- Fico will end pro-Ukraine policy
- A third-party HLAS holds the key to alliances, keeping options open
BRATISLAVA, Oct 1 (Reuters) – Slovakia’s leftist former prime minister Robert Figo campaigned to end military aid to Ukraine after defeating a progressive rival in parliamentary elections, but he must win over allies to form the next government, near-total results showed. On Sunday.
Fico’s SMER-SSD party led with 23.37% of the vote in Saturday’s election, with 98% of polling districts reporting. The liberal Progressive Slovakia (PS) came third with 16.86% and the likely kingmaker to form the next government, the HLAS (Voice) party, with 15.03%.
Former Fico colleague and left-wing HLAS leader Peter Pellegrini kept his options open about future alliances.
A government led by Fico and his SMER-SSD party will see NATO member Slovakia join Hungary in challenging the EU’s consensus on backing Ukraine, while maintaining unity in resisting Russian aggression.
It would mark a further shift in the region against political liberalism, which could be reinforced if the conservative PiS wins elections in Poland later this month.
Figo’s party is highly nationalist and socially conservative, criticizing social liberalism, which it says has been imposed from Brussels. The PS is liberal on green policies, LGBT rights, deeper European integration and human rights.
“We want to evaluate everything, so we’ll wait for the final tally,” said SMER-SSD candidate and longtime Fico ally Robert Kalinak, who said the party would comment on the full results later Sunday.
Exit polls favored the PS, but the results went Fico’s way, leaving open the possibility of him winning a fourth term as prime minister after leading governments in 2006-2010 and 2012-2018.
HLAS at the core
The first party across the border was expected to receive a mandate from President Zuzana Kaputova to hold talks on building a parliamentary majority and, if successful, forming a government.
In 2020 Fico could join forces with HLAS, a breakaway from SMER-SSD, and the nationalist Slovak National Party, which won 5.68%.
“The distribution of seats confirms that HLAS is a party without which no normally functioning government coalition could be held together,” Pellegrini said. “If you ask me if we want any kind of alliance or alliance, I want to say no.”
The PS advocates maintaining Slovakia’s strong support for Ukraine and pursuing a liberal policy within the EU such as majority voting, green policies and LGBT rights to make the federation more flexible.
Speaking as the majority of the votes were counted, party leader Michael Chimeka said he had not given up hope of forming the next government depending on how the small coalition did.
“After this election, Slovakia must form a stable pro-European government that respects the rule of law and starts to address and invest in key areas for our future,” said Cimeka, a former reporter and Oxford graduate. told supporters.
Any coalition the PS might form would likely require HLAS, and include right-wing or socially conservative parties, blunting its socially progressive and EU-integration drive.
The incoming government in the country of 5.5 million people will assume a budget deficit forecast that is the highest in the euro zone.
Heat towards Russia
Fico is unhappy with a warring centre-right coalition whose government collapsed last year, prompting an election six months early. In the campaign, he expressed concern about the increasing number of migrants passing through Slovakia to Western Europe.
Figo’s comments reflect traditional warm feelings toward Russia among many Slovaks, who have gained strength on social media since the start of the Ukraine war.
A line close to Hungarian President Viktor Orbán has pledged to freeze military supplies to Ukraine and push for peace talks, but has been rejected by Ukraine and its allies, who say it will encourage Russia.
The far-right Republican Party, seen as a potential ally for Fico but unacceptable to others, did not win any seats.
Figo was forced to resign in 2018 after mass protests against wiretapping followed the murder of an investigative journalist.
Pellegrini, then a member of SMER-SSD, took over for him and led the government until 2020, winning an election until center-right parties pledged to end the graft. But their government collapsed last year after infighting, paving the way for early elections on Saturday.
Analysts and diplomats have said that if Figo takes power, as he has done in the past, he could moderate this rhetoric.
John Lopatka, David W. Reporting by Czerny, Hedi Belusif and Radovan Stoklasa in Bratislava; Additional reporting by Jason Howett and Michael Kahn in Prague; By Michael Kahn; Editing by Helen Popper, David Holmes, Leslie Adler, Daniel Wallis and William Mallard
Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
“Total coffee junkie. Tv ninja. Unapologetic problem solver. Beer expert.”