PR Political Rights 37 40
CL Civil Liberties 53 60
Last Year's Score & Status
90 100 Free
Global freedom statuses are calculated on a weighted scale. See the methodology.

header1 Overview

Slovakia’s parliamentary system features regular multiparty elections and peaceful transfers of power between rival parties. While civil liberties are generally protected, entrenched discrimination against Roma and political hostility toward migrants and refugees persist. Political corruption remains a problem.

header2 Key Developments in 2022

  • In December, the parliament passed a no-confidence vote against the governing coalition. President Zuzana Čaputová dismissed the government, which will operate in a caretaker capacity until early elections are held in 2023.
  • In October, a gunman opened fire on a gay bar in Bratislava, killing two people. The crime was classified as a terrorist attack and drew condemnation from most political leaders.
  • While public support for legal same-sex partnerships increased after the attack, in October the parliament failed to pass legislation that would recognize greater rights for individuals in same-sex unions, including in inheritance and rights related to health care. In a decision the same month, a district court granted a same-sex couple who had legally married in another country the same automatic right to permanent residency as enjoyed by couples married in Slovakia.
  • The prosecutor general invoked a controversial legal power to halt investigations in several high-profile corruption cases, including one against former prime minister Robert Fico. Police nevertheless reinitiated some of them, citing new evidence.

PR Political Rights

A Electoral Process

A1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? 4.004 4.004

Slovakia is a parliamentary republic whose prime minister leads the government. A directly elected president has limited executive powers. In March 2019, environmental activist Zuzana Čaputová became the first woman elected president of Slovakia.

A four-party coalition government formed after the 2020 parliamentary elections, headed first by Igor Matovič, and from April 2021 by Eduard Heger, both of the Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OL’aNO) party. In September 2022, junior coalition partner Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) left the government, and in December the parliament passed a vote of no confidence against the Heger government. It will continue in a caretaker capacity until early elections are held in 2023.

A2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections? 4.004 4.004

The 150 members of the unicameral parliament, the National Council, are directly elected to four-year terms in a single national constituency by proportional representation. In the February 2020 parliamentary elections, the liberal-conservative OL’aNO party received a plurality of votes (25 percent), defeating the previously dominant incumbent Slovak Social Democracy Party (Smer–SD). OL’aNO entered a coalition government with three other parties to control a three-fifths majority in Parliament (enough to pass constitutional amendments): the conservative We Are Family party, the liberal Freedom and Solidarity, and the newly formed For the People Formation. The vote took place peacefully, and its results were accepted by stakeholders and the public and certified by the state’s election management body. Voter turnout was 65 percent.

A3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? 4.004 4.004

The legal framework for elections is considered fair.

B Political Pluralism and Participation

B1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings? 4.004 4.004

Citizens can freely organize in political parties and movements. In 2020, 24 parties competed in the year’s elections and 6 of them entered the parliament.

B2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections? 4.004 4.004

There have been regular transfers of power between parties in the last three decades.

In August 2022, the opposition Smer–SD presented a petition to the president, asking her to hold a referendum on two questions: whether the government should immediately resign, and whether it should be constitutionally possible to shorten the four-year electoral term of the parliament either by a popular vote or by a resolution of the parliament. The top court ruled that the first question violated the constitution. The president then scheduled a referendum on the second question for January 21, 2023.

B3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means? 4.004 4.004

The citizens of Slovakia are generally able to make political choices free from external pressures.

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? 3.003 4.004

The political rights of various minority groups are generally protected, though some groups experience serious societal discrimination that hampers their ability to achieve meaningful representation. The rights of LGBT+ individuals came to the fore in October 2022, when a gunman killed two LGBT+ people in an attack on a Bratislava gay bar. The police classified the attack as a terrorist act. The perpetrator, found dead after the attack, had published a White supremacist manifesto indicating his homophobic and antisemitic stance. The parliament passed a resolution condemning the Bratislava shooting, but the same month failed to pass a legislative proposal that would have increased the legal standing of same-sex partnerships by expanding inheritance and other rights. Fifty members voted in favor, short of the 76 votes needed for the measure to pass. Members of nearly all political parties in Parliament have expressed bias against LGBT+ people, who are poorly represented in politics. Roma are also poorly represented, and there have been reports of vote-buying in Romany settlements for local and regional elections.

