Peter Pellegrini to be Slovakia’s President as ex-Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok concedes defeat

Mr. Pellegrini, 48, who favors a strong role for the State, heads the left-wing Hlas (Voice) party that finished third in the vote and joined a governing coalition with Mr. Fico and the ultranationalist Slovak National Party

Published - April 07, 2024 04:11 am IST - BRATISLAVA, Slovakia

Slovakia’s presidential candidate Peter Pellegrini gestures at his headquarters on the day the results of the country’s presidential election are announced, in Bratislava, Slovakia, April 7, 2024.

Slovakia’s presidential candidate Peter Pellegrini gestures at his headquarters on the day the results of the country’s presidential election are announced, in Bratislava, Slovakia, April 7, 2024. | Photo Credit: REUTERS

A close ally of populist Prime Minister Robert Fico beat a pro-Western career diplomat to become Slovakia’s new President, and succeed Zuzana Čaputová, the country’s first female head of State.

Parliamentary Speaker Peter Pellegrini received 53.85% of the vote with the ballots from over 98% polling stations counted by the Statistics Office in Saturday’s runoff election, topping former Foreign Minister Ivan Korčok who had 46.14%.

Mr. Korčok conceded the defeat and congratulated the winner.

“I’m disappointed,” he said.

Mr. Pellegrini becomes Slovakia’s sixth President since the country gained independence after the split of Czechoslovakia in 1993.

Mr. Čaputová, a staunch backer of neighboring Ukraine in its fight against Russia’s invasion, didn’t seek a second term in the largely ceremonial post.

Mr. Pellegrini’s victory cemented Mr. Fico’s grip on power by giving him and his allies control of major strategic posts.

The President of the nation of 5.4 million people picks the Prime Minister after parliamentary elections, swears in the new government and appoints Constitutional Court judges. The President can also veto laws, though Parliament can override the veto with a simple majority, and challenge them at the Constitutional Court. The head of State also has the right to pardon convicts.

The government, led by the Prime Minister, possesses most executive powers.

Mr. Fico’s leftist Smer (Direction) party won Sept. 30 parliamentary elections on a pro-Russian and anti-American platform.

Mr. Pellegrini, 48, who favors a strong role for the State, heads the left-wing Hlas (Voice) party that finished third in the vote and joined a governing coalition with Mr. Fico and the ultranationalist Slovak National Party.

Critics worry Slovakia under Mr. Fico will abandon its pro-Western course and follow the direction of Hungary under populist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

The new government immediately halted any arms deliveries to Ukraine. Thousands have repeatedly taken to the streets across Slovakia recently to rally against Mr. Fico’s pro-Russian and other policies, including plans to amend the penal code and take control of the public media.

Mr. Korčok was critical of the government’s moves that the protesters fear could undermine the rule of law while Mr. Pellegrini backed the new government and didn’t question its policies.

Mr. Korčok is the former ambassador to the United States and Germany, who also served as the country’s envoy to NATO and the European Union. He firmly supports Slovakia’s EU and NATO memberships.

Mr. Pellegrini, who was Mr. Fico’s former Deputy in Smer, became Prime Minister in 2018, after Mr. Fico was forced to resign following major anti-government street protests over the killing of journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancee.

Mr. Pellegrini had temporarily parted ways with Mr. Fico after the scandal-tainted Smer lost the previous election in 2020.

With Mr. Pellegrini’s win, Mr. Fico rebounded from two straight presidential election losses. Mr. Fico was defeated at the presidential vote by Andrej Kiska 10 years ago while Čaputová claimed victory over a candidate he supported in the 2019 ballot.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.