LJUBLJANA, Slovenia (AP) — Exit polls in Slovenia’s parliamentary vote on Sunday suggested a strong lead for opposition liberals over Prime Minister Janez Jansa’s ruling right-wing populists.
Polls conducted by polling agency Mediana and published by public broadcaster TV Slovenia and commercial television Pop showed the opposition Freedom Movement winning 35.8% support against the ruling conservative Slovenian Democratic Party with 22.5%.
Behind the two main contenders were the New Slovenia Party with 6.8%, followed by the Social Democrats with 6.6% and the Left Party with 4.4%.
If confirmed in an official tally, the result means Freedom Movement, an election newcomer, has a better chance of forming the next government in a coalition with smaller centre-left groups – a blow tough for Jansa, a populist who has been accused of pushing the country to the right while in power.
The vote prompted a higher than usual turnout, reflecting voters’ strong interest in the race in the politically divided nation of the European Union.
Nearly 50% of Slovenia’s 1.7 million voters had cast their ballots by mid-afternoon, according to state election authorities, up about 15% from the previous election in 2018.
Polls taken before the vote predicted that no party will be able to form a government alone and that a coalition government will have to be formed after the vote, consisting of at least three or four parties.
It remains unclear which small groups will cross the 4% threshold and what the final distribution of parliamentary seats will look like. Election officials must also add early votes to the tally.
“Today is an important day because these elections decide how Slovenia will develop not just over the next four years, but over the next decade,” Jansa said as he voted on Sunday. “Expectations are good.”
Jansa became Prime Minister just over two years ago after the previous Liberal Prime Minister resigned. An admirer of former US President Donald Trump, Jansa has pushed the country to the right since taking office at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The main challenger on Sunday was former US-educated entrepreneur Robert Golob, who leads the Freedom Movement party. The party advocated green energy transition and sustainable development rather than Jansa’s nation-centric narrative.
Jansa’s SDS won the most votes in an election four years ago but was initially unable to find partners for a coalition government. He took over after lawmakers from centrist and left-wing groups switched sides following the 2020 resignation of liberal Prime Minister Marjan Sarec.
Jansa has since been accused of sliding into authoritarian rule in the style of his ally, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Jansa has come under EU scrutiny amid reports that he has lobbied opponents and state media, and installed loyalists in key positions to control EU institutions. State.
The Liberals described Sunday’s election as a referendum on Slovenia’s future. They argue that Jansa, if re-elected, would move the traditionally moderate nation further away from the “core” democratic values of the EU and towards other populist regimes.
Democracy watchdog Freedom House recently stated that “while political rights and civil liberties are generally respected (in Slovenia), the current right-wing government continues to attempt to undermine the rule of law and democratic institutions. , including the media and the judiciary”.
The 63-year-old political veteran, Jansa, denied this, presenting himself as the victim of an elaborate leftist libel plot. In order to polish his image ahead of the election, Jansa distanced himself from Orban and took a tough stance on Russia over the invasion of Ukraine.
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