Slovakia’s pro-Moscow former prime minister has won the race to power in Bratislava, paving the way for a dip in the country’s support for Ukraine in its fight against Russia.
Robert Fico, the leader of Slovakia’s populist Smer-SD party, had won almost 23 percent of the vote with 99.98 percent of votes counted, the Slovak Statistical Office said early on Sunday. Trailing in second was the Progressive Slovakia party with just under 18 percent of the vote, falling short of the win predicted for the liberal centrist party ahead of the election. These preliminary results will be confirmed later on Sunday.
The victory will likely be a worrying signal for Kyiv, which has benefited from military aid from Slovakia, whose eastern border is shared with Ukraine. Slovakia and Poland have sent Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, setting the precedent for Kyiv’s allies to consider boosting the country’s airpower with Western-made jets.
But Fico has said he would turn off the tap of military aid to Ukraine, and only offer Kyiv humanitarian assistance.
In late September, Fico told Britain’s The Telegraph that “arming Ukraine brings nothing but killing.”
“If Smer enters government, we will not send a single round of ammunition to Ukraine,” he had previously said. He has also opposed sanctions slapped on Russia over the invasion of Ukraine.
Michal Šimečka, the head of Smer’s main rival, the Progressive Slovakia party, has said he would continue the country’s support for Ukraine. In comments carried by Slovakia’s state news agency, he said Progressive Slovakia wishes to prevent Fico from taking power, but respects the pro-Moscow leader’s victory in the parliamentary elections.
“Whatever happens in this election, whatever government comes out of this election, we will continue to support Ukraine,” Šimečka said.
But Fico, who has gradually become more anti-Western, could steer Slovakia back towards the Kremlin, more in alignment with neighboring Hungary and its refusal to supply Ukraine with weapons.
“Guess who’s back! Congratulations to Robert Fico on his undisputable victory at the Slovak parliamentary elections,” Hungarian President Viktor Orbán said in a post to X, formerly Twitter, on Sunday morning.
“The task for the West now is not to lose Slovakia and engage constructively with Fico,” Milan Nič, an analyst with the German Council on Foreign Relations, told The Financial Times. “But I think that Moscow is celebrating what will be seen as cracks in Europe’s east and Hungary no longer being alone.”
It is not yet clear which parties would form part of a coalition. Peter Pellegrini, another ex-prime minister and former Smer member who now heads the third-place moderate-left Hlas party, said his party would hold talks with any other party that invites it. Analysts have suggested Hlas, which is an offshoot of Smer, will be a likely coalition party.
Fico stepped down as Slovakia’s prime minister after the murder of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée back in 2018. Kuciak had been looking into government corruption.