ERR in Slovakia: Ukraine may be losing another supporter

Elections taking place in Slovakia.
Elections taking place in Slovakia. Source: ERR

With the electoral victory of the Direction – Social Democracy party in Slovakia at the weekend likely spelling the return of Robert Fico as prime minister, Ukraine is likely to lose a key European supporter, ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported Sunday.

The election was called on a snap basis following the current coalition losing a vote of no confidence in the summer, since which time it has remained in office on an interim term.

Slovakia is one of the four key Visegrad nations, together with Hungary, Poland, and the country it was formerly in union with, the Czech Republic, and is an EU and NATO member state. It shares a relatively short (just under 100km) border with Ukraine, to its East.

Despite all this, many ordinary Slovaks, AK reports, have a viewpoint more sympathetic to the Moscow line that the West is, in effect, provoking conflict in its unwavering support for Ukraine and overtures that the country may one day become a part of NATO and the EU.

Robert Fico, who was prime minister 2006-2010 and again 2012-2018 and has been on the Slovak political scene for over two decades now, arrived at Direction – Social Democracy headquarters in Bratislava Saturday evening, after polls closed. 

Fico waited to Sunday to make a pronouncement – when it was clear that Direction – Social Democracy, known in Slovakia as Smer and a populist, albeit left-leaning party, had won, in the sense of taken the largest number of seats of any one party.

Smer took 23 percent of support at the weekend's election.

Fico must obtain the presidential go ahead from the head of state, Zuzana Čaputová, before forming up a coalition; speaking to the press pack he said: "Please excuse my voice, we were celebrating hard yesterday. I wish the best of luck to all the parties elected to parliament and to all the elected members of parliament. But of course I want to thank the people of Slovakia, for their decision."

Fico and Smer had run on a platform which included a pledge to end military aid to Ukraine, The Guardian reports.

Meanwhile Michal Šimečka, leader of the pro-Western Progressive Slovakia (Progresívne Slovensko) had according to early indications been on track for victory.

Speaking in English at a press conference Sunday, Šimečka, who is also a Vice-President of the European Parliament said: "Smer is the winner, and we of course respect that, although we think it is bad news for the country, and it will be even worse news if Mr. Fico forms a government."

However, the longer the protracted vote count went on, the clearer it became that his party's result of 18 percent, while good, was insufficient.

While Smer and Progressive Slovakia are, a little like Reform and EKRE in Estonia, water and electricity insofar as potential coalition alignments go, the third-placing party, Hlas – sociálna demokracia, may emerge as the kingmakers, AK reported.

Hlas allying with Smer and the national conservative Slovak National Party (SNS) is considered the more likely outcome, however, AK said.

Again speaking in English, political scientist Grigorij Mesežnikov told AK's Epp Ehand that: "The coalition which now will be formed is one which can change the foreign policy orientation of the country, and also internal developments.

"So the two parties, SNS and Smer, showed in their electoral campaigns that the have problems with liberal democratic rules," added Mesežnikov, who was born in Orel, Russia, during the Soviet era, emigrating to Bratislava in what was then Czechoslovakia in 1979.

Slovakia's military donations to Ukraine so far include a dozen Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets.

Epp Ehand spoke to Smer's deputy lear, Ľuboš Blaha, asking what Slovakia ceasing to provide military support to Ukraine will mean, if Smer's proposal was followed through on.

Blaha said, in English: "It means not prolonging the war, and it means not so many people will die. And this is important for us – hopefully for you as well."

Ukrainian NATO membership is "nonsense. It would deliver the third world war, nuclear conflict."

"As for the EU, if Ukraine is going to fulfill the pre-conditions then we can speak about it, but that is almost impossible in this generation," Blaha added.

Ehand: Many voted for Smer as a way to deal with their problems

Epp Ehand told AK that Smer's core demographic has tended to be people living outside of larger cities, and elderly people.

While Smer and Robert Fico have expressed pro-Kremlin views and stated that Ukraine and the Western countries are to blame for the current war, the main reason for many people voting for Smer lies closer to home, where the party is seen as a solution to many of their day-to-day problems, Ehand said.

"If you ask for the reasons behind Smer's popularity; on the one hand it has been pointed out that the people are not pro-Russian so much, but rather want to solve all their other problems with this protest vote – coping with high prices, the energy crisis, the incompetence of the previous government, all of these things," Ehand said.

Ľudovít Ódor has been in office as Slovakia's premier since May this year, but the following month lost a vote of confidence held at the National Council, the Slovak parliament.

"On the other hand, for example, if you look at a recent Globsec survey, only 40 percent of Slovaks find that Russia is to blame for the ongoing war in Ukraine, while almost half of them see either Ukraine or the Western countries as the culprit. And then there is this historical, cultural, Soviet nostalgia-type view of russia going on in the background, so if you place that in the context of the propagation of misinformation, conspiracy theories and the campaigns of populist politicians, then this is the outcome," Ehand added.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera,' reporter Epp Ehand.

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