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Elections

Philanthropist Kiska secures landslide victory in Slovak presidential runoff

Independent candidate Andrej Kiska has walloped Prime Minister Robert Fico in Slovakia’s presidential runoff. Kiska won by a 20 percent margin.

Although a political newcomer in Slovakia, businessman-turned-philanthropist Andrej Kiska (pictured) delivered a bruising defeat to veteran Prime Minister Robert Fico in Saturday's presidential runoff. Kiska secured an overwhelming 60 percent of the vote, while Fico trailed with just 40 percent of the ballot, according to partial results.

"Not all the votes are counted, but there is no reason to ignore the truth," Fico told reporters in Bratislava. "I congratulate Andrej Kiska, who will be the new president of Slovakia."

Fico had won the presidential election's first round by a narrow four percent margin. But most of the 13 candidates who failed to make it into the runoff threw their support behind 51-year-old Kiska, giving him a decisive advantage at the ballot box on Saturday.

Many voters were concerned that if 49-year-old Fico won the election, his center-left Smer party would wield too much political power in the Central European nation of 5 million people. Already in control of parliament, a Fico victory would have placed the presidency in the hands of Smer as well. Although largely a ceremonial post, the president does select key figures for the judicial branch.

"I voted for Kiska to prevent Fico from winning," Denisa Angyalova told the AFP news agency as she cast her ballot in the capital, Bratislava. "Fico is too power hungry, and I don't want one party to rule."

Political outsider

Kiska may have benefited from his status as a political outsider. He made his fortune in consumer credit and then sold his business, using the proceeds to finance a charity for families with sick children. The businessman-turned-philanthropist has no communist past and has never held a political post in Slovakia before.

Under Fico's tenure as prime minister, Slovakia has managed to attract major manufactures such as KIA and Volkswagen. He also guided the country into the eurozone in 2009. But unemployment still stands at 13.5 percent.

"I voted for Fico who's an experienced statesman and respected abroad," 80-year-old pensioner Pavel Orban told the AFP news agency. Major European center-left figures such as French President Francois Hollande and EU Parliament President Martin Schulz had also backed Fico.

Kiska campaigned on the slogan that Slovakia needed a check on Smer's growing political power.

"If the president is to represent the people, he cannot be the extended hand of a political party," Kiska said during the final televised debate this week.

slk/crh (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

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