Slovakia’s center-right populist opposition on Sunday claimed victory in the nation’s parliamentary election, ending the reign of the long-dominant, but scandal-tainted leftist party in a move that analysts said showed a strong desire by voters to end corruption.
According to final results released by the Statistics Office, the Ordinary People group captured 25 percent of Saturday’s vote and 53 seats in the 150-seat parliament.
The senior ruling leftist Smer-Social Democracy party, led by former Slovakian prime minister Robert Fico, came in second with 18.3 percent, or 38 seats.
The results steered the nation to the right and could eventually make a local ally of France’s far-right National Rally party led by Marine Le Pen a part of Slovakia’s governing coalition.
“We will try to form the best government Slovakia’s ever had,” Ordinary People and Independent Personalities party leader Igor Matovic told 2,000 cheering supporters in a sports hall in his hometown of Trnava, northeast of the capital, Bratislava.
The pro-western Matovic, 46, has made fighting corruption and attacking Fico the central tenet of his campaign. He is likely to become the nation’s next prime minister.
Officials measured the temperature of every person coming into the hall due to fears about a novel coronavirus. Slovakia does not have any confirmed case.
The ruling Smer party has been in power for most of the past 14 years, winning big in every election since 2006 in Slovakia, an EU nation of almost 5.5 million people.
The party won 28.3 percent in 2016 after campaigning on an anti-migrant ticket, but it was damaged by political turmoil following the 2018 slayings of an investigative journalist and his fiancee.
The killings of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee, Martina Kusnirova, triggered major street protests and a political crisis that led to the collapse of Fico’s three-party coalition government.
Kuciak had been writing about alleged ties between the Italian mafia and people close to Fico when he was killed and also wrote about corruption scandals linked to Fico’s party.
A new Cabinet was made up of ministers from the same three parties.
“This was a clear vote against corruption practices of the ruling party, against the links between politicians and semi-mafia in this country and the quest for rule of law,” said Olga Gyarfasova, an analyst from Comenius University in Bratislava.
In a further blow to Smer, its two coalition partners, the ultranationalist Slovak National Party and a party of ethnic Hungarians, did not win any seats in parliament.
Matovic is expected to govern with the pro-business Freedom and Solidarity party, which captured 6.2 percent support and 13 seats, and the conservative For People established by former Slovakian president Andrej Kiska that finished with 5.8 percent of the vote and 12 seats.
Although the three parties would have a majority with 78 seats, Matovic said he also wanted to rule with Le Pen’s ally, We Are Family, a populist right-wing group that placed third in Saturday’s vote with 8.2 percent support and 17 seats.
“I’d like to assure everybody that there’s nothing to worry about,” he said. “We’re not here to fight cultural wars.”
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