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Slovaks elect their president in a close vote, with Ukraine in the background

The Slovaks choose their president on Saturday between the pro-Western diplomat Ivan Korcok and the President of Parliament Peter Pellegrini, close to the government which has ceased to exist. any military aid à Ukraine, in a close vote which could determine the country's position vis-à-vis Russia.

According to the latest polls, the two candidates are neck and neck to replace the liberal Zuzana Caputova.

Mr. Pellegrini, aged 48, is credited with 51% of voting intentions, compared to 49% for Mr. Korcok, 60, a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, according to the Focus institute.

After voting with his wife, Mr Korcok called on Slovaks to “come and vote”, adding that the election was about “the future of the country”.

” I want to be at the beginning of the process that will improve the life of the country,” he declared from his town of Senec, in the west of the country.

Calling for unity and recognizing that the vote risked being “extremely close”, Mr. Pellegrini for his part assured that the country would continue with him to be “a strong member” of the EU and the NATO.

Slovaks elect their president in a close vote, with Ukraine in the background

Slovak presidential candidate Ivan Korcok during a campaign rally on April 3, 2024 in Bratislava © AFP – TOMAS BENEDIKOVIC

According to Vaclav Hrich, general director of the AKO polling institute, “this is the closest presidential race ever” in Slovakia.

The result will therefore depend on the carryover of the votes of the eliminated candidates.

Coming third in the first round with 12% of the vote, the anti-European and pro-Russian Stefan Harabin did not support any of the candidates.

But according to an AKO poll, more than two-thirds of its voters intend to support Mr. Pellegrini.

The participation rate could also play a role.

“The more voters there are, the more likely Peter Pellegrini will be to win, because this would mean that he has succeeded in convincing the voters of Harabin”, said Mr. Hrich.

– “Protect Slovakia” –

Slovaks unable to vote in Abroad, Jana Kapustova returned from the United Kingdom to support Mr. Korcok.

“He is the guarantor of the pursuit of a democratic and pro-European policy,” this 60-year-old civil servant told AFP.

Management consultant Ivan Hriczko, 43, opted for Pellegrini.

This resident of Kosice (east) highlighted his candidate's “decency, rhetoric, behavior, hard work and services rendered to the country”.

Slovaks elect their president in a close vote, with Ukraine in the background

Slovakia presidential candidate Peter Pellegrini speaks to journalists on March 23, 2024 in Bratislava © AFP – VLADIMIR SIMICEK

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has become one of the key elements of the electoral campaign in this country of 5.4 million inhabitants, particularly since populist Prime Minister Robert Fico, an ally of Mr. Pellegrini, handed over questioned Kiev's sovereignty and called for peace with Moscow.

Mr. Pellegrini was a minister in Mr. Fico's previous governments and even replaced him at the head of government in 2018.

“I am running for president to save the government,” the candidate said during a televised debate with Mr. Korcok.

“You want to protect the government. I want to protect Slovakia,” replied his rival.

In place since October, the government composed of the Smer-SD party of Mr. Fico, the Hlas-SD party of Mr. Pellegrini and the small far-right party SNS, cut off military aid to Ukraine.

“Ivan Korcok is a warmonger who will unhesitatingly support whatever the West tells him, including dragging Slovakia into war,” Mr. Fico accused in a video.

“If Pellegrini wins, Slovakia could follow the 'Orban path',” said analyst Tomas Koziaka, referring to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who favors Kremlin.

– Counterweight to the government –

Mr. Korcok, a virulent critic of the government, supported by the opposition, is for his part resolutely pro-Ukraine.

“I do not think that Ukraine should renounce a part of its territory to achieve peace”, he declared to AFP.

Pavol Turanec, a voter from Martin (north) chose M . Korcok who is “a real pro: pro-democratic, pro-Western, pro-European”.

“His values ​​do not change depending on the polls,” this 50-year-old man told AFP.

“This criminal government is leading us towards a pro-Russian autocracy, devastating the justice system and public finances. They really need a counterweight,” he said. -he adds.

Jana Mozolova, a 66-year-old retired teacher from Kosice, voted for Mr Pellegrini.

“He’s been there for years and has never disappointed anyone,” she said.

Provisional results are expected around midnight.

Although his function is essentially honorary, the president ratifies the international treaties, appoints the main judges and is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He can also veto laws passed by Parliament.

All rights of reproduction and representation reserved. © (2024) Agence France-Presse

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116