Hungarian Conservative

Lajos Ódor, Slovakia’s Hungarian Prime Minister

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Who is Lajos Ódor, Slovakia’s first ethnically Hungarian Prime Minister? Read our in-depth analysis of his background and how he came to power during the political crisis of his country.

Just about a week ago, an interim government was inaugurated in Slovakia. The government is expected to be in place for about four months until elections are held to decide who will be the next prime minister of the country. The current interim government is led by Ľudovít Ódor. Ľudovít Ódor, or Lajos Ódor, as he is commonly referred to in the Hungarian press rapidly after he was appointed by Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová, belongs to the Hungarian national minority in Slovakia. In addition to Ódor, the government has two more ethnically Hungarians ministers. Péter Balík is the minister responsible for investments, regional development and IT, while Mihály Horváth is now Slovakia’s Minister of Finance.

Needless to say, the Hungarian press and Budapest had a moment of joy upon learning the news that a Hungarian man will be leading the country’s neighbour to the north, even if that joy lasted only for a short while. Hungary is concerned about the fate and treatment of its ethnic minorities abroad, so such an achievement for an ethnically Hungarian person is a good sign. Nevertheless, most fast learnt to moderate their enthusiasm for Ódor. Only minutes after being inaugurated, he was approached by a Hungarian-Slovakian journalist, and asked—in Hungarian—what message he has for Hungarian Slovak voters. Ódor completely ignored the question and just walked away. In Hungary, it was widely seen as a failure to address the Hungarian community in the country, only moments after becoming the first ever ethnically Hungarian prime minister of Slovakia. As a matter of fact, Ódor rarely uses his Hungarian first name publicly, and rather opts for the Slovakian version of it, Ľudovít.

Ódor Lajos

Uploaded by Ma7 – Hírek on 2023-05-15.

Nevertheless, the prime ministership of Ódor sends an important message that Hungarians can also hold prominent public positions in Slovakia. What once looked unimaginable, now is possible. Čaputová’s nomination of the Hungarian politician is a first that breaks the earlier taboos of Slovakian politics. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán addressed his new Slovakian counterpart in a similarly optimistic and positive manner, expressing hope and a strong willingness to cooperate. ‘Slovakia is an important ally and strategic partner for us’, Orbán wrote, as we have quoted earlier. ‘I am pleased that our countries have been able to effectively cooperate in various areas despite the challenges posed by the global pandemic, the economic crisis, and war in recent years.’ The Hungarian Prime Minister also expressed his hopes for strengthening Hungarian-Slovakian cooperation within the Visegrád 4 as well.

Before emerging as a ‘favourite’ of President Zuzana Čaputová for the role, Ódor was not well known in Slovakia. In some business and economic policy circles, he was known as an economist, a renowned academic, and as the Deputy Governor of the National Bank of Slovakia since 2018.

He had been nominated for his position at the National Bank by Most-Híd, a Hungarian-Slovakian party that was part of the governing coalition at the time.

The independent politician was born on 2 July 1976, in Nagykeszi (Veľké Kosihy), Czechoslovakia. He attended a Hungarian language secondary school, the János Selye Secondary School. While he claims that at the time, he toyed with the idea of continuing his studies in Budapest, he eventually completed his degree at the Comenius University in Bratislava, obtaining a master’s degree in mathematics and management. After being primarily a scholar, a professor at the Central European University, he started to work in politics for the first time in 2003, as an advisor to the then-minister of finance. In these early years as an advisor, Ódor also helped co-write legislation to introduce flat-rate taxation in Slovakia. The taxation system, partially designed by Ódor, was in place until 2013, when the Fico government changed it. Later, Ódor also worked on redesigning the pension system in the country.

The Events Leading Up To the 2023 Slovakian Parliamentary Election

Elections will be held in Slovakia later this year during the autumn, with Ódor serving as interim Prime Minister until then, so the goals for his leadership are set accordingly. His cabinet’s primary responsibility is to ensure political stability until the new government enters office, as well as to guarantee the smooth organisation of the elections. Otherwise, Ódor vowed to help the ones most in need, make the country more attractive for the youth so that they are not eager to seek their fortune abroad, and also use EU funds effectively for the betterment of Slovakia. Ódor is not planning on changing the country’s attitude towards Ukraine: Slovakia will continue to provide both military and humanitarian aid to Kyiv.

The ongoing saga of Slovakian politics that led to the appointment of Ódor started after the 2020 elections.

In 2020, the Igor Matovič government was elected strictly on the premise of opposing the earlier Fico administration for its scandals that led to nationwide dissatisfaction. Matovič’s coalition government was trying to unify a diverse group of political parties from conservatives through libertarians to the centre-right. The cooperation soon broke down, however, as without much consultation with the coalition partners, the prime minister decided to order vaccines from Russia during the pandemic. The coalition collapsed, and Igor Matovič was forced to resign. Soon, the exiting government’s minister of finance, Eduard Heger stepped forward as the next prime minister. The parliament agreed to hold early elections in September 2023, hoping that Heger can stay in office until then. In December, however, Heger lost a motion of no confidence, and as a result, the President formally dismissed the government. As ministers kept leaving the government even after this point,

the President decided to appoint an interim government to fill the political void, introducing some form of stability to governance for the first time in the last couple of scandal-torn years.

The Slovak President confirmed on 7 May that she would appoint an interim, technocratic government with Ódor as prime minister. The new government was sworn in shortly after the announcement, on 15 May.

In the upcoming Slovakian elections, the fate of Hungarian minority representation remains a question. What seemed to be a good sign at the time, the Hungarian parties in Slovakia united for a short while. After a catastrophic defeat in 2020 that left the Hungarian minority in Slovakia without representation for the first time in Slovakian history, the three Slovakian Hungarian parties (MKP, Most-Híd, and Összefogás) created one united party, the Alliance (Szövetség). There have been some cracks in the system from the beginning. Recently, Most-Híd left the Alliance, throwing the election prospects of Hungarian parties into doubt.

The liberal Most-Híd decided to abort the plans for cooperation and coordination between the Hungarian parties because the conservative-leaning MKP declared that György Gyimesi would also run under Alliance colours. Gyimesi is a former OL’aNO politician (the party was the original winner of the 2020 election, and gave Slovakia two former prime ministers, Matovič and Heger), but Gyimesi left his party as he disagreed with its policy on Ukraine. While Gyimesi expressed his hope to work with Most-Híd, Híd perceives him as a ‘populist’, so they were unwilling to cooperate. The break in the Alliance might significantly endanger the representation of Hungarian Slovaks in Bratislava, as without unity, exceeding the threshold to enter parliament might prove difficult for the fragmented Hungarian minority parties.

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Who is Lajos Ódor, Slovakia’s first ethnically Hungarian Prime Minister? Read our in-depth analysis of his background and how he came to power during the political crisis of his country.