BLED, SLOVENIA - Voters in Slovenia cast ballots Sunday in a presidential runoff, with President Borut Pahor’s bid for re-election facing a tough challenge from an ex-comedian who’s now the mayor of a northern town.
Pahor, a veteran politician known for his frequent use of social media, led by a large margin after the first round of voting on Oct. 22. But his runoff opponent, Marjan Sarec, has since narrowed the gap, and the latest polls predict a close race.
The president in Slovenia holds no executive powers, but they propose a prime minister and their opinion on important issues holds weight.
Pahor a political veteran
Slovenia, a country of 2 million people in Central Europe, is known for its Alpine mountains and lakes and its love of nature. It is the birthplace of U.S. first lady Melania Trump.
Pahor, a former model like the U.S. first lady, was Slovenia’s prime minister before he was first elected president in 2012. He has sought to portray himself as a uniter of all Slovenians, regardless of their political preferences.
Critics say, however, that the 54-year-old Pahor simply avoids taking a stand on important issues. He has been nicknamed Slovenia’s “King of Instagram” — Pahor walked hundreds of miles during the election campaign and posted photos and videos along the way.
?Sarec a newcomer
Sarec, in contrast, is a relative political newcomer who has won support from many Slovenians fed up with established politicians. The 39-year-old was a well-known satirical comedian who imitated politicians before entering politics himself in 2010 to run for the mayor of Kamnik.
Sarec gave up acting so he could fully commit to the job. He is serving his second term as mayor.
Key topics facing Slovenia include the economy, a border dispute with Croatia stemming from the 1990s’ breakup of the former Yugoslavia, and the future of the European Union. Slovenia has been a member of the EU since 2004.