BRATISLAVA - Slovaks started voting on Saturday, likely to hand a third term to Prime Minister Robert Fico, a left-wing nationalist whose vocal anti-immigration stance chimes with those of Hungary's Viktor Orban and Poland's Jaroslaw Kaczynski.
Opinion polls show Fico's Smer party is set to lose its parliamentary majority after corruption scandals and protests by teachers and nurses about low pay cost it support.
But a combination of popular welfare measures such as free train rides for students and pensioners and his opposition to immigration even by refugees should secure him well over 30 percent of the vote, pollsters say, enough to form a government with a coalition partner.
"The anti-immigration rhetoric combined with a few handouts is enough for Fico to win the election," said Samuel Abraham from the Bratislava International School of Liberal Arts.
With Slovakia due to take over the European Union's rotating presidency for six months from July, giving it a bigger role in EU policy discussions, the election will also be watched closely in Brussels.
Fico, who dismisses multi-culturalism as "a fiction", has pledged never to accept EU quotas on relocating refugees who have flooded into Greece and Italy from Syria and beyond, and has launched a legal challenge to the plan.