Slovakia’s voters were widely expected to elect President Ivan Gasparovic to a second term in office yesterday, as the 68-year-old incumbent faces the country’s first female presidential candidate in a runoff.
Gasparovic enjoys the support of the socialists and nationalists — the two strongest parties in the three-party governing coalition — and emerged as the front-runner in the first round presidential election two weeks ago.
Gasparovic won 46.7 percent of the vote in that ballot, with center-right Iveta Radicova advancing into the run-off with 38.1 percent.
The incumbent has campaigned on his record, saying he can offer the stability and continuity Slovakia needs in the current economic crisis.
Elected in 2004 as Slovakia’s third president since the country’s independence in 1993, Gasparovic is supported by Prime Minister Robert Fico’s left-leaning populist Smer-Social Democracy party and the ultra-nationalist Slovak National Party.
But if he looses, the 52-year-old Radicova would become Slovakia’s first female president and its first president not to have been a Communist Party member in the past.
A sociology professor before entering politics, Radicova is deputy chairwoman of the center-right party of former prime minister Mikulas Dzurinda. She served as Labor Minister under Dzurinda, whose political and economic reforms ushered in foreign investment and led the country to join the EU and NATO in 2004.
Analysts have said her pro-Western orientation could help boost Slovakia’s ties with the US and other Western nations.
Turnout in the first round was relatively low, with only 43.63 percent of Slovakia’s 4.3 million eligible voters casting ballots and Radicova said she would focus on persuading more people to vote yesterday to help put her on top to win the largely ceremonial post.
The Slovak president has the power to pick the prime minister and to appoint Constitutional Court judges, as well as the power to veto laws. But parliament can override the veto with a simple majority.