Pro-Russia candidate and opposition party leader Robert Fico, already a two-time prime minister of Slovakia, is running No. 1 in polling ahead of Saturday's snap election in the NATO country, a result that would have major consequences for neighboring Ukraine.
Fico has asserted that not "another round of ammunition" will be sent to Ukraine if he's elected prime minister, while he also opposes Ukraine's bid to join NATO. Further, Fico has thrown his support behind Russia, calling his stance one of "peace" while blaming the country's incursion in Ukraine on Nazis and fascists, echoing Russian President Vladimir Putin's justification, widely dismissed as propaganda, for invading.
The seismic shift in support is setting off alarms in the west, given Slovakia's support from the outset of Russia's invasion. For one, Slovakia was the first country to send air defenses to Ukraine.
Fico "and his allies argue that we shouldn't be sending weapons to Ukraine because it will make the war go on for longer. They are saying 'there will be peace if we stop sending weapons to Ukraine' because if we don't the conflict will end sooner. So, in essence, they are not pro-peace, they are pro-Russian," Slovakian political analyst Grigorij Meseznikov told CNN.
Fico was the Slovakian prime minister in 2006-2010 and again in 2012-2018, but was forced to resign in March 2018 amid mass protests over the murder of an investigative journalist and his fiancee. The journalist, Jan Kuciak, reported on corruption in the country, including among people within Fico's political party, SMER.
"He will prove to be a tough partner driven by revenge," Milan Nic, a Slovak analyst at the German Council on Foreign Relations, told Politico EU. "It's more about psychology."
As it stands, Slovakia will elect its fifth PM in four years, a result of the country's political chaos that has given new life to Fico, now the race front-runner with 20%.
"A year after the last election, it looked almost like the party would completely disappear. But [Fico] has managed to rehabilitate himself and is now the front-runner," Meseznikov told CNN. "SMER still have a strong support among their core voters and this support is emotionally connected to [Fico], but they have also been helped by the many conflicts within the government and by some external factors, including Covid, high inflation, the energy crisis, and the war in Ukraine."
Mark Swanson, a Newsmax writer and editor, has nearly three decades of experience covering news, culture and politics.
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