BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — Slovakia holds an early parliamentary election on Saturday that pits populist former Prime Minister Robert Fico, who campaigned on a transparent pro-Russia and anti-American message, in opposition to a liberal pro-West newcomer.
Fico and his leftist Smer, or Path, social gathering vowed to reverse Slovakia’s navy assist for neighboring Ukraine in Russia’s war, if his try and return to energy is profitable.
Fico’s major challenger is the comparatively new liberal pro-West Progressive Slovakia. The winner of the vote historically will get the primary likelihood to create a authorities.
A complete of 150 seats within the Parliament are up for seize within the vote.
The populist Strange Folks social gathering received the 2020 election with an anti-corruption ticket, and social gathering chief Igor Matovič struck a deal to manipulate with the pro-business Freedom and Solidarity social gathering, the conservative For Folks social gathering, and one other populist group, We Are Household.
The coalition collapsed in December after shedding a parliamentary no-confidence vote, the newest step in a long-term political disaster brought on by bickering among the many coalition companions over a variety of points, together with the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and methods to deal with hovering inflation pushed by excessive vitality costs amid Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
The federal government misplaced a parliamentary majority after Freedom and Solidarity withdrew from it in September 2022 final yr and requested the no-confidence vote.
The coalition was a staunch supporter of Ukraine, donating arms to the Ukrainian army whereas opening its border with neighboring Ukraine to refugees fleeing the battle with Russia.
The nation is presently headed by a caretaker authorities.
FICO TURNS EASTWARD
Fico, 59, opposes EU sanctions on Russia, questions whether or not Ukraine can drive out the invading Russian troops and desires to dam Ukraine from becoming a member of NATO.
He proposes that as a substitute of sending arms to Kyiv, the EU and the U.S. ought to use their affect to drive Russia and Ukraine to strike a compromise peace deal.
His return to energy could lead on Slovakia to desert its democratic course in different methods, following the trail of Hungary below Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and to a lesser extent of Poland below the Regulation and Justice social gathering.
He has a transparent supply for his inspiration.
“Struggle at all times comes from the West,” Fico stated at a rally. “And freedom and peace at all times come from the East.”
Fico repeats Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unsupported declare that the Ukrainian authorities runs a Nazi state from which ethnic Russians within the nation’s east wanted safety. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is Jewish and has misplaced family within the Holocaust.
Recognized for foul-mouthed tirades in opposition to journalists, Fico campaigned in opposition to immigration and LGBTQ+ rights and threatened to dismiss investigators from the Nationwide Felony Company and the particular prosecutor who offers with essentially the most severe crimes and corruption.
After Smer misplaced the 2020 vote, the four-party coalition made combating corruption a key focus. Dozens of senior officers, law enforcement officials, judges, prosecutors, politicians and enterprise folks, many linked to Smer, have been convicted of corruption and different crimes. Fico himself confronted felony prices final yr for making a felony group and misuse of energy.
Fico led Slovakia from 2006 to 2010 and once more from 2012 to 2018.
Progressive Slovakia sees the nation’s future firmly within the EU and NATO.
The social gathering vowed to proceed Slovakia’s assist for Ukraine and is a uncommon instance among the many main events within the conservative Roman-Catholic stronghold that’s in favor of LGBTQ+ rights.
Widespread among the many younger folks, the social gathering received the 2019 European Parliament election in Slovakia in coalition with the Collectively social gathering after gaining greater than 20% of the vote. Nevertheless it narrowly didn’t win parliamentary seats within the 2020 poll.
The social gathering is led by Michal Simecka, a European Parliament vp. Liberal President Zuzana Caputova was deputy head of the social gathering earlier than operating for president. After trailing Smer in second place, among the newest polls present that Progressive Slovakia’s assist is surging and combating neck and neck with Smer for the lead.
No social gathering is anticipated to win a governing majority and a coalition authorities will must be shaped.
Fico stated he hopes to affix forces with Hlas, or the Voice, which is anticipated to complete in third place. It is led by Peter Pellegrini, Fico’s former deputy at Smer.
Pellegrini changed Fico as prime minister after he was forced to resign by the main anti-government road protests following the 2018 slayings of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee.
The 2 parted methods after the 2020 election loss.
Two different anti-West forces stay in hand for Fico’s doable coalition.
The Republic is a far-right group which may end fourth, in keeping with some polls. It’s led by former members of the overtly neo-Nazi People’s Party Our Slovakia whose members use Nazi salutes and wish Slovakia out of the EU and NATO. Its doable participation within the authorities would ship shockwaves by means of Europe.
The ultranationalist Slovak Nationwide Celebration is the opposite one.
4 different political teams and events would possibly surpass a 5% threshold essential to win parliamentary seats. Their outcomes will probably be key to find out the probabilities of Smer, or Progressive Slovakia, to type a ruling coalition.