Anti-migrant party leading in Slovenia elections
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The anti-immigration party of veteran centre-right leader Janez Jansa has emerged as the largest party in Slovenia's parliamentary election on Sunday but may struggle to command a majority, according to nearly final results.
With some 98 percent of votes counted, Jansa's SDS party looks to have secured just over 25 percent -- giving it 25 seats in the 90-seat assembly -- and the "anti-establishment" LMS party of comedian-turned-politician Marjan Sarec in second place on 12.7 percent and 13 seats, the State Election Commission said.
During the campaign, Jansa made common cause with fellow right-wing firebrand Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and effectively evoked memories of more than 500,000 migrants who crossed Slovenia in late 2015 and early 2016 -- although all except a handful of them continued on to northern Europe.
In a televised statement on Sunday evening, delivered with little triumphalism, the 59-year-old Jansa said his party's "door for talks and coalitions is open" to all other parties.
"We are ready to start serious talks based on the programme we have been working hard on," he said.
He re-iterated his anti-migrant position saying migration was "the most serious challenge according to most Europeans".
The only other party which has said it would work with Jansa, the centre-right Nova Slovenija, is projected to get just 7.1 percent which would leave the two parties short of a majority.
That leaves the second place LMS party potentially with a crucial role to play.
Speaking to the POP TV station after polls closed, Sarec said he was "very happy" with the preliminary results, hinting that it could give him the opportunity to band with other parties to keep Jansa out of power.
During the campaign Sarec said that Jansa's anti-immigration rhetoric and his appearances with Orban "crossed all the red lines".
On Sunday evening Sarec repeated his opposition to working with Jansa, saying: "We have said it so many times in public that we would not be trustworthy if we did."
Officials results so far show the centre-left Social Democrats were in third place on 10 percent followed by the SMC party of outgoing prime minister Miro Cerar on 9.5 percent and the left-wing Levica party with 9.0 percent.
Early elections were called after Cerar in March threw in the towel after months of public-sector strikes and internal wrangling within his coalition, with the last straw coming when a supreme court verdict on a flagship infrastructure project went against the government.
Some 1.7 million Slovenians were eligible to vote for 90 members of parliament.
Fear of migrants
Jansa's political career stretches back to the country's struggle for independence from Yugoslavia and has already seen its fair share of drama. In 2013 he was forced to step down from a second term as prime minister over a corruption scandal and ran in the 2014 elections from jail -- the verdict was later overturned.
His combative personality, strident anti-immigration rhetoric and alliance with Orban dominated the closing stages of the campaign.
Like right-wing leaders elsewhere he has adopted a feisty presence on Twitter and has used it to defend his alliance with Orban.
"Thanks to its (migration) policy, Hungary is a safe country while Belgium, due to its wrong policy, isn't," read a recent tweet from Jansa, who first served as prime minister from 2004-08.
Last month Orban said a SDS victory "would ensure the survival of the Slovenian people".
According to Slovenian media reports, Jansa's media campaign has also been boosted by investments totalling some two million euros ($2.3 million) from Hungarian media companies in a TV station and newspaper co-owned by SDS.
Sarec and other opponents say this may be a violation of campaign finance laws but SDS insist the investments are above board.
For the first time in over a decade, the elections took place against a backdrop of strong economic growth rather than financial crisis or recession.
But Cerar's government did not reap any political benefit from the turnaround, with his rivals focusing on growing hospital waiting lists and demands for higher pensions and wages and a better business environment.
Analysts say that in the near future political instability may well persist, whether under a right-wing, Jansa-led government or one from the centre-left.