Tue. Dec 5th, 2023

PRAGUE — A populist former prime minister and his leftist celebration have received early parliamentary elections in Slovakia, staging a political comeback after campaigning on a pro-Russian and anti-American message, in response to virtually full outcomes.

Former Prime Minister Robert Fico and the leftist Smer, or Route, celebration had 22.9% of the votes, the Slovak Statistics Workplace mentioned early Sunday after counting 99.98% of the votes from some 6,000 polling stations.

Saturday’s election was a check for the small japanese European nation’s help for neighboring Ukraine in its warfare with Russia, and the win by Fico might pressure a fragile unity within the European Union and NATO.

Fico, 59, has vowed to withdraw Slovakia’s army help for Ukraine in Russia’s warfare if his try and return to energy succeeds.

The nation of 5.5 million individuals created in 1993 following the breakup of Czechoslovakia has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine since Russia invaded final February, donating arms and opening the borders for refugees fleeing the warfare.

Slovakia has delivered to Ukraine its fleet of the Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets, the S-300 air protection system, helicopters, armored autos and much-needed demining tools.

The present caretaker authorities is planning to ship Ukraine artillery ammunition and to coach Ukrainian service members in demining.

Successful approval for sending extra arms to Ukraine is getting tougher in lots of nations. Within the U.S. Congress, a invoice to avert a authorities shutdown in Washington, D.C., excluded President Joe Biden’s request to supply extra safety help to the war-torn nation.

In different nations, together with Germany, France, and Spain, populist events skeptical of intervention in Ukraine additionally command important help. Many of those nations have nationwide or regional elections developing that would tip the stability of widespread opinion away from Kyiv and towards Moscow.

With no celebration successful a majority of seats in Slovakia, a coalition authorities will should be shaped.

The president historically asks an election’s winner to attempt to kind a authorities, so Fico is more likely to turn out to be prime minister once more. He served as prime minister in 2006-2010 and once more in 2012-2018.

A liberal, pro-West newcomer, the Progressive Slovakia celebration, was second, with 18% of the votes.

Its chief Michal Simecka, who’s deputy president of the European Parliament, mentioned his celebration revered the end result. “Nevertheless it’s unhealthy information for Slovakia,” he mentioned. “And it might be even worse if Robert Fico manages to create a authorities.”

He mentioned he’d like attempt to kind a governing coalition if Fico fails.

The left-wing Hlas (Voice) celebration, led by Fico’s former deputy in Smer, Peter Pellegrini, got here in third with 14.7%. Pellegrini parted methods with Fico after the scandal-tainted Smer misplaced the earlier election in 2020, however their potential reunion would enhance Fico’s possibilities to kind a authorities.

Pellegrini changed Fico as prime minister after he was compelled to resign after main anti-government road protests following the 2018 killing of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee.

Pellegrini congratulated Fico on his victory however mentioned that two former prime ministers in a single authorities may not work nicely.

“It’s not superb however that doesn’t imply such a coalition can’t be created,” he mentioned.

One other potential coalition accomplice, the ultranationalist Slovak Nationwide Social gathering, a transparent pro-Russian group, acquired 5.6%.

These three events would have a parliamentary majority in the event that they joined forces in a coalition authorities.

Fico opposes EU sanctions on Russia, questions whether or not Ukraine can power out the invading Russian troops and desires to dam Ukraine from becoming a member of NATO.

He proposes that as a substitute of sending arms to Kyiv, the EU and the U.S. ought to use their affect to power Russia and Ukraine to strike a compromise peace deal.

Fico’s critics fear that his return to energy may lead Slovakia to desert its course in different methods, following the trail of Hungary beneath Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and to a lesser extent of Poland beneath the Legislation and Justice celebration.

“It could’t be dominated out that he will probably be on the lookout for a accomplice who makes use of comparable rhetoric, and the accomplice will probably be Viktor Orbán,” mentioned Radoslav Stefancik, an analyst from the College of Economics in Bratislava.

Orbán welcomed Fico’s victory.

“All the time good to work along with a patriot,” he posted on X, the previous Twitter. “Trying ahead to it!”

Hungary has been sanctioned by the EU for alleged rule-of-law violations and corruption, whereas EU establishments say Poland has been on a slippery slope away from the EU’s rule-of-law rules. Fico has threatened to dismiss investigators from the Nationwide Legal Company and the particular prosecutor who offers with essentially the most severe crimes and corruption.

Hungary additionally has — uniquely amongst EU nations — maintained shut relations with Moscow and argued in opposition to supplying arms to Ukraine or offering it with financial help.

Fico repeats Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unsupported declare that the Ukrainian authorities runs a Nazi state from which ethnic Russians within the nation’s east wanted safety. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is Jewish and misplaced kin within the Holocaust.

Recognized for foul-mouthed tirades in opposition to journalists, Fico additionally campaigned in opposition to immigration and LGBTQ+ rights.

The populist Atypical Individuals group, the conservative Christian Democrats and the pro-business Freedom and Solidarity additionally received seats in parliament whereas the far-right Republic failed to take action.


Justin Spike in Budapest, Hungary, contributed.

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