Slovenia's conservative former Prime Minister Lojze Peterle has won the first round of the country's presidential election, and will advance to a second-round vote next month.

With almost all ballots counted, Peterle is the clear leader, but he also fell far short of the 50 percent vote needed for an outright win. Pre-election forecasts had rated the right-of-center candidate much higher.

Peterle's opponent in the November 11 runoff is Sunday's second-place finisher, but it not yet clear who that will be. Two left-leaning candidates - diplomat Danilo Turk and former central bank official Mitja Gaspari - are less than one-half of one percentage point apart in the preliminary vote count.

The two leftists together won more than 48 percent of Sunday's vote, compared to about 28 percent for Peterle.

Five other candidates also ran. Final results are expected next week.

Head of state is mainly a ceremonial position in Slovenia, but the president's views are influential on defense issues and foreign policy. The winner of next month's vote will succeed President Janez Drnovsek, who is retiring from politics.

Slovenia's economy has thrived since the south-central European nation gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1992, and subsequently joined the European Union. Slovenia will hold the rotating EU presidency for the first time beginning January 1, for a six-month term.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.