BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) – Slovaks are voting in parliamentary elections widely expected to unseat the long dominant but scandal-tainted leftist party that governed on an anti-immigration platform.
According to the latest polls, a coalition of several center-right parties is emerging as a favorite to win Saturday’s ballot and form a new government for Slovakia.
The center-right Ordinary People, led by Igor Matovic, is the front-runner, followed by Smer-Social Democracy, led by populist former Prime Minister Robert Fico.
Matovic, 46, has made fighting corruption and attacking Fico the central tenet of his campaign. An anti-corruption drive has been in the party’s program since he established it 10 years ago. He is ahead in opinion polls with some 19%.
If he wins as predicted, Matovic is the likeliest candidate for prime minister. He is expected to govern with a coalition of the liberal Progressive Slovakia/Together, the conservative For People established by former President Andrej Kiska, and the pro-business Freedom and Solidarity party.
Fico’s Smer has been in power for most of the past 14 years. It gained 28.3% in the last elections in 2016 after campaigning on an anti-migrant ticket. But the party was damaged by political turmoil following the slayings of an investigative journalist and his fiancée and is expected to receive around 15%.
Fico’s current coalition partners, the ultra-nationalist Slovak National Party and a party of ethnic Hungarians, might not win any seats, polls suggest.
In a worrying development, an extreme far-right party whose members use Nazi salutes and which wants Slovakia out of the European Union and NATO is forecast to strengthen its hold in the 150-seat parliament, to become the third most popular party in the country of just under 5.5 million.
The far-right People’s Party Our Slovakia won 8% and 14 seats in Parliament in 2016 and this time might get about 10%.
All other parties have ruled out cooperation with the party that advocates the legacy of the Slovak Nazi puppet WWII state.
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