Slovenians vote as anti-immigrant party sees strong support
Slovenians are voting Sunday in a parliamentary election with polls predicting that an anti-immigrant party will win the most votes but not enough to form a government on its own.
The ballot is being held a few weeks earlier than the country's regular four-year span following the sudden resignation in March of outgoing Prime Minister Miro Cerar over a failed railway project.
Slovenia, once part of former communist-run Yugoslavia and the home nation of U.S. first lady Melania Trump, joined the European Union in 2004. It has been using the shared euro currency since 2007.
The right-wing Slovenian Democratic Party of former Prime Minister Janez Jansa has seen strong support ahead of Sunday's ballot, followed by an anti-establishment party led by ex-comedian Marjan Sarec and several moderate groups from the outgoing ruling coalition.
But observers also say many of the country's 1.7 million voters are still undecided.
"I believe a first step will be taken today toward turning Slovenia into a country that will put a Slovenian first, his safety and welfare," Jansa said upon voting. "I am skeptical that the (election) result will be such to grant enough stability to achieve this in one step. But this will be the beginning."
Jansa's rising popularity in the traditionally moderate Slovenia is seen as a reflection of a wider surge in right-wing populism in central and eastern Europe amid an influx into Europe of migrants from the Mideast and Africa.
Jansa has allied himself with Hungary's firebrand prime minister, Viktor Orban, who participated in one of the SDS party's election rallies. Orban built a razor-wire fence on Hungary's border with Serbia to keep migrants away.
The latest opinion polls predict Jansa's SDS party could get around 25 percent of the votes. Former satirist Sarec's list and the Social Democrats are trailing with around 12 percent each while Cerar's Modern Center Party stands below 10 percent.
Since no group is expected to gain an absolute majority in the 90-member parliament, negotiations to form a coalition government are likely after the vote.
Despite being the front-runner, Jansa won't be able to return to power. More likely, other groups will form a coalition and keep him out of government.
Credit: ALI ZERDIN, ASSOCIATED PRESS
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