Slovakia’s president-elect boosts liberal parties, ruling leftists fall: poll

April 2, 2019

BRATISLAVA (Reuters) – The election of anti-graft lawyer Zuzana Caputova as Slovakia’s president has boosted her liberal, pro-European Union party’s prospects in EU elections, against the grain of rising populism across the continent, an opinion poll showed on Tuesday.

Caputova’s success has given a dose of optimism to Europe’s liberal camp ahead of the May elections, where eurosceptic parties are expected to make gains around the continent.

Her Progressive Slovakia (PS) party, which will run in the EU election on a joint slate with Spolu (Together) party, saw their joint support double since February to 14.4 percent, an AKO agency poll of 1,000 people conducted on April 1-2 said.

Neither of the two parties have any seats in the national or European parliaments at the moment.

If successful, the PS candidates would join the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) in the European Parliament while Spolu would join the European People’s Party (EPP).

President-elect Caputova said she would quit PS in coming days in a nod to a tradition that the president, who does not wield day-to-day power, is usually non-partisan.

On the other end of the political spectrum, the AKO poll also showed rising support for the anti-European, far-right People’s Party-Our Slovakia which rose to 11.5 percent in April from 9.5 percent in February.

Its leader, Marian Kotleba, had also run for president and together with another anti-system, anti-immigration candidate, supreme court judge Stefan Harabin, clinched 25 percent in the presidential election’s first round last month.

The ruling leftist but socially conservative party Smer, whose candidate lost to Caputova in the run off vote on Saturday, saw its support fall to 19.7 percent in the opinion poll, under 20 percent for the first time in more than a decade.

Smer remains the biggest group in parliament but has seen losses since last year’s murder of an investigative reporter that triggered mass protests and led to the resignation of Smer leader Robert Fico as prime minister.

The three-party coalition Smer leads would lose its parliamentary majority after junior partners, Slovak national party (SNS) and ethnic-Hungarian Most-Hid, also lost support.

A national parliamentary election is due in a year.

Slovakia’s daily Dennik N reported on Monday that outgoing President Andrej Kiska, who endorsed Caputova before the vote, would announce the launch of a new party this week.

Kiska, who has been a staunchly pro-western voice in Slovak politics and has often clashed with Fico’s Smer, is Slovakia’s most trusted politician with an approval rating of 57 percent, according to a separate AKO poll this month.

(Reporting By Tatiana Jancarikova, Editing by William Maclean)

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