BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — Voters in Slovakia headed to the poll stations Saturday to elect a successor to Zuzana Čaputová,…

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — Voters in Slovakia headed to the poll stations Saturday to elect a successor to Zuzana Čaputová, the nation’s first feminine president and a staunch backer of neighboring Ukraine in its struggle towards Russia’s full-scale invasion, who isn’t seeking a second term.

Former Foreign Minister Ivan Korčok won the first round of voting two weeks in the past after receiving 42.5% of the votes. The pro-Western profession diplomat faces Peper Pellegrini, who completed second with 37%, for the largely ceremonial submit.

Pellegrini is an in depth ally of populist Prime Minister Robert Fico identified for his pro-Russian insurance policies.

The two superior to Saturday’s runoff after not one of the 9 male candidates received an outright majority within the first spherical. Polls had predicted a good race within the nation of 5.4 million.

Before serving because the international minister in 2020-2022, Korčok, 60, served because the ambassador to the United States and Germany. He was additionally the nation’s envoy to NATO and the European Union.

Korčok firmly helps Slovakia’s EU and NATO memberships.

“It’s a second when the individuals have all of it of their palms,” Korčok mentioned after voting in Senec, close to the capital of Bratislava. “It’s a second after we, politicians, need to pay attention rigorously.”

Meanwhile, Pellegrini, 48, heads the left-wing Hlas (Voice) occasion — that completed third in parliamentary elections last yr — and favors a robust function for the state. His occasion joined a governing coalition with Fico’s leftist Smer (Direction) occasion and the ultranationalist Slovak National Party.

Fico’s authorities, upon coming to energy in September, instantly halted arms deliveries to Ukraine, prompting nationwide protests towards its pro-Russian stance and several other different insurance policies.

Pellegrini at present serves as Parliament speaker and his victory would cement Fico’s energy by giving him and his allies management of strategic posts.

Critics fear Slovakia below Fico will abandon its pro-Western course and comply with the route of Hungary below populist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Polls will shut at 2000 GMT and outcomes are anticipated late Saturday or early Sunday.

The winner will turn out to be the nation’s sixth head of state since Slovakia gained independence in 1993 after Czechoslovakia cut up in two.

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