Exit polls in Slovenia's parliamentary election suggest that an opposition liberal party won by a landslide, causing a major defeat to the populist prime minister, Janez Jan a, who was accused of pushing the small EU country to the right while in office.
The Sunday polls showed that the Freedom Movement won 35.8% of support, compared with the ruling conservative Slovenian Democratic party with 22.5%.
The Freedom Movement, a newcomer to the election, is likely to form the next government in a coalition with smaller centre-left groups. The party leader spoke to supporters via a video message from his home because he has Covid-19.
Robert Golob told the cheering crowd at the party's headquarters tonight that they danced. Tomorrow is a new day and there is a lot of work to do. Jan a posted a message to supporters on Twitter, saying only: thank you for your vote. A few years ago, a veteran politician became prime minister after the previous liberal prime minister resigned. Jan, an admirer of Donald Trump, had pushed the country towards right-wing populism since taking over at the beginning of the epidemic.
The turnout in Sunday's election was higher than usual: more than 50% of Slovenia's 1.7 million voters had cast ballots by mid-afternoon, up about 15% compared to the previous election in 2018.
Golob, a US-educated former business executive, came out as a frontrunner shortly after entering the political scene. The Freedom Movement party has advocated for green energy transition and sustainable development, and liberals had described Sunday s election as a referendum on Slovenia's future. They argued that if elected, Jana would push the moderate nation further away from core EU democratic values and towards other populist regimes.
Jan a SDS won the most votes in an election four years ago, but he couldn't find partners for a coalition government. He took over after MPs from centrist and leftist groups switched sides after the resignation of liberal prime minister Marjan arec in 2020.
He faced accusations in power of sliding toward authoritarian rule in the style of his ally, the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orb n, who came under EU scrutiny after reports that he pressured opponents and public media and installed loyalists in key positions for control over state institutions.