Slovaks Shun Premier's Party, Far Right in Regional Elections

(Bloomberg) -- Slovaks voted for independent and opposition candidates in regional elections, delivering a surprise defeat to the popular ruling party and the far right forces in the post-communist European Union member.

Premier Robert Fico’s Smer party will lead two of eight regional governments after four of its incumbent candidates lost their races, according to the results of the Saturday ballot posted on the Statistics Office’s website. Marian Kotleba, the head of the People’s Party, whose officials praise the Slovak World War II Fascist state and call for an exit from the EU, was ousted from the post of the regional leader in Banska Bystrica, central Slovakia.

The results come as a surprise for Smer, the most popular party with about 26 percent support in recent opinion polls. It’s also a blow to the People’s Party, which has about 10 percent backing in surveys after it entered the national parliament last year. The anti-establishment party, known for anti-EU, anti-NATO and anti-migrant rhetoric, won only two of total 416 seats in regional assemblies. The turnout was 30 percent, a record for a regional vote.

Regional authorities manage and finance local roads, public schools and hospitals. Their spending is projected at 1.4 billion euros ($1.6 billion) in the 2018 budget, or about 4 percent of total public outlays.

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