Slovakia starts voting for president

March 21, 2009 12:00 am

, BRATISLAVA, Mar 21 – Slovaks started to cast their ballots Saturday in presidential elections that feature seven candidates, with woman candidate Iveta Radicova seen as the only challenger able to pass the first round.

About 6,000 polling stations opened at 7:00 am (0600 GMT) for the more than four million eligible voters.

The latest polls showed outgoing President Ivan Gasparovic, 67, comfortably ahead with a support exceeding 50 percent — while opposition candidate Radicova, 52, was given 30 percent.

But the final result depends on the turnout: if none of the candidates obtains more than 50 percent of all eligible votes in the first round, the winner will result from the second round set for April 4.

In this possible second round Radicova, as the christian democratic candidate, could profit from the votes of those who supported other candidates 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.

Political analysts expect a relatively low turnout after only 47.2 percent of people voted in the first round of the 2004 presidential elections.


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