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Slovak Prime Minister Starts New Pro-Western Party for Sept Election

(Reuters) – Slovak caretaker Prime Minister Eduard Heger launched a new pro-Western, liberal centrist party named the Democrats on Tuesday to run in a September election called after his coalition fell from power last year.

Heger, 46, is splitting from the OLANO movement set up by his predecessor Igor Matovic, whose rifts with coalition partners led to the fall of the centre-right administration.

The election outcome is highly uncertain in Slovakia’s fragmented political scene, with the main dividing line running between pro-Western forces including the current government and a more pro-Russian stance by the extreme right and the Smer party of former prime minister Robert Fico who wants to end support for Ukraine.

Heger said pro-Western democratic values ​​and aid to neighboring Ukraine were the cornerstones of his agenda.

“We want Slovakia to be a clear and reliable part of the democratic and free world, self-confident and responsible ally,” Heger told a news conference.

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“We want to help Ukraine on the path to its desired victory and peace,” he said. “We don’t want Putin’s army on our borders.”

Setting himself apart from conservative rivals, Heger said he wanted a country where “every citizen feels safe regardless of race, gender, faith, nationality or sexual orientation.”

Heger said he would not cooperate with far-right nationalists, like Fico’s Smer (Direction) nor the Hlas (Voice) party, which itself split from Smer on a more pro-Western platform and now leads opinion polls.

Smer has been second in recent polls, raising the possibility it could in some form return to power which it held in 2006–2010 and 2012–2020. Fico was forced to resign in favor of Pellegrini after the murder of an investigative journalist in 2018 sparked mass protests against public graft and clientelism.

The refusal to work with Hlas, which Heger said had too much legacy of Smer, indicates it may be very difficult to form a western-leaning government after the September polls.

Four ministers from the current government, including Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad, have joined Heger’s new outfit.

Under Heger’s leadership, Slovakia shipped military equipment to Ukraine including the S-300 air defense system, and allowed hundreds of thousands of refugees across the border after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine started in February 2024.

(Reporting by Jan Lopatka in Prague, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters,


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