Slovenia's presidential hopefuls line up to succeed Drnovsek

President Janez Drnovsek

In November Slovenes will elect a new President. The incumbent, Janez Drnovsek,says he will not be seeking another five year term. In recent months tensions between President Drnovsek and Prime Minister Jansa have made headlines in Slovenia and there've been suggestions the government could move to strip the post of some of its powers. The first to enter the presidential race is Lojze Peterle, who served as Slovenia's prime minister from 1990 to 1992, and was elected to the European Parliament in 2004.

The President of the Rebublic of Slovenia is elected in direct, general elections for a five-year term of office and may be elected for a maximum of two consecutive terms. Thus it is important for the presidential candidates to begin with a convincing campaign. The election is also seen as a test for both the ruling and opposition parties on whether Slovene voters still support the right wing government a year ahead of the parliamentary elections in 2008.

Centre-left parties look set to enter this year's presidential race with two candidates: the Liberal Democrats are sticking with former central bank governor Mitja Gaspari, who has not yet decided whether to run for the post. And after months of speculations Borut Pahor, the Presdient of the Social Democrats, decided to lead his party during the parliamentary elections in 2008 instead of running for president. Polls indicated that he would have probably have won the Presidency as he had greater voter support than Lojze Peterle. The Social Democrats will now endorse law professor and former senior UN diplomat and first advisor to former UN General Secretary Kofi Annan, Danilo Tuerk, who said he is prepared for a hard presidential campaign:

"I think I am prepared. During this early phase I am very interested to meet with as many people as possible and to create a feeling that I offer a sober and connecting role, which I would really like to perform very well and, of course I am interested to find out what people think of that."

In all current polls however former central bank governor Gaspari comes closest to Alojz Peterle who intends to run as an independent candidate but enjoys the backing of the three centre-right coalition parties. Alojz Peterle would take the 2007 presidential vote if an election was held this weekend, according to a public opinion poll, published in the weekly Mladina.

The result gives Peterle 37% of the vote -- a 16 percentage-point lead over his closest follower, Mitja Gaspari. Danilo Tuerk would get almost 16% of the vote. Nevertheless Danilo Tuerk hopes that his experiences as UN diplomat can prove helpful in the campaign:

"I hope they help. In the United Nations one gets used to patience and one gets used to the fact that people differ a lot and one thing I find extremely important is that you always have to think about how the other party/side understands you."

Of course there are more candidates, who would like to become president of Slovenia but according to the Mladina poll they would get much less support. The paper notes that although Peterle has a huge head start in the campaign, Gaspari seems famous enough, as a former central bank governor and finance minister, to mount a real challenge. Under Slovenian electoral law, the top two presidential candidates will enter the second round of elections if neither fails to secure a 50% majority vote. By the end of the year it will be clear who has won the race.