Slovak president pockets most votes in presidential race, heads for run-off

Slovakia's incumbent President Ivan Gasparovic secured most of the vote in Saturday's presidential race, but a second round will be held in April 4 due to a low turnout of less than 50 percent, official results showed Sunday, according to Xinhua.
Gasparovic, 67, garnered 46.7 percent of the vote. Opposition leader, 52-year-old female candidate Iveta Radicova trailed behind with 38 percent.
The five other candidates received the small remaining portion of the vote.
About 44 percent of more than 4 million registered voters cast their ballots, a turnout that fell short of the 50 percent needed for a candidate to gain outright victory, the central election committee said.
A candidate needs to get the votes of more than half of the eligible voters in the first round to avoid a runoff.
Gasparovic took office in 2004. From 1994-1998 he served as parliament speaker. He is supported by the Smer-Social Democracy party and the Slovak National Party.
After casting his ballot earlier Saturday, Gasparovic looked confident and expressed his optimism. "I trust the voters," he said.
Radicova, vice chairwoman of the main opposition Slovak Democratic and Christian Union-Democratic Party, has been a strong supporter of the country's free-market reforms. She has called on the country to reduce reliance on Russian energy supplies.
If elected, she would be the country's first female president.
In Slovakia, a president is entitled to choose the prime minister, appoint constitutional court judges, and veto laws.
A woman who identified herself as Monica told Xinhua shortly before the voting that she would cast her ballot to the incumbent. "I will vote for Gasparovic, I trust him," she said.
According to the latest pre-election opinion polls, President Gasparovic is likely to win another five-year term.
Analysts said he might face tougher challenge from Radicova in the run-off, as voters that supported the other five candidates might turn their votes to the opposition leader.
There is no requirement for turnout in the run-off. A simple majority is enough to determine a winner.

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