LJUBLJANA, Slovenia (AP) — No candidate appeared to win an outright majority in Sunday's presidential election in Slovenia, and a runoff is expected next month between the incumbent and a former prime minister.
Former Prime Minister Borut Pahor was first with 40 percent of the vote, followed by President Danilo Turk, with 36.2 percent and center-right candidate Milan Zver at 24 percent, the state election commission said after 99.9 percent of the ballots were counted.
If that outcome holds when the commission announces the official results in the coming days, a runoff between the top two candidates will be held on Dec. 2.
Pahor's lead was viewed as a surprise since Turk had been tipped to be the frontrunner in Sunday's election.
But a runoff had been widely expected in the race for the presidential office — a largely ceremonial post in Slovenia but one that commands political authority.
When the initial result started coming in, Pahor said the "confidence of the people is much higher than I had expected."
"But I can promise that my activities and achievements — if I am elected president — will be much higher than expected," he added.
Political analyst Tone Jerovsek said Pahor was finishing first because "his statements were never radical," convincing the voters that he could bring together Slovenia's divided political scene.
A disappointed Turk said he looks forward to a runoff.
The election comes as Slovenia — a small, economically struggling country of 2 million — faces risks of needing an international economic bailout.
Chosen for a five-year term, the president heads the army and proposes the national bank chief. The latter is an especially sensitive task considering the severe financial crisis caused here by state-owned banks' rampant lending.
The presidential race also affects political stability in Slovenia, where the government of Prime Minister Janez Jansa faces strong opposition to the reform package it believes will help save the economy, such as pension and labor reforms.