‘Not a single round for Ukraine’ Slovakia’s Fico wins parliament
The former prime minister says he can "allow himself" to have a different opinion to that of the United States on the war in Ukraine.
Slovakian former Prime Minister Robert Fico grabs victory in Saturday's parliamentary elections, claiming a 5% support lead over his main rival, as the United States and its allies are increasingly finding it difficult to justify more international and public support to Kiev - even among their own countries - amid underwhelming field performance.
His socialist political party Smer landed nearly 24% of the votes - granting him 42 seats out of 150 in the legislative assembly - while the liberal Progressive Slovakia party garnered around 17%.
Slovakia has been a generous provider of arms - including advanced hardware such as fighter jets and air defenses - to Ukraine since the war broke out. The country also served as a hub for the transport of weapons provided by NATO members to Kiev and a maintenance station for military equipment damaged in the war.
Meanwhile, Fico is known to be a fierce opponent of European and American policies of prolonging the war in the neighboring country. He has also publicly declared that he will not support Ukraine's accession to NATO. Campaigning under "Not a single round" for Kiev, Fico has put Western states on their toes.
"If Smer enters government, we will not send a single round of ammunition to Ukraine," he reiterated to his supporters just days ahead of the elections.
Now, after Fico won the elections, Kiev's allies are becoming more concerned in anticipation of Fico implementing a pivot in the country's foreign policy, potentially straining its cooperation with NATO and the EU. What is even further making Western officials anxious is the possibility that this win will spread a wave of anti-Western-policies sentiment across Europe.
"I allow myself to have a different opinion to that of the United States [on the war]," Fico pledged during his electoral campaign.
"War always comes from the West and peace from the East," he said then.
Fico considered that what is happening today in Ukraine "is unnecessary killing .. it is the emptying of warehouses to force countries to buy more American weapons."
As a result of his stances, Kiev previously blacklisted the former prime minister, accusing him of supporting Russia, although his main criticism of the war is that Washington is exploiting it for profits and pushing to prolong it.
An earlier report published by Unherd warned that, in the case that Smer wins the elections, Slovakia is expected to adopt a foreign policy similar to that of Hungary led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban; one of the most explicit critics of the West and a staunch opposer of continued aid to Kiev and Ukraine's admission to the EU and NATO.
"We see Viktor Orban as one of those European politicians who do not fear to openly defend the interests of Hungary and Hungarian people," Fico told Reuters last month.
"He puts them in the first place. And that should be the role of an elected politician, to look after the interests of his voters and his country."
Fico’s campaign also prioritized the immigration problem and the cost of living, as the Eastern European country is experiencing the highest inflation in the eurozone at 10 percent.
The main challenge for Smer now is being able to form a coalition government due to the presence of many smaller parties. However, the most likely parliamentary partner now is Peter Pellegrini’s HLAS (Voice) party - which landed in third place with 27 seats after garnering 15 percent of the votes.
"The distribution of seats confirms HLAS as a party without which any normally functioning government coalition cannot be put together," Pellegrini said shortly before all ballots were counted, stressing that he is open to "any combination or coalition."
However, HLAS' leader hinted that his party was closer to Fico's Smer.
"It’s important for me that the new coalition would be formed by such parties that can agree on the priorities for Slovakia and ensure stability and calm," Pellegrini said after placing his vote.
While not adopting the same position on Ukraine as Smer, Pellegrini said earlier that Slovakia "had nothing left to donate" to Kiev. However, he added that the country will stick to its earlier commitments of producing ammunition - which is funded by the West - and sending them to Ukraine.