By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent, BosNewsLife
LJUBLJANA, SLOVENIA (BosNewsLife)– Slovenia’s president has unexpectedly lost Sunday’s first round of presidential elections. Official results showed President Danilo Turk received roughly 36 per cent of the vote, behind former prime minister Borut Pahor with about 40 per cent.
Though opinion polls predicted his victory, Turk (pictured), an independent, slipped to second place in the presidential race, which was held amid concerns about the economy. He will face the 49-year-old former prime minister Pahor in a run-off vote on December 2.
Pahor was visibly surprised that he won the first round, as his centre-left government collapsed in late 2011.
“The message from this vote is: ‘all together we can achieve more than we can imagine’,” he said. He pledged to “work hard to exceed voters expectations.”
Turk, 60, told reporters he remains confident that Slovenians will trust him to continue as of head of state in these turbulent times.
“In the following three weeks I’ll do everything possible to show the conceptual differences between me and my rival,” said the elderly statesman: “This was only the first round.”
President Turk also said that the low voter turnout of just around 47 per cent – compared to nearly 58 percent in 2007 – was “a warning that people are disappointed in politics and the state”.
Turk added that Slovenia “is the only state in Europe where a prime minister has faced criminal proceedings over alleged bribery.”
He referred to center-right government leader Janez Janša, who was tried on corruption charges in Slovenia’s planned 278 million euro purchase of armored vehicles from Finnish arms maker Patria.
The deal has since been cancel led, but Janša maintains his innocence.
Whoever wins will oversee a nation that was one seen as a successful newcomer to the eurozone, but now battles to needing international financial assistance.
The government has pledged tough austerity measures and wants to heal the troubled banking system of the small EU nation of two million people.
Though the president has a largely ceremonial post, he is seen as crucial for the political stability in Slovenia, which broke away from what was Yugoslavia in 1991.
(BosNewsLife’s NEWS WATCH is a regular look at key general news developments from especially but not limited to (former) Communist nations and other autocratic states impacting the Church and/or compassionate professionals).