In a closely contested Slovakia election , the populist former Prime Minister Robert Fico’s Smer party is poised to secure victory, surpassing its rival Progressive Slovakia in a nail-biting race. With more than 98% of districts reporting, Smer is on track to secure over 23% of the vote. Progressive Slovakia (PS), led by Michal Šimečka, secured second place with over 17% of the vote, closely followed by Peter Pellegrini’s Hlas party, which garnered 15% of the vote.
Foreign policy direction
The election’s outcome has heightened concerns regarding Slovakia’s future foreign policy direction. Fico, aged 59, has vowed to cease military assistance to Ukraine, criticized sanctions against Russia, and campaigned against LGBTQ+ rights.
Initially, exit polls of Slovakia election suggested that PS had taken the lead, raising hopes within the country’s liberal camp. However, as officials tallied the votes of Slovakia election throughout the night, these expectations evaporated.
Nonetheless, the composition of Slovakia’s next government remains uncertain, and much will hinge on intricate coalition-building with smaller parties, including Peter Pellegrini’s Hlas and Igor Matovič’s OĽaNO.
Former Fico associate and Hlas leader Pellegrini could play a pivotal role in determining the outcome. His party has kept its options open and avoided stating its support for any specific party, but many believe it prefers forming an alliance with Smer over the more socially liberal PS.
Expectations were that President Zuzana Caputova would mandate the first party to cross the finish line to lead discussions on forming a parliamentary majority and, if successful, to establish a government.
The final districts, primarily from large cities, were anticipated to favor PS, but the gap behind Fico seemed insurmountable.
Should a government led by Fico and his Smer-SSD party materialize, Slovakia, a NATO member, would join Hungary in challenging the European Union’s consensus on support for Ukraine, just as the bloc seeks to maintain unity in opposing Russia’s invasion.
“We do want to evaluate everything, so we will await the final count,” stated Robert Kalinak, a Smer-SSD candidate and long-time Fico ally, adding that the party would provide a comprehensive response to the results later on Sunday.
The PS party has advocated for maintaining Slovakia’s strong support for Ukraine and is likely to adopt a liberal stance within the EU on issues such as majority voting to enhance the bloc’s flexibility, environmentally friendly policies, and LGBTQ+ rights.
Simecka has not abandoned hope of forming the next government, depending on how smaller allies align.
“Our goal remains for Slovakia to have a stable pro-European government after this election, one that upholds the rule of law and begins to address and invest in areas crucial for our future,” said Simecka, a member of the European Parliament and former journalist and Oxford graduate, addressing his supporters.
The incoming government in the nation of 5.5 million will inherit a growing budget deficit projected to be the highest in the eurozone.
Fico capitalized on dissatisfaction with a quarreling center-right coalition, whose government collapsed last year, prompting the early election six months ahead of schedule. During his campaign, he emphasized concerns about the increasing number of migrants passing through Slovakia to Western Europe.
Fico’s views align with the traditionally warm sentiments toward Russia held by many Slovaks, which have gained momentum on social media since the onset of the Ukraine war. He has also pledged to halt military supplies to Ukraine and advocate for peace talks—a stance akin to that of Hungary’s leader, Viktor Orbán, but rejected by Ukraine and its allies, who argue that it would only embolden Russia.
Partial results and media projections indicate that the far-right Republika party, which some had considered a potential ally for Fico but deemed unacceptable by others, will not secure any seats.