The way ahead for a new coalition government in Slovakia was unclear Sunday as final election results showed the current government losing massive amounts of support and far-right parties making gains.
Prime Minister Robert Fico's SMER-SD party remains the largest party in parliament, known as the National Council, but saw its support drop from 44.4 per cent to 28.3 per cent, with 99.98 per cent of the votes counted.
Reacting to the results, Fico spoke of an "impasse" and "a great mishmash of parties" that would make the new parliament confusing.
Igor Matovic, leader of the third-largest party after the election, the conservative Common People (Olano) with 11 per cent, said the election had delivered a "political earthquake."
Fico said he still saw it as his job to try to form a new government and did not automatically rule out cooperating with some of the new right-wing groups to make it into the legislature.
That sparked talk from the liberal SaS party - which came in second with 12.1 per cent - and Olano to talk about forming a coalition without Fico and extreme right parties.
But that would mean taking in the controversial right-wing populist Slovakian National Party, which garnered 8.6 per cent after a four-year ban from parliament for a series of corruption scandals.
For some, that option was more palatable than talks with the far-right Our Slovakia People's Party (LSNS), which became the shock result of the election by garnering 8 per cent of the votes cast and entering parliament for the first time.
LSNS founder and party leader Marian Kotleba has faced several charges of racism and fascism but has not been found guilty. The party's campaign featured barely legal incitement against refugees and the Roma minority.
During the campaign, Fico highlighted his opposition to the redistribution of migrants from the EU. He made a special point of saying Muslims could not integrate into Slovakian society. Analysts say that tactic was a boon to the far-right parties.
The gains of the right-wing parties weighed on centre-right parties that have played a strong role in Slovakian politics in the past.
The Christian Democrats (SDKU), which led the government three times until 2012 under premiers Mikulas Dzurinda and Iveta Radicova, scraped less than 1 per cent of the votes according to the exit polls and would therefore not be represented in the new parliament.
Another casualty was the Catholic KDH movement led by former EU commissioner Jan Figel, which also failed to get elected for the first time since the fall of communism in 1989.
A total of eight parties made it into the legislature, including some other smaller parties whose politics remain difficult to classify at this point.
Turnout was 59.8 per cent, the Statistical Office said.
International attention will focus on Slovakia when it assumes the six-month rotating EU presidency on July 1. With this in mind, Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak said, "Nobody has cause to celebrate as we have elected fascists to Parliament."
Sunday, March 6, 2016 - 10:49