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Ally of Russia-friendly prime minister wins Slovakia presidential election

WorldAlly of Russia-friendly prime minister wins Slovakia presidential election

Russia-friendly Prime Minister Robert Fico will cement his grip on power in Slovakia after an ally who backs his plans to overhaul the judiciary and wrest control over public media won the presidential election.

Peter Pellegrini, a former prime minister and member of Fico’s ruling coalition, got 53.2 per cent of the vote, while Ivan Korcok, a diplomat who has criticised the prime minister’s agenda, secured 46.8 per cent, based on almost all ballots counted shortly after midnight on Sunday. Korcok has conceded defeat.

The presidential victory would ease Fico’s path to approving legislation and appointments of key public officials. Since returning to power last year, the Slovak prime minister has triggered public criticism and scrutiny from the European Union for his decisions to curb the fight against corruption, suppress independent media outlets and oppose EU and Nato allies over military support to Ukraine.

Slovakia party opposed to Ukraine aid wins election, needs coalition partners

Pellegrini, as a parliamentary speaker, played a crucial role in pushing through the judicial overhaul. During the campaign, he accused Korcok, who advocated for supporting Kyiv, of wanting to drag the country into war.

“The government can count on that, as long as it fulfils its programme, it doesn’t have to fear that the presidential palace will become an opposition centre harming the cabinet, as it was in the past,” Pellegrini told reporters in Bratislava after announcing his victory.

Zuzana Caputova, the current officeholder and standard-bearer of Slovakia’s anti-corruption movement, moved to stop some of Fico’s more controversial proposals. She submitted his contentious criminal-law overhaul in February to the country’s top court, which has yet to issue a ruling.

Outgoing President Zuzana Caputova has been the standard-bearer of Slovakia’s anti-corruption movement. Photo: dpa
Pellegrini succeeded Fico as prime minister in 2018, when the Slovak leader was forced to resign amid mass protests following the killing of a journalist investigating corruption in the EU member state.

Amid the public outrage, Pellegrini left Fico’s Smer party and led his own group, known as Voice, in last year’s parliamentary election. He joined Fico’s coalition in October, three months after he told reporters that couldn’t imagine “sitting together in the same government” with the Smer leader. He campaigned with a more EU-friendly agenda, supporting military aid to Ukraine. But after Fico’s victory, he abandoned those positions.

Pellegrini began his political career in 2002 as an assistant to a Smer’s lawmaker. He was elected a member of parliament in 2006, and since then, his ascent within the political sphere has been notable. He acted as a deputy finance minister, education minister, parliament speaker, deputy prime minister for investment, and prime minister.

His trajectory, marked by nearly two decades of unwavering allegiance to Robert Fico and Smer party, earned him among his critics the moniker of a “yes man”.

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