Slovakians to elect a new president

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News,World

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — Slovakians vote for a new president Saturday as 14 hopefuls vie to succeed Ivan Gasparovic, the first since Slovakia's independence in 1993 to be elected to two five-year terms. Here is a look at the vote:

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AT STAKE

The president has the power to pick the prime minister, appoint Constitutional Court judges and veto laws in this central European nation of 5.4 million. Parliament can override the veto with a simple majority, however, so most lawmaking powers reside in the prime minister.

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THE FAVORITE

Prime Minister Robert Fico, 49, head of Slovakia's left-leaning SMER-Social Democracy party, led it to a landslide victory in 2012 that allowed the party to govern alone — a first for Slovakia. In his previous term, Slovakia adopted the euro in 2009. Fico was a vocal opponent of the U.S.-led war in Iraq but supported the NATO-led force in Afghanistan.

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HIS MAJOR RIVAL

Independent candidate Andrej Kiska, 51, is a successful businessman-turned philanthropist who wants to fight corruption and create a more efficient government. He attracts those appalled by a 2011 scandal in which a financial group allegedly bribed politicians in 2005-06 to win lucrative privatization deals.

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NOTABLE OTHERS

Milan Knazko, 68, is a former actor, culture minister and leading figure of the 1989 Velvet Revolution that ended Communist rule in Czechoslovakia.

Radoslav Prochazka, at 41 the youngest candidate, is an independent conservative lawmaker with a degree from Yale Law School.

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WHAT'S AHEAD

Polls predict a two-candidate runoff will be needed March 29 because no one is expected to win a majority in the first round. Fico tops the polls with up to 40 percent of the vote, while Kiska is projected to have nearly 28 percent and Knazko and Prochazka have about 10 percent each.

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