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November 21, 2017

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Slovenia’s president looks to be first re-elected in decades

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia — Slovenians voted in a presidential election Sunday that is expected to be an easy re-election for President Borut Pahor, a veteran politician and former model known for his use of social media.

Nine presidential candidates — including five women — were competing for the largely ceremonial but still influential post in the European Union member country with a population of 2 million that is the homeland of U.S. first lady Melania Trump.

Pre-election surveys showed Pahor, 53, could win a majority of votes cast Sunday and therefore another term without a runoff election. His main opponent is Marjan Sarec, a former comedian who is mayor of the northern town of Kamnik.

Upon voting Sunday, Pahor said he knew that no Slovenian president in 20 years has won a second term in office. But he said "we did so much in five years" that it was worth his trying to seek re-election.

Pahor has been nicknamed Slovenia's "King of Instagram" for his frequent presence on social media. He walked about 700 kilometers (420 miles) during the presidential campaign, posting photos and short videos all along the way.

Critics think Pahor has degraded the presidency by turning himself into a celebrity.

Sarec, 39, starred in Slovenian satirical shows until he mounted an independent bid for mayor in 2010 and won against an established candidate. He is serving his second term as mayor and said Sunday he thinks Slovenia needs change.

"I said and did what I thought was right," Sarec said.

Slovenia's presidency holds no executive powers but the president proposes the prime minister, who runs the government, and the president's opinion carries weight on important issues.

Other candidates include Romana Tomc, a tax expert backed by the conservatives; Ljudmila Novak, a former teacher who leads the New Slovenia Christian-Democrats; and Angelca Likovic, who is promoting Catholic Christian values.

Key topics facing Slovenia include the economy and a border dispute with neighboring Croatia stemming from the 1990s' breakup of the former Yugoslavia.