Slovakia: opposition candidate Korčok next president?

In a surprise development, the non-aligned former foreign minister Ivan Korčok has won the first round of the Slovakian presidential election with 42.5 percent of the vote. Prior to the vote most polls had put parliamentary speaker Peter Pellegrini (37 percent), coalition partner of controversial prime minister Robert Fico, in the lead. The two now face a second round of voting. Commentators within the country and abroad stress the importance of the choice the Slovaks now face.

Denník N (SK) /

This country is more than Fico

Denník N breathes a sigh of relief:

“Depression and hopelessness spread after the parliamentary elections in which Robert Fico won and formed a government with Peter Pellegrini. ... Many people who see Slovakia as free, democratic and part of the West had the feeling that defeat would mean the end and that Fico would rule here for years to come. ... Korčok’s victory is proof that it doesn’t have to be that way. ... The most important message of the first round is quite simple: Slovakia is not Fico. There are still many people who don’t want him to drag us towards Russia in order to control the media, intimidate free people, rape the judiciary and give his henchmen amnesty.”

Matúš Kostolný
Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

PM unwittingly helped Korčok

The prime minister’s drastic course has frightened the Slovaks, says Hospodářské noviny, explaining the result:

“There is no doubt that Korčok has been greatly helped by the way Prime Minister Fico’s government has been pushing hard to change the laws surrounding the General Prosecutor’s Office and the police, how it is unscrupulously trying to control public space and restrict NGOs and independent media, and how it has radically reoriented the country’s foreign policy towards the east. The growing number of enquiries from Slovakian experts in fields such as culture or the media about the possibility of finding a job in the Czech Republic shows just how bad things are.”

Martin Ehl
Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Democracy at stake here

The Süddeutsche Zeitung also sees the election result as a stop sign for Prime Minister Fico:

“It shows that even some of the government’s supporters don’t want Fico to have a completely free hand. After all, he is set to become the EU’s next threat to the rule of law and put the country’s EU funding at risk. As with so many elections in western, democratic countries, in Slovakia, with its 5.4 million inhabitants, it is no longer just a question of whether a candidate is conservative or progressive, a little more Catholic or a little more secular. It’s about preserving the democratic system.”

Viktoria Grossmann
Obosrewatel (UA) /

Korčok as a vital counterweight

Obozrevatel hopes that the winner of the first round of voting will also prevail in the run-off:

“Why are these elections important, also for the West and Ukraine? It’s about whether Fico’s team manages to win the third key post in the country, the presidency. After the parliamentary elections last autumn, there was a political upheaval in Slovakia. Despite the rather symbolic importance of the presidency, it would now be at least a partial equaliser if the pro-Western candidate Korčok, who is in opposition to Fico’s team, were to win it.”

Dmytro Tuschanskyj