The West is watching with concern the parliamentary elections to be held on Saturday in Slovakia. Will a Kremlin ally come to power?
On Saturday, Slovakia will elect its fifth prime minister in just four years. The leader in the polls is the opposition party of Kremlin sympathizer Robert Fico, Direction – Social Democracy (SMER-SSD).
CNN notes that since Russia invaded Ukraine last February, Slovakia has been one of Kiev’s staunchest allies. Both countries share a border. Slovakia was the first country to send air defense assets to Ukraine and accepted tens of thousands of refugees.
However, everything may change if Robert Fico comes to power next Saturday. The former prime minister does not hide his sympathy for the Kremlin and blames “Ukrainian Nazis and fascists” for provoking Russian President Vladimir Putin to launch the invasion. At the same time, he repeats the false theses of the narrative that Putin used to justify his invasion.
Fico – opponent of Ukraine’s entry into NATO
Fico called on the Slovak government to stop arms deliveries to Kiev and said that if he became prime minister, Slovakia “would not send another batch of ammunition.” He is also against Ukraine’s entry into NATO.
Grigorij Mesežnikov, a political analyst and president of the Institute of Public Affairs, a Slovak think tank, said Fico characterized his support for Moscow as a “peace” initiative.
– He and his allies argue that we should not send weapons to Ukraine because it will prolong the war. They say that “there will be peace if we stop sending weapons to Ukraine,” because if we don’t, the conflict will end sooner. In fact, they are not pro-peace, they are pro-Russian, he noted. Slovak publicist Peter Tkačenko sees it completely differently. In his opinion, a possible Fico government will not radically change the orientation of the country’s foreign policy. Additionally, to form a government, he will need the Głos party, whose leaders are more pro-Western.
Fico vs. Party Šimečka’s party. Polls are inconclusive
Currently, SMER-SSD Fico and its main rival Progressive Slovakia are almost neck and neck in the polls. The aggregate result from September 26, cited by POLITICO, shows that both parties are separated by two percentage points of support. A poll by the AKO agency from Thursday showed that Progressive Slovakia slightly took the lead with support (18%) compared to 17.7 for SMER-SSD.
Fico previously served as Prime Minister of Slovakia for over a decade, first from 2006 to 2010 and then again from 2012 to 2018. The shocking murder of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirová in early 2018 led to widespread outrage and public protests, ultimately forcing him to resign from office. The journalist wrote, among others: about the connections between Fico’s assistant and the Italian mafia and about the suspicious interests of businessmen friendly with SMER politicians.