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Slovenia: Jansa faces off against newcomer Golob in tight parliamentary vote

The opposition has cast Slovenia's election as a 'referendum on democracy'

The opposition has cast Slovenia's election as a 'referendum on democracy'

Slovenians went to the polls on Sunday in parliamentary elections pitting conservative Prime Minister Janez Jansa against Robert Golob, a US-educated former business executive heading the newly formed green-liberal Freedom Movement (GS).

Surveys have shown that Jansa, who has come under fire from Brussels over moves perceived as undermining the rule of law, is likely to face a stiff fight to stay in power, with GS polling at 27% on Friday compared to 24% for his Slovenian Democratic Party.

Some 1.7 million people from Slovenia's population of 2.1 million are eligible to vote in the elections for seats in the 90-member legislature. Observers have said neither party is likely to receive enough votes to rule outright, making a coalition government highly probable.

In 2004, the country became the first ex-Yugoslav state to join the European Union.

Who are the main contenders?

Although an array of parties is taking part in the elections, surveys have shown that the election is likely to come down to a tight race between Jansa's and Golob's camps.

Jansa, 63, is an ally of nationalist Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and a fan of former US President Donald Trump.

He already served as prime minister between 2004 and 2008, and between 2012 and 2013. A corruption scandal forced him out of office just a year into his second term. He took power for a third term in 2020 after the previous liberal premier, Marjan Sarec, resigned, saying his minority government could not push through legislation.

Jansa has faced anti-government rallies since taking office, with tens of thousands accusing him of authoritarianism. He has also come into conflict with Brussels over his moves to suspend funding to the national news agency for more than a year and delays in appointing prosecutors to the bloc's new anti-graft body.

However, he has recently distanced himself from Orban, who is also at loggerheads with the EU over rule-of-law concerns, by adopting a tough stance toward Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Golob, 55, is a political newcomer who was formerly the chief of a major power company.

He and his GS party have the backing of several center-left opposition parties, giving him a greater chance than Jansa of forming a ruling coalition.

The GS party has advocated a green energy transition and sustainable development, as opposed to Jansa's promises of stability and nationalist slogans such as "We build Slovenia."

tj/dj (AP, AFP)