the country soon on the “Orban path”? – The Express

Ukraine at the heart of the presidential election in Slovakia

Analysts had expected a tighter result. It was not the case. The ally of the populist government, Peter Pellegrini, won the presidential election in Slovakia this Saturday, April 6, well ahead of pro-European diplomat Ivan Korcok in the second round, according to almost final results. Peter Pellegrini, an economist by training, obtained 53.20% of the votes, against 46.80% for Ivan Korcok, according to figures published by the Slovak Statistical Office showing almost all (99.8%) votes.

“It’s a great satisfaction,” Peter Pellegrini said in a speech to his supporters. “I want to be a president who will defend the national interests of Slovakia,” he stressed. He assured that he wanted to do everything “so that Slovakia remains on the side of peace and not on the side of war”. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was one of the key elements of the electoral campaign in this country of 5.4 million inhabitants, particularly since populist Prime Minister Robert Fico, a long-time ally of Peter Pellegrini, questioned Kiev’s sovereignty and called for peace with Moscow. Since his return to power in October 2023, Robert Fico has stopped all arms donations to kyiv, limiting support for his neighbor to “humanitarian and civil aid”.

READ ALSO: Ukraine, at the heart of the presidential election in Slovakia

Peter Pellegrini was a minister in the previous governments of Robert Fico. He even replaced him as Prime Minister after the fall of his government in 2018, following the murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée, shot dead in their home. The double murder sparked a wave of protests across the country that forced Robert Fico to resign. In his last article, published posthumously, Jan Kuciak revealed links between the Italian mafia and the Fico government.

“A non-transparent campaign”

In place since October, the current government, made up of Robert Fico’s Smer-SD party, Peter Pellegrini’s Hlas-SD party and the small far-right SNS party, has also cut off military aid to neighboring Ukraine . “If Pellegrini wins, Slovakia could follow the ‘Orban path’,” analyst Tomas Koziaka told AFP before the vote, referring to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who is favorable to the Kremlin.

READ ALSO: Military aid to Ukraine: the relative weight of Slovakia

Saturday evening, Ivan Korcok admitted his defeat and congratulated his opponent. “I would like to congratulate the winner of the election, Peter Pellegrini,” this former Foreign Minister told the press and his supporters. He also expressed his hope that “Peter Pellegrini will be independent and that he will act according to his own convictions and without orders”, clearly alluding to the close relationship between the future president and the head of government Robert Fico. But he also criticized his opponent for “a non-transparent campaign”.

Limited power

“It turns out that it is possible to become president of the Slovak Republic by spreading hatred,” he said, criticizing Peter Pellegrini and his camp for having presented him during the campaign as a “candidate of war”, favorable to Slovakia’s involvement in the conflict in Ukraine. Peter Pellegrini will therefore replace liberal President Zuzana Caputova. Although his powers are limited, the president ratifies international treaties, appoints key judges, and is commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He can also veto laws passed by Parliament.

Peter Pellegrini, who also speaks Russian, German and English, will officially become Slovak president on June 15. This bachelor was dubbed “the sexiest politician in Slovakia” by women’s magazines some time ago. When announcing his candidacy, he said he lived alone, adding: “If I am elected president, I will not be accompanied by a first lady or anyone.”