Peter Pellegrini wins Slovakia presidential election

Slovak voters on Saturday tightened the grip of pro-Russian political forces in central Europe, handing a presidential election victory to a candidate who opposes military and financial aid to Ukraine.

Peter Pellegrini, an ally of Slovakia’s populist Prime Minister Roberto Fico, won the presidential run-off with 53% of the vote, according to an official tally with 99% of votes counted. Despite the president’s limited powers in Slovakia, the election was widely watched as a test of strength between political parties with very different views on Russia.

The defeated candidate, former Foreign Minister Ivan Korkok, is an ardent supporter of Ukraine and has aligned himself with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in opposing aid to Ukraine and challenging mainstream opinion within the European Union. He has criticized Mr. Fico, a combative veteran politician. .

Shortly after Mr. Colcoc admitted defeat, Mr. Pellegrini, with Mr. Fico at his side, declared victory early Sunday.

Mr. Colcoc came first among nine candidates in the first round of voting on March 23, but lost in a showdown with Mr. Pellegrini on Saturday and drifted to anti-NATO nationalists in the first round. It appears that he picked up the votes. The person who came in 3rd place.

In his campaign leading up to the vote, Mr. Pellegrini copied the tactics used by Mr. Orbán in Hungary’s 2022 general election. In this tactic, the ruling party falsely claimed that the main opposition leader wanted to send Hungarian soldiers to fight Russia in Ukraine. . Mr. Pellegrini used the same slander against Mr. Korcok, accusing him of being a warmonger intent on sending Slovak troops to Ukraine.

Korcok claimed he had no such plans, which Slovakia’s president does not have the authority to carry out anyway, but the miasma of disinformation pumped out by pro-Russian websites and social media accounts. I was having a hard time breaking through.

His defeat was a major boost for Fico, allowing him to pursue his own policies without interference from the president. This is the outgoing president, an outspoken pro-Western liberal who used his limited powers to resist Fico’s Russia leanings and his efforts to limit the judiciary’s ability to prosecute corruption. This is a notable change from Zuzana Caputova’s tenure. She did not run for her new term, saying she was exhausted “from a professional and human standpoint.”

Mr. Caputois stopped Mr. Fico from confronting other leaders over Ukraine during the European Union summit in Brussels. But Mr. Pellegrini’s selection could lead to a more confrontational approach, similar to that of Hungary, the European bloc’s fervent opposition.

In a public statement, Mr. Fico joined Mr. Orbán in promoting what he called “peace” in Ukraine, arguing that without a swift negotiated solution the war would drag on indefinitely. Ukraine and its Western backers believe that an end to the war is impossible unless Russia abandons occupied territory.

Korcok, a career diplomat who served as Slovakia’s ambassador to the United States from 2018 to 2020, dismissed calls for immediate “peace” as a capitulation to Russia’s goal of clinging to Ukrainian land. He supports the position that providing military and financial support to Ukraine is the only way to bring a lasting end to the conflict.

Mr. Fico, a veteran politician who ended his early term as prime minister by resigning in 2018 amid corruption allegations, has followed Mr. Orban’s lead in trying to neutralize the judiciary and turn Ukrainian supporters into disloyal servants of the United States. Ta. state.

Fico returned to power after a general election in September and resigned amid massive street protests after the killing of an investigative journalist investigating government wrongdoing, leaving many considering quitting. He revived his political career.

Pavol Strba contributed reporting from Bratislava, Slovakia.

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