Political newcomer Andrej Kiska has been elected to the largely ceremonial post of Slovakia's president, in an embarrassing defeat for his rival, Prime Minister Robert Fico, according to complete results released early Sunday.
Kiska, a successful businessman-turned-philanthropist, won 59.4 percent of the vote in a runoff ballot, the Statistics Office said. Fico, who trailed with 40.6 percent, conceded defeat and congratulated his challenger.
"I will try to make our politics more human," Kiska, 51, told a cheering crowd at a hotel in the capital, Bratislava.
Kiska, who until recently had been a relative unknown in his country, attracted voters fed up with corruption and mainstream politics.
"I will stand by every decent citizen of this country," he said.
Kiska becomes the Slovakia's fourth president since the country gained independence after the split of Czechoslovakia in 1993.
Kiska founded two successful credit companies in the 1990s that he sold to a bank in 2005. He later co-created the charity Good Angel, which contributes money to families who have financial troubles because they have seriously ill children.
The loss is a bitter pill to swallow for Fico.
The leader of Slovakia's dominant left-leaning SMER-Social Democracy party is the country's most popular politician. The 49-year-old led his party to a landslide victory in the 2012 parliamentary election. That allowed it to govern alone, the first time a single party has held power in Slovakia since its 1993 split from Czechoslovakia.
The Slovak presidency is largely ceremonial, although the president appoints Constitutional Court judges and veto laws. A parliamentary majority can override vetoes.
The president also picks the prime minister after parliamentary elections, generally choosing the chairman of the winning party or the leader who has the best chance to form a coalition. Slovakia's next parliamentary elections are in 2016.
Kiska succeeds Ivan Gasparovic, the only president since independence who has ever been elected to two five-year terms. Gasparovic's final term expires June 15.
As prime minister, Fico remains the country's most powerful politician but will have to deal with a more critical president than Gasparovic has been.
Fico said he needed few days to think over the defeat.