Slovenia elects first woman president in a runoff vote

Nov 12, 2022, 12:54 PM | Updated: Nov 13, 2022, 2:56 pm

Dogs wait for their owner outside a polling station in Radomlje near Ljubljana, Slovenia, Sunday, N...

Dogs wait for their owner outside a polling station in Radomlje near Ljubljana, Slovenia, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2022. Slovenian voters choose between center-right former foreign minister Anze Logar and liberal candidate Natasa Pirc Musar in the runoff of the presidential election. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

(AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia (AP) — Liberal rights advocate Natasa Pirc Musar won a runoff Sunday to become Slovenia’s first female head of state, and said she will seek to bridge the deep left-right divide in the Alpine nation of 2 million.

With nearly all of the votes counted in the small European Union nation, Pirc Musar led Slovenia’s conservative former Foreign Minister Anze Logar by 54% to 46%. Her victory boosts the country’s liberal bloc following the center-left coalition victory in Slovenia’s parliamentary election in April.

“My first task will be to open a dialogue among all Slovenians,” she said as her election team celebrated. “In the democratic election, Slovenians have shown what kind of a country they want.”

“All my life I’ve advocated the same values: democracy, human rights, tolerance. It’s time to stop dealing with the past. Many things have to be done in the future,” she declared.

Logar conceded defeat, saying he hopes Pirc Musar “will carry out all the promises” that she made during the campaign.

Pirc Musar, 54, will be the first woman to serve as president since Slovenia became independent amid the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991. A prominent lawyer, Pirc Musar had represented former U.S. first lady Melania Trump in copyright and other cases in her native Slovenia.

She trailed Logar in the first round of voting two weeks ago.

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

Pirc Musar will succeed President Borut Pahor, a centrist politician who had already served two terms.

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

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 the parliamentary election in April.

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Slovenia elects first woman president in a runoff vote