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Slovak left wins election, vows to defend the euro

Slovakia`s leftist leader Robert Fico pledged to defend the euro after his party won a solid majority in parliamentary elections dominated by voter anger over corruption.



Bratislava: Slovakia`s leftist leader Robert Fico pledged on Sunday to defend the euro after his party won a
solid majority in parliamentary elections dominated by voter
anger over corruption.

Fico, whose Smer-SD party picked up 83 seats in the
150-member parliament, will be the first leader to have an
independent majority since Slovakia gained independence in
1993.

He said his plans to tax the rich and boost social welfare
would not be at odds with the eurozone`s drive to end the debt
crisis.

"The programme will be pro-European," said Fico, who led
Slovakia into the eurozone during his first stint as prime
minister from 2006-2010.

"We want the eurozone preserved and the euro as a strong
European currency."

His party won 44.4 percent of the vote, well ahead of the
outgoing SDKU-DS that saw its support dwindle to just over six
percent.

"Fico as the future prime minister would be predictable.
He would behave within the European mainstream," Grigorij
Meseznikov, an analyst from the Institute for Public Affairs,
said.

The currency bloc`s second poorest member after Estonia,
Slovakia is battling unemployment hovering at over 13 percent
and like other members of the 17-nation eurozone has opted for
budget austerity.

Growth this year is forecast at 1.1 per cent after 3.3 per
cent in 2011, but Slovakia`s export-driven economy dominated
by the car and electronics industries makes it vulnerable to
the region`s wider slump.

"Smer can now fully implement its programme... of a
welfare state, of improving the condition of public finances,
not at the cost of low-income groups," said 47-year-old Fico.

"The result is a very nice surprise, the number of
parliament seats shows Smer has succeeded with its programme,"
he said, celebrating victory at party headquarters early
Sunday, dressed in jeans and singing Slovak folk songs.

Slovakia, a 2004 EU entrant, is striving to trim its
public finance deficit to under the EU-mandated ceiling of
three per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2013 from
4.6 per cent expected this year.

PTI

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