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Slovakia's Fico Begins Coalition Talks After Election Setback


Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico

Slovakia's leftist Prime Minister Robert Fico has begun talks to form a new government following legislative elections that left his Smer-SD party significantly weakened.

With 99 percent of the vote counted from the country's March 5 elections, Smer-SD is expected to gain 49 seats in the 150-seat parliament, down from its previous 83 seats. The liberal Freedom and Solidarity party came in second, picking up 21 seats, followed by the conservative OLANO-NOVA party with 19.

The neo-nazi Slovak National Party will return to the legislature after a four-year absence, picking up 14 seats on the strength of about 8 percent of the vote.

In all, eight parties will be represented in the new parliament, making the task of forming a new government extremely difficult.

"It is true that the results that have been reported are very complicated," Fico told journalists on March 6. "At the same time, this [complexity] confirms that our political system is very dynamic. We will probably need to work with a huge number of political parties that will be represented in the National Council of the Slovak Republic."

Freedom and Solidarity Party leader Richard Sulik said that "any coalition" with Fico's party is "out of the question." He added, however, that a coalition with the nationalist parties is also "unacceptable for us."

Fico, whose country takes over the European Union's rotating presidency in July, is strongly antirefugee and has vowed to "never bring a single Muslim to Slovakia."

He has also been critical of Western sanctions against Russia.

Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak said the success of the National Party means "the perception of Slovakia in Europe will be complicated."

"We have elected a fascist to parliament," he added.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, TASS, and AP
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