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Slovenia votes for president, could elect first woman

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

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

Since none of the seven contenders who competed in the first round managed to gather more than 50% of the ballots and claim outright victory, Logar and Pirc Musar went forward to a runoff. Analysts in Slovenia have predicted centrist and liberal voters would rally behind Pirc Musar.

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

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

As a prominent lawyer and rights advocate, Pirc Musar had represented former U.S. first lady Melania Trump over copyright and other cases in her native Slovenia. Musar has been targeted by opponents mostly for her husband’s sprawling business empire and alleged tax evasion matters.

If she wins, Pirc Musar, 54, would become the first woman to serve as president since Slovenia became independent amid the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991.

Logar, 46, served under former populist Prime Minister Janez Jansa, who moved Slovenia to the right while in power and faced accusations of undemocratic and divisive policies.

Jansa was ousted from power in a parliamentary election in April by a center-left liberal coalition. Pirc Musar’s victory would boost Slovenia’s current liberal leadership.

Logar has faced criticism that he is hardly an independent candidate as he is declaring to be, given his previous and current roles in Jansa’s conservative SDS party. He has responded to this by promising to represent all voters if he becomes president.

After voting in the capital, Ljubljana, Logar told reporters he would be having a quiet day while he waited for the results.

“We will cook lunch, I’ll 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. Polls close at 7 p.m. (1800 GMT). Official results are expected a few hours later.

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