Vote count shows Slovenia presidency to be decided in runoff

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia (AP) — 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 and human rights advocate Natasa Pirc Musar with nearly 27%, state election authorities said after counting most 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.

A victory for Logar in the second round therefore might get interpreted as a setback for the liberal coalition that ousted Jansa from power six months ago.

During the presidential campaign, Logar has sought to present himself as a unifier. He said “some may have seen this as me distancing myself (from Jansa,) but I was actually being me, Anže Logar, a candidate.”

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

Known as an LGBTQ rights advocate, Pirc Musar said she expected a “battle of values” in the runoff.

“I’m looking forward to the second round,” she said. “I’m looking forward to the final.”

Logar said he expected the debate to focus on issues important to Slovenia.

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 are choosing 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 he believed the election will show “how much our society is divided.”

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