Monday, September 28, 1998 Published at 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK
Tough bargaining follows Slovakia poll
Turnout was the highest recorded
Opposition leaders in Slovakia have been meeting to discuss the formation of a new government following their victory in the general election.
According to preliminary results, the four main opposition parties won 93 of the 150 seats in parliament - the final results are not expected until late Monday or early Tuesday.
But Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's party, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), still has the most seats. By tradition, the leader of the largest single party is given the first attempt at trying to form a government.
Fot Mr Meciar, who has dominated Slovakian politics since independence in 1993, it can only be a minority government.
His party and their far right allies will have 57 seats in the new parliament, and the opposition parties have all ruled out co-operation with the HZDS. Mr Meciar's other option is to resign as prime minister.
Mr Meciar has so far made no public comment on the setback and not even his party workers know where he has gone.
Our correspondent says Mr Meciar can be expected to use every weapon at his disposal to drive a wedge between the opposition parties, which cover a broad range of opinions and include former communists, conservatives, liberals and an ethnic Hungarian party.
Mr Meciar led Slovakia to independence from the Czech Republic in 1993 and has governed in a manner which has brought complaints from the European Union and human rights organisations.
Commenting on the election results, Austrian Foreign Minister Wolfgang Schüssel said they must lead to the orderly creation of a new government.
"In this way Slovakia would satisfy European standards of democratic maturity and fulfill one of the key preconditions for faster intergration into the European Union," he said.
Soldiers guard ballot boxes
Troops had been called in to guard ballot boxes after voting.
Mr Meciar said the action was needed to safeguard the vote against provocateurs.
But opposition officials, who accuse Mr Meciar of undemocratic rule, feared ballot papers could be tampered with.
Although the vote is being monitored by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the SDK will hold its own parallel count.
The polls follow six months of political turmoil, during which Slovakia has been without a president and Mr Meciar has exercised most presidential powers.
The European Union, which excluded Slovakia from early membership on political grounds, has been closely watching the elections.