 823-830.

de Vreese, C. H., F. Esser, T. Aalberg, C. Reinemann, and J. Stanyer (2018), “Populism as an expression of political communication content and style: A new perspective”, The International Journal of Press/Politics, 23(4): 423-438.

Deegan-Krause, K. (2012), “Populism, democracy, and nationalism in Slovakia” in Populism in Europe and the Americas. (pp.182-204) doi:10.1017/CBO9781139152365.010.

Deegan-Krause, K & Haughton, T. (2018), “Surviving the Storm: Factors Determining Party Survival in Central and Eastern Europe”, East European Politics and Societies, 32:(3): 473-


Deegan Krause, K.,Haughton T. (2009),“Toward a more useful conceptualization of populism: Types and degrees of populist appeals in the case of Slovakia”, Politics & Policy, 37(4): 821–841

Enyedi, Z. (2020), “Right-wing authoritarian innovations in Central and Eastern Europe”, East European Politics, 36 (3): 363-377.

Gyarfášová O., Mesežnikov G. (eds.) (2008), National Populism in Slovakia, IVO Bratislava

Hanley, S., J. Dawson and L. Cianetti (2018), “Rethinking “democratic backsliding” in Central and Eastern Europe – looking beyond Hungary and Poland”, East European Politics, 34(3): 243-256.

Havlík, V. (2019), “Technocratic Populism and Political Illiberalism in Central Europe”, Problems of Post-Communism, 66(6): 369-384.

Hefftler, C., C. Neuhold, O. Rozenberg, and J. Smith (2015), The Palgrave Handbook of National Parliaments and the European Union. Palgrave Macmillan

Holmes, D., R. (2019), “Fascism at eye level”, The anthropological conundrum, Focaal, Journal of Global and Historical Antropology, 84: 62-90.

IDEA (2020), Taking Stock of Global Democratic Trends Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Revised December 2020, Retrieved December 9, 2020


Javorský, J. (2020a), Newsfilter: Zbohom, pandemická komisia, premiér sa už asi vrátil, Dennik N. Revised September 14, 2020, Retrieved November 30, 2020


Kaltwasser R., C., P. Taggart, P. Ochoa Espejo, and P. Ostiguy (eds.) (2017), The Oxford Handbook of Populism, Oxford University Press Oxford, United Kingdom

Kazharski, A. and A. Makarychev (2020), “Populism in Estonia and Slovakia: Performances, Transgressions and Communicative Styles”, Populism, Brill 3(2): 165-185.

Kluknavská, A. and M. Hruška, (2019), “We talk about the “others” and you listen closely: The extreme right communication on social media”, Problems of Post-Communism 66 (1): 59-70.

Krastev, I. (2007), “Is East-Central Europe backsliding? The strange death of the liberal consensus”, Journal of Democracy, 18(4): 56-65.

Krastev, I. (2020), Pandémia a Európa, Absynt.

Laclau, E. (2005), “Populism: What’s in a name”, in F. Panizza (eds.), Populism and the Mirror of Democracy, London:Verso, 32-49.

Laclau, E. (2005b), On Populist Reason, London: Verso.

Levitsky S. and D. Ziblatt (2018), How Democracies Die. New York: Crow.

Mahoney, J. (2000), „Path Dependence in Historical Sociology“, Theory and Society, 29(4) : 507-548.

Matovič, I. (2020), in Javorský, J. (2020), Newsfilter: Matovič sa vyhlásil za víťaza prvej vlny, potom ušiel pred druhou, Dennik N. Revised August 19, 2020, Retrieved November 30, 2020 (

Moffitt, B. (2016), The global rise of populism: performance, political style, and representation. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Moffitt B. (2020), Populism,Cambridge, Polity

Mounk Y. (2018), The People versus Democracy: How our Democracy is in Danger (and How to Save it). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Mudde, C. (2004), „The populist zeitgeist“, Government and Opposition, 39(4):542–563

Mudde, C., Rovira-Kaltwasser, C. (eds) (2012), Populism in Europe and the Americas: Threat or corrective for democracy? Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

MZ SR (2020), Slovensko prijíma opatrenia v súvislosti s novým koronavírusom 2019-nCoV. Revised January 27, 2020, Retrieved November 30, 2020, (

MZ SR (2020a), COVID-19: Na Slovensku zatiaľ nebol potvrdený koronavírus, 113 negatívnych vzoriek. Revised February 27, 2020, Retrieved March 30, 2020, (

MZ SR (2020b), COVID-19: Krízový štáb zavádza prísne opatrenia, zatvárajú sa školy, letiská. Revised March 12, 2020, Retrieved November 30, 2020, (

MZ SR (2020c), COVID-19 (koronavírus): Vláda prijala mimoriadne opatrenia. Revised March 15, 2020, Retrieved November 30, 2020, (

Norris, P. (2020), “Measuring populism worldwide”, Party Politics, 26 (6): 697-717.

Norris, P., and R. Inglehart (2019), Cultural Backlash: Trump, Brexit, and Authoritarian Populism, Cambridge University Press.

Nyyssönen H., Metsälä J.(2020), „Liberal Democracy and its Current Illiberal Critique: The Emperor’s New Clothes?“ Europe-Asia Studies, doi: 10.1080/09668136.2020.1815654

Panizza, F. (2017), Populism and identification. In The Oxford Handbook of Populism.

