Fri. May 17th, 2024

Slovakia, an EU and NATO member, held its presidential election on Saturday, a pivotal moment amid widespread divisions regarding the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

The outcome of the election is anticipated to determine the nation’s stance towards Russia. Ivan Korcok, a 60-year-old former foreign minister known for his pro-Western stance, and Peter Pellegrini, 48, backed by the ruling populists and with a skeptical view towards Ukraine, are competing to succeed the liberal outgoing President Zuzana Caputova, as neither candidate secured the required 50 percent in the initial ballot.

Despite the largely ceremonial nature of the presidency, the elected candidate holds significant powers, including ratifying international treaties, appointing top judges, serving as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and possessing veto authority over legislation passed by parliament. The final pre-election poll by the Focus agency indicated a neck-and-neck race between Korcok and Pellegrini, with Pellegrini holding a slight lead of 51 percent over Korcok’s 49 percent.

Stefan Harabin, who finished third in the initial round and expressed support for neither candidate, holds a crucial 12 percent of the vote. Political analysts suggest that Pellegrini may gain the majority of Harabin’s supporters, potentially influencing the election’s outcome. However, uncertainty remains, with turnout likely to play a decisive role in determining the victor.

The issue of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prominently featured in the electoral discourse, particularly regarding the candidates’ stances on foreign policy. Pellegrini, a former minister in Prime Minister Robert Fico’s government, has advocated for peace negotiations and has been endorsed by Fico, who characterized him as a moderate candidate valuing peace. In contrast, Korcok, backed by the opposition, has taken a staunchly pro-Ukraine stance, emphasizing the importance of upholding international law.

The political divide in Slovakia is evident, with supporters of both candidates citing their respective attributes. While some voters, like Frantisek Hazik, favor Korcok for his democratic principles, others, such as pensioner Helena Vaclavova, believe Pellegrini is best suited to protect the country’s interests. The provisional results of the election are expected to be announced around midnight, offering clarity on Slovakia’s future direction amidst the backdrop of the Ukraine conflict.

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