The populist Smer-SD party returned to the top of the legislative vote in Slovakia, contrary to the results of two exit polls which gave victory to the centrists of Progressive Slovakia (PS), after the counting of more than 90% of the votes. voice.
This election in this country of 5.4 million inhabitants, a member of the EU and NATO, is considered decisive in knowing whether the country can stay on its pro-Western momentum or turn more towards Russia.
Under these new results, the Smer-SD of former Prime Minister Robert Fico enjoys support from 23.7% of voters. The populist party had promised to stop aid to neighboring Ukraine.
Progressive Slovakia (PS) received only 15.68% of the vote but could still rise slightly towards the end of the count because it is more popular in big cities where the calculation of ballots takes longer.
The party led by Michal Simecka, vice-president of the European Parliament, was predicted to be the winner in two exit polls published on Saturday, but ultimately the Smer-SD came back into the lead during the counting.
The final results are expected Sunday morning.
The campaign was marked by particularly high rates of misinformation online.
During a heated electoral campaign which gave rise to several brawls between candidates, Mr. Fico attacked the EU and NATO as well as the LGBTQ minority.
He also opposed any additional military aid to Ukraine as it fights the Russian invasion.
Mr. Fico voted in a village northeast of Bratislava, accompanied by his mother.
“Talking to my mother, I find that she has a lot of experience and common sense, and of course, she makes the best schnitzels,” Mr. Fico said in a video posted on Facebook.
He stressed that he wanted a Slovakia without “amateurs and inexperienced blunderers who lead us into adventures such as immigration and war”.
“And I would like the schnitzels in Slovakia to be bigger and bigger and not smaller and smaller,” he added.
While casting his ballot in Bratislava, Mr Simecka said he would “accept the result of the election with humility”.
The winner of the election will need help from smaller parties to form a majority coalition in the 150-seat parliament.
The new government will replace that of the center-right coalition in power since 2020, which has changed three times in three years and which has provided considerable military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
Slovak President Zuzana Caputova said she would task the winner of the election with forming the next cabinet.
The choice of coalition partners includes seven parties, according to the poll, entered Parliament.
In addition to the two winners, they are Hlas-SD (15.43%), led by Peter Pellegrini, former vice-president of Smer-SD and successor to Mr. Fico as head of government in 2018, Olano ( 9.34%, center), the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH, 7.14%), Freedom and Solidarity (SaS, liberal, 5.64%) and the Slovak National Party (SNS, 5.8%), according to partial results.
Hlas-SD was born in 2020 from a split within Smer that occurred two years after Mr. Fico’s departure from the post of prime minister following the murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée.
Mr. Kuciak revealed the existence of links between the Italian mafia and the Fico government in his last article published posthumously.
Slovakia became independent in 1993, following a peaceful separation from the Czech Republic, after Czechoslovakia shook off four decades of communist rule in 1989.