He was the favourite going into Slovakia’s presidential poll and he has come out on top but Prime Minister Robert Fico’s lead over his chief rival was less than opinion polls suggested.
That should make for an interesting second round duel between the centre-left premier and political newcomer Andrej Kiska on March 29.
A businessman-turned-philanthropist running as an independent, Kiska polled 24 percent to Fico’s 28 percent. He appeals to many voters who are angry over a spate of recent political scandals.
Fico took Slovakia into the euro zone in 2009 and growth has remained at decent levels while other countries in the region slipped into recession.
But he now looks set for a battle in his bid to swap the prime minister’s post for the largely ceremonial role of president.