Oct 01, 2023

Slovakia Elections: Pro-Russia Party Wins Vote but Needs Allies for Coalition

Former Prime Minister Robert Fico’s leftist-populist Smer party won Saturday’s election in Slovakia after promising to stop sending weapons to Ukraine, to block Kyiv’s potential NATO membership and to oppose sanctions on Russia.

With 98 percent of ballots counted in the country of 5.5 million people, Smer had 23.4 percent of the vote, ahead of the liberal, Western-oriented Progressive Slovakia by nearly seven percentage points and almost 200,000 votes. The election winner gets the first chance to form a majority in the 150-seat parliament.

Fico’s campaign has raised alarm across the Continent amid fears that he will shift Slovakia to the anti-Ukraine camp alongside Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Fico has taken a very pro-Moscow stance, vowing to end arms deliveries to Kyiv and opposing sanctions even as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine continues after a year and a half.

Despite Slovakia’s profound polarization, Fico is in a strong position to return to power with the support of Hlas (Voice), a social-democratic party that split from Smer. Hlas finished third with 15 percent in Saturday’s vote.

Saturday’s ballot has been viewed as pivotal to Slovakia’s future, not only due to Fico’s vows to abandon aid to Ukraine, but more generally given his pro-Moscow sympathies in a NATO member country. Fico told his Topoľčany audience in August, for example, that “the war in Ukraine didn’t start a year ago, it started in 2014, when Ukrainian Nazis and fascists started murdering Russian citizens in the Donbas and Luhansk.”

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Fico also eulogized the Soviet Union for having allegedly liberated the Czech and Slovak lands from Nazi Germany at the end of World War II. “For God’s sake, they liberated us, we should show some respect,” he admonished his listeners. “We need to tell the whole world, freedom came from the East, war always comes from the West,” he said.

“It was unequivocally a victory of the Red Army, and Smer will recall this history every day, every hour, every second,” Fico told his supporters at the August rally.

The Czech prime minister, Petr Fiala, says he believes in continued close cooperation of his country and Slovakia. He hoped post-election talks in Bratislava would go quickly and would lead to the formation of a good government.

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