The populist party of former Prime Minister Robert Fico that wants to stop military aid to Ukraine and is critical of the European Union and NATO has won Slovakia’s election, results showed on Sunday.
SMER-SSD party scored 23.3 percent, beating the centrist Progressive Slovakia (PS) that garnered 17 percent of the votes, the Slovak Statistics Office said early on Sunday after completing the count of 99.98 percent of the votes from some 6,000 polling stations.
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Saturday’s vote was a test for the small Eastern European country’s support for neighbouring Ukraine in its war with Russia.
The 59-year-old Fico has promised that Slovakia, one of Europe’s biggest donors to Ukraine as a share of its gross domestic product (GDP), will not send “a single round of ammunition” to Ukraine and has called for better relations with Russia.
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 an outright majority, the party with the largest share of the vote gets the first chance to form a coalition and the composition of any government is likely to be dependent on half a dozen smaller parties.
Fico, who served as prime minister from 2006 to 2010 and again from 2012 to 2018, is likely to become prime minister if he is able to get the support of the left-wing Hlas (Voice) party, which came in third with 14.7 percent votes.
Another potential coalition partner, the ultranationalist Slovak National Party, a clear pro-Russian group, received 5.6 percent.
Radically change Slovakia’s foreign policy
The leader of the Hlas party, Peter Pellegrini, congratulated Fico on his victory but said two former prime ministers in one government might not work well.
“It’s not ideal but that doesn’t mean such a coalition can’t be created,” Pellegrini, Fico’s former deputy in SMER-SSD, said.
The three parties would have a parliamentary majority if they joined forces in a coalition government.
PS leader Michal Simecka said on Sunday that the party would do what it could to prevent vote winner SMER-SSD from forming a government.
“SMER-SSD won the election, we of course respect that,” Simecka told a news conference.
“But at the same time, we believe that this is very bad news for Slovakia. And it would be even worse news if Robert Fico succeeds in forming a government,” he added.
Analysts predict a Fico government could radically change Slovakia’s foreign policy to resemble that of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, straining a fragile unity in the EU and NATO on opposing Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.
Fico’s views reflect traditionally warm sentiments towards Russia among many Slovaks.