AceBreakingNews – Slovakia’s left-wing former prime minister Robert Fico has defeated his progressive rival in a parliamentary election after campaigning to end military aid to Ukraine.
Ace Press News From Cutting Room Floor: Published: Oct.01: 2023: AP News Agency & Reuters News Agency: TELEGRAM Ace Daily News Link https://t.me/+PuI36tlDsM7GpOJe
With 99.2 per cent of the votes from some 6,000 polling stations counted by the Slovak Statistics Office early on Sunday, Mr Fico and the left-wing Smer, or Direction, Party led with 23.3 per cent of the votes.
The liberal Progressive Slovakia (PS) followed with 16.86 per cent and the HLAS (Voice) Party, which could become the kingmaker for forming the next government, was third with 15.03 per cent.
Left-wing HLAS leader Peter Pellegrini, a former colleague of Mr Fico, kept his options open on future coalitions.
A government led by Mr Fico and his SMER-SSD party would see NATO member Slovakia joining Hungary in challenging the European Union’s consensus on support for Ukraine, just as the bloc looks to maintain unity in opposing Russia’s invasion.
It would also signal a further shift in the region against political liberalism, which might be reinforced if the conservative PiS wins an election in Poland later this month.
During a three-decade career, Fico, 59, has skilfully weaved between pro-European mainstream and nationalistic anti-Brussels and anti-American positions while showing a willingness to change course depending on public opinion or changed political realities.
He has remained steady throughout his career, however, on promises to protect living standards of those left behind in a country where living standards for many are only slowly catching up to Western Europe and where many hold relatively fond memories of a communist-era past.
“Fico is a technician of power, by far the best in Slovakia. He does not have a counterpart at the moment,” Bratislava Policy Institute sociologist Michal Vasecka said.
“Fico is always following opinion polls, understands what is happening [in society]”.
HLAS in key position
The first party across the line was expected to get a mandate from President Zuzana Caputova to lead talks on forming a parliamentary majority and, if successful, a government.
Mr Fico might align with HLAS, which split away from SMER-SSD in 2020, and the nationalist Slovak National Party that won 5.68 per cent.
“The distribution of seats confirms HLAS as a party without which any normally functioning government coalition cannot be put together,” Mr Pellegrini said as most results were known.
“If you ask me if we prefer any combination or coalition, I want to say not at all.”
PS has advocated maintaining Slovakia’s strong backing for Ukraine and would also likely follow a liberal line within the EU on issues such as majority voting to make the bloc more flexible, green policies and LGBT rights.
The party’s leader, Michal Simecka, speaking when most votes were counted, did not give up hope he could form the next government, depending on how possible smaller allies end up.
“It remains our aim for Slovakia to have after this election a stable pro-European government that will care for the rule of law and which begins to solve and invest into areas key for our future,” Mr Simecka, a former reporter and Oxford graduate, told supporters.
Any coalition that PS could potentially form would likely need HLAS and include more right-wing or socially conservative parties, which would blunt its socially progressive and EU-integration drive.
The incoming government in the nation of 5.5 million will take over a ballooning budget deficit forecast to be the highest in the euro zone.