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Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-03-10

Slovaks began voting in a general election Saturday with the opposition leftist Smer-Social Democracy party tipped to win. Voters will choose among some 2900 candidates from 26 parties.

AFP - Slovaks began voting in a general election Saturday with the opposition leftist Smer-Social Democracy tipped as the winner after a corruption scandal virtually torpedoed right-wing rivals.

Polling stations opened at 7:00 am (0600 GMT) for the more than four million eligible voters to choose 150 representatives to a single-chamber parliament among some 2,900 candidates from 26 parties.

The vote will end at 10:00 pm (2100 GMT) with the exit polls to be published shortly after and official results expected Sunday morning.

Analysts said only two parties were certain of crossing the five-percent threshold to enter the parliament, leaving five parties, including possible newcomers, scrambling for survival.

Popular ex-prime minister Robert Fico's Smer-Social Democracy is likely to win some 39 percent of the vote and take 75 seats -- just one short of a majority in the 150-member parliament, according to a poll by the Bratislava-based Focus agency.

Christian democrats of the outgoing coalition are likely to win some 10 percent of the vote, along with 20 seats, and are seen by analysts as Smer's most likely coalition partner.

The campaign was overshadowed by what analysts termed an unprecedented political scandal in Slovakia's 19 years of independence.

Public outrage was stirred when secret service wiretaps of alleged meetings between top politicians and leaders of a local financial group leaked on the Internet in December.

The affair, named after a shady character involved in the leaks, has come to be know as the "Gorilla" scandal.

Heavily tarred by it, the governing SDKU-DS is expected to see its support drop to about 5 percent of the vote -- the threshold required to enter parliament -- down from the more than 15 percent it scored in the 2010 election.

Its former coalition partners, the ethnic-Hungarian party Most-Hid and liberal eurosceptic Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), could also slip out of parliament.

Polls show the Gorilla scandal has also benefited new, smaller parties including the "Common People" party and the "99 Percent Movement", which borrowed its name from the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Analysts expected turnout in the vote to be around 50 percent.

Date created : 2012-03-10


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