Slovakia votes for president amid deep split over Ukraine war

Slovakians began voting on Saturday in the first round of a presidential election pitting the Russia-leaning ruling camp against a pro-Ukraine candidate.

Parliament speaker Peter Pellegrini and liberal ex-foreign minister Ivan Korcok, who is backed by the opposition, are the clear frontrunners among nine contenders.

Though the office is largely ceremonial, Slovakia's president ratifies international treaties, appoints top judges and is commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

The head of state can also veto laws passed by parliament.

Pellegrini is backed by populist Prime Minister Robert Fico, who has questioned Ukraine's sovereignty amongst a list of inflammatory comments over Russia's invasion.

Korcok is staunchly pro-Ukraine like outgoing president Zuzana Caputova, a government critic who chose not to seek a second term.

Latest opinion polls have suggested a tight race for the presidency of the NATO and EU member of 5.4 million people.

An Ipsos agency survey indicated that Pellegrini, a former prime minister, would garner 37 percent of the vote, while Korcok would bag 36 percent.

An April 6 runoff is likely. Polling closes at 2100 GMT on Saturday.

Divided over Ukraine

"In the case of Korcok, the pro-Western orientation is absolutely obvious. His attitude towards Russia would be uncompromising," Koziak said.

Read more on FRANCE 24 English

Read also:
Is the EU at a turning point? Populists back in Slovakia, liberals return in Poland
Slovakia's new populist PM announces halt of military aid to Ukraine
Slovakia’s Fico signs coalition deal with far-right party