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Presidency: Election campaign ends disappointingly in Slovakia

Presidency: Election campaign ends disappointingly in Slovakia

After another incident with the bear, Pellegrini announced on Thursday evening that he would set a date for a special session of Parliament on Tuesday. “The state must protect the lives and health of people first and only then the lives of predators,” Pellegrini told the news agency.

A forestry worker fell down a steep slope this week after an encounter with a brown bear, sustaining multiple broken bones. Over the weekend, a mushroom picker, a hiker and then a hunter were attacked by bears and injured. In mid-March, a bear that strayed into the urban area of ​​the small town of Liptovsky Mikulas injured five people. According to official statistics, there are about 1,100 to 1,200 wild bears in Slovakia.

Runoff round in the presidential elections

On Saturday, a decision will be made in Slovakia on who will be the country's president for the next five years. In the runoff election, the 60-year-old former bourgeois foreign minister Ivan Korcok and the 49-year-old left-liberal parliament speaker Peter Pellegrini face each other.

All stops are pulled out

Recently, there have been calls to reduce their numbers through targeted shootings, and Pellegrini has now jumped on the bandwagon. This is not surprising to observers: given the narrowness of their position at the beginning, both candidates are trying to exploit all possibilities at the last minute. More recently, Pellegrini has wooed voters from the Hungarian minority in southern Slovakia, as well as voters from nationalist candidates who failed in the first round of voting.

There is a deep division between Slovak politics and society – especially after the autumn parliamentary elections, in which populist Robert Fico and his Smir party returned to power despite all the scandals – thanks to the support of Pellegrini and his Hlas party, the third most powerful kingmaker. He was.

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“Guard dog” or Vico's outstretched arm?

Since then, Fico – like Viktor Orbán in Hungary – has followed a Russia-friendly and EU-critical path, which is particularly reflected in the issue of Ukrainian politics. Although Pellegrini has repeatedly emphasized his loyalty to NATO and the European Union, he – like Fico – refuses to hand over weapons to Ukraine. Therefore, the progressive liberal opposition fears that he will become an extension of the Prime Minister in the presidential palace.

Reuters/Radovan Stoklasa

Pellegrini has been very popular in recent years

But Pellegrini's role is not so simple: with Halas entering the coalition with Fico, Pellegrini, who himself became politically important in SMER and broke with his party in 2020, becomes a “watchdog” and guarantor. From the pro-European path that the government sees. But he was unable to fulfill this promise – with consequences: in March, the neighboring Czech Republic decided to cancel scheduled intergovernmental consultations with the Slovak government over its policy toward Russia.

Korcok surprisingly took the lead in the first round of the election

On the contrary, Samir and the third coalition partner, the right-wing populist pro-Russian Slovak National Party, barely supported Pellegrini in the election campaign; The latter was considered too liberal. Just this week, FICO and SNS president Andrei Danko stepped out for a photo shoot with Pellegrini.

The 48-year-old has some catching up to do: in the first round of voting two weeks ago, he surprisingly trailed Korcok by 5.5 percentage points. The former diplomat was, among other things, ambassador to the United States and Germany and foreign minister from 2020 to 2022. But it was the election campaign that helped the 59-year-old achieve a significant increase in awareness and popularity. Although Korcok is running as an independent, he has the support of opposition parties – especially the Progressive Slovakia Party, which was founded by outgoing president Zuzana Caputová.

Slovak presidential candidate Ivan Korcok

Reuters/Radovan Stoklasa

Korcok is clearly a liberal, pro-European career diplomat

The protests demonstrated the potential for mobilization

The large protests against Fico's government since December have shown the potential for massive mobilization among the dissatisfied – and this is exactly what Korcok has been able to capitalize on. “You can't have it all!” was his election slogan. He warns of the concentration of power in the hands of Fico's coalition if it can also provide the president. Korcok's mobilization appears to be successful: his supporters are shaping the cityscape in many places in Slovakia by organizing rallies ahead of the election runoff. In any case, a lot of excitement, and perhaps excitement, can be expected for the night elections: 4.33 million Slovaks can cast their votes until 10 p.m.