Center-left political newcomer Miro Cerar has won snap parliamentary elections in Slovenia, according to exit polls. His closest rival is ex-premier Janez Jansa's center-right party.
An exit poll by POP TV, published as voting ended at 7 p.m. local time (1700 UTC), gave Cerar's Miro Cerar Party (SMC) party 36.9 percent, ahead of ex-premier Janez Jansa's center-right Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), with 19.2 percent.
The DESUS pensioners' party won 9.7 percent, according to the poll. Official results are due later in the evening.
Cerar has shot to popularity among voters who see him as untarnished by the corruption scandals that have dogged the mainstream parties. He has campaigned on a platform that includes promises to cut Slovenia's budget deficit to 3 percent of national output by the end of next year and to liberalize the economy of the once communist country.
Slovenian leaders decided to hold snap elections after Prime Minister Alenka Bratusek resigned in May, having lost the support of her center-left Positive Slovenia (PS) party, partly over her rigorous strategy of using privatizations to reduce public debt.
The 55-year-old Jansa began serving a two-year term for corruption last month. He was the prime minister of Slovenia from 2004 to 2008 and again from 2012 to 2013.
He was convicted in June last year on bribery charges in connection with an arms deal. He has rejected the charges against him as politically motivated, and launched an appeal with the Supreme Court against his conviction.
hc/mkg (Reuters, AFP)