A Slovak populist party that wants to end military aid to Ukraine and is critical of the EU and NATO will be tasked to form a new government after winning elections.
The Smer-SD party led by former Prime Minister Robert Fico scored 23 percent in the vote on Saturday, beating centrist Progressive Slovakia by 18 percent.
“Slovakia and the people of Slovakia have bigger problems than (dealing with) Ukraine,” Fico told reporters on Sunday.
He added that Ukraine was “a huge tragedy for everyone” and called for peace talks because “further killings will not help anyone.”
During the campaign, the 59-year-old pledged that Slovakia would not send “a single round of ammunition” to Ukraine and called for better ties with Russia.
President Zuzana Caputova, a former member of Progressive Slovakia and a longtime political rival of Fico, said she would task him with forming a new government.
“In the spirit of our constitutional tradition, I will entrust the formation of the government tomorrow to the winner of the elections,” she said in a statement.
Analysts have said a Fico government could radically change Slovakia’s foreign policy to resemble that of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
But Fico, a left-wing former lawyer, said on Sunday that the focus of Slovakia’s foreign policy would not change because “we are EU members by nature”.
“Of course, that doesn’t mean that I can’t criticize things in the EU that I don’t like.”
Hungary is seen as a troublemaker in the EU and is often criticized by Brussels for rule of law problems and hampering EU and NATO efforts to help Ukraine.
“In Robert Fico, Orban gets a new ally,” analyst Tomas Koziak of the Czech University of Political Science told AFP.
Orban himself congratulated Fico on X, formerly Twitter, “on his indisputable victory in the Slovak parliamentary elections.”
“Always nice to work with a patriot. I’m looking forward to it!” Orban wrote.
‘People are fed up’
Many ordinary Slovaks are less concerned about foreign policy and hope that the new government will focus on the economy and bicker less than the previous one.
Selling buns at a bakery in Bratislava, Jana Urbanova told AFP she expected the government to tackle “unbearable” inflation.
“Fico has experience, he’s a professional, right? I didn’t vote for him, but I don’t think it matters that he won,” she said.
Tomas Hrivnak, 23, said he voted for Progressive Slovakia and was “disappointed”, but added that the result was “not the end of the world”.
“I think people are fed up with the former government of centrist and right-wing politicians, their feuds and their inability to govern this country properly,” he said.
But another voter from Progressive Slovakia, Eva Lichnerova, expressed her concerns.
“The biggest threat I see is the distraction of the European Union, the shift to Russia, the suppression of the rights and freedoms of journalists,” she said.
Aid to Ukraine
Smer has won 42 seats in the 150-member parliament and needs coalition partners for a majority.
Hlas-SD, which emerged in 2020 as a breakaway party from Smer, is a potential partner with 27 seats.
President Peter Pellegrini became prime minister in 2018 after Fico resigned amid nationwide protests following the murder of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova.
Kuciak exposed the links between the Italian mafia and Fico’s government in his final article, published posthumously.
The two parties could team up with the nationalist Slovak National Party (SNS), which won 10 seats, for a parliamentary majority of 79 seats.
Fico has governed twice with the SNS, which is also opposed to military aid to Ukraine.
Slovakia is one of Europe’s largest donors to Ukraine, relative to the size of its economy.
Increase in misinformation
Slovakia’s next parliament will also include the centrist OLaNO party of maverick former Prime Minister Igor Matovic, who became embroiled in a fistfight with a Smer member during the heated campaign.
The centrist Christian Democrats and the right-wing SaS also gathered enough votes to gain seats in parliament.
The election campaign was marred by particularly high levels of online disinformation, often targeting Progressive Slovakia President Michal Simecka, Vice-President of the European Parliament.
Slovakia emerged as an independent country in 1993, following a peaceful break with the Czech Republic after Czechoslovakia ousted forty years of totalitarian communist rule in 1989.
While many Slovaks have experience with the Moscow-led communist regime, analysts say many are vulnerable to pro-Kremlin disinformation.
Fico’s election campaign also included rhetoric against the LGBTQ+ community and migrants, raising concerns among non-governmental organizations.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by DailyExpertNews staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)