Voters deal overwhelming defeat to Vladimír Mečiar,electing instead his estranged ally, Ivan Gašparovič
Current President Rudolf Schuster will stay in office until June 15, when the new head of state is inaugurated.
Gašparovič gained 59.9 percent of the votes in the April 17 elections, while the runner-up, former authoritarian Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar, the head of the opposition party Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), received just over 40 percent.
The elections were characterised by a low turnout of only 43.5 percent of voters, down by about four points from the first round on April 3, which saw the unexpected defeat of Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan.
"I think the result is good and I'm satisfied with it," Gašparovič told journalists after learning of the outcome.
"I thought it would be a tighter race," said the president-elect, who nonetheless added that he had always had confidence in his victory.
There were no reactions available from Mečiar before The Slovak Spectator went to print.
"We were not expecting this result, but we will have to accept it," said HZDS MP Viliam Soboňa, head of Mečiar's election team.
"There is nothing left for us to do but congratulate the winner," he added.
The opposition party Smer, which endorsed Gašparovič prior to the first round of voting, warmly welcomed the results.
"Common sense has prevailed," said Smer's populist leader, Robert Fico, the country's most trusted political figure.
"Both Kukan and Mečiar have paid the price for collaborating with the government," said Fico, according to whom there is a lesson to be learned for all who align themselves with the ruling coalition. "People don't like collaboration," he said, according to the SITA news wire.
Mečiar's HZDS has supported some measures brought forth by the minority ruling coalition.
None of the top coalition representatives voted in the second round, claiming Mečiar and Gašparovič were equally responsible for developments in the country in the years 1994 to 1998, when the former headed the cabinet and the latter stood in charge of the legislature.
During that period, Slovakia was driven into international isolation by the undemocratic methods of the ruling coalition and shady privatisation deals in which billions of crowns of state property were transferred to private hands.
However, Zuzana Martináková, head of the Free Forum opposition party recently formed by dissatisfied coalition breakaways that continue to partially support the cabinet, did vote.
"Gašparovič is the winner of democratic elections. There is nothing left to do but respect this decision," Economy Minsiter Pavol Rusko told SITA.
19. Apr 2004 at 0:00 | Lukáš Fila