Slovakia's ruling party suffers heavy losses, remains largest group

Prime Minister Robert Fico's ruling Social Democrats suffered heavy losses in the weekend's general election, according to official preliminary results announced Sunday, but they still remain the largest party.

After 99.96 per cent of the votes had been counted, the Statistical Office said Fico's SMER-SD party had garnered just 28.28 per cent of the votes cast during Saturday, well short of the absolute majority it had enjoyed in the previous parliament.

The liberal SaS party, one of a total of eight that passed the 5-per-cent hurdle to enter parliament, came second with 12.1 per cent of the votes.

The far-right Our Slovakia People's Party (LSNS) provided the shock result of the election, gaining 8 per cent of the votes cast, and thereby entering parliament for the first time.

LSNS founder and party leader Marian Kotleba has faced several charges of racism and fascism, but has not been found guilty. The party's campaign featured barely legal incitement against refugees and the Roma minority.

In addition to the LSNS, another right-wing populist party entered the 150-member legislature and two newly founded parties that are difficult to classify.

Turnout was 59.8 per cent, the Statistical Office said.

Reacting to the results, incumbent Premier Fico spoke of an "impasse." He had spoken during the night of "a great mishmash of parties" that would make the new parliament confusing, but he said it was his duty to form the new government.

During the campaign, Fico had made his opposition to accepting a redistribution of migrants from the EU the main topic. He had made a special point of saying Muslims could not integrate into Slovakian society.

Experts in a debate following the close of polls predicted that fresh elections might be necessary.

International attention will focus on Slovakia when it assumes the six-month rotating EU presidency on July 1. With this in mind, Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak said, "Nobody has cause to celebrate as we have elected fascists to Parliament."

Igor Matovic, leader of the third largest party in the exit polls, the conservative Common People (Olano), said the election had delivered a "political earthquake."

The Christian Democrats (SDKU), which led the government three times until 2012 under premiers Mikulas Dzurinda and Iveta Radicova, scraped less than 1 per cent of the votes according to the exit polls and would therefore not be represented in the new parliament.

Another casualty was the Catholic KDH movement led by former EU commissioner Jan Figel, which also failed to get elected for the first time since the fall of communism in 1989.

Last update: Sun, 06/03/2016 - 11:23
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