Bratislava: Slovakia opened a general election on Saturday with the governing leftist Smer-Social Democracy party expected to emerge the winner, but with few choices, if any, of coalition partners.
Almost 2,400 candidates from 18 parties will compete for 150 seats in the single-chamber Slovak parliament in the vote scheduled to end at 10:00 pm (2000 GMT).
The latest poll by the Focus agency gave Prime Minister Robert Fico`s Smer-SD a comfortable headstart with 29.5-percent support.
The second-strongest liberal SDKU-DS and Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) parties were far behind with 12 percent each.
But Fico`s current coalition parties, the far-right Slovak National Party (SNS) and the People`s Party-Movement for Democratic Slovakia (LS-HZDS), may fail to get the five percent required to enter the parliament
The Opposition parties have refused cooperation with Smer-SD, hoping to win enough votes to form a right-wing coalition and pledging to get the economy battered by the global downturn back on track.
Fico`s reputation suffered a blow when the SME daily on Thursday published a recording that purported to be him speaking about shady sponsors for his party and bragging about how he raised money for Smer "using his own brain."
Fico has insisted the recording is a fake and filed a lawsuit against the newspaper`s editor-in-chief.
The recording appeared only days after Slovak media had reported that Fico had squandered emergency money that could have helped people affected by the devastating floods that hit Slovakia two weeks ago.
In a bid to lure SNS voters, Fico has recently stepped up his inflammatory rhetoric against Hungary, further straining the already tense relations between the two countries.
Responding to Hungary`s plan to grant citizenship to all ethnic Hungarians living abroad, Fico dismissed the nation as an "extremist country that exports its brown plague", referring to Hungary`s WWII alliance with Nazi Germany.
Hungary`s gesture towards Slovakia`s ethnic Hungarians has angered the Slovak government and has become a hot campaign issue.
Slovakia, with a population of 5.4 million, is home to some 500,000 ethnic Hungarians.
Exit polls will be available as the polling stations close, while official results are due to be announced on Sunday.