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Fico ally wins presidential election in Slovakia

Fico ally wins presidential election in Slovakia

Populist Pellegrini beats pro-Western candidate

BRATISLAVA, 07 aprile 2024, 01:43

Redazione ANSA



Slovakia has voted in the presidential runoff and chosen an ally of nationalist and pro-Russian premier Robert Fico as president for the next five years: it is the current head of parliament, Peter Pellegrini, who defeated the opposition candidate, diplomat Ivan Korcok, accelerating the populist drift in the Eastern European country.
    When 96 percent of the polling stations had been counted, Pellegrini was ahead with 54 percent of the vote to the 46 percent that went to Korcok subverting the result of the first round two weeks ago and also of exit-polls circulated at the close of the polls in the up to the last most uncertain round since direct election of the head of state was introduced in 1999. An all-populist institutional constellation has thus formed in Bratislava, and the levee against Fico represented so far by outgoing President Zuzana Caputová, his opponent, collapses. "The future direction of the country depends on the elections," the 60-year-old Korcok, who-supported by three opposition parties-wanted to keep Bratislava in the European fold and is strongly pro-Ukraine in its war to defend itself from Russian attack, had said while speaking at the polling station.
    Evidently aware of international concern over Fico's positions that to appeal for peace with Moscow calls into question Ukraine's territorial integrity, the 48-year-old Pellegrini had argued that the vote "does not affect the future direction of Slovakia's foreign policy" and assured, "I guarantee that we will continue to be a strong member of the EU" and NATO.
    The presidency in Slovakia is largely ceremonial, but the head of state can always veto laws and appoint key officials resulting now, with Pellegrini, an element of support for Fico's choices.According to his detractors, the premier is 'orbanizing' the country with steps on the judiciary, media and Russia that recall those taken by Viktor Orban in Hungary.In office since last October, the government made up of Fico's Smer party, Pellegrini's Hlas and the small far-right Sns formation has halted state military aid to Ukraine. Korciok, foreign minister for the 2020-2022 biennium, had surprisingly won in the first round two weeks ago with 42.5 percent of the vote, beating Pellegrini, who placed second with 37.0 percent.
    As predicted by some analysts, decisive should be supporters of former Justice Minister Stefan Harabin, a nationalist with pro-Russian and anti-NATO positions, who received 11.7 percent of the vote and thus managed to turn the tide.
    Pellegrini was a minister in Fico's previous governments and even replaced him as head of government in 2018: although he was his rival for a time, he admitted in a televised campaign debate that "I am running to save Robert Fico's government."The election, albeit by a narrow margin, enshrined that the majority of Slovakia's 4.3 million voters are satisfied with the direction the country has taken under Fico's rule and do not want to correct his policies although they are challenged by demonstrations in recent weeks: protests triggered mainly by changes to the Criminal Code suspected of seeking to protect the premier's entourage and a dispute over control of the public broadcaster Rtvs, but also by restrictions on aid to Ukraine.


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