Slovakia’s presidential runoff is a contest between the West and Russia – POLITICO

And yet, the elections come at a feverish political moment: Slovakia seems divided equally between a pro-Western camp alarmed by Russia’s aggression and a reactionary camp, suspicious of the West and sensitive to Kremlin arguments. And it is this division which will determine the outcome of Saturday.

While political leaders, parties, and specific political issues come and go, some version of this East-West divide has always been present in Slovakia.

In 1998, for example, would-be authoritarian Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar was voted out in an election seen as existential, after US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called Slovakia a “black hole” of the ‘Europe. Then, in early 2018, Slovaks took to the streets after the murder of journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová, driving out Mečiar’s political and ideological successor, Robert Fico.

But last October, Fico returned to power, embittered and radicalized by what he called “an attempt to overturn a democratic election,” at the instigation of philanthropist George Soros and the American embassy in Bratislava. Since then, the Slovak government has turned heavily towards Russia and ended its aid to Ukraine. Fico also abolished a special prosecutor’s office charged with prosecuting corruption-related cases, and he tried to shorten the statute of limitations for a series of crimes – apparently to protect himself and those around him from ongoing investigations. .

Slovakia’s pro-Western urban segment responded to all this with massive protests, and outgoing President Zuzana Čaputová challenged reforms to the criminal code in the country’s Constitutional Court. At the same time, the government coalition is also working to end the autonomous legal status of the country’s public television and radio, making public broadcasting a government subsidiary.

All this should constitute a powerful mobilizing force for the Slovak opposition, already gathered behind Korčok. And in the first round, Korčok won with a good margin of 5.5 percent. But for the second round, the race promises to be tight, as Korčok has little hope of attracting the votes of the third party, currently concentrated around Štefan Harabin, an anti-establishment and openly pro-Kremlin candidate, who obtained almost 12 percent. of the vote.


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