by Richard Kvasnovsky
BRATISLAVA, March 24 (Xinhua) -- Official results after the first round of presidential elections in Slovakia show that Prime Minister Robert Fico won with 28 percent of the vote. Philanthropist, businessman and political newcomer Andrej Kiska received 24 percent to finish second.
The difference between them was less than 76,000 votes, whereas voter turnout was 43.4 percent. So, more or less the same turnout as the first round of the vote in 2009. But the difference between Ivan Gasparovic and his contender Iveta Radicova was about 180,000 votes.
The second round of the current presidential run-off is expected to be as narrow as the week before.
According to sociologist Martin Slosiarik, the lower-than-expected backing for Fico is due to a comparatively low voter turnout of voters of the premier's Smer-SD party.
Radicova, former Slovakian prime minister from 2010-2012, admits that it's quite possible that many Smer-SD party voters did not go to the polls on an assumption that the first round was a foregone conclusion.
She added there are an extra 300,000 to 500,000 of Fico's voters the premier now needs to mobilise to vote for him on March 29. At any rate, she said that Fico was "very likely" to claim a win in the run-off.
On the other hand, Kiska got support from other strong presidential candidates such as Milan Knazko -- former leader of the Velvet Revolution in 1989 -- and MP Radoslav Prochazka, sometimes introduced as a new leader of the "Slovak right."
Prochazka and Knazko together won more than 650,000 votes, which could potencially help Kiska in the second round.
Fico has attacked Kiska over his EU policies, links to the controversial Church of Scientology and his former bussinesses that are accused of allegedly exploiting the poor.
In his campaigns, Fico has tried to emphasize his political experience and international acceptance. Czech President Milos Zeman very openly expressed support of Fico recently.
All three presidents of Slovakia in its modern history Michal Kovac, Rudolf Schuster and Ivan Gasparovic in a joint statement called on Slovaks to vote in the presidential election run-off for an "experienced and internationally accepted politician."
The current elections are the fourth direct presidential election in Slovakia's history. The first ever head of state, Michal Kovac, was voted in by parliament in 1993.