A center-left party led by a prominent businessman and mayor nabbed a surprise victory in Slovenian parliamentary elections on Sunday, reflecting mounting concern among voters over the economy in the small EU country.
Positive Slovenia, the party led by the former head of the country's largest retailer and mayor of the capital, Ljubljana, took 28.5 percent of the vote, according to nearly complete results.
The favored conservatives were trailing with 26.3 percent. The leader of the Slovene Democratic Party, former prime minister Janez Jansa, conceded defeat and congratulated Zoran Jankovic for his party's win.
Positive Slovenia did not win enough votes outright to form a government on its own, setting up a scramble for coalition partners.
In winning Slovenia's first snap election since becoming independent from the former Yugoslavia in 1991, Positive Slovenia will have to tackle the country's mounting debt, unemployment and a looming recession. Jankovic has promised swift reform, including austerity measures.
"The results show that Slovenia will go in the right direction," Jankovic said. "It is obvious that the citizens want an efficient state."
Serbia-born Jankovic won prominence in Slovenia first as the head of the country's biggest retailer, Merkator, running the company successfully for eight years, before he was removed from the post in 2005 by Jansa over disagreements that Jankovic claimed were politically motivated. The 58-year-old economist has served as the mayor of Ljubljana since 2006.
The snap vote was called after the center-left government of Premier Borut Pahor was toppled over economic troubles and allegations of corruption. The state electoral commission said the turnout was around 65 percent.
Pahor has said that he has done his best as premier to battle the global economic downturn and the European debt crisis. Pahor's Social Democrats were third with 10.5 percent of the vote, results showed.
Pahor said this was more than he had expected. He offered to meet Jankovic to discuss possible future cooperation.
A newcomer, former minister Gregor Virant, came in fourth, with 8.4 percent, followed by several smaller groups, who won between 4.5 and 7 percent.
Slovenia has been hit hard by the European debt crisis, with public debt swollen to 44 percent of GDP and unemployment at about 12 percent. The situation further deteriorated because of the political deadlock that followed the fall of Pahor's government in September.
Political analyst Tanja Staric predicted that "the period of instability is still not behind us."
"Now, all will depend on Jankovic's readiness and ability to form the government that will be strong enough to unblock the decision-making process," she said.
Final official results are to be released in about a week, after officials receive votes from abroad and any complaints. By Slovenian law, there a period granted for candidates to file complaints of election violations.
Jovana Gec contributed to this report.