Andrej Kiska, 51, centist independent, has defeated Prime Minister Robert Fico, 49, the most trusted and popular politician in Slovakia, for the presidency. In what was expected to be a tight second round, Kiska won a landslide 60 percent of the Slovakian vote.
Kiska, a former businessman and philanthropist, ran on a ticket of ant-corruption and democratic balance. Right-wing anti-Fico sentiment was reported to stem largely from the power amassed by his SMER Social Democrat party, which would, if ex-Communist Fico took the presidency, have control of all of Slovakia’s major power centers.
Until recently relatively unknown in the nation, the centrist independent came from a background of business and philanthropy. In the 1990s, Kiska founded two successful credit companies–Triangel and Quatro–which allowed purchasers to pay for purchases in monthly payments rather than up front. Kiska sold these companies to a bank in 2005, and in 2006 he started a charity, Dobry Anjel (Good Angel), which takes donations for families having financial troubles because of costs associated with caring for children who are seriously ill. Since 2006, 140,000 people have donated to Dobry Angel.
Kiska’s business past was a target of tough campaigning in the two weeks since the March 15 first round voting, which was very close. With a 43 percent turnout, Fico beat Kiska with 28.2 percent of the vote to the independent’s 24 percent. Given the closeness of this result, the run off was expected to be very close as well. Fico accused Kiska of usury in his business dealings. In response, Kiska filed a criminal complaint against Fico. Fico also accused Kiska of being affiliated with the Church of Scientology. Fico pointed to his own Roman Catholicism, the majority religion in Slovakia.
Although largely a ceremonial position in Slovakia, the president is responsible for appointing the prime minister–the most powerful post in Slovakia–and appointing constitutional court judges. The president may also veto laws, but a parliamentary majority can override the president’s vetoes.
Usually, the president chooses as prime minister the politician who offers the best chance of a achieving a coalition government. The prime minister is chosen after parliamentary elections–the next parliamentary elections will take place in 2016. Fico, the current prime minister, will hold his position until that date, but will now be dealing with a more critical president than the current president, Ivan Gasparovic, who will leave office June 15 when his term expires.
Gasparovic is the only Slovakian president since the country gained independence in 1993 to be elected for two consecutive five-year terms, the constitutional limit in Slovakia.
Kiska will be Slovakia’s fourth president since its 1993 split from Czechoslovakia.
Slovakia, a nation of 5.5 million, is, along with Estonia, Latvia and Slovenia, tied tightly into Western Europe; These four countries belong to the EU, Eurozone, Schengen Area and NATO. Slovakia is also a member of OECD and WTO. Slovakia is a high-income advanced economy country. It has one of Europe’s fastest economic growth rates. Slovakia, a part of Czechoslovakia before independence, is a former Communist country. It was not part of the Soviet Union, but was under the domination of Soviet power until dissolution.
By Day Blakely Donaldson