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Peter Pellegrini Wins Slovak Presidential Election, Beating Pro-Western Opposition

Pellegrini's victory cements the influence of Slovakia's nationalist government, which is skeptical of further aid to Ukraine
Published: April 10, 2024
Slovakia's presidential candidate Peter Pellegrini speaks at his headquarters on the day the results of the country's presidential election are announced, in Bratislava, Slovakia, April 7, 2024. (Image: REUTERS/Radovan Stoklasa)

Slovak nationalist government candidate Peter Pellegrini won the country’s presidential election on April 6, cementing the influence of pro-Russia Prime Minister Robert Fico over the country.

Fico, who took power for the fourth time last October, has turned the country’s foreign policy to a more pro-Russian stance and initiated reforms of criminal law and the media.

A descendant of Italian immigrants to the Slavic country, Pellegrini won 53.26 percent of the vote, versus 46.73 percent for pro-Western, pro-NATO opposition candidate Ivan Korcok, results from 99.66 percent of voting districts showed.

Slovak presidents do not have many executive powers, but can veto laws or challenge them in the constitutional court. They nominate constitutional court judges, who may become important in political strife over the fate of Fico’s reforms.

Fico’s coalition — which includes a party headed by Pellegrini — halted Slovak official shipments of weapons to Ukraine and Fico has spoken out in the past about what he calls western influence in a war which would only lead to Slavic nations killing each other.

Pellegrini, 48, said his victory meant the government would have support in its aims, and not face an “opposition, opportunistic power center” in reference to outgoing liberal president Zuzana Caputova.

“I will be a president who will support the government in its efforts for improving people’s lives,” Pellegrini said at his campaign headquarters.

“I will do everything for Slovakia to forever remain on the side of peace and not the side of war.”

Pellegrini characterizes Korcok as a warmonger because he supports arming Ukraine and suggested he could deploy Slovak troops into the war, something Korcok denies.


No rush to change foreign policy

Pellegrini, who is seen as being more moderate than Fico, said earlier on Saturday that his election would not mean a rush to any fundamental change in foreign policy.

“This is not about the future direction of foreign policy. I also guarantee, like the other candidate, that we will continue to be a strong member of the EU and NATO,” he said after voting in Rovinka on the outskirts of the capital.

Korcok conceded defeat and congratulated Pellegrini, but lashed out at him for winning by spreading fear.

“A campaign can be won by making the other a candidate of war. I will not forget this,” Korcok said at his campaign headquarters. “The decisive factor was high turnout, I respect that, but it was fear that decided…spreading fear and hatred.”

Korcok, like Kyiv’s Western allies, argues that a halt in supplying Ukraine would not lead to peace but to Russia’s victory.

An independent, Korcok, 60, was Slovakia’s envoy to the EU and later ambassador to the United States, before taking the foreign affairs portfolio in 2021-2022.

At the time, Slovakia was a staunch ally of Ukraine, providing it with air defense and fighter jets.

Pellegrini, now speaker of parliament, was a long-time ally of Fico, who picked him to be prime minister after Fico was forced to resign amid public protests against corruption following the murder of an investigative journalist in 2018.

He later split from Fico to set up his own party, Hlas (Voice), a party that was more centrist and liberal than Fico’s populist-leftist SMER-SSD, but formed a government with Fico and the nationalist SNS last October.

Reuters contributed to this report.