Populist Party’s Election Victory in Slovakia: No more Military Support for Ukraine and Russia Sanctions

2023-10-02 02:42:01

The left-wing populist party led by former Prime Minister Robert Fico won Slovakia’s parliamentary election with a campaign that sent two clear messages: no more military support for Ukraine and no more sanctions on Russia.

Fizo’s Direction Party (Smer-SD), which received nearly 23% of the vote, won the presidential endorsement on Sunday to begin talks to replace the technocratic government that has supported Kyiv against the Russian invasion.

Parties likely to join the new coalition include the left-wing Voice party, which won 14.7% of the vote, and the ultra-nationalist Slovak National Party, an explicitly pro-Russian group, which received 5.6% of the vote.

As a new liberal, pro-Western party, the Progressive Slovak Party ranked second with 18% of the vote. Its leader, European Parliament Vice President Michal Simecka, said his party respected the result.

“But this is bad news for Slovakia. It will be worse if Robert Fiso manages to form a government,” he said.

No more aid to Ukraine?

Slovakia is a member of the NATO military alliance that supports Ukraine in its fight against Russian President Vladimir Putin, but many Slovak people sympathize with Moscow’s path, which the West wants to eliminate.

Fico, 59, said Slovakia faced bigger problems than Ukraine, including energy prices and the cost of living, but his party would do everything possible to start peace talks. During the campaign, Fizo pledged to stop supporting neighboring Ukraine’s war against Russia.

“We will not change the fact that we are ready to help Ukraine in a humanitarian way,” said Fizo, who analysts believe was inspired by Hungary’s nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has often clashed with the EU.

“We are ready to help the country rebuild, but you know how we feel about arming Ukraine,” he added at a news conference.

Fizo had previously opposed Ukraine joining NATO, saying it “means the beginning of World War III.”

He said in August that “the war in Ukraine started not a year ago, but in 2014, when Ukrainian Nazis and fascists began murdering Russian citizens in Donbas and Luhansk.”

“We need to tell the world: Freedom comes from the east, war always comes from the west.”

Fizo (second from left) celebrates the poll victory (AFP) at the party headquarters in Bratislava

To date, Slovakia, a country of 5.5 million people created after the breakup of Czechoslovakia in 1993, has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine.

Since the war broke out in February 2022, Bratislava has opened its borders to fleeing refugees and is an important logistical hub for NATO to deliver military support to Ukraine.

Slovakia ranks among the top five donors to Kyiv in Europe in terms of gross domestic product, with the country donating more than half of its MiG fighter jets and dozens of infantry vehicles. It is also the first EU country to use the S-300 air defense missile system to support Kiev.

“This (military support) ends with the election results,” said Wojciech Przybylski, a political analyst and head of the think tank Visegrad Insight.

“Ukraine and its Western allies will also question how much intelligence can be shared with Slovakia without the risk of leaking and jeopardizing transport routes,” Przybylski said.

Przybylski added that such a change in Slovak policy would have political implications by breaking the united front that European countries have so far presented in support of Kiev.

Providing weapons to Kiev: NATO pledges an additional $2.5 billion in military aid (Al Jazeera)

Orbanization of Slovakia?

Fico’s critics worry that his return to power could lead Slovakia to abandon course on other fronts, largely following the path of Hungary’s Orban, who is also an outlier on Ukraine and has frequently feuded with the EU over war.

Orban congratulated Fizo in a post on the X social media platform on Sunday: “Guess who’s back!”

He added, “It’s always good to work with the Patriots.”

Hungary also maintains close ties with Moscow – unique among EU countries – and opposes providing arms or economic aid to Ukraine.

Fico, a fierce opponent of immigration ahead of Saturday’s election, criticized the caretaker government for not taking more action and said restarting border controls with Hungary would be a priority.

“One of the government’s first decisions must be to update the order on border controls with Hungary,” Fico told a news conference. “It will not be a pretty picture,” he said, adding that 655 kilometers ( 407 miles) of the border will require troops.

Przybylski said Fizo is likely to pursue anti-immigration policies to appeal to a working class that sees immigration as competition for labor.

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