LJUBLJANA, Slovenia (AP) — Voters in Slovenia are choosing a president on Sunday at the time when the small European Union country faces political divisions and is in danger of seeking a bailout.
Three candidates are competing but none is expected to win the majority needed for an outright victory, so the second round of balloting will likely take place on Dec. 2.
Although the presidency is a largely ceremonial post, the elected leader commands political authority among the nation's 2 million people. Chosen for a five-year term, the president heads the army and proposes the national bank chief at the time when the country is going through a severe financial crisis caused by rampant landing by state-owned banks.
Incumbent President Danilo Turk was leading the polls ahead of the balloting, followed by former Prime Minister Borut Pahor and the ruling center-right coalition candidate Milan Zver.
A survey published on Friday by the daily Delo predicted that Turk will win about 44 percent of the vote, followed by Pahor with 31 percent and Zver with 25 percent.
Who becomes the president is also important for political stability after the government of current Prime Minister Janez Jansa has moved to heal the banking system and push through austerity measures.
Slovenia has been hit hard by the recession linked to the global downturn and the euro zone debt crisis. Once a prosperous EU newcomer, the former Yugoslav republic has been tipped as the next country that could seek help from the European Union, after Greece, Ireland and Portugal have already done so.
Both Turk and Pahor have been critical of Jansa's government, which also faces strong opposition in the parliament — some of government anti-crisis measures have been met with demands for a referendum.
Upon casting his ballot on Sunday, Turk urged unity in the face of the crisis.
"Slovenia is a country for all ... our mutual obligation and our mutual responsibility," he said. "Today we must show national responsibility, national unity and nationwide participation in this election."
About 1.6 million people are eligible to vote. First unofficial results are expected shortly after polls close on Sunday evening.
Jovana Gec contributed from Belgrade, Serbia.