Ljubljana, 23 October – Anže Logar, the conservative former foreign minister, won 34% of the vote in Sunday’s presidential election in Slovenia and will face lawyer Nataša Pirc Musar in the 13 November run-off after she picked 27%. Being limited to two terms, incumbent Borut Pahor could not run again.
Both Logar and Pirc Musar run as independents, meaning they needed to collect at least 5,000 voter signatures to enter the race, but they have also been endorsed by parties, Logar by the opposition Democrats (SDS), for whom he serves as MP, and the non-parliamentary People’s Party (SLS), whereas Pirc Musar has been supported by the non-parliamentary Pirate Party and Youth Party – European Greens.
MEP Milan Brglez, the joint candidate of the coalition Social Democrats (SD) and Freedom Movement, who entered the campaign late after the ruling party’s erstwhile candidate pulled out, garnered 15%, a low considering the Freedom Movement picked over 34% on the vote just half a year earlier.
Among the four less prominent candidates, Kočevje Mayor Vladimir Prebilič, a defence expert whose bid has been supported by the non-parliamentary party Vesna, won 11% of the vote, and gynaecologist Sabina Senčar, running with the support of the anti-vaxxer non-parliamentary party Resni.ca, got 6%.
Two MPs, running for parties on the opposite ends of the political spectrum, trailed at the bottom. Janez Cigler Kralj, the former labour minister running for the Christian Democratic party New Slovenia (NSi), won 4%, and Miha Kordiš, the candidate of the coalition party the Left Left, mustered 3%.
In his first comment, the winner of the first round, Logar, who posted the best result ever for any conservative candidate in the first round of a presidential election, suggested it was his campaigning for cooperation and dialogue that won him a plurality.
Indeed, Logar cast aside the hard-line and divisive rhetoric of his party boss, the previous Prime Minister Janez Janša, which appears to have broadened his appeal among voters, even as some have criticised him for disavowing his party and even the government he served in.
He said he had ran the campaign on his own, presenting the views he himself represented. “Some may have seen this as me distancing myself, but I was actually being me, Anže Logar, a candidate,” said the 46-year-old, seen by some as Janša’s most plausible potential successor.
Logar vowed to be a unifying president if elected. He believes the second round will be a vote about Slovenia’s future, about whether the country should remain divided or become united.
Pirc Musar, a lawyer who has also made a name for herself as information commissioner and TV anchor, said the differences between her and Logar would have to be more apparent in the second round. She is confident time has come for Slovenia to get its first woman president.
The 54-year-old said the results showed voters did not follow orders by political parties, instead they recognised her quality and the values by which she lived. “For decades, I’ve been a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community, I’m for the right to have freedom in choice of birth, abortion. These are the things that no one can take out of my DNA,” she said.
PM Robert Golob failed to admit defeat, declaring instead that a left-leaning candidate was going to win the run-off. “Who on the centre-left will win is not as important as the fact that the centre-left takes this position in its own hands and Slovenia gets a stable political environment,” he said.
While endorsing Pirc Musar for the second round, Golob said he believed the main message for those prone to speculate about losers was that the common candidate of the Freedom Movement and the SD made the coalition stronger.
Similarly, Brglez said his result was not a vote of no confidence in the ruling coalition as general and presidential elections were different. What mattered, he said was “cooperation between the Freedom Movement and the SD”, a project he said would continue.
In the campaign ahead of the first round, the focus of the contest was on the battle between Pirc Musar and Brglez, both left-leaning candidates. Early on Pirc Musar was endorsed by two previous presidents, Milan Kučan and Danilo Türk.
Moreover, Kučan, whose opinion is still valued highly by part of the left-leaning electorate, argued it would be unacceptable to have members of the same party in the country’s top three offices, in a jab against the PM’s party, which also holds the post of the speaker of the upper chamber of parliament.
Marta Kos, a diplomat that the Freedom Movement first picked as its candidate, understood that comment as an attempt to disqualify her and she soon quit the race. Moreover, Golob later criticised the two presidents by saying some people would not understand alliances in the centre left should be supported.
With nearly all votes counted, the turnout stood at 51.06%, which compares to 44.22% in the first round of the 2017 election. Logar won in all eight electoral units and in a large majority of districts, of which there are eleven in every unit. He performed well in rural communities and Pirc Musar took major urban areas, including Ljubljana and Maribor. Brglez did not win in a single constituency.