Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico has won Saturday's general election, but he'll have to team up with coalition partners if he's to form a government. Surprising gains by far-right extremists could complicate the task.
The Smer-Social Democrat party of Prime Minister Robert Fico took 28.4 percent of the vote in Slovakia's general elections, almost complete results showed early Sunday. The libertarian Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party came in second with 11.5 percent.
The results represent a drop in support for Fico from the 2012 election, when Smer-SD won 44.4 percent of votes and was able to govern alone. This time, the leftist leader, who campaigned on an anti-refugee platform, will need coalition partners to form a majority in the 150-member parliament.
At least eight parties appear to have won seats in the new parliament, including the neo-Nazi People's Party Our Slovakia, which garnered 8.1 percent of the vote - three times more than opinion polls had predicted.
Fico, who had hoped to rule with one smaller coalition partner, said building a new coalition in a highly fragmented parliament would take time, given the "very complicated" election results.
"As the party that won the election we have the obligation to try build a meaningful and stable government," Fico told reporters.
"It will not be easy, I am saying that very clearly."
Difficult task ahead
Fico's strong anti-refugee rhetoric echoes that of other hardliners in the eastern EU states, including Czech President Milos Zeman, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Poland's Jaroslaw Kaczynski. Fico has dismissed multiculturalism as "a fiction" and pledged not to accept EU-agreed quotas on distributing refugees across the bloc.
Under Fico - who has been premier since 2012, and before that served from 2006-2010 - Slovakia's economy has grown by 4 percent. He had hoped to attract voters with his stance on migration and a range of welfare measures, including an initiative giving free train rides to students and pensioners. Opponents, however, say his government is corrupt, inefficient and has failed to improve the standard of healthcare and education.
Analysts suggest that to clinch his third term, 51-year-old Fico could relaunch a controversial coalition with the far-right Slovak National Party (SNS), or team up with the center-right SaS party. There's also a chance that center-right opposition parties could cobble together an anti-Fico coalition.
nm/tj (Reuters, AP)