Panizza, F. (eds.) (2005), Populism and the Mirror of Democracy. London: Verso

Piešťanský, J. and P. Vernanec (2020), O nezákonnosti opatrení Úradu verejného zdravotníctva SR v súvislosti s COVID-19. Revised June 6, 2020, Retrieved November 30, 2020,


Proksch, S. O. and J. B. Slapin, (2014), The Politics of Parliamentary Debate: Parties, Rebels and Representation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rooduijn, M. (2019), “State of the field: How to Study Populism and Adjacent Topics? A Plea for Both More and Less Focus.” European Journal of Political Research 58(1): 362-372.

doi: 10.1111/1475-6765.12314

Runciman D. (2018), How democracy ends, New York Basic Books.

Rupnik, J. (2007), “Is East-Central Europe Backsliding? From Democracy Fatigue to Populist Backlash”. Journal of Democracy, (4): 17-25.

Schmitt, C. (1985), The Crisis od Parliamentary Democracy, The MIT Press: Cambridge, Massachuttes and London, England.

Spáč, P. (2012), “Populism in Slovakia” published as "Slovakia" in Havlík, V., Pinková, A. et al. (2012): Populist Political Parties in East Central Europe. Brno: Munipress, pp. 227-258., Available at SSRN:

Spiteri, G. et al. (2020), First cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the WHO European Region, 24 January to 21 February 2020. Euro Surveill, 25(9).

Spruyt, B., G. Keppens, and F. Van Droogenbroeck (2016), “Who Supports Populism and What Attracts People to It?”, Political Research Quarterly, 69(2): 335–346.

Stanley, B. (2019), “Backsliding Away? The Quality of Democracy in Central and Eastern Europe”, Journal of Contemporary European Research, 15(4): 343-353.

Steiner, J., A. Bächtiger, M. Spörndli, and M. R., Steenbergen (2005), Deliberative Politics in Action: Analyzing Parliamentary Discourse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (Theories of Institutional Design).

Stuckey, H. L. (2015), “The second step in data analysis: Coding qualitative research data”, Journal of Social Health and Diabetes, 3(1): 7-10.

Szomolányi, S., Gál, Z. (2016), „ Slovakia's Elite: Between Populism and Compliance with EU Elites“, in Pakulski, Jan (ed.) The Visegrad Countries in Crisis, Warsaw. Collegium Civitas, pp. 67–86.

Taggart, P. (2000), Populism. Buckingham: Open University Press.

The Government Office of the SR (2020), Premiér: Slovensko ide urobiť viaceré opatrenia proti šíreniu koronavírusu. Revised January 27, 2020, Retrieved November 30, 2020,


The Government Office of SR (2020a), BR SR: Prijala sériu opatrení v súvislosti s rizikom koronavírusu. Revised February 2, 2020, Retrieved November 30, 2020, (

The Government Office of SR (2020b), Upozornenie k novému koronavírusu. Revised March 6, 2020, Retrieved November 30, 2020, (

The Government Office of the SR (2020c), I. Matovič: Slovensko zvýši testovanie na nový koronavírus. Revised March 27, 2020, Retrieved March 30, 2020, (

The Government Office of the SR (2020d), Premiér: Do testovania nového koronavírusu sa zapoja aj súkromné laboratóriá. Revised March 26, 2020, Retrieved November 30, 2020 (

The Government Office of SR (2020e), Opatrenia prijaté na Slovensku pre koronavírus sa javia ako účinné. Revised March 3, 2020, Retrieved Nevember 30,2020, (

The Government Office of the SR (2020f), Premiér: V pondelok vláde navrhnem obmedziť pohyb osôb počas Veľkej noci. Revised April 5, 2020, Retrieved November 30, 2020 (

The Government Office of the SR (2020g), Na Úrade vlády SR vznikne aj ekonomický krízový štáb, šéfovať mu bude minister financií. Revised April 15, 2020, Retrieved November 30, 2020 (

The Guardian (2020), Slovakia election: seismic shift as public anger ousts dominant Smer-SD party. Revised March 1, 2020, Retrieved November 29, 2020 (

Timbro (2019), Timbro Authoritarian Populism Index. Retrieved November 20, 2020, (

Učeň, P. (2015), “The Delayed Crisis and the Continuous Ebb of Populism in Slovakia’s Party System.” In European Populism in the Shadow of the Great Recession, eds. Hanspeter Kriesi and Takis Pappas, 217–34. Colchester: ECPR Press.

Urbinati, N. (2014). Democracy Disfigured. Harvard University Press.

Vachudova, M.A. (2020), “Ethnopopulism and democratic backsliding in Central Europe”, East European Politics, 36(3): 318-340.

Van Kessel, Stijn. (2014), “The populist cat-dog: applying the concept of populism to contemporary European party systems”, Journal of Political Ideologies. 19(1): 99-118

Weyland, K. (2020), “Populism’s Threat to Democracy: Comparative Lessons for the United States,” Perspectives on Politics. Cambridge University Press, 18(2) : 389–406. doi: 10.1017/S1537592719003955

Full Text: PDF


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non commerciale - Non opere derivate 3.0 Italia License.