June 23. 2024. 1:42

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Former PM Fico’s party leads polls ahead of September election

The Smer-SD party of former prime minister Robert Fico has been leading opinion polls since March for the first time in years, and is followed by the Hlas-SD party belonging to former Smer-SD member Peter Pellegrini.

According to the most recent poll conducted by the NMS agency, Fico’s party recorded over 22.4% in support, while Hlas ranked second with 14.2%.

In the last four consecutive opinion polls that were conducted in April and March, Smer-SD was in the lead, with the party increasing in popularity, while Hlas, the strongest party in polls for more than a year since it was founded by Peter Pellegrini, saw a steady decline. In March, opinion polls started showing the rise of Smer-SD.

The last time Smer-SD had such numbers was before the murder of journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová, which forced Fico to step down.

According to experts, Smer is managing to sway voters mainly because of its aggressive communication over the years through which it continuously questioned investigations levelled against the party when it was in government. Experts also point to the party’s successful use of pro-Russian and anti-Ukrainian slogans and the emphasis on social issues.

In recent months, Fico has been building his popularity by propelling an anti-vaccine agenda during the pandemic and having a NATO-sceptic rhetoric. He also engaged in aggressive politics against President Zuzana Čaputová, repeatedly calling her an American agent.

In July, the Ukrainian Centre for Countering Disinformation placed Fico on its list of pro-Russian propagandists. Meanwhile, Pellegrini tried to distance himself from Fico, for example, by meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz or quietly supporting the government’s stance on Ukraine aid.

The delivery of MiG-29 fighters to Ukraine that was approved by the acting government of Eduard Heger played a key role in voters switching camps, according to Focus Agency Director Martin Slosiarik.

While Smer-SD strongly denounced the delivery, Hlas was silent, trying not to anger any voters. “Expectations of Hlas voters were probably different,” Slosiarik said. “Fico seemed more authentic to them, while the position of Hlas could be interpreted more as an agreement with the position of the ruling parties,” he added.

The liberal Progressive Slovakia party came third in the polls with around 12% support.

Snap elections are planned for 30 September.

(Michal Hudec | EURACTIV.sk)