Exit polls show opposition wins Slovenian elections | Economic news

By ALI ZERDIN, Associated Press

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia (AP) — Polls ahead of Sunday’s Slovenian legislative elections suggested a liberal opposition party won a landslide victory, inflicting a major defeat on populist Prime Minister Janez Jansa, accused of pushing the small European Union countries to the right while at the office.

Polls conducted by polling agency Mediana and published by public broadcaster TV Slovenia and commercial television Pop, showed that the opposition Freedom Movement won 35.8% support compared to the conservative Slovenian Democratic Party in power with 22.5%,

Behind the two main contenders were the New Slovenia Party with 6.8%, followed by the Social Democrats with 6.6% and the Left Party with 4.4%. Polls have proven reliable in the past.

If confirmed in an official tally, the result means the Freedom Movement, a newcomer to the election, is likely to form the next government in a coalition with smaller centre-left groups. The party leader addressed supporters via video message from his home as he has COVID-19.

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“People are dancing tonight,” Robert Golob told the cheering crowd at party headquarters. “Tomorrow is a new day and serious work awaits us.”

Jansa posted a message to supporters on Twitter, saying only “thank you for your vote”.

It remains unclear which other smaller groups, if any, will be able to cross the 4% threshold and what the final distribution of parliamentary seats will look like.

Jansa, a seasoned politician, became prime minister just over two years ago after the previous Liberal prime minister resigned. An admirer of former US President Donald Trump, Jansa had pushed the country towards right-wing populism since taking office at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Reflecting the strong interest in Sunday’s elections, voter turnout was higher than usual – nearly 50% of Slovenia’s 1.7 million voters had voted by mid-afternoon, up from around 15% compared to the previous elections in 2018.

Golob, a former US-educated business executive, became a frontrunner shortly after entering the political arena. The Freedom Movement party advocated a green energy transition and sustainable development rather than the nation-centric narrative of Jansa.

The Liberals had described Sunday’s election as a referendum on Slovenia’s future. They argued that Jansa, if re-elected, would move the traditionally moderate nation further away from the “core” democratic values ​​of the EU and towards other populist regimes.

Jansa’s SDS won the most votes in an election four years ago but was initially unable to find partners for a coalition government. He took over after lawmakers from centrist and left-wing groups switched sides following the 2020 resignation of liberal Prime Minister Marjan Sarec.

Jansa, in power, has been accused of sliding towards authoritarian rule in the style of his ally, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. He has come under EU scrutiny amid reports he has lobbied opponents and state media and installed loyalists in key positions controlling state institutions .

Democracy watchdog Freedom House recently stated that “while political rights and civil liberties are generally respected (in Slovenia), the current right-wing government continues to attempt to undermine the rule of law and democratic institutions. , including the media and the judiciary”.

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