Slovene Ex-Comedian’s Party Takes Lead in Poll Before Elections

  • Party of failed presidential candidate Sarec has 19% support
  • Prime Minister Cerar’s Modern Center Party falls to fourth

A party led by a former comedian who has vowed to sweep Slovenia’s political elite from power took the lead in opinion polls before summer general elections.

The List party led by Marjan Sarec, a comic-turned-mayor who unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Borut Pahor in November presidential elections, would get 19 percent of the vote if elections were held now, according to a survey by Delo Stik on Monday. The Slovenian Democratic Party led by former Prime Minister Janesz Jansa was second with 14 percent, while Prime Minister Miro Cerar’s Modern Center Party fell to fourth with 6 percent.

"Voters expect immediate and comprehensive changes from the new leaders they elevate to power," Otilia Dhand, an analyst at Teneo Intelligence, said in an email. "Invariably, they are disappointed. The Modern Center Party’s ratings collapsed from 34 percent in July 2014 to single digits within less than 12 months."

Despite overseeing booming economic growth, Cerar’s party has plummeted in polls amid public frustration over a failure to prosecute graft and his refusal to hike the wages of striking police, teachers, and other public-sector employees. Many voters have also complained of seeing little benefit in their wallets from the surge in the economy, which grew 6 percent from a year earlier in the last three months of 2017.

Comedian Rising

Sarec, now a provincial mayor who won 47 percent in a presidential runoff last November, has said he’ll make sweeping changes in top posts in the country of 2 million, including at the central bank, which has resounded in a country that narrowly avoided a Greece-style international bailout in 2013.

He has also said the euro-zone nation should sell majority stakes in state-owned lenders Nova Ljubljanska Banka d.d. and Abanka, Slovenia’s two largest banks which were rescued by taxpayers along with other banks in a 3.2 billion euro bailout after years of mismanagement and political meddling pushed the lenders to the brink of insolvency.

As part of that rescue, Slovenia pledged to sell NLB last year, but Cerar’s government reneged on the promise and now wants to delay or find another solution.

The poll, carried out March 1-8 among 1,010 people, saw the Social Democrats led by Agriculture Minister Dejan Zidan in third with 13 percent. Three other parties would also clear the 5 percent threshold to make it into parliament.

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