Vote Count Shows Slovenia Presidency to be Decided in Runoff

A right-wing politician and a centrist independent candidate will face each other in a runoff presidential election in Slovenia after no candidate achieved an outright victory in the first round of voting Sunday, partial results showed.

Former Foreign Minister Anze Logar was leading the race with 34% of the vote, followed by lawyer Natasa Pirc Musar with nearly 27%, state election authorities said after counting 85% of the ballots.

Trailing third was Social Democrat Milan Brglez, the candidate of the ruling liberal government, who garnered some 15% of the vote, according to the official tally.

Since none of the seven contenders who competed in the election managed to gather more than 50% of the ballots needed for an outright victory, a runoff between Logar and Pirc Musar will be held on Nov. 13.

While Logar took a lead on Sunday, analysts in Slovenia have predicted the tables could turn in the runoff if Slovenia’s centrist and liberal voters rally behind Pirc Musar.

Logar, 46, served under former populist Prime Minister Janez Jansa, who moved Slovenia to the right while in power and faced accusations of non-democratic and divisive policies.

Logar has sought to shake off a populist image and present himself as a unifier. His victory would deal a blow to the liberal coalition that ousted Jansa from power six months ago.

If Pirc Musar wins, she would become the first female president of Slovenia since the country became independent from the former Yugoslavia in 1991.

“I woke up cheerful and pleased,” she said when she voted on Sunday. ”I am certain they (voters) will recognize my values and my non-partisan orientation.”

Logar said a place in the second round would be a “success,” and the rest would depend “on presenting a convincing political argument, out there in the field.”

Turnout by 1400 GMT was nearly 35%, somewhat higher than for the previous presidential election five years ago, election officials said as polls closed.

Slovenia’s 1.7 million eligible voters eventually will choose a successor to incumbent Borut Pahor. He has served two full five-year terms and was banned from running for a third.

While in office, Pahor tried to bridge Slovenia’s left-right divide that remains a source of political tension in the traditionally moderate and stable nation of 2 million.

Prime Minister Robert Golob said the future president should have “moral authority” on the country’s political scene and “great trust among Slovenians.”

Ziga Jelenec, a resident of Ljubljana, the capital, said the election likely will show “how much our society is divided.”

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