The social democratic party of former Prime Minister Robert Fico, opposed to military aid to Ukraine and critical of the European Union (EU) and NATO, won the general elections in Slovakia. Fico confirmed that he will seek to negotiate with Moscow the end of the war and will stop giving weapons to kyiv.
The Smer-SD (Direction-Social Democracy) party reached 23.3 percent of the votes in Saturday’s elections, above the centrist Progressive Slovakia, which received 17.03 percent of the vote according to electoral authorities.
Fico said this Sunday that he was ready to begin consultations with other parties regarding the formation of a government led by his group, as soon as he receives the order from President Zuzana Caputova.
The lawyer and environmentalist also declared shortly after that on Monday she will officially commission Smer-SD to begin the process to find allies that will allow her to reach a majority of the seats in Parliament, a necessary condition to govern.
“We are here, we are ready, we have learned something, we have more experience,” said Fico, 59. The leader ratified his campaign promise to withdraw Slovakia’s military support for Ukraine if he managed to return to power. “Slovakia and its inhabitants have more important problems than Ukraine,” he stressed in this regard.
The war in Ukraine “is an enormous tragedy for everyone, the fact that there are more killings does not benefit anyone,” said the social democratic leader, who added: “If my party reaches the government, whether we have the position of prime minister or not, we are going to do “everything possible to start peace negotiations in Ukraine as soon as possible. On arming Ukraine, you know our opinion.”
A mirror of Hungary?
Slovakia, a country of 5.5 million people that was created in 1993 after the breakup of Czechoslovakia, has been a strong supporter of Ukraine since Russia invaded it last February. It donated weapons and opened its borders to Ukrainian refugees.
Analysts anticipate that a Fico government will radically change Slovak foreign policy to resemble that of the Hungarian Prime Minister, the ultranationalist Viktor Orban, who this Sunday congratulated the Slovak leader for the results and said that it is good to “work with a patriot.”
Fico, however, maintained this Sunday that the orientation of Slovakia’s foreign policy will not change since the country is a member of the European Union. “This does not mean that I cannot criticize things that I do not like about the EU,” defended the leader of the party with the most votes in these elections.
The possible negotiations
Smer-SD added 42 seats of the 150 in Parliament, so it will have to form a coalition with allies to govern. A possible ally will be the left-wing Hlas-SD party, which emerged in 2020 when a group of Smer deputies resigned from the group. The party reached 27 legislative seats.
Hlas is led by Peter Pellegrini, who took over as prime minister in 2018 after Fico resigned amid national protests following the murder of journalist Jan Kuciak and his partner. Kuciak denounced links between the Italian mafia and Fico’s government in his last article, published posthumously.
Pellegrini told reporters that it is not a good idea to have two former prime ministers in the same government, although “that does not mean that such a coalition is impossible.” The two parties were allied in the past with the nationalist Slovak National Party (SNS), which must reach ten seats, for a parliamentary majority of 79 legislators. Fico has already formed a government twice with the SNS, which also opposes aid for Ukraine.
Slovakia is one of Ukraine’s largest taxpayers as a percentage of GDP. Slovak Defense Minister Martin Sklenar visited kyiv before the election, and on the day of the vote Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked Slovakia for its support. Hungary is seen as a problematic partner of the EU, often criticized for law enforcement issues and hindering EU and NATO efforts to provide aid to Ukraine.
The next Slovak parliament will also include former Prime Minister Igor Matovic’s centrist OLaNO, whose supporters clashed with others from Smer during a hectic campaign. OLaNO heads a coalition of three parties that should reach 16 seats. The centrist Christian Democrats and the right-wing SaS also won enough votes to have legislative seats.
During the electoral campaign, Fico knew how to exploit the discontent generated among the most disadvantaged classes and in the rural environment due to inflation, the fall in purchasing power and the erratic management of the center-right coalition, which lost a motion of censure last December.
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