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HomeNewsSlovakia election: Anti-Ukraine populist Fico faces ex-journalist Simecka

Slovakia election: Anti-Ukraine populist Fico faces ex-journalist Simecka

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BRATISLAVA — Exit polls in Slovakia’s parliamentary elections Saturday confirmed a slight lead for the progressive celebration of Michal Simecka over populist Robert Fico, in a knife-edge vote that might reverse the nation’s help for Ukraine.

Forward of the election, most polls confirmed Fico, 59, because the front-runner. A former prime minister who was compelled out of energy 5 years in the past, Fico launched a comeback bid with a marketing campaign that was heavy on conspiracy theories and laced with pro-Russian and anti-American discourse.

Who’s Robert Fico? Professional-Russia populist is favored in Slovakia elections.

However in exit polls launched after voting stations closed, Simecka’s Progressive Slovakia had a slim benefit over Fico’s Smer celebration, with 19.97 and 19.09 p.c of the vote, respectively, in response to outcomes gathered by public broadcaster Radio and Tv of Slovakia. One other exit ballot performed by the impartial analysis agency Focus additionally confirmed Progressive Slovakia main the vote with 23.5 p.c, in comparison with 21.9 p.c for Smer.

Simecka, a former journalist, has a drastically totally different imaginative and prescient than Fico for a pro-European, liberal Slovakia and made last-minute positive aspects within the polls. At 39, he would develop into the nation’s youngest prime minister if his celebration took energy.

“It will likely be tight, however decency might prevail,” Simecka wrote in a Fb publish this week.

“Slovakia can select a European, dignified future as a substitute of chaos and isolation in these elections,” Simecka mentioned.

Amid Slovakia’s political divisions, no single celebration is predicted to win greater than 1 / 4 of the vote. A lot might experience on a raft of smaller events which can be on the edge of reaching the minimal of 5 p.c of the vote wanted to enter parliament.

Constructing a coalition authorities might be “very difficult,” mentioned Radoslav Stefancik, a political scientist at College of Economics in Bratislava “As a result of there are a variety of small events that will probably be taking part in arduous to get.”

The front-runner forward of Slovakia’s Sept. 30 common election is a former primer minister who might fracture the West’s united help for Ukraine. (Video: Joe Snell/The Washington Put up)

A victory by Fico’s Smer celebration could be one other signal of Europe’s tilt towards populist forces, which have capitalized on spiraling prices of dwelling and anxiousness over the Ukraine conflict. It might additionally flip an ally within the Western response to Ukraine right into a spoiler, with Fico threatening to cease arms deliveries and block European Union penalties towards Russia.

Throughout a poisonous marketing campaign, Fico tapped into the nation’s deep dissatisfaction with the earlier authorities, parroting Russian propaganda and blaming “Ukrainian Nazis” for beginning the conflict.

In an all-caps message on his web page, Fico criticized Ukraine for its determination to take authorized motion in response to Slovakia banning its grain imports: “THE WORLD IS STARTING TO GET FED UP WITH ZELENSKY AND UKRAINE, BECAUSE THEY ARE UNGRATEFUL AND STILL UNSATISFIED!”

A professional-Russian tide in Slovakia might threaten Europe’s unity on Ukraine

Fico additionally seized on the unpopularity of Slovakia’s governing coalition, which collapsed after a no-confidence vote final yr, resulting in a caretaker authorities. However Simecka’s celebration had did not win seats within the nationwide parliament in 2020, leaving it untainted.

Fico, in the meantime, has been dogged by corruption allegations. He has solid them as makes an attempt by the federal government to erase its political opposition.

“We don’t wish to hand the nation again to the mafia,” mentioned Anna Frankova, 29, as she shopped at a farmers market in central Bratislava along with her husband and father-in-law after casting her poll for Simecka’s celebration on Saturday. “We’re nonetheless younger, we wish to have a future right here, and our future is with the West,” she mentioned.

However like many Slovaks, she expressed weariness with a political scene beset by infighting. She mentioned that the present caretaker authorities of technocrats appeared a greater choice than the political events vying for energy. “If Fico wins, we’ll go away the nation,” mentioned her husband Peter Frank, 38, who had additionally voted for Progressive Slovakia, which he mentioned was “the lesser evil.”

“Whoever is towards Fico, I’ll vote for,” he added.

At a polling station within the capital’s Outdated City close to its baroque-style fortress, Peter Hladky, 56, had simply voted for Fico’s Smer.

“I need a sturdy chief, somebody who is aware of what he’s doing,” he mentioned. He expressed help for Fico’s “Christian values” and his stance on Ukraine.

“What number of conflicts are there on the planet? And why ought to a rustic of 5 million individuals rush to resolve them?” he mentioned of the conflict over the border.

Simecka has warned {that a} fourth time period for Fico might usher in an ally for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban within the European Union, with “main implications” for the bloc’s capacity to ship additional arms to Ukraine and enact new rounds of penalties.

Whereas a Fico authorities would symbolize a shift in Ukraine coverage from a neighbor that has led on deliveries of tanks and heavy weapons, analysts say the affect of his menace to chop off arms deliveries might be restricted. Fico has solely specified that he’ll cease sending arms from Slovakia’s already depleted army shares. He has shunned threats to halt provides from the nation’s arms producers that inventory Ukraine with much-needed artillery shells.

“I don’t purchase the utterly gloomy eventualities if Fico makes a authorities,” mentioned Milan Nic, an analyst with the German Council on Overseas Relations, who factors out that Slovakia is extra depending on the E.U. than Hungary, whereas Fico is extra consumed by investigations into his associates at residence.

“He’s far more domestically targeted than Mr. Orban,” Nic mentioned. “That’s to not say that they received’t assist one another.”

Analysts say that on the forefront of Fico’s agenda could be placing an finish to the corruption probes which have dogged him and his associates since was compelled to resign within the wake of an investigative journalist’s slaying.

Jan Kuciak, who was fatally shot alongside his fiancée, Martina Kusnirova, had been investigating hyperlinks between the Italian mafia and associates of Fico.

How Slovakia stood as much as a journalist’s slaying and kicked out its prime minister

Fico’s marketing campaign has additionally targeted on immigration and the price of dwelling, as Slovakia experiences the very best inflation within the euro space, practically double the typical of different nations that use the euro.

Simecka, in the meantime, has pledged to keep up the nation’s help for Ukraine and velocity up its inexperienced transition. He has mentioned he won’t work with Fico or the far proper, however is in any other case open to a spread of coalition companions.

“For me, the precedence is stopping Robert Fico from forming a authorities,” Simecka instructed Reuters this month. “It’s a must to make compromises.”

Morris reported from Berlin

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