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May 28, 2017

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First Slovak president with no communist past wins election

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia--Political newcomer and millionaire Andrej Kiska emerged out of nowhere to win a landslide in Saturday's presidential run-off, preventing veteran leftist Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico from tightening his grip on power.

A non-aligned centrist who made his fortune in the consumer-credit business, the 51-year-old Kiska will be Slovakia's first president since independence in 1993 without a past in the Communist party.

"I want to re-establish the people's trust in the office of president," Kiska said in a victory speech at his campaign headquarters in the capital Bratislava.

The millionaire-turned-philanthropist who has given away most of his fortune to charity also vowed to "make politics more human."

Fico, who will likely stay on as prime minister in the runup to a 2016 general election, conceded defeat as results showed Kiska winning a landslide.

Based on results from 99 percent the vote, Kiska scored 59.4 percent of the vote compared to Fico's 40.6 percent result, the election commission said.

"This election was a referendum on Fico and his government, and he clearly lost it," Grigorij Meseznikov, Bratislava-based analyst from the Institute for Public Affairs told AFP of the premier's failed attempt to monopolies power.

"The vast majority of voters have expressed their disillusion with Fico, he was unable to mobilize his core voters," he added.

A prospect of Smer winning control of both parliament and the presidency galvanized opponents in the ex-communist country of 5.4 million, which joined the European Union in 2004 and the eurozone in 2009.

Fico's party has a majority 83 seats in the 150-member parliament, with the next general election scheduled for 2016.

Analysts also warned that if he had taken the presidency, Fico could have tried to amend the constitution to boost presidential powers and transform the parliamentary system into a presidential one.

Crucially, Kiska sold himself as a bulwark against a Fico power grab.


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