Divided over Ukraine war, Slovakia votes for president


Bratislava: slovakia The first round of A will be held on Saturday presidential election This is a fight between Central European countries pro-russian ruling camp and a pro ukraine Opposition supported candidate.
Parliament Speaker Peter Pellegrini and liberal former Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok are the clear frontrunners among the nine contenders.
Pellegrini is supported by populist Prime Minister Robert Fico, who has questioned Ukraine's sovereignty in a series of inflammatory comments over Russia's invasion.
Korkoc is staunchly pro-Ukraine, and holds similar views to outgoing President Zuzana Caputova, a government critic who decided not to seek a second term.
The latest opinion polls suggest a tight race of 5.4 million people to become president of NATO and member of the European Union.
The poll by the Ipsos agency indicates that former Prime Minister Pellegrini will get 37 percent of the vote, while Korçok will get 36 percent.
Polling stations will open for 15 hours at 7:00 am (0600 GMT). But since no one is expected to get the 50 percent vote share needed to win on Saturday, Pellegrini and Korcok are expected to clash in an April 6 runoff.
'Orban Way'
Analysts predict that the FICO-backed president could further strengthen his anti-Ukrainian foreign policy, similar to that of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
“If Pellegrini wins, Slovakia could go the 'Orban route',” Tomas Koziak, a political analyst at the University of International Business ISM Slovakia, told AFP.
Hungary has been increasingly at odds with the EU leadership, frequently criticizing it on rule of law issues and hindering the bloc's efforts to help Ukraine.
Koziak said, “In Korçok's case, his pro-Western inclinations are quite clear. His attitude toward Russia will be uncompromising.”
The war in neighboring Ukraine since February 2022 has been an election campaign that divides Slovaks.
“The Slovak political scene is divided between those who are in favor of continuing the war at all costs and those who demand the start of peace talks,” Pellegrini told AFP.
“I am one of the latter,” he said.
pro-ukraine camp
His longtime ally Fico has appointed Pellegrini to various posts over the years, including parliamentary president and education minister.
The 48-year-old became head of the government after Fico stepped down as prime minister in 2018 following the murder of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee.
The double murder sparked large rallies that led to Fico's resignation because Kuciak was working on the connections between the Italian mafia and Fico's Smar-SD party.
Korkoc is a diplomat who has represented Slovakia in the United States, Germany and Switzerland. The 59-year-old has criticized Fico's call for talks with Moscow.
“The Russian Federation has violated international law… I don't think Ukraine should give up part of its territory to achieve peace,” he told AFP.
“The first condition for us to be able to talk about a peaceful solution to this war is that Russian missiles stop attacking Ukrainian schools and hospitals.”
In the final presidential debate, the two clashed over Ukraine, with Pellegrini urging “an immediate ceasefire and the beginning of peace talks.”
Korçok replied, “Peace cannot mean surrender,” adding that peace could come “immediately” provided that Russian forces withdrew.
'Russian Governor'
Although Korçok is running as an independent candidate, he is supported by opposition parties, who believe that Pellegrini's victory would pave the way for presidential pardons for government associates found guilty of corruption.
“I will vote for Korčić, because for me Pellegrini is even less acceptable than Fico, and that's saying something,” said voter Marta Demčakova from Bratislava.
“I don't want to live to see my children and grandchildren grow up in a Russian governorate,” the 66-year-old pensioner told AFP.
Zborov's 46-year-old shop assistant, Katarina Podmanica, said she hoped Pellegrini would become a defender of ordinary people.
“I know he fights for us, for Slovakia,” he told AFP.
Although the office is largely ceremonial, the President of Slovakia ratifies international treaties, appoints top judges and is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
The head of state can also veto laws passed by Parliament.
Other presidential contenders include pro-Kremlin former Supreme Court head Stepan Harbin, far-right former lawmaker Marian Kotleba and anti-corruption former Prime Minister Igor Matovic.

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