|Janez Jansa, head of the SDS, centre, did not win despite predictions [Reuters]
A new centre-left party headed by Ljubljana's popular and charismatic millionaire mayor has won a surprise victory in Slovenia's elections.
Zoran Jankovic's Positive Slovenia took 28.5 per cent of the vote, or 28 seats in the 90-seat parliament, and began talks on Monday to form a coalition with enough seats to push through critical reforms.
The surprise victory in Sunday's vote marked a huge upset after weeks of opinion polls that predicted a comfortable win for the former prime minister, Janez Jansa, and his centre-right Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), which came second with 26.25 per cent of the vote.
Crashing to third place, meanwhile, were the governing Social Democrats of Prime Minister Borut with just 10.5 per cent, compared with 30.5 per cent at the last elections in 2008.
Centre-left Pahor had been expected to become the latest eurozone leader to lose power as a result of the continent's debt crisis, with polls predicting a heavy election defeat.
The debt crisis in the 17-nation eurozone has already led to a change in government in a string of countries, not least in Portugal, Greece, Italy and most recently in Spain.
Although still in a far better state than many euro members, Slovenia's national debt as a proportion of output has roughly doubled to 45.5 per cent since it joined the bloc in 2007, according to the European Commission.
The three main credit agencies have cut their ratings on Slovenian debt in recent months, and last month interest rates hit seven per cent, a level that forced other countries to seek outside support.
Growth figures published on Wednesday showed Slovenia perilously close to recession, with output shrinking 0.2 per cent in the third quarter, after stagnating in the second and contracting 0.1 per cent in the first.
Unemployment hit 11.5 per cent in September, and the central bank has warned it may have to cut its growth forecast for 2012 again soon, from the current projection of 1.3 per cent.
The outgoing government forecast a budget deficit of 5.5 per cent of output this year.