Slovak opposition in landslide election win

Social Democrats rout the governing centre-right coalition by winning 60 of the 150 seats in parliament.

    Fico, the leader of the centre-left SMER party, has offered lesser parties to join his government [Reuters]

    The leftist opposition party in Slovakia has won a landslide victory in the parliamentary elections.

    With the results coming in on Sunday, votes from 5,811 of the 5,956 polling stations counted by the Statistics Office have the Smer-Social Democracy Party of Robert Fico, former prime minister, as the clear winner with 44.8 per cent of the vote, or 84 seats in the 150-seat parliament.

    The result allows Fico, a pro-European, 47-year-old lawyer, to govern alone, after initially the exit-polls suggested Fico would need to govern in a coalition.

    Fico, a populist leader, pledged to maintain a welfare state, increase corporate tax and raise income tax for the highest earners.

    The outgoing centre-right, four-party coalition just combined 50 seats as it faced voter anger over a major corruption scandal, while the new Ordinary People party won 16 seats.

    A triumphant Fico, however, has said he is ready to take on a coalition partner if any of the other parties is ready to support his agenda.

    Political scenarios

    A government led by Fico would please Slovakia's eurozone partners, who were upset by the outgoing centre-right coalition's refusal to contribute to the first bailout of Greece and the delaying of the rescue fund.

    "The European Union can lean on Smer because we realise that Slovakia, as a small country living in Europe and wanting to live in Europe ... desires to maintain the eurozone and the euro as a strong European currency," Fico said at his party headquarters, to the cheers and applause of supporters.

    Fico's sweeping victory knocked his reformist rival Mikulas Dzurinda's centre-right SDKU out of power after the SDKU-led coalition fell apart in October after less than two years.
    Damaged by allegations of graft, Dzurinda's party won just 5.9 per cent, according to the partial results, just over a third of what it won in the last election in 2010.

    Fico's landslide is an unprecedented victory for any single party in Slovakia's 19-year independent history.

    Gorilla fraud scam

    The Social Democrats stood on a pledge to tax the rich and better protect the working class as the country grapples with high unemployment and economic turmoil.

    At the core of the SDKU rout lies the leaking of a secret  so-called Gorilla fraud scandal.

    Named after a shady character allegedly involved in the scandal, the Gorilla files allege that most parties in the 1998-2006 centre-right government of then-prime minister Mikulas Dzurinda were involved in corruption owing to close ties with Penta, a local financial group.

    The information was leaked on the internet in December as secret service wiretaps, but police have yet to confirm the Gorilla files' authenticity.

    The election comes two years early, after an SDKU-led coalition government collapsed in acrimony last October when one of its junior members, the free-market SaS party, refused to back the expansion of the eurozone's bailout fund.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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