BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — Two candidates will compete in a runoff ballot to become Slovakia's next president, election results indicated Sunday.
They are Prime Minister Robert Fico and businessman-turned philanthropist Andrej Kiska, who beat 12 other candidates in the first round of voting on Saturday.
Fico, who won 28 percent of the vote, and Kiska, who got 24 percent, will compete in a March 29 election for the presidency, a largely ceremonial post.
Radoslav Prochazka, an independent conservative lawmaker with a degree from Yale Law School, was third with 21.3 percent. Milan Knazko, a leading figure of the 1989 Velvet Revolution that ended Communist rule in Czechoslovakia, finished a distant fourth with 12.9 percent.
Fico's first-round victory was less convincing than expected since public polls had predicted he could win up to 40 percent.
"I have no reason to be disappointed," Fico said about the election result. "I have won the first round."
The leader of Slovakia's dominant left-leaning SMER-Social Democracy party is the country's most popular politician. The 49-year-old led his party to a landslide victory in the 2012 parliamentary election. That allowed it to govern alone, the first time a single party has held power in Slovakia since its 1993 split from Czechoslovakia.
Fico said Saturday's relatively low turnout — 43.4 percent — might have been to blame.
Looking ahead to the runoff, he has said his election would ensure political stability in Slovakia.
While he served as Slovakia's prime minister, it adopted the euro currency in 2009. Fico was a vocal opponent of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, but he supported the NATO-led force in Afghanistan.
Kiska, 51, who has no experience in politics, attracts voters who are appalled by corruption and mainstream politics. He has said he wants to persuade those who voted for unsuccessful candidates in the first round to vote for him in the runoff.
"I'm sure I won't disappoint them," he said.
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