Slovakia: PM Fico wins election but fails on majority

Anti-refugee Smer party captures most votes but will be hard-pressed to form a government as the EU looks on.

    Slovakia: PM Fico wins election but fails on majority
    Fico bet on a combination of popular welfare measures, such as free train rides for students and pensioners [Filip Singer/EPA]

    Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico won parliamentary elections on Sunday, but opposition parties - including those on the far-right - will complicate the formation of a new government.

    Fico, a leftist whose anti-immigration views are in line with neighbours Poland and Hungary, took 28.3 percent of the vote, far ahead of others but less than the 35 percent predicted in opinion surveys. 

     Refugee crisis takes centre stage in Slovakia election

    With eurozone member Slovakia set to take over the European Union's rotating presidency from July, giving it a bigger role in EU policy discussions over the bloc's refugee crisis, the election is being watched closely in Brussels.

    Fico bet on a combination of popular welfare measures, such as free train rides for students and pensioners, to secure a third term after ruling from 2006-2010 and 2012-2016.

    Fico, who had hoped to rule with one smaller coalition partner, said building a new coalition in a highly fragmented parliament would take time and be tough, 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."

    Fico, who dismisses multiculturalism as "a fiction", has pledged never to accept EU-agreed quotas on relocating refugees who have flooded into Greece, Turkey, and Italy from Syria and beyond.

    Slovakia has not seen any large numbers of refugees pass through its territory.

    Opponents portray Fico as an inefficient and unsavory populist who ignores the need to reform education and healthcare. However, most opposition parties in the predominantly Catholic country agree with Fico's hardline stance on refugees.

    If Fico fails to put together a government, a group of centre-right parties could try to form a broad but possibly unstable anti-Fico coalition, a repeat of the 2010 election.

    Any centre-right coalition would include the libertarian Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party, which held second place in the partial results with 11.5 percent of the vote. 

    Fico's strongly anti-refugee policies echo those of other hardliners in the EU's poorer ex-communist east, including Czech President Milos Zeman, Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban, and Poland's Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

    All have shunned refugees as Europe grapples with its worst migration and humanitarian crisis since World War II. 

    Most opposition parties agree with Fico's views that Muslims cannot integrate into predominantly Catholic Slovakia and pose a security threat, although they use less aggressive language.

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    SOURCE: Reuters


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