BRATISLAVA, slovakia - Slovak liberal party Progressive Slovakia (PS) led a parliamentary election Saturday, initial exit polls showed, potentially blocking former leftist Prime Minister Robert Fico from returning his party to power after he pledged to end military aid for neighboring Ukraine.
Progressive Slovakia was seen winning 23.5% of the vote, ahead of 21.9% for three-time prime minister Fico's SMER-SSD party, an exit poll by Focus agency for TV Markiza showed.
A second exit poll by Median agency for public broadcaster RTVS showed the liberal party winning 19.97% of the vote, ahead of 19.09% for Fico's party in the nation of 5.5 million.
Progressive Slovakia party leader Michal Simecka speaks to the press after the first exit polls of the country's early parliamentary election in Bratislava, Slovakia, Sept. 30, 2023.
The PS party has advocated maintaining Slovakia's strong backing for Ukraine and would likely follow a liberal line within the European Union on issues such as majority voting to make the bloc more flexible, green policies and LGBTQ+ rights.
A government led by Fico and his SMER-SSD party would mean Slovakia's joining Hungary in challenging the European Union's consensus on support for Ukraine, just as the bloc looks to maintain unity in opposing Russia's invasion.
The leading party to emerge from the election is due to get a first shot at forming a government, with no party projected to win an outright majority.
Forming a new government will hinge on results for over half a dozen smaller parties, from libertarians to far-right extremists.