By Marja Novak
LJUBLJANA (Reuters) – Slovenia’s opposition center-right anti-immigrant party looked set to win a national election on Sunday, after taking 24.4 percent of the vote, according to exit polls from TV Slovenia.
In a highly fragmented ballot, the Adriatic state’s 1.7 million-strong electorate was choosing between 25 parties of which 9 will make it to the parliament according to exit polls.
The state election commission also put Slovenia Democratic Party (SDS) ahead in the election with 26.3 percent of the votes after 25 percent of votes were counted.
The center-left party The List of Marjan Sarec (LMS) was in second place behind SDS with 12.2 percent of the vote, according to commission.
Preliminary results will be issued by the State Election Commission by 2100 GMT on Sunday.
SDS’s hardline stance on immigration has left it short of potential coalition partners, and its leader acknowledged any post-election negotiations would be difficult.
“We will probably have to wait for some time (after the election)… before serious talks on a new government will be possible,” SDS’s leader Janez Jansa – a two-time prime minister – told reporters after voting in Sentilj pri Velenju.
LMS’s leader Marjan Sarec told reporters after the partial results were released that he expected to get an opportunity to form a government as most parties had said before the vote they were likely to join an SDS-led government.
But the fragmented nature of the vote means SDS will need to link up with at least two other parties to gain a majority in the 90-seat parliament.
The election commission said turnout by 1600 GMT was 34.3 percent compared to 35.6 percent in the last election four years ago, when 51.7 percent of the electorate ended up voting.
The ballot was called in March after center-left Prime Minister Miro Cerar resigned, weeks before his term was due to end. His departure followed a Supreme Court order for a new referendum on a railway investment project championed by his government.
Cerar’s Party of The Modern Centre is currently in third place according to the exit poll.
‘PUTTING SLOVENIANS FIRST’
The SDS party, supported by Hungary’s nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, is firmly opposed to quotas for migrants and says most of the money used to support them should be diverted to the security forces.
“We believe that today a first step will be made toward Slovenia becoming a country that will put the well-being and security of Slovenians first,” Jansa said.
Analysts say predicting what the future government might look like was hard and another election could not be ruled out.
“It seems clear that the SDS will win but everything else about this election is unclear because the question is whether the SDS will be able to form a government coalition,” Meta Roglic, a political analyst with daily Dnevnik, said.
Slovenia, which narrowly avoided a bailout for its banks in 2013, returned to growth in 2014. The outgoing government expects the economy to expand by 5.1 percent this year.
High on the agenda for the next government will be the privatization of the country’s largest bank, Nova Ljubljanska Banka, which the previous administration agreed to sell in exchange for European Commission approval of state aid for it in 2013.
The new cabinet will also be expected to reform an inefficient state health sector and Slovenia’s pension system.
“I want changes for the better, particularly in the health sector and judiciary. I was quite disappointed with the current government so I will not vote for them,” said Sonja, a 60-year-old retired teacher who voted in Ljubljana.
(Reporting By Marja Novak, additional reporting by Boris Kavic and Branko Filipovic; editing by John Stonestreet and Jane Merriman)