At the weekend, neighbouring Slovakia elected a new president, political newcomer Andrej Kiska, who defeated Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico by 20 percent of the vote. Czech politicians, including Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, congratulated Mr Kiska, saying they looked forward to meeting with the new head of state. As tradition dictates, Kiska’s first official foreign visit trip will be to Prague.
Two years ago, Slovak businessman and philanthropist Andrej Kiska was politically unknown: now he will be Slovakia’s next head-of-state. Mr Kiska will succeed outgoing President Ivan Gašparovič on June 15th, after he soundly defeated Robert Fico in the election run-off on the promise he would serve as a counterweight to Slovakia’s one-party cabinet, he would return trust to the office of the president and that he would act as a voice of the people.
In the Czech Republic, the result is being seen as noteworthy, including by Petr Fiala, the head of the opposition Civic Democrats.
“I think that the elections showed that voters wanted to elect a counterweight to Prime Minister Robert Fico who was dominant on the Slovak political scene.”
Czech politician Tomio Okamura, of the upstart Dawn party, called it an example of how direct elections worked (in which an underdog could topple a dominant politician) while Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said the result confirmed the strength of Slovak democracy. Czech President Miloš Zeman, who supported the second-place Mr Fico against the newcomer, issued a statement through his spokesman, saying that he respected the results and would be sending congratulations shortly.
Others, such as former Czech foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg, suggested the election outcome in Slovakia showed that voters there wanted something different from the status quo.
“People really are fed up with politics and politicians at this time.”
It is not expected that the Slovak president-elect will take any steps which would change the course in Czech-Slovak relations, fostered both by Mr Fico and Mr Gašparovič until now – broadly recognised as excellent. Indeed, if anything, Mr Kiska will strive early to reinforce strong ties, already confirming that his first official abroad will be to the Czech Republic, as dictated by a tradition formed over the last 20 years. Mr Kiska told public broadcaster Czech TV he was looking forward to meeting with his Czech counterpart; he shrugged off the suggestion Mr Zeman’s support for his rival, Robert Fico (a natural politically ally) could present a problem. He replied ‘Definitely not’ and said he was looking forward to Prague.