After counting 99.8 percent of the ballot papers, Pellegrini received a vote share of 53.20 percent, according to figures from the Slovakian statistics office on Sunday night. The voter turnout in the country of 5.4 million inhabitants was 61 percent. According to preliminary information, Korcok was defeated in Saturday’s vote with 46.80 percent of the vote. Experts had expected an even closer race.

“I congratulate the election winner Peter Pellegrini,” Korcok told his supporters. At the same time, he criticized the election campaign as “not transparent”. “It has been proven that it is possible to become president of the Slovak Republic by spreading hate,” the losing candidate criticized his opponent. “The election campaign can also be won by making me a war candidate.”

The Russia-friendly head of government Robert Fico, who is an ally of Pellegrini, criticized Korcok as a “warmonger” in a video before the runoff election because of his stance on the Ukraine war. The Prime Minister, however, praised Pellegrini as a “moderate candidate who recognizes the value of peace.”

With regard to Pellegrini’s alliance with Fico, Korcok urged that the new president “will be independent and that he will act according to his own convictions and not under orders.”

Pellegrini described his election victory as “great satisfaction.” “I want to be a president who represents the national interests of Slovakia,” he told his supporters.

Fico’s Smer-SD party, Pellegrini’s Hlas-SD party and the small right-wing extremist group SNS have been in government since October. The coalition has suspended military aid to Ukraine.

The Ukraine course was an important election campaign issue. Pellegrini told AFP ahead of the runoff that Slovak politicians were divided on whether the war in Ukraine should continue or it was time for peace talks. “I belong to the latter,” he added. His ally Fico even questioned Ukraine’s sovereignty.

Pellegrini had already held ministerial positions in previous governments under Fico’s leadership. In 2018, after Fico resigned as a result of the murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his ban, Pellegrini replaced him as head of government and held the office until 2020.

Korcok, a staunch supporter of Ukraine, which borders Slovakia, ran as an independent candidate. However, the 60-year-old was supported by the opposition parties. Incumbent liberal President Zuzana Caputova, a Ukraine supporter like Korcok, did not run again.

In the first round of voting at the end of March, Korcok was ahead with 42 percent of the vote, while Pellegrini got around 37 percent. Stefan Harabin, who like Pellegrini represented a pro-Russian course, came third with twelve percent of the vote.

When he cast his vote in the second round of elections on Saturday, Pellegrini assured that the vote was “not about the future direction of foreign policy.” Slovakia will continue to be a “strong member of the EU and NATO,” said the 48-year-old, who, in addition to his native language, also speaks German, English and Russian.

In Slovakia’s political system, the president ratifies international treaties, appoints high-ranking judges and is commander in chief of the armed forces. He can also veto laws passed by Parliament. Pellegrini’s swearing-in ceremony is scheduled for June 15.