Another incumbent falls short

Results are in from the Slovak presidential election, and centre-left prime minister Robert Fico has failed in his bid to move up to the presidency. As expected, independent businessman Andrej Kiska was able to rally the disparate forces of the centre and centre-right behind him in the second round, scoring a comfortable victory with 59.4% to Fico’s 40.6%. Turnout was 50.5%, up from 43.4% in the first round.

No Australian prime minister has ever gone on to be governor-general, but it’s not uncommon elsewhere, in countries with a ceremonial president as head of state, for prime ministers to see it as a suitable semi-retirement option. Current examples include Shimon Peres of Israel, AnĂ­bal Cavaco Silva of Portugal and Borut Pahor of Slovenia. Slovakia’s voters, however, proved unwilling to add Fico to the list.

To some extent that probably just reflects a fear of concentrating power, particularly since Fico had indicated that he was interested in the presidency playing a more active role. But it’s hard not to see it as also an adverse judgement on his administration, in office since 2012 and the first single-party majority government in Slovakia’s history.

It’s further evidence that European voters are in something of an anti-incumbent mood, and also that the centre-left, having had a pretty good couple of years, may now be starting to go backwards. We’ll have a good opportunity next weekend to see which of those trends is stronger, when the centre-right government in neighboring Hungary is up for re-election.

For more on Slovakia, check out the reports from the BBC, the Slovak Spectator and Bloomberg.

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