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Slovakia: Presidential election proceeds to runoff

March 23, 2024

Peter Pellegrini, a favorite of PM Robert Fico, will face off against liberal ex-foreign minister Ivan Korcok in a runoff vote next month. The result could influence Slovakia's policy towards Ukraine.

Peter Pellegrini and Ivan Korcok pictured during a TV duel.
A runoff is expected between Pellegrini (l), who is favored by the government, and Korcok (r), the strongest opposition candidateImage: Vaclav Salek/CTK/picture alliance

Polls closed in the first round of Slovakia's presidential election on Saturday, with the country headed for a runoff.

The final round of voting will pit the Russia-leaning ruling camp, represented by Peter Pellegrini, against pro-Ukraine candidate and ex-foreign minister Ivan Korcok.

Korcok attracted 42.5% of the vote on Saturday. Pellegrini emerged with 37% of the vote, final results showed.

Sitting president chooses not to run again

Slovaks are electing a successor to Zuzana Caputova, the country's first female president, after she decided not to seek a second term.

The outgoing president, who has sued the country's Prime Minister Robert Fico for labeling her a traitor, says she does not have the energy to stay on for another five years, citing threats against her family amid a turbulent period in Slovakian politics.

Caputova said she hoped her successor would "represent our country abroad well."

The presidential post is widely seen as ceremonial, with executive power resting on the prime minister's shoulders. Nine candidates are vying for the role of Slovakia's sixth head of state since it became independent in 1993.

A woman in Slovakia's Trebiov casts her ballot
Slovakia is a member of NATO and the EUImage: Roman Hanc/TASR/dpa/picture alliance

Pellegrini and Korcok lead the field

Backed by Prime Minister Fico, Pellegrini was considered the favorite to become Slovakia's next president. However, it was Korcok who led the field after the first round of voting on Saturday.

Fico has previously questioned Ukraine's sovereignty.

After casting his ballot, Pellegrini said Slovakia would stay anchored in the European Union and NATO after the election, despite Fico's remarks.

"Even if we talk about a more sovereign foreign policy this does not mean that the course of Slovakia's foreign policy should change," Pellegrini said.

Slovakia: Protests against the government

Ex-Foreign Minister Korcok, who is staunchly pro-Ukraine like outgoing Caputova, also spoke to the media after casting his ballot.

"People know what I stand for. Now it is up to them to go and vote," he said.

rmt, jsi/dj (AP, AFP, Reuters)