Slovakia’s populist government ally, Peter Pellegrini, won Saturday’s (April 6) presidential election, according to a 99% count of ballots.

Mr Pellegrini received 53.55% of the vote compared to 46.44% for pro-EU diplomat Ivan Korcok, according to figures published by the Slovak Statistical Office.

Mr. Korcok admitted defeat and congratulated his opponent. “I would like to congratulate the winner of the election, Peter Pellegrini,” this former foreign minister told the press and his supporters.

He also expressed his hope that “Peter Pellegrini will be independent and that he will act according to his own convictions and without orders”, clearly alluding to the alliance between the future president and the head of government Robert Fico. He also criticized his opponent for “a non-transparent campaign.” “It turns out that it is possible to become president of the Slovak Republic by spreading hatred,” he said.

Although his powers are limited, the president ratifies international treaties, appoints key judges, and is commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He can also veto laws passed by parliament.

An ally of the populist government favorable to Russia

Former Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini is a car lover, a licensed airplane pilot and an ally of the populist, pro-Russia government.

Supported by Prime Minister Robert Fico, the 48-year-old outgoing speaker of parliament pledged during his election campaign to “unite a divided Slovakia,” saying the country needed “serenity.”

According to him, “the Slovak political scene is divided between those who are in favor of continuing the war [between Russia and Ukraine] at all costs, and those who demand the opening of peace negotiations.” “I belong to the latter category,” he told Agence France-Presse before the election.

An economist by training, he joined Mr. Fico’s populist Smer-SD party and was part of his ally’s previous governments, before succeeding him as prime minister. In 2020, Pellegrini founded his own party, Hlas-SD.

Coming third in last year’s legislative elections, his party is a member, with Smer-SD and the far-right SNS, of the ruling coalition.

He will officially become the sixth Slovak president on June 15, 2024.