Borut Pahor, Slovenia’s former prime minister, unexpectedly won the first-round vote in presidential elections as the euro-region nation works to avoid seeking international assistance.
Pahor won 40 percent of the vote, while the incumbent president Danilo Turk got 36 percent, the state election commission said on its website today. Milan Zver, the government-backed member of the European parliament, was third with 24 percent. Pahor and Turk will compete for the post in second-round vote on Dec. 2.
“I received voters’ trust that exceeded my expectations,” Pahor, 49, said late yesterday in the capital Ljubljana after the results were announced. “We are living in demanding times when only with a common effort and faith in each other we can overcome these difficulties.”
Slovenia, the wealthiest country in the east of the European Union, is facing a possible referendum on the government’s plans to overhaul the economy that could force it to seek a bailout, according to Prime Minister Janez Jansa. Parliamentary speaker Gregor Virant is set to announce today the start of a 35-day period in which a trade union that initiated the referendum call needs to collect 40,000 signatures from citizens for the motion to go ahead.
“We will see a heated presidential race that will go parallel with the collection of signatures for the referendum and talks between the ministry and the trade union that will give it all a further impetus,” Andraz Grahek, an economist and independent financial adviser in the capital Ljubljana, said in an e-mail.
A vote on the plan to create a bad bank and a wealth fund that would manage state assets could take place in January if the constitutional court rules the referendum on the government’s measures can go ahead.
Pahor, whose government was toppled after the rejection of pension changes in a referendum last year, has signaled he supports the government’s overhaul plans.
Slovenia’s export-dependent economy is sliding into its second recession in three years with gross domestic product expected to recover only in 2014, according to a Nov. 7 European Commission forecast. The country ranks first in eastern Europe in terms of purchasing power per capita, ahead of Poland, Slovakia and Hungary, according to data by Eurostat, the EU’s statistical agency.
The president of Slovenia is elected for a five-year term and has a largely ceremonial role.