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Last Updated: Sunday, 3 October, 2004, 23:06 GMT 00:06 UK
Shock defeat for Slovene leader
A girl puts her mother's ballot through the box in Ljubljana
Voters opted for change after a long period of stability
Slovenia's centre-right opposition has won a surprise victory in the country's general election.

Victorious Slovenian Democrats (SDS) leader Janez Jansa pledged new policies to meet the challenges of the country's accession to the EU and Nato this year.

But Mr Jansa said he would not change policies which were working well.

Prime Minister Anton Rop, who conceded defeat after being in power for most of the past 12 years, said some voters had been getting fed up with his party.

Opinion polls before the election suggested that the ruling coalition would retain power, although the opposition did exceptionally well in the European elections in June.

Ninety parliamentary seats were being contested in the country with a population of two million which declared its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.

'Best of luck'

With 99% of the vote counted, the SDS had secured 29.1% of the vote - more than six percentage points ahead of Mr Rop's Liberal Democratic Party (LDS).

Janez Jansa
Major change is unlikely with Jansa
The SDS is expected to start coalition talks on Monday with three smaller right-wing parties that could give it a majority in the new parliament.

"The Liberal Democratic Party will continue its mission as the opposition in parliament, but I can already promise that we will come back in the next elections stronger and more better prepared," Mr Rop told private Pop television.

"I wish whoever forms the new government the best of luck."

Slovenia is the most prosperous of the former Communist-ruled states to have joined the EU.

Against these achievements, the governing coalition appeared faced with an electorate that was showing signs of wanting something new after a long period of continuity, says BBC South East Europe analyst Gabriel Partos.

Croatia spat

But for Slovenia's EU partners and its central European neighbours, it is unlikely that a government with a different political complexion would mean any big changes, our analyst says.

One issue that will need to be addressed, though, is the latest spat between Slovenia and Croatia which followed last week's brief detention of a Slovene opposition politician and his supporters on the Croatian side of the two countries' disputed border last week.

Mr Rop reacted by announcing that Slovenia was suspending its support for Croatia's EU membership bid.

That move has been widely viewed as a pre-election gesture - something of an over-reaction which has not pleased Brussels.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Slovenian Democrats celebrate victory



SEE ALSO:
Slovenia's surge of nationalism
13 Apr 04  |  Europe
Eating in two countries at once
27 Jun 03  |  Europe
Country profile: Slovenia
06 Jul 04  |  Country profiles


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