Voting has begun in a intently contested election with assist for Ukraine’s defence in opposition to Russia’s invasion a key point of interest.Slovaks are voting in a intently contested parliamentary election between left-wing former Prime Minister Robert Fico, who has pledged to finish army help for neighbouring Ukraine, and pro-Western liberals.
Remaining opinion polls confirmed the 2 events in a lifeless warmth, with the winner anticipated to get the primary probability to attempt to kind a authorities to interchange the caretaker administration operating the nation since Could.
A authorities led by Fico would imply Slovakia, a rustic of 5.5 million, becoming a member of Hungary as European Union nations difficult the bloc’s consensus assist for Ukraine, simply because the EU seems to shore up solidarity in opposing Russia’s invasion.
It will additionally add to a bloc of japanese former communist states with governments publicly hostile to liberalism.
A Progresivne Slovensko (Progressive Slovakia, PS) authorities would keep the course on international coverage, retaining Slovakia’s sturdy backing for Ukraine and placing the nation in a pro-integration and liberal camp within the EU on points akin to majority voting to make the bloc extra versatile, inexperienced insurance policies and LGBTQ rights.
Neither Fico’s SMER-SSD (Path-Slovak Social Democracy) nor the PS, led by European Parliament Vice President Michal Simecka, are anticipated to win a majority, which means the long run authorities is prone to rely upon outcomes for half a dozen smaller events, from libertarians to far-right extremists.
The moderate-left Hlas (Voice) of Peter Pellegrini, an ex-SMER-SSD member and prime minister from 2018-20, is seen coming third and should have the ultimate say. He has stored his choices open however stated this week his occasion was nearer to Fico.
Robert Fico, left, chief of the SMER-SSD occasion, and Michal Simecka, chief of the Progressive Slovakia occasion, greet one another earlier than a televised debate [Radovan Stoklasa/Reuters]
Rising pro-Russia sentiment
Fico has ridden on dissatisfaction with a bickering centre-right coalition whose authorities collapsed final yr, triggering this election a half-year early.
Fico’s pro-Russian views observe moods in Slovak society, historically comparatively heat on Russia. Professional-Russian narratives and disinformation on social networks have amplified the sentiment.
Fico has pledged to finish army provides to Ukraine and to attempt for peace talks. This rhetoric echoes that of Hungary’s chief, Viktor Orban, however is rejected by Ukraine and its allies, who say this is able to solely encourage Russia.
He has additionally criticised sanctions on Russia and defended nationwide veto powers within the EU. However Fico was additionally a realistic chief up to now, which international diplomats and analysts say might tame his international coverage flip.
Observers additionally say Slovakia – with the eurozone’s greatest finances deficit of practically 7 p.c of gross home product this yr – is in want of EU modernisation and restoration funds. Any authorities would, due to this fact, assume twice earlier than going into battle with Brussels over points such because the rule of legislation.
Polling stations opened at 7am (05:00 GMT) on Saturday and voting ends at 10pm (20:00 GMT). Exit polls shall be launched after polls shut, and outcomes will develop into obtainable inside hours.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy talks to the press after he met Slovakia’s President Zuzana Caputova on the presidential palace in Bratislava in July [Radovan Stoklasa/Reuters]