Slovenia Elects New President

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Near-final unofficial results from the National Electoral Commission show Pahor won 67.4% of the vote. The turnout was 42%, the lowest on record for a presidential election and six points below that in the first round.

The result is no surprise considering the polls before the run-off, but Türk entered the race in the summer as the clear front-runner, with Pahor staging an upset in the first round on 11 November by upending the incumbent on a platform of cross-partisanship.

In his first statement following the release of exit polls Pahor reiterated his central message of unity and cross-partisanship, one which he has used as a contrast to Türk's perceived divisiveness.

"We need trust, mutual respect, tolerance, readiness to listen. Irrespective of how big the differences among us may be, the things that connect us are even stronger," he said.

While saying that he was also grappling with many questions, Pahor said that he knew one important answer: "That all the worries, fears and lack of trust among us is accompanied by enough hope, strength and courage."

Türk conceded defeat and congratulated Pahor, but he refrained from analysing the reasons for the outcome. There are "plenty of qualified people to make political assessments, analysis and polls…I have to be modest, I can't immodestly assess this election".

Türk said he would remain an "active citizen" after his term officially ends in three weeks. "I entered politics five years ago as an active citizen, one of those who care. My commitment remains unchanged," he said.

The low turnout highlights the apparent loss of trust in politicians that has been raised in a wave of anti-establishment protests currently sweeping across Slovenia.

Pahor said that trust in state institutions needed to be restored, arguing that the institutions needed to "earn this trust with hard work for the common good." Türk, meanwhile, said the turnout was a "cause of concern".

The campaigning for the second round was framed by pundits as a battle between the "new left" of Pahor and the "old left" represented by Türk, but it also pitted Türk as a critic of government measures and guardian against government excess against Pahor's perceived excessive willingness to accommodate Prime Minister Janez Janša.

Türk sharpened his rhetoric while Pahor kept to his message of unity, though he was forced to backtrack somewhat on support for the government.

The final stages of the campaign also coincided with massive protests against the political establishment in general, but they appear to have had little effect on the outcome.

The first reactions from politicians underline the hope promulgated by Pahor that the "politics of divisions" will end and a new era of unity ushered in.

Janša congratulated Pahor on the "excellent and convincing result". "I thank him in particular because he talked about things that are not popular but are necessary – winning support in spite of that."

He hinted that with election out of the way, reforms would be back at the top of the political agenda, not just economic reforms but reforms of the political system designed to eliminate blockades.

He said that the "entire political establishment and the active citizenry" face the challenge in the "crucial weeks ahead" to implement "corrections to the political system" that will enable the elimination of blockades, in particular in the judiciary.

Parliament Speaker Gregor Virant, the head of the Citizens' List (DL) and a supporter of Pahor's, described the outcome as a win for centre-oriented, moderate and constructive politics. He feels Pahor's election will have a calming effect on the situation in the country.

New Slovenia (NSi) deputy group leader Matej Tonin hopes Pahor will be a president of all, while People's Party (SLS) president Radovan Žerjav said people "consciously stepped beyond partisan and ideological divisions".

The head of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) Karl Erjavec, who had supported Türk, said Pahor had the right qualities to be a good president and to bridge the left-right political divide in the country.

Igor Lukšič, the head of Pahor's Social Democrats (SD), said the message of the election was that people recognise Pahor as a person who will unite Slovenia and help it go forward.

Analysing the outcome, Matevž Tomšič of the Nova Gorica Faculty of Advanced Social Studies said Pahor's victory will bring a normalisation of relations between the presidential office and the government.

Tomšič trusts Pahor's honesty and says that as PM he advocated conciliatory policies, but was blocked by his political partners, while he will be more independent in his decisions as president.

Samo Uhan, a lecturer at the Ljubljana Faculty of Social Sciences, meanwhile thinks that Pahor will be in a tough spot, as he is assuming office at a time when the political elite has serious legitimacy issues.

Pahor wanted to show that he can connect politicians, but "the street has shown that what we need most at this point is connection between the political elite and the common people. Pahor's task will be much more demanding than it seems," he said.