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Europe

Leftist Opposition Looks Set to Win Tight Slovenian Election

Slovenia's opposition Social Democrats looked set to take power from Premier Janez Jansa's center-right Slovenian Democratic Party, as their leftist coalition took a step nearer to taking a majority in parliament.

President of the winning party SD, Borut Pahor

Borut Pahor, leader of the leftist SD party, looks set to take over as Slovenia's PM

As the state-run Electoral Commission announced Monday, Sept. 22, that nearly all the votes from Sunday's poll had been counted, the Social Democrats were looking at a slim victory with 29 deputies in the 90-seat parliament, just one more than Jansa's party with 28.

With 99.9 percent of votes counted, the commission said Pahor's SD garnered 30.5 percent of votes cast, against 29.32 percent of votes for Jansa's Slovenian Democratic Party.

Despite this forecasted slim advantage, Borut Pahor, leader of the Social Democrats, was looking towards his allies in two other leftist parties to give his coalition 43 seats, just three short of a majority. He would need a third partner to achieve this.

President of Slovenian Democratic party and Prime Minister Janez Jansa (C) reacts after the first election results at the press centre in Ljubljana, Slovenia

The mood in Jansa's party was gloomy as results came in

Pahor can count on the Zares party, emerging as the third-strongest force in parliament with nearly 10 percent of the vote, and the Liberal Democrats of the late president Janez Drnovsek. The centrist Pensioners' Party could complete his coalition.

The fact that Jansa's chances of gaining a majority seemed remote at best, given his lack of allies in those parties which made it into the chamber, it seemed more than likely that the leftist opposition would triumph in the hard-fought campaign which had focused on the economy and corruption allegations.

Analysts said that Pahor, a political scientist and European Parliament member, would likely be cautious about further privatization of state-controlled companies. He pledged to avoid major policy shifts if President Danilo Turk taps him to form the next government.

"I will pursue a measured and responsible policy, with no room for radical maneuvers," said Pahor, who is seen as less politically polarizing than Jansa. "This is a great achievement for us but we will still have to wait for the official final results by the commission," he told journalists at the government's press center.

Jansa concedes opposition has better chance

"The recently-formed coalition (led by Pahor) has received more votes than the coalition that had a majority in the outgoing parliament, so we can say that they have more chances of forming the new government," Jansa told journalists.

Jansa has led Slovenia, a European Union nation sandwiched between the Alps and the Adriatic, for the last four years.

Final results may take until Thursday as absentee ballots still need to be tallied.

Jansa, 50, ran on his leadership of one of Eastern Europe's most successful economies, a nation of 2 million people that joined the EU and NATO in 2004 and switched to the euro in 2007.

But he has been dogged by inflation since Slovenia joined the euro zone -- and by claims in a Finnish television report that he received part of 21 million euros ($30 million) that arms maker Patria allegedly paid in bribes to win a Slovenian defense contract.

PM denies bribery allegations as smear campaign

Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa

Jansa presided over Slovenia's economic boom

Jansa strongly denied the allegations and portrayed it as a smear attempt by former communists. He dubbed the election campaign the dirtiest since Slovenia won independence from the former Yugoslavia in a 10-day war in 1991.

Pahor played on Slovenians' constant grumbling about rising prices, notably for food.

Slovenia's export-driven economy expanded by 5.5 percent year-on-year in the second quarter. But inflation, while cooling, stood at 6 percent in August, the euro zone's highest.

In Sunday's voting, Finance Minister Andrej Bajuk's New Slovenia party dropped from 9 percent in 2004 to below the 4 percent threshold for winning seats in parliament, early returns showed.

Jansa won 29.1 percent in 2004 parliamentary elections and led a coalition with three smaller conservative parties. A former journalist, prominent dissident in former Yugoslavia and a key figure in organizing Slovenia's war of independence, he has had an occasionally stormy tenure.

In September 2007, more than 400 journalists signed a petition accusing him of government interference in the media. His democratic credentials challenged just before Slovenia chaired the EU in the first half of 2008, Jansa insisted that the media in Slovenia is free, but the complaints drew international attention.

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