Slovenia elected a renowned lawyer, Natasa Pirc Musar, the first woman to lead the Alpine country, as president on Sunday. The 54-year-old independent candidate, who in the past represented the interests of former American First Lady Melania Trump, of Slovenian origin, collected nearly 54% of the voting intentions, according to the results published by the Electoral Commission.
She clearly distances her conservative rival Anze Logar (46%), former Minister of Foreign Affairs and winner of the first round on October 23.
A country divided
In a country divided after the protest-strewn term of ex-Prime Minister Janez Jansa, Natasa Pirc Musar called for “uniting” and turning the page on “disputes”. “My first action will be to invite all the leaders of the political parties to the presidential palace,” she declared Sunday evening in front of hundreds of supporters gathered around the capital Ljubljana, before popping the champagne.
And after Jansa-era tensions with Brussels, she insisted on her confidence “in the European Union and the democratic values on which it was founded”.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen immediately hailed the victory. “As the first woman elected to the presidency, you are paving the way for future generations,” she tweeted.
Čestitke, @nmusaron your election as president of the Republic of Slovenia.
As the first woman to be elected 🇸🇮 president, you have paved the way for future generations.
I look forward to working with you.
We share the goal of an ever stronger, democratic and resilient Union.
—Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) November 13, 2022
“The voice of women”
The Slovenians turned out in relatively large numbers at the polls, with a turnout higher than that of the first round (53%), in this country of 2 million inhabitants, from the former Yugoslavia and member of the EU since 2004.
During the campaign, Natasa Pirc Musar, who defines herself as “liberal”, put forward her desire to give more substance to this essentially ceremonial post. “The president cannot be neutral, he must have an opinion”, be “a moral authority”, she underlined in the interval between the two rounds, questioned by AFP. “I’ve never been afraid to raise my voice,” she said. Outgoing head of state Borut Pahor, who could not stand for re-election after two five-year terms, has often been criticized for his passive attitude towards Janez Jansa.
A former television presenter, Natasa Pirc Musar made a name for herself by directing the Slovenian Data Protection Authority in the 2000s. A tireless defender of the political class, she opened her law firm in 2016, regularly scouring TV sets as an expert.
Passionate about motorcycles, she has been the target of attacks because of her husband’s lucrative investment activities, especially in tax havens.
Without the support of an “established party”, she felt on Sunday that she had experienced “a more difficult campaign” than her rivals, even if the Liberal Prime Minister Robert Golob gave her his support after the first round. “I was called a careerist, you would never say that of a man”, she had lambasted before, wanting to be “the voice of women” in Slovenia and abroad.
A setback for the Conservatives
This is a new setback for the conservatives who dreamed of revenge after their heavy defeat in the legislative elections in April.
Anze Logar, 46, sent her congratulations to her rival, who will be officially sworn in on December 23. “I expect her to be the president of all of us, that’s what Slovenia needs,” he said.
To win, this tenor of the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) of Janez Jansa had taken care to keep his distance, with the exception of a brief appearance side by side of the two men on the evening of the first round. Without a label, unifying slogan: the courteous candidate, who never leaves his bike, had led a “moderate” campaign, far from the radical positions against the media and justice of the Jansa government – of which he was part from 2020 to 2022 .
But he was overtaken by his past closeness with the controversial ex-Prime Minister, “the big loser of the evening”, sums up political analyst Vlado Miheljak.