The center-left Smer party headed by Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico looks set to return to power in elections taking place on Saturday. The final opinion poll before the vote put the grouping at 32.5 percent, more than double the support enjoyed by their nearest rivals.
Fico, a 51-year-old former Communist Party member, has been one of the most vocal critics of a European Union scheme to relocate 160,000 refugees around the bloc. Indeed, his legal challenge against the decision at the European Court of Justice led the Party of European Socialists to threaten to expel Smer (which translates as “Direction”).
Land-locked Slovakia, with a population of 5.4 million, registered only 330 asylum-seekers last year. However, the fact the country is not a popular destination for refugees has not stopped Fico placing anti-migrant rhetoric front and center of his campaign to secure a third term in office.
Smer billboards pasted across the country read “We protect Slovakia,” and the party’s leader has been talking tough on the immigration issue at every opportunity.
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