| 14 July 2024, Sunday |

Slovaks choose between pro-Russian ex-PM Fico and pro-Western liberals

Slovaks were voting on Saturday in a parliamentary election closely fought between former leftist Prime Minister Robert Fico, who wants to end military aid for neighbouring Ukraine, and pro-Western liberals.

Final opinion polls showed Fico’s SMER-SSD (Direction-Slovak Social Democracy) party neck and neck with Progressive Slovakia (PS), with the winner expected to get the first chance to try to form a government to replace the caretaker administration running the country of 5.5 million since May.

Voting is due to end at 10:00 p.m. (2000 GMT), although one polling station will stay open 40 minutes later after a medical emergency briefly suspended voting. Exit polls should come after the last station closes and results within several hours of that.

A government led by Fico would mean Slovakia joining Hungary in challenging the European Union’s consensus on support for Ukraine, just as the bloc looks to keep unity in opposing Russia’s invasion.

It would also bolster a group of eastern ex-Communist states with governments publicly hostile to liberalism. They also include Poland’s ruling nationalist PiS party, which also faces an election next month, though it remains pro-Ukrainian.

A PS government would stay the course on foreign policy, maintaining the country’s strong backing for Ukraine and following a liberal line on issues such as majority voting to make the bloc more flexible, green policies and LGBTQ+ rights.

“It is now up to the voters,” PS leader Michal Simecka, who is also a European Parliament vice-chairman, said after casting his vote in the capital, Bratislava.

“I hope that … whatever government comes out of this election will continue to support Ukraine,” he said.

Fico posted a video on Facebook of him casting his vote accompanied by his mother, saying he hoped “common sense” would triumph in the election “so they don’t drag us into adventures, whether its migration or military”.

  • Reuters