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Fico wins Slovak election on pro-Russian, populist platform

by Nate Ostiller and The Kyiv Independent news desk October 1, 2023 3:20 PM 2 min read
Robert Fico during an interview in Bratislava, Slovakia, on April 25, 2023. (Michaela Nagyidaiova/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
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Slovakia's SMER (Direction) party led by former president Robert Fico has gained a narrow victory in the Slovakian parliamentary elections on Sept. 30, with almost 100% of the votes counted as of Oct. 1.

Campaigning on a pro-Russian, populist platform, and promising to end aid to Ukraine if elected, Fico and SMER received 22.9% of the vote, besting the main competitor, the liberal, pro-Western Progressive Slovakia (PS) party, who came in second place with 17.9%.

As neither gained an outright victory, SMER will have to form a government with one or more other parties in a coalition. Analysts believe it is possible SMER will attempt to join together with the left-wing HLAS party that split away from SMER in 2020.

HLAS came in third place with 14.7% of the vote. Another possible coalition member would be the openly pro-Russian ultranationalist Slovak National Party, who received 5.6%.

There are seven parties that gained more than the 5% threshold for having representation in parliament, so the process of coalition building may be complicated.

Fico was previously the prime minister of Slovakia from 2006 to 2010. He was re-elected in 2012 but resigned in 2018 following a political crisis sparked by the murder of the investigative journalist Jan Kuciak.

Before he was killed, Kuciak had investigated corruption scandals in Fico's party and alleged ties between the Italian mafia and figures in Fico's network.

In addition to regularly remarking that he would stop providing Ukraine with aid if elected, Fico also opposes EU sanctions against Russia and wants Slovakia, a NATO member, to block Ukraine from joining the alliance.

Fico has also repeated the myth that the war in Ukraine began as a civil war, a narrative Russia used to try to conceal its involvement in Donbas.

On Aug. 30, he told a crowd of supporters that the war in Ukraine began "when the Ukrainian Nazis and fascists started to murder Russian citizens in Donbas and Luhansk," repeating Russian propaganda.

Previously, Slovakia has been supportive of providing Ukraine with aid, including transferring a number of Mig-29 fighter jets.

Fico’s primary opponent Michal Simecka, who leads PS, promised to maintain support for Ukraine. He stressed that a reversal of Slovakia’s current position of providing support would put the nation at odds with other EU and NATO countries, and could cause Slovakia to become isolated.

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