Slovakia goes to the polls today to choose the largely ceremonial post of President. The vote is being seen as a test for leftist Prime Minister Robert Fico.
Although incumbent President Ivan Gasparovic, whom Fico supports, is ahead in the opinion polls, he faces a strong challenge from main opposition nominee Iveta Radicova. The Christian Democrat has sparked criticism among the clergy for refusing to back a total ban on abortion. Former communist Slovakia has a conservative tradition linked to a strong Catholic influence. Gasparovic is still the favourite to hang onto his job although the vote is expected to go to a second round. Fico came to power in 2006 pledging to help the poor in the European Union member country. He has worked to give the state a stronger role in the economy. Fico is Slovakia’s most popular politician by far, scoring 40 percent in an opinion poll this month. Gasparovic, a 67-year-old lawyer, has been strongly supported by Fico who has taken an active role in his campaign, appearing with the President on dozens of billboards nationwide.