Slovakia's presidential runoff on Saturday pits the country's best-known politician — a prime minister whose party has a lock on parliament — against a businessman-turned philanthropist who is hoping to capitalize on a corruption scandal that reached up into high levels of government.
The winner will succeed Ivan Gasparovic, the first since Slovakia's independence in 1993 to be elected to two five-year terms. Here is a look at the vote:
The president has the power to pick the prime minister, appoint Constitutional Court judges and veto laws in this central European nation of 5.4 million. But parliament can override the veto with a simple majority, so most executive powers reside in the prime minister and the Cabinet.
— Prime Minister Robert Fico's first term, from 2006 to 2010, saw Slovakia adopt the euro and turn against the U.S.-led war in Iraq. The 49-year-old led his left-leaning SMER-Social Democracy party to a landslide victory in 2012 that allowed the party to govern alone — a first for Slovakia.
— Andrej Kiska is a successful businessman-turned philanthropist who is running on a platform of anti-corruption and efficient government. He attracts those disenchanted by a 2011 scandal in which a financial group Penta allegedly bribed politicians in 2005-06 to win lucrative privatization deals. No one was ever convicted in the case.
WHY THE RUNOFF?
After none of the 14 candidates win a majority in the March 15 first round, the first two advanced to the runoff. Fico won the first round with a less-than-expected 28 percent of the vote. Kiska placed 4 percentage points behind, with turnout a fairly dismal 43.4 percent. Fico was favored in the first round, but there have been no polls for the runoff.
If Fico wins, he'll have to resign as prime minister, which automatically means the end of his government. As the president he will appoint his own successor. But with a comfortable parliamentary majority, many — if not all — current government officials would keep their posts. A win for Kiska would prevent Fico from cementing power — although he would keep his post as prime minister because of his party's majority — and would show widespread dissatisfaction with mainstream politics.