Slovenia votes for president, could elect its first wife

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia (AP) — Slovenians were voting Sunday in a presidential runoff that could elect the small European Union country’s first female head of state, while also representing a test case for the country’s new liberal government.

Liberal candidate Natasa Pirc Musar was leading in pre-election polls against conservative Anze Logar, although she trailed the former foreign minister in the first round of voting two weeks ago.

As none of the seven contenders who competed in the first round managed to muster more than 50% of the vote and claim outright victory, Logar and Pirc Musar went on to a second round. Slovenian analysts predicted that centrist and liberal voters would side with Pirc Musar.

The winner will succeed President Borut Pahor, a centrist politician who has sought to bridge Slovenia’s deep left-right political divide during his decade in office. After serving two five-year terms, Pahor was ineligible to seek a third.

While the presidency is largely ceremonial in Slovenia, the head of state is still seen as a person of authority in the Alpine country of 2 million people. Presidents appoint prime ministers and members of the constitutional court, who are then elected to parliament, and appoint members of the anti-corruption commission.

A prominent attorney and rights advocate, Pirc Musar had represented former US First Lady Melania Trump in copyright and other cases in his native Slovenia. Musar has been targeted by naysayers primarily over her husband’s sprawling business empire and alleged tax evasion issues.

If successful, Pirc Musar, 54, would become the first woman to serve as president since Slovenia gained independence when Yugoslavia broke up in 1991.

Logar, 46, served under populist former prime minister Janez Jansa, who shifted Slovenia to the right while in power and was accused of undemocratic and divisive policies.

Jansa was ousted from power in parliamentary elections in April by a centre-left liberal coalition. The victory of Pirc Musar would strengthen the current Slovenian liberal leadership.

Logar has been criticized for not being an independent candidate as he claims, given his past and current roles in Jansa’s conservative SDS party. He responded to this by promising to represent all voters if he became president.

After voting in the capital, Ljubljana, Logar told reporters he would have a quiet day awaiting the results.

“We will cook lunch, I will spend the day with my family,” he said. “I wouldn’t dare to predict the turnout, but I hope it will be high.”

Some 1.7 million people are eligible to vote. Polling stations close at 7:00 p.m. (6:00 p.m. GMT). Official results are expected a few hours later.

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