Lawyer and human rights advocate Nataša Pirc Musar has won presidential elections in Slovenia to become the country’s first female head of state.
She has defeated a conservative, former foreign minister Anze Logar, according to initial results.
When 99 per cent of the votes were counted, Ms Pirc Musar, 54, was leading with 53.8 per cent while her rival, Mr Logar, won 46.1 per cent.
Both candidates had run as independents, but centre-left and right-wing political blocs soon backed them.
Mr Logar was foreign minister in the conservative government of the right-wing former prime minister Janez Janša.
“I believe in democracy, human rights, in tolerant dialogue,” Ms Pirc Musar said before declaring victory. “There is a lot of work to be done.”
After declaring victory, she told reporters: “I will do my best to be a true president for all, to work for fundamental and constitutional human and democratic rights and democracy.”
The first female president of the EU and Nato member state replaces the veteran Borut Pahor who has been active in politics for 30 years.
Nearly half of the total population of two million voted, the election commission of Slovenia said.
“Slovenia has elected a president who believes in the European Union, in the democratic values on which the EU was founded,” Ms Pirc Musar said after her victory.
She added that the world is “facing tough times because of climate change” and that “young people are now putting the responsibility on our political shoulders to take care of our planet so that our next generation, our children, will live in a healthy and clean environment”.
Her role is mostly ceremonial but she will be commander-in-chief of Slovenia’s armed forces and will also nominate several top officials including six new judges to the nine-member constitutional court, as well as the central bank governor.
Ms Pirc Musar is a former TV presenter who went on to become an influential human rights lawyer.
The Slovenia Times reported that Ms Pirc Musar was born in 1968 and spent her childhood in Kamnik. She earnt a law degree in Ljubljana in 1992 and a PhD at the Vienna Faculty of Law in 2005. She later became a journalist and spent six years as a reporter and anchor of the central news show of TV Slovenija and five more as a news anchor at POP TV.
She was also the lawyer for Melania Trump in 2016 when the former first lady sued a magazine in Slovenia for suggesting that she was a high-end escort while pursuing her international modelling career. An out-of-court settlement was reached in that matter.
Ms Pirc Musar had announced her candidacy for the president of Slovenia in June this year. Her candidacy was endorsed by former presidents Milan Kučan and Danilo Türk.
Mr Logar has conceded defeat, and said that he hopes Ms Pirc Musar “will carry out all the promises” that she made during the campaign.
Robert Golob, the Slovenian prime minister, also congratulated Ms Pirc Musar, a strong proponent of LGBT+ rights, and said that the result is proof that the people want to live in a country where “the basic tenets of democracy such as human rights, the rule of law, independent media, freedom and a respectable dialogue are respected”.
He added: “I am convinced the two of us will cooperate well in addressing common challenges and strengthening an open, inclusive society that puts solidarity, cooperation and joint efforts to develop the country to everyone’s benefit at the forefront.”