Slovakia has elected an anti-corruption party following outrage over the high-profile murder of an investigative journalist, dispelling fears of a neo-fascist surge in the eastern European country.
Voters on Saturday delivered a victory to the center-right Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OLaNO) party, which had campaigned on an anti-corruption platform, and took more than 25% of the total vote.
It spells the end of the rule of incumbent Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini’s ruling center-left Smer party. Smer had been in power for over a decade but came under fire following the 2018 murder of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova.
The young couple were shot dead after Kuciak reported on tax evasion and fraud among Slovak businesspeople connected to Smer.
The killings prompted some of Slovakia’s biggest anti-government protests since the communist era. Then-Prime Minister Robert Fico was forced to resign, although his Smer party stayed in power.
Following Saturday’s election results, OLaNO leader Igor Matovic said: “We take the result as a request from people who want us to clean up Slovakia,” Reuters reported.
“To make Slovakia a just country, where the law applies to everybody regardless if he is rich or poor,” he added.
Smer took second place with 18.29% of the vote.
Far-right fails to make gains
Opinion polls leading up to the election had suggested a neo-fascist party, whose leader is on trial for hate speech, would be a decisive factor in forming the country’s next government.
But the People’s Party Our Slovakia, known simply as Kotlebovci after its leader Marian Kotleba, was well behind in fourth place with just under 8% of the vote.
The extremist, far-right party group is openly, and vocally, anti-migrant, anti-Roma, anti-LGBTQ, anti-Israel, anti-European Union and anti-NATO.
Meanwhile OLaNO’s leader, Matovic, is now set to contact Slovakia’s other center-right parties in the hope of forming a ruling coalition with a 90-seat majority in the 150-seat parliament, according to Reuters.
The 46-year-old is known for his media-savvy political style. He said after the election results that he wanted to “send a positive signal” to other European countries that Slovakia was not a place “where journalists and their fiancées are murdered just because someone unearthed corruption,” Reuters reported.
Slovak businessman Marian Kocner was charged last March with ordering the murder of the 27-year-old Kuciak and Kusnirova. Kocner denies the allegations.
CNN’s Ivana Kottasova contributed to this report