Bratislava: Centre-right parties won a majority in Slovakia`s election on Sunday, giving them a chance to oust Prime Minister Robert Fico with a coalition tasked to cut the budget gap and repair ties with neighbouring Hungary.
While voters chose the grouping of economic liberals whose reforms led Slovakia into the EU in 2004 and lured billions of euros in foreign investment, the leftist Fico remained the most popular politician in the euro zone`s poorest country.
Loved for a tough leadership style favouring average Slovaks over big businesses, Fico won the biggest single share of the vote with 34.8 percent for his SMER party, according to results with 99.5 percent of polling stations counted.
But the results gave 79 of Parliament`s 150 seats to four centre-right and ethnic Hungarian parties.
The conservative SDKU, which introduced a flat tax rate, sold major state firms, and overhauled the pension and welfare sectors when it ruled from 1998 to 2006, was second with 15.4 percent of the ballot from Saturday`s election.
It hopes to form a coalition with the Christian Democrats (KDH), the newly formed liberal Freedom and Solidarity party (SaS), and the ethnic Hungarian Most-Hid party.
Analysts say a centre-right grouping would be better placed to cut a budget deficit that hit 6.8 percent of gross domestic product last year to a target of 3 percent in 2012.
"Let me thank those who ... showed confidence that we can have a solution and kick-start Slovakia, halt the arrogance of power, and let me say the wish is that this country again is called the tiger of Europe," said SDKU leader Iveta Radicova.
She said she had met the leaders of her party`s potential future allies.
Fico said he would try to form a two-party government. The centre-right has vowed not to work with him, but traditionally the first chance goes to the biggest party and Fico said his party had won the right by winning the most votes.
"This is a number that gives us the right to accept a mandate from the president to form a cabinet," he told a news conference. "We are ready for that. It is tough to predict what comes next." He said SMER was also ready to go into opposition.
Business and the opposition accuse Fico, whose popularity was driven by a generous welfare agenda, of wasting public funds and polarising politics with a confrontational style.
Mainstream media, which Fico says are biased, have endorsed right-wing parties and called for a return to the type of reform that made Slovakia the European Union`s fastest-growing member in 2007.