BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia’s president swore in a brand new authorities Wednesday, led by a former populist prime minister poised to finish the nation’s army assist for Ukraine because it fights Russia’s invasion.
Robert Fico returned to energy and took over as prime minister for the fourth time after his leftist Smer, or Route, get together received Slovakia’s Sept 30 parliamentary election.
The get together received 42 seats within the 150-seat Parliament after campaigning on a pro-Russian and anti-American platform.
Fico fashioned a parliamentary majority by signing a coalition authorities cope with the leftist Hlas, or Voice, get together and the ultranationalist Slovak Nationwide Occasion.
Hlas, led by Fico’s former deputy in Smer, Peter Pellegrini, gained 27 seats. Pellegrini parted methods with Fico after the scandal-tainted Smer misplaced the earlier election in 2020.
Pellegrini changed Fico as prime minister after he was compelled to resign following main anti-government avenue protests ensuing from the 2018 killing of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée.
The reunion of Fico and Pellegrini was key for the creation of the brand new authorities. The third accomplice, the Slovak Nationwide Occasion, is a transparent pro-Russian group; it received 10 seats within the legislature.
Fico’s victory might mark a dramatic turnaround within the nation’s overseas coverage and will pressure a fragile unity within the European Union and NATO.
Fico could have the primary likelihood to current his views at a two-day summit of EU leaders in Brussels that opens on Thursday.
Slovakia, a rustic of 5.5 million folks, has till now been a staunch supporter of Ukraine since Russia invaded in February final yr, donating arms and opening the borders for refugees fleeing the struggle.
When he served as prime minister in 2006-2010 and once more in 2012-2018 Fico had a profession diplomat within the publish of overseas minister.
This time, he opted for his loyalist and deputy in Smer, Juraj Blanar, who beforehand served as the pinnacle of a regional authorities however has no expertise in diplomacy.
Fico vowed to pursue a “sovereign” overseas coverage.
He opposes EU sanctions on Russia, questions whether or not Ukraine can drive out the invading Russian troops and needs to dam Ukraine from becoming a member of NATO. He has proposed that as an alternative of sending arms to Kyiv, the EU and america ought to use their affect to drive Russia and Ukraine to strike a compromise peace deal.
Fico has repeated Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claims that the Ukrainian authorities runs a Nazi state from which ethnic Russians within the nation’s east wanted safety.
The brand new authorities is but to launch its coverage program however Fico already prompt it would embrace a troublesome stance in opposition to migration and non-governmental organizations that obtain funding from overseas.
Plenty of the brand new ministers have been linked with disinformation campaigns or are identified for spreading false information, together with Tradition Minister Martina Simkovicova, nominated by the Slovak Nationwide Occasion.
Because the earlier authorities took energy in 2020 after campaigning on an anti-corruption ticket, dozens of senior officers, cops, judges, prosecutors, politicians and businesspeople linked to Smer have been charged and convicted of corruption and different crimes.
Fico himself and his former Inside Minister Robert Kalinak confronted felony expenses final yr for making a felony group and misuse of energy. Kalinak is the protection minister within the new authorities.
Identified for his tirades in opposition to journalists, Fico campaigned in opposition to immigration and LGBTQ+ rights and threatened to dismiss investigators from the Nationwide Legal Company and the particular prosecutor who offers with essentially the most severe crimes and corruption.
Fico’s critics fear that his return to energy may lead Slovakia to desert its course in different methods, following the trail of Hungary below Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
Moreover the publish of prime minister, Fico’s Smer has six different Cupboard ministers. Hlas will get seven whereas the Slovak Nationwide Occasion has three.