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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

NATO Tops Agenda in Slovenia Vote

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia -- Slovenia, the only former Yugoslav republic with hopes of entering the European Union and NATO, chooses Sunday the leader who could take it into the West's most coveted clubs.

Despite polls showing that between a third and a half of the 1.5 million eligible voters were undecided, most analysts predicted that center-left Premier Janez Drnovsek will win and form another coalition government.

Some 9,000 polling stations opened at 7 a.m. on a morning when mist shrouded the mountains. First exit polls were expected 12 hours later, with first official results around 10 p.m.

Campaigning on the slogan "2000 -- Let's Go!'' Drnovsek, a former Yugoslav Communist leader, and his Liberal Democrats are strongly pro-EU and NATO and led all opinion polls.

Other contenders in a splintered field of 28 parties urge slower European integration, arguing that Slovenia's hard-won independence and identity could be swallowed up in Europe-wide structures.

Wedged between the Adriatic and the Alps, Slovenia seceded from the old Yugoslavia in June 1991, triggering a war that lasted 10 days in Slovenia but dragged on for 4 1/2 years when it spread south to Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Janez Jansa, defense minister during the war, is the only politician with the charisma and clout to challenge Drnovsek -- if his Social Democrats do well and can find coalition partners. He wants to slow down integration.