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Slovenia Electing New President

Voters in Slovenia are choosing a successor to President Milan Kucan, who led the country to independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. The current prime minister is favored to succeed Mr. Kucan, who is obliged to step down after 10 years as president.

Slovenia's 1.6 million voters are choosing from nine candidates for the presidency.

Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek, a 51-year-old economist who is credited with moving the young nation from communism to a market economy, is the favorite for the mainly ceremonial post of president.

But with so many candidates in the race, he may not receive the 50 percent of the vote needed for outright victory. In this case, there will be a second round on December 1. It is likely that Mr. Drnovsek would then face state prosecutor Barbara Brezigar.

Ms. Brezigar also supports Slovenia's entry into the European Union, due in 2004, and like Mr. Drnovsek wants Slovenia to joint NATO as soon as possible. She accuses the prime minister of moving too slowly in modernizing Slovenia.

Mr. Drnovsek rejects the criticism, saying Slovenia is now among the most prosperous candidate states for EU membership. Inflation is down and unemployment is at six percent. Economists said Slovenia's four percent economic growth puts it ahead of Greece and Portugal.

Voter turnout was reported high. There was little evidence of extra security measures in a country that prides itself on being one of the safest in Europe.