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Oct 21, 2007 08:27 EEST
October 21 (SeeNews) - Slovenia on Sunday started voting to elect a president who will head the country during its spell in the international spotlight when it holds the presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2008.
Pollsters forecast the head of state will be elected in a run-off, which is likely to pitch Lojze Peterle, an independent candidate supported by three major parties from the government coalition, and a current member of the European Parliament, against former senior U.N. diplomat Danilo Turk.
According to a survey conducted by RM Plus pollster, Peterle led opinion polls ahead of the vote with support of 25.8% while Turk got 15.9%. A run-off is held between the two front-runners if no candidate has won more than 50% of the valid votes in the first round.
Seven candidates will compete to become the third president of the country since Slovenia gained independence from socialist Yugoslavia in 1991. Voting started at 0500 GMT and first partial results will be released after polling stations close at 1700 GMT. There are about 1.7 million eligible voters in Slovenia.
The Alpine country of two million people joined the European Union in 2004, the first in South-East Europe to do so, and became the 13th member of the eurozone on January 1, 2007.
Slovenia is a parliamentary republic in which the president has limited powers and the post is largely ceremonial, although he is Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. The president is limited to two consecutive five-year terms of office.
The term of current President Janez Drnovsek expires in December.
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