Women hold 32 of 150 elected seats and are underrepresented in politics generally. The government has worked to implement action plans aimed at increasing parliamentary gender parity, but no significant change has been achieved.

In April 2022, the leader of the far-right Peoples’ Party Our Slovakia (ĽSNS), Marian Kotleba, was found guilty by the Supreme Court of promoting an ideology that aims to suppress democratic rights and freedoms in connection with his use of neo-Nazi symbols. He was given a six-month suspended sentence and 18 months of probation, meaning that did not have to go to prison but lost his parliamentary seat.

C Functioning of Government

C1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government? 4.004 4.004

Democratically elected politicians determine public policy.

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 3.003 4.004

Though corruption has long riddled Slovak institutions, the government has made a significant effort to address the problem in recent years. Since 2020, dozens of state officials have been arrested and charged with corruption, bribery, and misuse of power; though many deny the charges against them, several have pled guilty. In April 2022, former prime minister Robert Fico and his interior minister, Robert Kaliňák, were charged with establishing an organized criminal group. In November, however, prosecutor general Maroš Žilinka used a controversial paragraph of the Criminal Code to scrap charges against the two, citing lack of evidence for the crimes. Nevertheless, police were ordered to further investigate the matter.

The prosecutor general used the same prerogative to scrap charges in several other high-profile cases, including ones against former finance minister Peter Kažimír, currently the head of the National Bank of Slovakia; the former head of the Slovak Information Service, Vladimír Pčolinský, who was nominated by the Matovič’s government; and the tycoon Jaroslav Haščák. All had been charged with bribery and misuse of power. Police reopened each of the three investigations and charged the suspects again.

C3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 3.003 4.004

Slovak law obliges mandatory publication of all contracts in which a state or public institution is a party, but enforcement is inconsistent. Many business leaders believe that corruption was the main reason behind their failure to secure public tenders.

The 2006 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) allows citizens to request information from state and public institutions. Slovak authorities often disclose minimal information in response to FOIA requests, citing the European Union’s General Data Protection regulation (GDPR) legislation as a pretext.

CL Civil Liberties

D Freedom of Expression and Belief

D1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are there free and independent media? 3.003 4.004

Slovak media are generally free, but the sector remains shaken by the 2018 murder of Ján Kuciak, an investigative reporter who was working on corruption and tax fraud cases. In September 2020, a court convicted and sentenced two men for carrying out the murder, but acquitted well-known businessman Marian Kočner and his associate, who had been charged with ordering Kuciak’s killing. In June 2021, the Supreme Court overturned the acquittal and ordered a retrial that was ongoing throughout 2022.

In June 2022, the parliament passed a media law that increases media transparency by mandating that online and traditional media make their ownership structures public. It also requires outlets to publicly identify all donors and investors. Online media also gained the right to information, and to enjoy protection of their sources. However, the broadly interpreted and widely criticized “right to reply,” whereby politicians may demand space in media to react to coverage about them, was left intact.

Over the course of 2022, tensions increased between OL’aNO party leader and finance minister Igor Matovič, and the media. International media freedom and journalists’ organizations issued a statement in October condemning Matovič’s aggressive rhetoric against journalists, as did editors in chiefs of Slovak media outlets, who issued a joint statement to the same effect.

D2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private? 4.004 4.004

Religious freedom is guaranteed by the constitution and generally upheld by state institutions. Registered churches and religious societies are eligible for tax exemptions and government subsidies.

D3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 4.004 4.004

Academic freedom is guaranteed by the constitution and upheld by authorities.

D4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? 4.004 4.004

People may discuss sensitive or political topics without fear of retribution or surveillance.

E Associational and Organizational Rights

E1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom of assembly? 4.004 4.004

Freedom of assembly is constitutionally guaranteed and upheld by state authorities, and peaceful demonstrations are common. A number of antigovernment demonstrations took place in 2022, often initiated or attended by prominent opposition politicians. Protesters criticized various policies of the government, including its support for Ukraine amid the Russian regime’s full-scale military invasion, and authorities’ slow reaction to an energy crisis.

