Split over Ukraine battle, Slovakia votes for president | EUROtoday

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Slovakia will on Saturday maintain the primary spherical of a presidential election that could be a battle between the Central European nation’s Russia-leaning ruling camp and a pro-Ukraine opposition-backed candidate.

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Parliament speaker Peter Pellegrini and liberal ex-foreign minister Ivan Korcok are the clear frontrunners amongst 9 contenders.

Pellegrini is backed by populist Prime Minister Robert Fico, who has questioned Ukraine’s sovereignty amongst an inventory of inflammatory feedback over Russia’s invasion.

Korcok is staunchly pro-Ukraine, holding comparable views to outgoing president Zuzana Caputova, a authorities critic who selected to not search a second time period.

Latest opinion polls have advised a good race to grow to be president of the NATO and EU member of 5.4 million individuals.

An Ipsos company survey indicated that Pellegrini, a former prime minister, would take 37 p.c of the vote, whereas Korcok would obtain 36 p.c.

Polling stations will open for 15 hours at 7:00 am (0600 GMT). But since nobody is anticipated to get the 50 p.c vote share wanted to win Saturday, Pellegrini and Korcok are anticipated to dispute an April 6 runoff.

‘Orban manner’

Analysts predict a Fico-backed president might additional cement the anti-Ukrainian overseas coverage to resemble that of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

“If Pellegrini wins, Slovakia could go the ‘Orban way’,” Tomas Koziak, a political analyst on the University of International Business ISM Slovakia, instructed AFP.

Hungary has grow to be more and more at odds with the European Union management, ceaselessly criticised over rule of regulation points and hampering the bloc’s efforts to assist Ukraine.

“In the case of Korcok, the pro-Western orientation is absolutely obvious. His attitude towards Russia would be uncompromising,” Koziak mentioned.

The battle in neighbouring Ukraine since February 2022 has been an electoral marketing campaign fixture that divides Slovaks.

“The Slovak political scene is divided between those who are in favour of the continuation of the war at all costs, and those who demand the start of peace negotiations,” Pellegrini instructed AFP.

“I belong to the latter,” he mentioned.

Pro-Ukraine camp

His long-time ally Fico has through the years appointed Pellegrini to varied positions, together with parliamentary speaker and training minister.

The 48-year-old turned head of presidency after Fico was toppled as premier in 2018, following the killings of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee.

The double homicide sparked massive rallies that pressured Fico’s resignation as Kuciak had been engaged on hyperlinks between the Italian mafia and Fico’s Smer-SD get together.

Korcok is a diplomat who has represented Slovakia within the United States, Germany and Switzerland. The 59-year-old has criticised Fico’s calls to barter with Moscow.

“The Russian Federation has trampled on international law… I do not think Ukraine should give up part of its territory to achieve peace,” he instructed AFP.

“The first prerequisite for us to be able to talk about a peaceful solution to this war is that Russian missiles stop hitting Ukrainian schools and hospitals.”

In the ultimate presidential debate, the 2 clashed over Ukraine, with Pellegrini urging “an immediate ceasefire and the opening of peace negotiations”.

“Peace cannot mean capitulation,” Korcok replied, including that peace might come “immediately” given that Russian troops withdraw.

‘Russian governorate’

Though operating as an impartial, Korcok is backed by opposition events who imagine a Pellegrini win would pave the way in which for presidential pardons of presidency allies discovered responsible of corruption.

“I will vote for Korcok, as to me Pellegrini is even less acceptable than Fico, and that is saying something,” mentioned Bratislava voter Marta Demcakova.

“I do not want to live to see my children and grandchildren grow up in a Russian governorate,” the 66-year-old pensioner instructed AFP.

Shop assistant Katarina Podmanicka, a 46-year-old from Zborov, mentioned she anticipated Pellegrini to be a defender of bizarre individuals.

“I know he fights for us, for Slovakia,” she instructed AFP.

Though the workplace is essentially ceremonial, Slovakia’s president ratifies worldwide treaties, appoints high judges and is commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

The head of state can even veto legal guidelines handed by parliament.

Other presidential contenders embrace pro-Kremlin former Supreme Court chief Stefan Harabin, far-right former lawmaker Marian Kotleba and anti-graft ex-premier Igor Matovic.