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Ukraine-sceptic, Fico ally Pellegrini wins Slovakia presidential election

Opposition-backed Korcok conceded defeat as nearly complete results showed he had received 47 percent of the vote against former prime minister Pellegrini’s 53 percent.

“It is a huge satisfaction,” Pellegrini said in Bratislava, vowing “to ensure that Slovakia remains on the side of peace and not on the side of war”.

Ahead of the run-off, Pellegrini had said he advocated peace talks with Russia. Korcok argued he did not believe Ukraine should give up territory to achieve peace. 

Divisions over the Ukraine war dominated the run-off vote given the starkly opposing views of the conflict by the two candidates for the post that is largely ceremonial. 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine became a fixture of the electoral campaign in the EU and NATO member of 5.4 million people after populist Prime Minister Robert Fico, Pellegrini’s ally, questioned Ukraine’s sovereignty and called for peace with Russia.

The government in office since October includes Fico’s Smer party, Pellegrini’s Hlas and the small far-right SNS. It has discontinued military aid to Ukraine.

Pellegrini, 48, thanked his coalition partners after his win.

Korcok said he was “disappointed” but he respected the result.

“I want to express my belief that Peter Pellegrini will be independent and will act according to his own convictions and without orders,” the 60-year-old added.

“It turns out that it is possible to become the president of the Slovak Republic by spreading hatred. The campaign can also be won by making me a war candidate.”

Fico had called Korcok a “warmonger” in a video ahead of the run-off, whose turnout was 61 percent. 

He “will support everything the West tells him without hesitation, including dragging Slovakia into the war”, the prime minister added.

Fico backed Pellegrini as “a moderate candidate who recognises the value of peace”. 

Analyst Tomas Koziak had told AFP that in the event of a Pellegrini win, “Slovakia could go the ‘Orban way’,” referring to Kremlin-friendly Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

‘Strong member’ of EU, NATO 

Earlier Saturday Pellegrini had argued that the election was “not about the future direction of foreign policy in Slovakia”. 

He had said whatever the outcome, “we will continue to be a strong member of the European Union and NATO.”

Pellegrini was prime minister from 2018 to 2020 after Fico was toppled from a previous stint as premier following the murders of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee.

The double murder sparked large rallies that forced Fico’s resignation as Kuciak had been working on links between the Italian mafia and Smer-SD.

Pellegrini will replace outgoing President Zuzana Caputova, who is staunchly pro-Ukraine like Korcok.

No candidate took 50 percent of the vote in the first round last month, forcing a second round of voting.

Though the office is largely ceremonial, Slovakia’s president has the power to ratify international treaties as well as veto laws passed by parliament and appoint top judges.

The position also serves as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

Pellegrini will be sworn in on June 15.

Source: France24