E2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work? 4.004 4.004

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are free to operate and to scrutinize state authorities. In the wake of the 2022 Ukraine refugee crisis, tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees crossed the Ukrainian-Slovak border. Humanitarian NGOs criticized state authorities for their inability to provide effective help.

E3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 4.004 4.004

Trade unions in Slovakia are pluralistic and operate freely.

F Rule of Law

F1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there an independent judiciary? 3.003 4.004

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary. However, there is a widespread perception of a lack of transparency and of corruption within the judicial system. In January 2022, the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) issued a compliance report concluding that that Slovak authorities had satisfactorily implemented only 2 of 21 recommendations it issued in 2019; that 3 been partly implemented, and 16 had not been implemented at all. The report also criticized the government’s slow progress in introducing measures to prevent corruption in Slovakia’s judiciary and prosecutorial systems.

Recent measures intended to enhance the quality of judicial decisions and to strengthen the judiciary’s efficiency include creation of a new specialized court—the Supreme Administrative Court—in August 2021. In addition to hearing cases on matters of administrative law, the newly established court will carry out disciplinary proceedings against judges and prosecutors.

F2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? 3.003 4.004

Due process usually prevails in civil and criminal matters. However, there have been reports of warrantless detentions or detentions otherwise carried out without other appropriate authorization.

F3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? 3.003 4.004

While Slovakia is free from war, insurgencies, and high rates of violent crime, police abuse of suspects is a persistent problem. Reports of police violence against Roma emerge frequently.

F4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? 3.003 4.004

Roma face persistent discrimination in many forms, including from public officials and in employment. Romany children in primary schools are regularly segregated into Roma-only classes, and many are educated in schools meant to serve children with cognitive disabilities. In May 2022, a district court ruled in favor of giving financial compensation to a Romany man with special needs who was illegally detained for several weeks in 2013. Roma have been among the most visible victims of rising far right White-supremacist sentiment in Slovak society. Extremist opinions and hate speech against ethnic and religious minorities, including Roma, have grown more vitriolic in recent years.

Women are underrepresented in senior-level business and government positions. A 2021 report by the Gender Equality Index, issued by the European Institute for Gender Equality, indicated that the private-sector pay gap between men and women in Slovakia has closed modestly, but remained among the worst in the European Union.

Though there are antidiscrimination laws in place, discrimination against members of minority groups often goes unreported. Police do not always investigate or take action in cases of discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. A 2022 poll by Slovakia’s Institute for Public Issues (IVO) showed that almost a third of respondents had witnessed or experienced discrimination on the basis of age, typically in the labor market, in health care, and in the provision of social services.

Slovakia receives very few asylum applications, and primarily functions as a transit country for asylum seekers. However, Slovak authorities apply asylum protections restrictively: just 23 of 547 applicants were granted asylum in 2022.

G Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights

G1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? 4.004 4.004

The government respects the freedom of movement and the right of citizens to freely change their place of residence, employment, and education.

G2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors? 4.004 4.004

In general, the government does not arbitrarily interfere with citizens’ rights to own property and to establish private businesses.

G3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance? 3.003 4.004

Personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, are guaranteed and upheld by the state authorities, but a 2014 constitutional amendment defines marriage as a “unique bond” between one man and one woman. Laws neither allow nor recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions. Parliament failed in October 2022 to pass a legislative proposal that would increase legal standing of same-sex partnerships. However, in a landmark October 2022 decision, a district court granted a same-sex couple who had legally married in another country the same automatic right to permanent residency as enjoyed by couples married in Slovakia. And, following the October 2022 terrorist attack on a Bratislava gay bar, in which a bisexual man and an individual who identified as nonbinary were killed, public support for so-called registered partnership reached 48 percent, surpassing the number of those opposed by a narrow margin. Some 12 percent of respondents stated that they had changed their mind and supported same-sex unions after the terrorist attack.

Slovakia permits abortions, although conservative and far-right groups in parliament have repeatedly proposed restrictions.

G4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? 3.003 4.004

Severe marginalization of Roma harms their opportunities for social mobility. Human trafficking is a problem, and mainly involves the transport of victims to countries in Western and Central Europe, where they are engaged in forced labor, sex work, and begging.

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  • Global Freedom Score

    90 100 free