Slovakia holds second spherical of presidential election amid deep divisions over Ukraine battle | EUROtoday

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Slovaks voted Saturday to decide on a brand new president with the end result figuring out whether or not the EU and NATO member shifts additional in the direction of Russia amid deep divisions over the battle in Ukraine.

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Ivan Korcok, a 60-year-old pro-Western former overseas minister, and Peter Pellegrini, 48, a Ukraine-sceptic backed by the ruling populists, are vying to exchange the outgoing liberal President Zuzana Caputova.

They are squaring off in a decisive second spherical as neither received the minimal 50 p.c in final month’s poll.

Though the workplace is essentially ceremonial, Slovakia’s president ratifies worldwide treaties, appoints prime judges, is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and might veto legal guidelines handed by parliament.

The closing pre-election ballot by the Focus company put Korcok and parliament speaker Pellegrini neck-and-neck, with Pellegrini gaining 51 p.c of the vote and Korcok 49 p.c.

“This is the tightest ever presidential race,” mentioned Vaclav Hrich, managing director of the AKO polling company.

Stefan Harabin, who positioned third after criticising the European Union and hailing Russian President Vladimir Putin, didn’t formally again both candidate.

“It is an important 12 percent that Harabin got,” political analyst Tomas Koziak informed AFP, including that “Korcok is unlikely to win those votes”.

According to AKO, over two thirds of Harabin voters intend to help Pellegrini.

Yet Hrich mentioned the election was “too close to call” and mentioned turnout might be decisive.

“The more people vote, the more chances Peter Pellegrini will have as this would mean he had succeeded convincing Harabin’s voters,” he mentioned.

War and peace

Bratislava voter Frantisek Hazik forged his poll for Korcok simply after polling stations opened at 7:00 am (0500 GMT).

“I don’t want Fico and his friends to occupy everything in Slovakia, so I chose Ivan Korcok. He’s a truly democratic politician,” the 31-year-old auditor informed AFP.

Pensioner Helena Vaclavova, 67, backed Pellegrini, saying he “only wants good for this country”.

“He will defend us from everything and will be a good president,” she mentioned.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine turned a fixture of the electoral marketing campaign within the nation of 5.4 million after Prime Minister Robert Fico questioned Ukraine’s sovereignty and referred to as for peace with Russia.

Pellegrini was a minister in Fico’s earlier governments and was head of presidency from 2018 to 2020 when his long-time ally was toppled.

“I am running for president to rescue the government of Robert Fico,” Pellegrini mentioned in a televised debate.

Korcok fired again: “You want to protect the government. I want to protect Slovakia.”

Fico’s authorities that took workplace in October consists of his Smer get together, Pellegrini’s Hlas and the small far-right SNS, and has discontinued navy assist to Ukraine.

“Korcok is a warmonger, who will support everything the West tells him without hesitation, including dragging Slovakia into the war,” Fico mentioned in a video.

He expressed help for Pellegrini, calling him “a moderate candidate who recognises the value of peace”.

Government ally vs critic

Pellegrini mentioned “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”.

“I belong to the latter,” he informed AFP.

Korcok, a vocal authorities critic backed by the opposition, is staunchly pro-Ukraine.

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

Pavol Turanec, {an electrical} designer from Martin, northern Slovakia, hailed Korcok.

“Korcok is a real pro: pro-democratic, pro-Western, pro-European. His values do not change depending on polls,” the 50-year-old informed AFP.

“This criminal government is leading us to a pro-Russian autocracy, devastating the judiciary, and public finances. They really need a counterweight.”

Jana Mozolova, a retired trainer from the japanese metropolis of Kosice, mentioned Pellegrini had her vote.

“He has been around for years and never let anyone down,” the 66-year-old mentioned.

Provisional outcomes are anticipated round midnight.

(AFP)

https://www.france24.com/en/europe/20240406-slovakia-holds-second-round-of-presidential-election-amid-deep-divisions-over-ukraine-war