Slovakia election: Fico focuses his campaign on anti-Ukraine, pro-Russian narratives

Former Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, seeking to regain power in the upcoming parliamentary election on September 30, has placed billboards in Bratislava with openly pro-Russian narratives.

As part of his election campaign, Fico dubs Ukrainians “fascists” and calls on NATO to stop providing weapons to the “Kyiv regime” – these narratives you often can hear on Russian propaganda TV outlets, The New European reported.

Compared to Trump and Orban, Fico shares pro-Russian views

The leader of the Smer party, Fico is often compared at home to former US President Donald Trump and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Similarly to these two conservative leaders, he is known for his pro-Kremlin rhetoric. 

Fico accused Ukraine and the West of starting the war when Russia began a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, despite the fact that Russian troops violated international law and invaded a sovereign nation while Ukraine has suffered an unjust, unprovoked and cruel war launched by Putin’s regime.

The Smer party leader focuses his campaign on language hostile to the West and Ukraine and beneficial to Moscow. Robert Fico accused Western allies of “supporting murder” in Ukraine. He vowed to stop EU sanctions against Russia and opposed military assistance for Ukraine.

Some of the most hateful rhetoric has come from Fico’s notorious party vice-chair, Ľuboš Blaha, and was so bad that Facebook was demanded to remove “all harmful disinformation and pro-Russian propaganda on Slovak Facebook” by a legislative committee from the US led by Adam Schiff, chair of the Intelligence Committee. Facebook properly suspended Blaha.

Read also: ​​Slovakia’s election possible outcome and disinformation impact

Slovakia’s choice between anti-West authoritarian and pro-EU democratic views

With essentially two opposed political approaches on offer, an authoritarian Orban-style of politics and a firmly pro-European and democratic views, Slovakia has bitterly divided ahead of this September parliamentary election.

The electoral campaign has been contentious and full of allegations as Slovak society is divided, with one side supporting democratic values and the nation’s integration with the West and the other favouring right-wing extremist authoritarian figures like Fico.

Fico’s party claims to be a “Slovak social democracy”. But apparently, it will require the backing of small far-right parties to form a coalition.

Opinion polling in Slovakia 2023 election

Fico’s biggest challengers now are the socially liberal Progressive Slovakia party, led by Michal Šimečka, vice-president of the European Parliament. The left Hlas (Voice) party, led by former prime minister Peter Pellegrini, formed by those who split from Smer, comes third in polls.

According to the latest opinion poll in Slovakia, Smer (Fico) gets around 20%, Progressive Slovakia – 17%, and Hlas – 13%.

Hlas and its leader, Pellegrini, have refused to work with Smer and the far right to create a government. After the September 30 election, no camp will probably be able to create a majority administration.

Concerns regarding Slovak support for Kyiv amid the Russian war in Ukraine are the primary focus of foreign policy. Fico and the candidates for his party have been attacking sanctions against Russia, the European Union, and the Slovak government’s military assistance to Ukraine for months.

Fico’s comeback to Slovakian political stage

Former communist Fico served two prior mandates from 2006 to 2010 and 2012 to 2018, both marred by allegations of corruption and concerns of authoritarianism. After Fico lost the 2020 election, his party broke up, and many believed his political career was over. But he has since pulled off a comeback to the Slovak political stage. 

Businessmen, former officials, and politicians linked to Fico were accused of corruption in Slovakia. The most recent high-profile incident happened in 2018 when journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée were assassinated when he looked into how the Italian mafia and corrupt corporate organisations connected to Fico’s Smer party. 

Investigative reporter Kuciak worked for the online news outlet Aktuality.sk and specialised in reporting on tax fraud committed by businessmen connected to the Smer party. The tragedy sparked a wave of protests and a great demand for change in society. Fico was forced to step down as prime minister due to the widespread protests after the murder.

Arrests and corruption allegations during the campaign

The recent arrests of several senior members of Slovakia’s intelligence service and the head of the National Security Authority have added a new element of intrigue to the impending election.

The allegations made by the police investigators stem from the Fico era and include crimes including organising a criminal gang, abusing public trust, and impeding justice. Tibor Gaspar, a former police chief and candidate for Fico’s party, was held by police and accused of corruption.

Police raids, arrests, and charges against high-ranking officials with ties to Fico impacted the campaign. But as the danger of legal action grows, Fico’s campaign gains momentum, and his rhetoric is now dominated by claims of a “police-led coup.”

Next government coalition will determine Slovakia’s foreign policy and stability

In the backdrop of Russia’s war, the makeup of Slovakia’s next government coalition will determine whether the country retains its present pro-Western posture or adopts a Eurosceptic pro-Russian stance.

A pro-European, pro-Ukrainian, and reform-minded Slovakia’s future will depend on the results of this election. The country might join the ranks of other pariah states east of the EU if Fico wins and successfully puts together a coalition government with the far-right.

Read also: Slovakia Election 2023 and possible pro-Russian revanche – a headache for the West

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