Crisis-hit Slovenia chooses new president

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Crisis-hit Slovenia chooses new president

by AFP Videos 0:38 mins

Crisis-hit Slovenia chooses new president

by AFP Videos 0:38 mins

SHOTLIST: LJUBLJANA, NOVEMBER 11, 2012 (SOURCE: AFPTV) SOUNDBITE 1 Danilo Turk, Present head of state and presidential candidate (Slovenian, 7 sec): "It is the day of the democracy. Changes are necessary and I am ready to bring my contribution". SOUNDBITE 2 Borut Pahot, former Prime minister and presidential candidate (Slovenian, 12 sec): "Voters gave me hope, which is the most important thing. They want to see me with the light at the end of the tunnel. I think I have a plan to reach that light". - VAR outgoing President Danilo Turc voting alongside his wife - VAR polling station - VAR people voting \\\ ---------------------------------------------------- AFP TEXT STORY: Crisis-hit Slovenia chooses new president by Bojan KAVCIC LJUBLJANA, Nov 11, 2012 (AFP) - Slovenians voted Sunday in a presidential election as the small ex-Yugoslav republic, once a star pupil in the EU, battles with an economic crisis that threatens to make it the next eurozone member to need a bailout. The post of president is largely ceremonial but the present head of state Danilo Turk has been a thorn in the side of centre-right Prime Minister Janez Jansa as he attempts to implement reforms and austerity cuts. Opinion polls indicate however that Turk will come first in the election, although not with enough of the vote to win in the first round. A run-off, likely pitting Turk against Jansa's centre-left predecessor Borut Pahor, is set for December 2. Casting his vote in central Ljubljana, Turk said he was optimistic. "My chances are looking good, I hope for the best," Turk told journalists. His rival Pahor said: "I'm the only one among the candidates who has felt all the cruelties of this crisis. I know what can be done for things to get better and what can't be done." Jansa's favourite among the three candidates, former culture minister and European MP Milan Zver, is expected to come third, with polls giving him some 24 percent compared with 33 percent for Pahor and 42-44 percent for Turk. Turnout by 1000 GMT was just over 14 percent of the 1.7 million eligible voters. Slovenia is in the throes of one of the deepest downturns in the eurozone with the European Commission predicting last week that output will shrink a painful 2.3 percent this year and 1.6 percent in 2013. Large volumes of bad loans at Slovenia's banks have raised fears that the country of two million people may become the latest in the 17-nation European currency union to need outside help. Slovenia's credit ratings have been slashed, mostly because of the banks, and borrowing rates on its sovereign debt have soared to seven percent, a level regarded as unsustainable in the long term without assistance. Unemployment in the 21-year-old nation is hitting record levels and trade unions plan major protests on November 17 against tough government spending cuts. Jansa took office in February after the collapse of Pahor's administration last year and has launched a series of measures aimed at putting public finances back on an even keel and reforming pensions and the labour market. During the electoral campaign Turk, 60, a law professor who worked at the United Nations under former secretary general Kofi Annan, openly and repeatedly questioned Jansa's policies. "The economic situation is difficult but not extraordinary, there is no use of dramatising the situation and threatening. The government's assessments of the situation are more alarming than they should be," he warned in one television debate. In January Turk even refused to give Jansa a mandate to form a new government after the winner of December's early elections, Ljubljana mayor Zoran Jankovic, failed to form a coalition. Eventually Jansa was elected by MPs. By contrast, Turk's rivals in Sunday's election, Pahor, 49, and Zver, 50, have backed the government's efforts. "If there was a run-off between Pahor and Turk, certainly Jansa and the whole government would prefer Borut Pahor. For Jansa that would be the less-bad choice, he will be much more cooperative as president," said Matevz Tomsic from the Nova Gorica Advanced Social Studies faculty.

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