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Elections

Fico to face Kiska in Slovakia presidental runoff

Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico and businessman-turned philanthropist Andrej Kiska will contest a runoff presidential election, according to final results from Saturday's 14-candidate election.

Two-term prime minister Robert Fico (pictured above) won the first round of Slovakia's presidential election with 28 percent of the vote, according to results released by the country's Statistics Office on Sunday.

His main opponent, Andrej Kiska, came in second with 24 percent of the ballot. The two will contest a runoff scheduled for Saturday, March 29.

"Fico is the winner on paper but Kiska is the real winner here," Marian Lesko, a Bratislava-based analyst told the AFP news agency, adding that round two "will be a referendum on Fico."

Fico blamed low voter turnout of 43.3 percent for his unexpectedly weak showing.

Center-left seeks clean sweep

Prime Minister Fico, who led Slovakia into the eurozone in 2009, could further consolidate his center-left Smer-Social Democracy party's power with victory in a runoff vote. Smer is the Slovakian word for "Direction."

A win for Fico, the current head of government, would force a cabinet reshuffle, but Smer would likely retain control. The bloc holds 83 of 150 seats in Slovakia's unicameral parliament, no single opposition group holds as many as 20.

Kiska, 51, made his millions with successful consumer credit companies, before selling them a decade ago and setting up a charity to help families with sick children. If elected, the centrist candidate would be Slovakia's first president without a communist past.

The Slovakian presidency is a largely ceremonial position in the country, which uses a parliamentary system of governance.

Some Slovak analysts have said that, if elected, Fico might seek to expand the president's powers, while others counter that he would not need to, given Smer's parliamentary dominance.

msh, slk/ipj (AFP, AP)