Former Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico's populist Smer (Direction) party won a plurality of seats in Slovakia's parliamentary elections on Saturday, according to results released Sunday. Smer earned about 23%, giving it 42 seats in the 150-seat Parliament. A liberal, pro–European Union party, Progressive Slovakia, took second place, with 18% of the votes and 32 seats. In third place was the leftist Hlas (Voice) party, led by former Fico deputy Peter Pelligrini, with nearly 15% and 27 seats.
Fico, 59, ran on a pro-Russia platform that included stopping military aid to Ukraine plus a mixture of "social conservatism, nationalism, anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and promises of generous welfare handouts," The New York Times reported.
In order to return to power, Fico has to form a coalition with at least two other parties. Pelligrini, who broke from Fico after he was forced to step down following the murder of a journalist investigating ties between Fico associates and Italy's mafia, has kept his options open. But analysts said there's a good chance Fico will form a government with Hlas and the ultranationalist, pro-Russia Slovak National Party, whose 10 seats would give Fico a parliamentary majority of 79 seats.
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Progressive Slovakia leader Michal Šimečka held out hope that his party could form a government if Fico fails.
Assuming Fico prevails, he could join with Hungary's Russia-friendly populist leader, Viktor Orban, to try and block the E.U.'s staunch support for Ukraine. Slovakia's caretaker government was the first to send Ukraine MiG-29 fighter jets.
But "while a Fico government would represent a shift in Ukraine policy from a neighbor that has led on deliveries of tanks and heavy weapons, analysts say the impact of his threat to cut off arms deliveries could be limited," The Washington Post added. "Fico has specified only that he will stop sending arms from Slovakia's already depleted military stocks. He has refrained from threats to halt supplies from the country's arms manufacturers that stock Ukraine with much-needed artillery shells."
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