Officials: Slovak leftist bloc wins parliamentary elections

Robert Fico's opposition Smer-Socialist Democratic Party wins vote after years of austere economic reforms.

fico 88 (photo credit: )
fico 88
(photo credit: )
Robert Fico's opposition Smer-Socialist Democratic Party has won parliamentary elections in Slovakia, authorities said Sunday, with the leftist bloc tapping widespread public discontent over eight years of austere economic reforms. "We need a Slovakia with more solidarity and justice," Fico told reporters and cheering supporters in his party headquarters in the capital, Bratislava. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda conceded defeat and said that although Fico "has won (the vote), the reforms should continue," referring to the changes that brought the country to the EU and NATO. The victory by Fico's party, however, threw into doubt Slovakia's quest to adopt the euro currency in 2009. "It is true that the Smer has won the elections," said Ivan Miklos, Dzurinda's key ally and finance minister. "It is up to it to take further steps." Fico's party garnered 29.4 percent of the votes, the state-run Statistical Office announced, after counting 100 percent of the ballots. Dzurinda's Slovak Democratic and Christian Movement received 18.4 percent of the votes, according to the agency, which is responsible for counting the ballots. The official certification of the election results by the Slovak State Election Commission is expected later Sunday, the Statistical Office said in a statement. The Ethnic Hungarian Coalition Party and nationalist Slovak National Party both won 11.7 percent; former authoritarian Premier Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia took 8.8 percent and the Christian Democrats garnered 8.3 percent of votes, the Statistical Office said. The result was not decisive enough to give Fico's party a parliamentary majority, so he will have to form another coalition government. But it was a stinging rebuke to the center-right government of Dzurinda, whose belt-tightening brought the ex-communist nation into the European Union, yet slashed health care and social benefits to millions. "Our program received substantial backing in Slovakia. It means that, if we form the government, benefits from our country's development will not be restricted to a small group of people," Fico said. Fico's Social democrats have pledged to restore social benefits, improve health sector and adjust taxation system to target rich industrialists and businesspeople who capitalized on Dzurinda's reforms. Fico has also pledged to pull out some 100 Slovak de-miners from Iraq where they serve as part of the US-led coalition. He did not elaborate on his party's plans for a future coalition government. One likely outcome of the election could be an alliance comprising Fico's leftists, the nationalist Slovak National Party and the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, which is loyal to Meciar, analysts have said. Meciar's heavy-handed rule in the 1990s thrust Slovakia into international isolation amid Western criticism that his leadership lacked commitment to democracy and the rule of law. Another possible coalition could consist of the Social Democrats, the Hungarian Coalition Party and the Christian Democrats, whose departure from the government in January prompted Saturday's elections. The elections originally were scheduled for September. Dzurinda and his former coalition can also form the center-right Cabinet, but a grand coalition of Fico's and Dzurinda's parties remains an unlikely option, observers say.