By Marja Novak and Zoran Radosavljevic
LJUBLJANA (Reuters) - Center-left political novice Miro Cerar led his party to victory in a parliamentary election in Slovenia on Sunday, according to results of an exit poll, leaving him seeking partners to share the quest of fixing the country's finances. The exit poll by POP TV, published as voting ended at 7 p.m. (1.00 p.m. EDT), gave Cerar's SMC party 36.9 percent, ahead of the center-right SDS on 19.2 percent and the Desus pensioners' party on 9.7 percent.
Official results were due later in the evening. Several smaller center-left parties, including that of outgoing Prime Minister Alenka Bratusek, also crossed the threshold to enter parliament, giving Cerar several options for a coalition government.
The exit poll, if confirmed by official results, means Cerar will likely form Slovenia's fourth government since the financial crisis in 2008 shredded the country's reputation as the best economic performer among the European Union's newer, mainly ex-communist, members.
The former Yugoslav republic narrowly avoided having to seek an international bailout for its banks late last year, and is now working through a raft of crisis measures agreed with the EU to reduce its budget deficit and remake an economy heavily controlled by the state.
Investors are still nervous about the fate of that package, particularly given Cerar's reluctance to sell some of Slovenia's biggest state assets, such as telecoms provider Telekom Slovenia and the international airport, Aerodrom Ljubljana.
(Writing by Matt Robinson; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)