Voting has begun in a intently contested election with assist for Ukraine’s defence in opposition to Russia’s invasion a key focus.
Slovaks are voting in a intently contested parliamentary election between left-wing former Prime Minister Robert Fico, who has pledged to finish army assist for neighbouring Ukraine, and pro-Western liberals.
Last opinion polls confirmed the 2 events in a lifeless warmth, with the winner anticipated to get the primary likelihood to attempt to kind a authorities to switch the caretaker administration operating the nation since Could.
A authorities led by Fico would imply Slovakia, a rustic of 5.5 million, becoming a member of Hungary as European Union international locations difficult the bloc’s consensus assist for Ukraine, simply because the EU appears to be like to shore up solidarity in opposing Russia’s invasion.
It could additionally add to a bloc of jap former communist states with governments publicly hostile to liberalism.
A Progresivne Slovensko (Progressive Slovakia, PS) authorities would keep the course on overseas coverage, maintaining Slovakia’s robust backing for Ukraine and placing the nation in a pro-integration and liberal camp within the EU on points reminiscent of majority voting to make the bloc extra versatile, inexperienced insurance policies and LGBTQ rights.
Neither Fico’s SMER-SSD (Path-Slovak Social Democracy) nor the PS, led by European Parliament Vice President Michal Simecka, are anticipated to win a majority, that means the longer term authorities is more likely to rely upon outcomes for half a dozen smaller events, from libertarians to far-right extremists.
The moderate-left Hlas (Voice) of Peter Pellegrini, an ex-SMER-SSD member and prime minister from 2018-20, is seen coming third and should have the ultimate say. He has saved his choices open however stated this week his occasion was nearer to Fico.
Rising pro-Russia sentiment
Fico has ridden on dissatisfaction with a bickering centre-right coalition whose authorities collapsed final 12 months, triggering this election a half-year early.
Fico’s pro-Russian views comply with moods in Slovak society, historically comparatively heat on Russia. Professional-Russian narratives and disinformation on social networks have amplified the sentiment.
Fico has pledged to finish army provides to Ukraine and to try for peace talks. This rhetoric echoes that of Hungary’s chief, Viktor Orban, however is rejected by Ukraine and its allies, who say this may solely encourage Russia.
He has additionally criticised sanctions on Russia and defended nationwide veto powers within the EU. However Fico was additionally a practical chief prior to now, which overseas diplomats and analysts say might tame his overseas coverage flip.
Observers additionally say Slovakia – with the eurozone’s largest finances deficit of practically 7 % of gross home product this 12 months – is in want of EU modernisation and restoration funds. Any authorities would, subsequently, assume twice earlier than going into battle with Brussels over points such because the rule of regulation.
Polling stations opened at 7am (05:00 GMT) on Saturday and voting ends at 10pm (20:00 GMT). Exit polls shall be launched after polls shut, and outcomes will develop into out there inside hours.