The centre-right populist opposition has claimed victory in the parliamentary election in Slovakia, ending the reign of the country’s long dominant but scandal-tainted leftist party.
According to nearly complete results released by the Statistics Office on Sunday, the Ordinary People group captured 25% of the vote and 53 seats in the 150-seat parliament in a move that steered the country to the right.
“We will try to form the best government Slovakia’s ever had,” Ordinary People chairman Igor Matovic told a cheering crowd of 2,000 supporters in a sports hall in his home town of Trnava, located north east of the capital.
The ruling leftist Smer-Social Democracy party led by former populist prime minister Robert Fico was in second with 18.3% or 38 seats.
Mr Smer has been in power for most of the past 14 years, winning big in every election since 2006. It gained 28.3% in the last election in 2016 after campaigning on an anti-migrant ticket.
But the party was damaged by political turmoil following the 2018 murders of an investigative journalist and his fiancee.
In what would be a further blow for Smer, its two current coalition partners, the ultra-nationalist Slovak National Party and a party of ethnic Hungarians looked like they would not win any seats.
Pro-western Mr Matovic, 46, has made fighting corruption and attacking Fico the central tenet of his campaign. An anti-corruption drive has been in his party’s programme since he established it 10 years ago.
As the president traditionally asks the election’s winner to try to form a government, he is the likeliest candidate for prime minister.
Mr Matovic is expected to govern with the pro-business Freedom and Solidarity party that made 6.2% (13 seats) and the conservative For People established by former president Andrej Kiska that finished with 5.8% (12 seats).
Although the three would have a majority with 78 seats, Mr Matovic said he also wants to rule with We Are Family, a populist right-wing group that placed third with 8.2% or 17 seats.
“I’d like to assure everybody that there’s nothing to worry about,” he said. “We’re not here to fight cultural wars.”
An extreme far-right party whose members use Nazi salutes and which wants Slovakia out of the European Union and Nato became the fourth most popular party in the country of just under 5.5 million with 8% and 17 seats.
The far-right People’s Party Our Slovakia won 8% and 14 seats in parliament in 2016. All other parties have ruled out cooperation with the party.