Slovenia centrists win national election, defeating right-wing populist incumbent

·1 min read
Voting in Slovenia
Voting in Slovenia Luka Dakskobler/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

Slovenia's opposition Freedom Movement party won the largest share of the vote in Sunday's election, beating right-wing populist Prime Minister Janez Jansa's Slovenian Democratic Party by about 10 percentage points and making Freedom Movement leader Robert Golob the likely next prime minister.

Jansa is an effusive admirer of former U.S. President Donald Trump and a key ally of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Slovenia's election was "a noteworthy test for the appeal of right-wing populism" in Europe, The New York Times reports, and Jansa's evident defeat, along with Marine Le Pen's loss in France on Sunday, was a "significant setback" for "Europe's once surging movement of nationalist populists."

Jansa, like Orban, had pushed his small European Union nation to the nationalist right, drawing accusations of mounting authoritarianism. But unlike the newly re-elected Orban, Jansa publicly supported Ukraine and criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion.

Turnout was a higher-than-usual 67 percent of eligible voters, versus 52 percent in the 2018 election that gave Jensa his plurality. With more than 97 percent of votes tallied in Sunday's election, the centrist Freedom Movement won about 34 percent of the vote, followed by the Slovenian Democratic Party's 24 percent. Golob, a former energy executive and political newcomer, should be able to form a government with a constellation of leftist groups that won single-digit shares of the vote.

"Tonight people dance," Golob told cheering supporters. "Tomorrow is a new day and serious work lies ahead." Jansa congratulated the "relative winner" of the election, saying, "The results are as they are."

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