Pro-EU diplomat wins first round of Slovak presidential election

Pro-EU diplomat wins first round of Slovak presidential election

A former senior Slovak diplomat and critic of Prime Minister Robert Fico's increasingly anti-Western rhetoric achieved a surprise victory in the first round of the country's presidential elections.

The head of state race will decide whether the Russia-friendly prime minister strengthens his political dominance over the Eastern European country of 5.4 million people or if voters elect a counterweight to the government that holds most executive powers.

Former Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok, who has pledged to help keep Slovakia within the European mainstream, he obtained 42% of the vote, ahead of Peter Pellegrini, president of parliament and member of Fico's ruling coalition, which obtained 37%, according to the results of almost all the votes. seasons. The two will meet in a final round on April 6.

While Korcok defied polls showing him trailing Pellegrini ahead of the first round of voting that ended Saturday, the ally of Fico said he will try to win the support of a swath of nationalist voters in the runoff to help him win the presidency next month..

The result of the first round seems encouraging“Korcok told reporters. “But to succeed in the second round“We must do more to speak to voters across the political spectrum.”

A victory for Pellegrini would give Fico more room to push his agenda, which has drawn scrutiny from the European Union for his attempt to reform parts of the judicial system and his attacks on the media. The four-time prime minister returned to office last year after campaigning to stop investigations by his allies, stop military support from Slovakia to Ukraine and defy sanctions against Russia.

Korcok has pledged to maintain the pro-EU course of the current president, President Zuzana Caputova.. Slovakia's head of state holds a largely ceremonial position, but can veto laws and appoint government officials, judges and central bankers to control the powers of the government.

Caputova, who was elected in 2019 on a platform of fighting corruption but declined to seek re-election after persistent attacks from Fico and his supporters, has been Fico's main antagonist. He has tried to block some of his legislative actions and nominations to key state offices..

Fico, a populist figure supported by a low-income rural base, has sparked widespread protests this year over his attempt to change the criminal code and dismantle a special prosecutor's office. The European Commission, the executive arm of the bloc, is evaluating the legislation for possible violation of the rule of law.

Pellegrini succeeded Fico as prime minister in 2018, when the prime minister was forced to resign in response to a wave of anti-corruption protests largely sparked by the murder of an investigative journalist.