Pro-Russian Robert Fico wins elections in Slovakia

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A pro-Russian turnaround in foreign policy is emerging in Slovakia, where the party of former Prime Minister Robert Fico won the elections held on Saturday, according to the complete count released this Sunday. Smer-SSD, Fico's populist social democratic formation, garnered 23.3% of the votes compared to 17.1% received by its main rival, the pro-European Progressive Slovakia (PS) party of Michal Simecka, one of the vice-presidents of Parliament. European.

During his years in the opposition, Robert Fico has become more pro-Russian and anti-Western, raising concerns in Europe and among allies. During the campaign he promised the end of Slovak military support for Ukraine and evoked the need to mend ties with Russia.

The third party in votes was the moderate social democrat Hlas-SD, of also former Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini, a former co-religionist of Fico, with 15%. Pellegrini - who founded his own party in 2020 after leaving the Smer-SSD - will be key to a government formation that is announced to be laborious in negotiations, because seven parties have exceeded the 5% threshold necessary to have representation in the Parliament of 150 seats.

Robert Fico waves celebrating his election victory on Sunday, October 1, at the headquarters of his party, Smer-SSD, in Bratislava


However, if they agree, Fico and Pellegrini would only need to add a third ally, probably the conservative Slovak National Party (SNS), which also opposes military aid to Ukraine. The country's president, Zuzana Caputová, told AFP before the polls that she will entrust the attempt to form a government to the leader of the most voted party.

Turn in foreign policy

Robert Fico, increasingly anti-Western, has promised to end Slovak military support for Ukraine

Slovakia, a member of the EU and NATO, has provided significant military aid to Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion in February 2022. But Robert Fico's electoral victory portends a shift in foreign policy. His return to power will align Slovakia with neighboring Hungary, where ultranationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán exhibits similar stances on the war in Ukraine, and maintains tension with Brussels over issues ranging from the rule of law to EU rules.

Both are similar in their nationalist, pro-Russian and anti-immigration discourse. Orbán congratulated him on the X network. “Look who's back! Congratulations to Robert Fico on his undisputed victory in the Slovak parliamentary elections. It's always good to work with a patriot. “I look forward to it!” wrote the Hungarian Prime Minister.

Similar postures

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, called to be his ally, congratulates Fico: “It is always good to work with a patriot”

Robert Fico, who already governed for two periods (2006-2010 and 2012-2018), was forced to resign as prime minister in March 2018 due to popular outrage over the murder of the baker Jan Kuciak, and his girlfriend, Martina Kusnirová. . Thousands of protesters protested the focus on the investigation into the murders that was underway and demanded the resignation of the Government, due to negligence in the case and previous suspicions of corruption.

Now, at 59 years old, this trained jurist, married and father of a son, has known how to exploit the discontent of Slovaks with fewer economic resources and rural areas with inflation, the fall in purchasing power and the erratic management of the previous Center-right coalition government, which, after falling in a motion of censure, gave way to the current technical Executive. Fico has also navigated the traditional sympathy towards Russia of a part of the Slovak population.

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Leader of Direction - Social Democracy (Smer - SD) party Robert Fico attends an electoral TV debate on September 26, 2023 in Bratislava. The parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held on September 30, 2023 to elect members of the National Council. (Photo by VLADIMIR SIMICEK / AFP)

Robert Fico began his political career in 1986 in the Czechoslovak Communist Party (KSC), shortly before the Velvet Revolution of 1989 ended the regime of the former Czechoslovakia, a country that would split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993.

Fico had continued his career in the Democratic Left party (SDL), political heir to the Communist Party, which he left to found the Smer-SSD. This social democratic formation was established as an alternative to the liberal reformist plan of the center-right coalitions that governed Slovakia between 1998 and 2006, and then between 2010 and 2012.

Of the periods in which Robert Fico was prime minister (2006-2010 and 2012-2018), the greatest milestone was Slovakia's entry into the euro in January 2008, which he hailed as "a historic decision." Now, however, it often attacks the EU, so Brussels faces another new tough nut to crack in Central Europe.

Peter Pellegrini, leader of Hlas-SD, seemed very satisfied last night. “The results so far show that Hlas will be a party without which it will be impossible to form any kind of normal and functional coalition government,” he warned.

Orbán congratulates Fico

The Prime Minister of Hungary, the ultranationalist Viktor Orbán, congratulated Robert Fico this Sunday and said that it is good to "work with a patriot." "Guess who is back. Congratulations to Robert Fico for his undisputed victory," Orbán said in a brief message on X (formerly Twitter), reacting to the results of the Slovak elections.

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