Slovaks began voting early Saturday in parliamentary elections in which a strong fight is expected between leftist former Prime Minister Roberto Fico - who has pledged to withhold military aid to Ukraine - and pro-Western liberals.
Polls showed an equal result between the two parties ahead of Saturday's election, the winner of which will be able to form a government to replace the interim administration, which has led the country's population of 5.5 million since May.
If Fico wins, it means Slovakia will join Hungary as the two EU countries challenge the bloc's consensus on Ukraine's support, at a time when the European Union is trying to be united in opposing Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Neither Fico's SMER-SSD (Social Democratic Party), nor the Progressive Slovakia (SP), which is led by Deputy Speaker of the European Parliament Michal Simencka, is expected to win a majority in this election, meaning the future of the government will depend on the results of several smaller parties, from liberal to far-right.
The Voice party of Peter Pellegrin, the former SMER-SSD member and prime minister from 2018 to 2020, is expected to come third and could have the final say on forming a new government.
He has kept options open, but acknowledged this week that his party is closest to Fico.
Fico's pro-Russian stances reflect the mood of Slovaking society, which has traditionally been relatively warmer for Russia. This sentiment is reinforced by pro-Russian narratives and disinformation on social networks.
"Fico has benefited from all the anxiety that the coronavirus pandemic and war brought on him, from the anger that has spread to Slovakia in the last three years, and from the instigation of that anger." Said sociologist Michal Vasecka.
Fico has vowed to stop military supply to Ukraine and is eager for peace talks. That's a stance close to that of Hungary's leader Viktor Orban, who is opposed by Ukraine and its allies, who say it would only encourage Russia.
He also criticized the sanctions on Russia.
Polls opened at 7:00 am, while voting will close at 22pm. /REL