LJUBLJANA (AFP) — Centre-left opposition party candidate Danilo Turk decisively won Slovenia's presidential election Sunday, the electoral commission announced.
His landslide victory dealt a blow to the ruling centre-right coalition of Prime Minister Janez Jansa ahead of general elections next year.
The 55-year-old Turk won 68.26 percent of the vote, while Lojze Peterle, backed by the PM's centre-right coalition, took just 31.74 percent, according to results with 99.9 percent of the votes counted, the commission said.
Mail ballots have yet to be tallied and final full results are expected to be published in a week's time.
Turk's majority is the largest won in a presidential election in 15 years, beating even reformed communist Milan Kucan, who in 1992 won 64 percent of the vote in Slovenia's first democratic elections after independence.
Peterle conceded defeat almost immediately after first exit polls indicated Turk's victory, admitting: "I expected a better result."
He added: "I sincerely congratulate Danilo Turk on his victory. I wish him good luck in leading the country in the challenging times ahead of us."
Calling his win a victory for all voters, Turk said: "I believe the situation here is such that many citizens want something new, that wish is very strong and the campaign has been proving that wish all along."
The victory represents a fresh blow for Prime Minister Jansa's ruling coalition ahead of the 2008 general elections, following its defeat in Slovenia's two largest cities, Ljubljana and Maribor, in municipal elections last year.
"This was a vote against the government, at least analysts say so," said Peterle, himself a former prime minister.
In the first round of voting on October 21, Peterle won 28.73 percent of the vote ahead of Turk with 24.47 percent.
After the government launched accusations against Turk this week, questioning his patriotism during the country's bid for independence in 1991, the mood among party and government officials Sunday evening was rather conciliatory.
"I do not see any polarisation in these results. I had almost 70-percent support, that is a wide support for our sober (political) platform, a platform that is shared by all," Turk said Sunday, adding "I hope we will collaborate well with the government."
Education Minister Milan Zver, representing the government while Jansa was on an official visit to China, said his Slovenian Democratic Party, the senior coalition partner, had "to share this defeat" with Peterle.
He said the government would have no issue in working with the new president and added: "Turk will be a good president, he is competent and capable, his qualities will make him a better president than the ones we have had so far."
But Zver insisted the outcome of Sunday's vote "has nothing to do with the parliamentary elections" planned for next autumn.
"There is a different philosophy in parliamentary elections and in the year ahead, the cards will be mixed many times," he said.
Turnout on Sunday was 57.78 percent, the electoral commission reported.
Slovenia's president holds a largely ceremonial role but Turk's victory has added meaning as he will now head the former communist country of two million inhabitants when it takes over the revolving six-month presidency of the European Union in January.
Slovenia joined the European Union in 2004 and adopted the euro in January.
Turk will be sworn in at the end of December.
He follows two other centre-left presidents: Kucan, who served two terms from 1992 to 2002, and Liberal Democrat outgoing president Janez Drnovsek, who chose not to stand for re-election.
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