Clashes in Slovenia ahead of presidential vote
11/30/2012 7:29:48 PM
(AP) Clashes in Slovenia ahead of presidential vote
By ALI ZERDIN
Clashes broke out Friday night in the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana as angry demonstrators tried to push through a police cordon to storm parliament.
Several protesters were arrested and police fought to disperse the crowd, which was throwing rocks, bottles and firecrackers at them.
Tensions have been soaring ahead of this weekend's presidential runoff in the small, economically struggling EU nation. Thousands joined the protests Friday against Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa and his Cabinet, accusing them of corruption and fraud and demanding their resignations.
Carrying banners that read "You are finished" and "Thieves," about 8,000 people braved the drizzle and cold to express their discontent with government cost-cutting measures and other reforms designed to avoid an international bailout.
Slovenia is facing one of the worst recessions of the 17 nations that use the euro currency. Its economy has shrunk more than 8 percent since 2009 and continues to decline, resulting in a sharp drop in exports and living standards and a surge in unemployment, which now stands about 12 percent.
The vote on Sunday pits incumbent President Danilo Turk against former prime minister Borut Pahor.
Many among Slovenia's 2 million people are angry with their leaders' inability to join forces and pull the country out of its economic crisis. They are also upset over austerity measures _ spending cuts and tax hikes _ which they say target the poor rather than the rich.
According to an opinion poll published Friday in the Delo daily, Pahor will win about 55 percent of the vote, while Turk will garner 24 percent. The poll was conducted among 780 people with a 2.5 percent margin of error.
Pahor told the AP on Friday that the protests "signal a lack of confidence" in government institutions.
"It is important that by not using force we give people hope that all problems can be solved," he said.
The 49-year-old has supported some of the government's reform measures, unlike current president Turk, who has been a fierce critic.
Jovana Gec in Belgrade, Serbia, and Amer Cohadzic and Eldar Emric in Ljubljana contributed to this report.