Slovakia's outgoing president heads for second round

BRATISLAVA, March 22, 2009 (AFP) - Slovak President Ivan Gasparovic took the most votes in presidential elections, official results showed Sunday, but due to low turnout a second round will be held in two weeks' time.

A woman casts her vote on March 21, 2009 in Bratislava for the presidential elections (Photo: AFP)

Gasparovic led with 46.7 percent of the votes cast in Saturday's election, followed by opposition candidate Iveta Radicova with 38 percent.

Five other candidates obtained only a small portion of the votes.

The turnout reached 44 percent of the more than four million registered voters, the central election committee said.

As a candidate needed to receive the votes of more than half of the number of registered voters for an outright win in the first round, the 67-year-old Gasparovic will face 52-year-old Radicova in the April 4 runoff.

The difference between the two favourites was smaller than expected while the low turnout did not come as a surprise, according to local media.

"Radicova has a real chance of winning the second round," the website sme.sk wrote.

During the electoral campaign, polls showed Gasparovic comfortably ahead with a support exceeding 50 percent -- while Radicova was given 30 percent.

In the second round, Radicova, as the Christian Democratic candidate, could profit from the votes of those who supported others in the first round.

This is the first time a woman has emerged as the main challenger in presidential elections in Slovakia, a former communist country with a conservative tradition linked to a strong Catholic influence.

The election campaign was relatively calm: the president's role is mostly ceremonial in this parliamentary democracy that was established in 1993 after the fall of communism and the break-up of Czechoslovakia.

Source: AFP

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