June 2, 2018 / 10:01 PM / 16 days ago

Slovenians go to polls, opposition centre-right party expected to win most seats

LJUBLJANA, June 3 (Reuters) - Slovenia’s parliamentary election on Sunday is likely to hand the most seats to an opposition anti-immigrant centre-right party, the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), but it may not find the coalition partners to form a government.

The country is holding a slightly early election after the outgoing centre-left Prime Minister Miro Cerar resigned in March over a legal obstacle to the government’s top railway investment project. The election would have been held later in June had Cerar not resigned.

About 1.7 million eligible voters will choose between candidates from 25 parties with the latest opinion polls indicating that the SDS will win, with up to 24.5 percent of the vote.

“It seems clear that the SDS will win but everything else about this election is unclear because the question is whether the SDS will be able to form a government coalition,” Meta Roglic, a political analyst of the daily Dnevnik, told Reuters.

According to polls the SDS will need to form a coalition with at least two other parties to gain a majority in the 90-seat parliament. But so far most other parties that are likely to enter parliament said they would not go into government with the SDS, which has the open support of Hungary’s nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

According to a Mediana poll published by daily newspaper Delo on Friday, the centre-left List of Marjan Sarec, which has never before run for parliament, may emerge as the second largest party with about 8.2 percent, followed by the Party of Modern Centre of the outgoing Prime Minister Cerar.

“VOLATILITY”

“Given the volatility of party ratings in recent months the election is an open race and the real winner will be the party that can form a coalition with a majority of seats in a likely highly fragmented parliament,” said Otilia Dhand of political risk advisory firm Teneo Intelligence.

Analysts believe that it will take at least two months before the new government is formed - and that another early election cannot be ruled out.

Slovenia, which narrowly avoided an international bailout for its banks in 2013, returned to growth in 2014. The government expects the economy to expand by 5.1 percent this year versus 5 percent in 2017, boosted by exports, investments and household spending.

The new government will have to focus on privatisation of the country’s largest bank, Nova Ljubljanska Banka, as the previous government has agreed to the sale of the state bank in exchange for the European Commission’s approval of state aid to the bank in 2013.

The next cabinet will also have to reform the inefficient state health sector and the pension system. (Reporting By Marja Novak Editing by Andrew Bolton)

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