Contrary to initial forecasts, the left-wing national Social Democrats of former long-term head of government Robert Fico have won the parliamentary elections in Slovakia. After almost 99 percent of the electoral districts were counted, the opposition party “Towards – Slovak Social Democracy” (Smer-SSD) received 23.3 percent of the votes, according to the preliminary results of the State Election Commission in Bratislava from early Sunday morning. This put Fico’s party unassailably ahead of the liberal party “Progressive Slovakia” (PS).

The liberal party, which has not yet even been represented in parliament, was in second place with 17 percent. Voter turnout was provisionally 68 percent. Two post-election surveys published by TV stations on Saturday evening had seen PS narrowly ahead of Smer-SSD.

However, it will not be easy for Fico’s Smer party to form a coalition with a sufficient majority. The Smer-SD is expected to have 42 seats in the new parliament. Fico had announced before the election that he wanted to end arms aid, which was unpopular with the population, and only help Ukraine with civilian goods if he came back to power. Almost all other parties elected to parliament want to stick to it. The EU and NATO country Slovakia borders directly on Ukraine and has so far been one of the most determined political and military supporters of the neighboring country attacked by Russia.

In a heated election campaign, party leader Fico attacked the EU, NATO and the LGBTQ community. He also advocated for better relations with Russia.

Fico was head of government from 2006 to 2010 and from 2012 to 2018 and led Slovakia into the Schengen area in 2007 and the eurozone in 2009. After the murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova in 2018, the investigation uncovered large corruption networks in which high-ranking state officials were also involved. Fico was forced to resign under pressure from mass protests.

As a partner, Smer especially needs the more liberal Social Democrats that split off from her under former Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini, who achieved 15 percent and are expected to get 27 seats. This party, called “Voice – Social Democracy” (Hlas-SD), is a possible coalition partner for both Smer-SSD and PS.

Like Smer-SSD, Hlas-SD also advocates a strong welfare state. In contrast to Fico, Pellegrini is in favor of further military aid to Ukraine. In addition to these three strongest, three small parties that are in favor of arms aid to Ukraine, as well as the pro-Russian Slovak National Party SNS, came into parliament.

PS boss Michal Simecka was extremely cautious after the two forecasts were published. The results are hopeful, he told the TASR news agency. However, his party still painfully remembers that the election result in the last election was worse for his party than the forecasts, which is why he will accept the election result “with humility”. In the 2020 parliamentary election, the PS, which ran as an electoral alliance with another liberal party, narrowly missed the hurdle for entering parliament. There is a five percent threshold for individual parties, but an electoral alliance must reach over seven percent.

The election, which began on Saturday morning, ended late in the evening. Instead of 10 p.m. as planned, the last polling stations closed three quarters of an hour later. The reason for this were problems in individual polling stations where election commission members had health problems. According to the law, interruptions in voting must be compensated for by a corresponding extension of the voting time. In addition, there was a flood of misinformation during the election campaign, with experts blaming, among others, the election winner Smer-SD and its possible coalition partner SNS for the spread of anti-Ukrainian and pro-Russian misinformation.