A populist, pro-Russia ex-premier claims victory in Slovakia's parliamentary elections

By Isaac M October 1, 2023

A populist former prime minister and his leftist party won early parliamentary elections in Slovakia, staging a political comeback after campaigning on a pro-Russian and anti-American message, according to almost complete results.

With results 99.2% from some 6,000 polling stations counted by the Slovak Statistics Office early Sunday, former Prime Minister Robert Fico and the leftist Smer, or Direction, party led with 23.3% of the votes.

The election was a test for the small eastern European country’s support for neighboring Ukraine in its war with Russia, and the win by Fico could strain a fragile unity in the European Union and NATO.

Fico, 59, vowed to withdraw Slovakia’s military support for Ukraine in Russia’s war if his attempt to return to power succeeded.

The country of 5.5 million people created in 1993 following the breakup of Czechoslovakia has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine since Russia invaded last February, donating arms and opening the borders for refugees fleeing the war.

With no party winning a majority of seats, a coalition government would need to be formed.

A liberal, pro-West newcomer, the Progressive Slovakia party, was a distant second, with 17% of the votes cast Saturday.

The left-wing Hlas (Voice) party, led by Fico’s former deputy in Smer, Peter Pellegrini, was in third with 15%. Pellegrini parted ways with Fico after Smer lost the previous election in 2020, but their possible reunion would boost Fico’s chances to form a government.

Another potential coalition partner, the ultranationalist Slovak National Party, received 5.7%.

Those three parties would have a parliamentary majority if they joined forces in a coalition government.


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