Polling day approaches after campaign full of twists and turns

After a campaign that saw many twists and turns, Slovenians will head to the polls on Sunday to cast their vote in the presidential election although the country’s fifth president is not expected to be elected until the run-off on 13 November.

With the incumbent Borut Pahor unable to run again, the voters will choose between seven candidates. The latest polls favour Democrat (SDS) MP Anže Logar, the foreign minister in the Janez Janša government, to win the first round.

The contest for the runner-off position does not appear to be decided yet as Nataša Pirc Musar, a prominent lawyer and former information commissioner who had long topped the polls, has been losing ground ever since a rival left-leaning candidate, Social Democrat (SD) MEP Milan Brglez, made his late entry into the race.

The latest poll by Ninamedia for the newspaper Dnevnik and Večer gave Logar 31.7%, with Pirc Musar trailing behind at 19.8% and Brglez at 18.6%. In the poll by Parsival for the right-wing channel Nova24TV, Logar mustered 27.1%, Pirc Musar 19.9% and Brglez 10.7%.

Logar, who appears to have managed to broaden his appeal by running as an independent and distancing himself from unpopular policies and methods of the government run by his party boss that was voted out in the April general election, has been gaining ground steadily as the focus of the contest has shifted on the battle between Pirc Musar and Brglez.

One of the last candidates to enter the race, Brglez stepped in as a last-minute joint candidate of the SD and the Freedom Movement after diplomat Marta Kos unexpectedly pulled out of the race and as both ruling coalition parties were already resigned to not having their own candidates.

Predictions for the run-off are far more uncertain. While Pirc Musar, whose independent bid has been endorsed by two former presidents, Milan Kučan and Danilo Türk, had long been favoured to win the run-off, the latest poll by Parsifal suggests Logar might win both rounds. Projections for the run-off by other pollsters have not been available of late.

Other four candidates are behind, but they have had an impact on the campaign, with some appearing to have taken the role of helping to advance the chances of the more prominent candidates with similar political leanings and others using the campaign to promote their parties or bids in other elections.

Janez Cigler Kralj, the former labour minister and current deputy group leader of the Christian democratic New Slovenia (NSi), an opposition party, ranks at 3.6% in the Ninamedia poll and 4% in the Parsifal poll, votes that are likely to migrate to Logar in the run-off if not sooner.

Gynaecologist Sabina Senčar, who is supported by the non-parliamentary Resni.ca, a party founded amid the Covid epidemic on the back of opposition to Covid measures and vaccination, has polled at between 6% in a poll commissioned by Delo, 4.8% in Parsifal’s and 3.6% in the Ninamedia poll.

Other contenders are Vladimir Prebilič, a defence expert and Kočevje mayor, who has been supported by the the non-parliamentary green party Vesna, and Miha Kordiš, the MP and candidate for the Left known for his fiery rhetoric and admiration for the Yugoslav Communist leader Tito.

Even as Kordiš announced his bid he indicated his prime goal would be to promote the ideas and policies of the most left-wing of coalition party. His role in the campaign also appears to have been to attack Pirc Musar as a lawyer representing capital against the oppressed and thus increase the chances for Brglez.

The first of the candidates to announce her bid, Pirc Musar has been under media scrutiny over her family wealth and allegations of contentious business dealings of her husband, as well as the fact that they both once worked for the company of a since fallen privatisation baron.

Moreover, Brglez, an international relations professor otherwise known for his mild manners, has adopted a more heavy-worded rhetoric. In an address to the recent SD congress he attacked Pirc Musar by saying he himself was independent of transition capital.

In a jab at the other political side, represented by Logar, Brglez warned against letting “the dark forces toy with our destiny, the destiny of our country and its future”.

In turn, Brglez faced allegations over a sponsorship contract when being elected chairman of the Chess Association in 2019, while right-wing media have accused the media establishment of being partial to Brglez at the expense of Pirc Musar even if she stood a better chance of defeating Logar.

Otherwise the election campaign has largely passed free from any major acrimony, save for sniping in social media. Foreign policy topics topped discussion in televised debates, along with issues linked to the upcoming triple referendum initiated by the SDS, such as long-term care, and the potential scope for expanding presidential powers.

This year’s presidential election will be the seventh since Slovenia became an independent country in 1991. Milan Kučan was the only president thus far to have been elected in the first round both in 1992 and 1997. Only him and Pahor served two terms.

A total of 1,694,429 voters are eligible to cast their vote, including 107,107 of those permanently residing abroad. A total of 3,183 polling stations will be open across the country and another 30 at diplomatic offices in 26 other countries.

The National Electoral Commission will start releasing results as soon as the polls close at 7pm on Sunday. They expect the results to become sufficiently clear at around 9pm.

The post Polling day approaches after campaign full of twists and turns appeared first on Slovenia Times.

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