Photo: Vladimir Simicek Agence France-Presse Smer-SD, led by former Prime Minister Robert Fico obtained 23.3% of the vote, ahead of the centrist Progressive Slovakia party (17%), after almost all the votes were counted.
The Slovak populist party Smer-SD, opposed to aid to Ukraine, won the legislative election in Slovakia, according to the count of almost all the votes.
Smer-SD, led by former Prime Minister Robert Fico, obtained 23.3% of the vote, ahead of the centrist Progressive Slovakia party (17%), after almost all the votes were counted.
The final results are expected during the day on Sunday.
During the campaign, Mr. Fico, 59, vowed that Slovakia would not send “a single ammunition” to Ukraine and called for better relations with Russia.
Analysts predict that a Fico government could radically shift Slovakia's foreign policy closer to that of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
“Slovakia will now be closer to the Hungarian approach than to that of the majority of Europe,” Slovak analyst Tomas Koziak of the University of Political Sciences in the Czech town of Kutna told AFP Hora.
“Robert Fico is a new ally for Mr. Orban,” added Mr. Koziak.
Smer should obtain 42 seats out of the 150 in the parliament and will have therefore need coalition partners to obtain majority.
The left-wing Hlas-SD party, which emerged in 2020 when a group of Smer MPs left Mr Fico's party, is one of the potential partners, with 27 seats expected.
< p>Hlas is led by Peter Pellegrini, who became prime minister in 2018 after Mr Fico was forced to resign following nationwide protests that followed the murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée.
Mr. Kuciak revealed links between the Italian mafia and Fico's government in his last article published posthumously.
Two prime ministers
Mr. Pellegrini told the press that it was not a good idea to have two former prime ministers in the same government, but did not rule out a possible coalition.
The two parties could team up with the Slovak Nationalist Party (SNS), which is expected to win 10 seats, to obtain a parliamentary majority of 79 seats.
Mr Fico has twice already formed a government with the SNS, which is also opposed to military aid to Ukraine.
Slovakia has been one of the main European donors to Ukraine, as a proportion of its GDP.
Slovak Defense Minister Martin Sklenar visited Kiev just before the vote, and on election day Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky , thanked Slovakia for “standing by Ukraine.”
“We need to listen carefully to what Mr Fico says very openly,” independent analyst Grigorij Meseznikov told AFP. “He's spreading pro-Russian narratives and … it's a serious thing. It will not be easy to carry out his threat, but he will try, and then we will be closer to Hungary,” he added.
Hungary is considered a troublemaker within the EU, frequently criticized on rule of law issues and hampering EU and NATO efforts to help Ukraine.
The next Slovak parliament will also include the centrist OLaNO party of former Prime Minister Igor Matovic, serving in 2020-2021, which was involved in a fight with a Smer member during a heated campaign.
< p>OLaNO leads a three-party coalition expected to win 16 seats.
The centrist Christian Democrats and the right-wing SaS party also garnered enough votes to secure seats in parliament.
For Eliska Spisakova, who voted in Bratislava, Smer was “the natural choice of the working poor, people like me.”
“I have a high opinion of [Fico], he mainly focuses on the needs of Slovaks,” she told AFP.
The election campaign was marked by particularly high rates of online disinformation, often targeting progressive Slovakia's president, Michal Simecka, a vice-president of the European Parliament.
A study last year by think tank Globsec showed that a majority of Slovaks believed popular conspiracy theories.
Slovakia became independent in 1993, following a peaceful separation with the Czech Republic, after Czechoslovakia got rid of a four-decade communist regime in 1989.
Slovak President Zuzana Caputova told AFP this week that she would entrust the formation of the next government to the leader of the winning party, regardless of his “personal preference” as a former member of Progressive Slovakia.
Asked about the election result, Tomas Hrivnak, a 23-year-old student, said said he voted for progressive Slovakia.
“You can guess how disappointed I am,” he told AFP on Sunday morning.
“It’s not isn't the end of the world, but I thought Slovakia deserved a better government. I was wrong,” he added.