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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Slovenia's 2007 Presidential Election

By Manuel Alvarez-Rivera, Puerto Rico

Slovenia, the most prosperous and northernmost of the former Yugoslav republics, holds a presidential election on Sunday, October 21, 2007. Outgoing President Janez Drnovšek is not running for re-election, and there are seven candidates for the largely ceremonial office. However, if none of them secures an absolute majority in Sunday's vote, a runoff election will be held between the top two contenders on November 11.

Unlike other republics of the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia is ethnically homogeneous - Slovenes constitute ninety-one percent of the population, while Serbs account for only two percent - and the country attained nationhood with very little bloodshed. After having overwhelmingly voted in favor of independence in 1990, Slovenia declared its independence in 1991. Following a brief, ten-day war of independence with the Yugoslav People's Army, the country was internationally recognized in 1992.

Slovenia was the first Yugoslav republic to hold a free election in 1990, and subsequently developed a Western European-style multi-party system in which the left-of-center Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (LDS) emerged as the country's largest political force. Save for six months in 2000, LDS ruled the country from 1992 to 2004 in a succession of coalition governments; party leader Janez Drnovšek served as prime minister from 1992 to 2000, and again from 2000 until 2002, when he was elected President, succeeding the popular Milan Kucan, a former Communist who had been Slovenia's head of state since 1990. In the 2004 election, the right-of-center Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) displaced LDS as the largest party, and SDS leader Janez Janša formed a four-party coalition government.

Voters decisively approved Slovenia's membership in the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in a 2003 referendum, and the country joined both organizations the following year. The national economy has grown strongly since independence, and in 2006 per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) stood at 87% of the EU average - well above other Eastern European member countries. In January 2007, Slovenia became the first EU member from Eastern Europe to adopt the Euro as its currency.

Opinion polls have former prime minister Lojze Peterle of the center-right New Slovenia - Christian People's Party (NSi) ahead in the presidential race, but he remains well short of an absolute majority, and a runoff vote appears likely between Peterle and either Bank of Slovenia governor Mitja Gaspari or international law professor (and former UN ambassador) Danilo Türk. Gaspari - who presided over the successful introduction of the Euro - is backed by LDS, while Türk is supported by the left-wing Social Democrats (SD), the Democratic Pensioners' Party of Slovenia (DeSUS) and a group of independent, former LDS parliamentarians. Meanwhile, Zmago Jelinčič of the nationalist Slovenian National Party (SNS) is trailing in fourth place, but remains within striking distance of Gaspari and Türk.


Slovenia's National Electoral Commission has 2007 presidential election results in Slovenian as well as English.

Preliminary first round results left no doubt that there would be a runoff election, and that Lojze Peterle would be one of two candidates taking part in that vote, but it was initially unclear who his opponent would be, as less than 0.4% of the vote separated second- and third-place contenders Danilo Türk and Mitja Gaspari. However, final results confirmed preliminary figures which placed Danilo Türk in second place by just 3,717 votes over Mitja Gaspari.

Despite his second-place finish in the first round of voting, Dr. Türk went on to win the November 11 runoff by a landslide victory, accurately predicted by opinion polls that gave him a lead of more than two-to-one over former prime minister Peterle.