Slovakian President Zuzana Caputova on Monday asked pro-Russian candidate Robert Fico to form a coalition government after he and his SMER party registered a victory in the recently-concluded parliamentary elections by winning 22.9% of the votes.
Fico's party will have 42 seats in Slovakia's 150-seat Parliament. However, none of the parties managed to secure a majority i the elections - necessitating a coalition to form the next government.
The 59-year-old Fico, who campaigned on an anti-Western and pro-Russian message, will become the country's fourth Prime Minister if he manages to find coalition parties to achieve a parliamentary majority. The left-wing Hlas party came third, led by Fico's former deputy Peter Pellegrini, who parted ways following the party's loss in 2020 elections.
In a televised address, Caputova stressed that the new government would have to be “a government which will serve all citizens". She has been suing Fico over repeated accusations of being an "American agent" and serving foreign interests.
Pro-West newcomer, the Progressive Slovakia party, came second in the elections with 18% of the votes. The party's leader Michal Simecka said that they respected the result. "But it’s bad news for Slovakia. And it would be even worse if Robert Fico manages to create a government," he added. Simecka has volunteered for the post of PM if Fico fails to garner support.
Fico's stance on Russia and Ukraine
Slovakia, as part of the European Union and NATO, has supported Ukraine for long by calling for sanctions against Russia. However, things are expected to dramatically change if Fico, who has blamed "Ukraine fascists and Nazis" for provoking Russian President Vladimir Putin for the invasion, returns to power.
Fico has continuously opposed EU sanctions on Russia, questions whether Ukraine can force out the invading Russian troops and wants to block Ukraine from joining NATO. He also suggested that the EU and the United States should force a compromise peace deal between the warring countries.
Western experts are worried that Fico will follow on the steps of Hungary PM Victor Orban, in establishing close ties with Russia and oppose the EU. Orban has also argued against supplying arms or economic aid to Ukraine.
There is speculation that Fico, if he becomes PM, could cooperate with Orban to create hurdles for the European bloc. If Poland’s governing Law and Justice party manages to win in Polish parliamentary elections next month, this resistance is likely to become even stronger.
Fico was forced to resign in March 2018 after mass protests over the murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak, who reported on corruption within his party, and his fiancée, Martina Kušnírová. Fico is also known for his campaign against immigration and LGBTQ+ rights.
(with AP inputs)