Leftist party wins big in Slovakia parliamentary election

By Karel Janicek, AP

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia–A leftist party led by one of the few leading politicians in Slovakia to escape voter anger over a major corruption scandal has been propelled back into power in an early parliamentary election, according to final results Sunday. Smer-Social Democracy of former Prime Minister Robert Fico is a clear winner with 44.4 percent of the vote, or 83 seats in the 150-seat Parliament, with votes from all 5,956 polling stations counted. The result allows Fico to govern alone — one party rule has not happened in Slovakia since the split of Czechoslovakia in 1993. On Sunday, he offered opposition parties a chance to join forces and form a two-party coalition government, but all other parliamentary parties rejected that. Before the election, Fico discussed a necessity to create a strong, stable government, possibly formed by two parties, amid another economic downturn and efforts to save the eurozone. Fico — considered a populist leader — has pledged to maintain a welfare state, increase corporate tax and hike income tax for the highest earners. “We succeeded with what we offered as an alternative,” Fico said early Sunday. “We’ve achieved a result that is a pleasant surprise for us, to be honest.” The outgoing center-right, four-party coalition received a combined 51 seats, on the back of voter anger over a major corruption scandal. The new Ordinary People party that campaigned on an anti-corruption ticket won 16 seats, while the ultranationalist Slovak National Party, known for derogatory comments about ethnic Hungarians, Roma and political opponents, ended below the 5-percent threshold needed to win parliamentary representation. Turnout was surprisingly high at 59.11 percent. Analysts had predicted a record low turnout, as voters were expected to register their anger over allegations that a private financial group bribed government and opposition politicians in 2005-06 to win lucrative privatization deals. The “Gorilla” files — posted online by an anonymous source in December and said to be based on wiretaps — have rocked Slovak politics. One former economy minister is said to have received the equivalent of 10 million euros (US$13 million) for his assistance. Outgoing Prime Minister Iveta Radicova’s Slovak Democratic and Christian Union was hard hit by the allegations.

“It’s clear … Gorilla is to blame,” Dzurinda said. “It’s a serious loss.” Disappointed by her government’s collapse, Radicova is quitting politics and plans to lecture at Britain’s Oxford University. She was Slovakia’s first female prime minister.