Slovak PM Fico stands little chance of forming government

BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico on Monday looked to have little chance of forming a government after his leftist Smer party lost its parliamentary majority, raising the possibility that a center-right grouping may eventually hold sway.

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President Andrej Kiska was set to ask Fico to form a government, a formality after Smer won most votes in Saturday’s national election, but six of eight parliamentary parties said they would not work with him.

“A complicated situation has emerged, there are several dividing lines between the elected parties,” said Kiska, a non-partisan figure who has the right to appoint prime ministers.

“Some of them cannot be overcome and it would not be right to try. Some of them will be very hard to overcome but it will be inevitable. Representatives of the parties will have to deal with it,” he said. Kiska will ask Fico to seek to form a government after he returns from Monday’s EU summit in Brussels.

Slovakia takes on the European Union’s rotating presidency in the second half of the year, giving it a central role in the migration crisis and, potentially, the task of coping with the turmoil if Britain votes to leave the EU in a June referendum.

Fico had hoped an anti-immigration stance and popular measures such as a cut in the sales tax on food and free train rides for students and pensioners would secure him a third term.

His Smer party won 28.3 percent of the vote, down from 44.4 percent in 2012, as voters responded to opposition campaigning against corruption and shortcomings in healthcare and education.

Smer would have 49 seats in the 150-seat parliament.

Libertarian party Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), Ordinary People, moderate nationalist Slovak National Party (SNS), Most-Hid (Bridge) and Siet (Net) would have 76 seats and might also get the support from the new protest movement We Are Family, which won 11 seats.

SaS, Ordinary People, and We Are Family - the three biggest center-right parties - have already said they would not work with Fico. We Are Family has said it will not join any government but it might support a right-wing administration.

Siet and Most-Hid, centrists with links to the ethnic Hungarian minority, have also said they will not join a Fico coalition.

SaS chief Richard Sulik, an economist, might be asked to form a government if Fico fails, but would also face obstacles. He campaigned on an anti-Fico platform, attacking his welfare benefits as populism but took the same line on immigration.

Part of the anti-immigrant vote went to the far-right People’s Party-Our Slovakia, a party none of the others will deal with as they see it as fascist.

Most-Hid, as recently as Sunday, refused to work with SNS due to its nationalistic and anti-Hungarian record but said on Monday it would negotiate, along with SaS, on forming a right-wing government that included SNS.

Writing by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Louise Ireland