STA, 3 December 2018 - The mayoral race in Koper was too close to call until all mail-in ballots were counted on Monday. The count confirmed Aleš Bržan, a radio host, managed to dethrone long-serving Mayor Boris Popovič, but by a mere seven votes.
Of the 46 mail-in votes, 45 were valid, commission chair Miloš Senčur told the press.
Twenty-five votes were for Popovič and 20 for Bržan, which means that according to unofficial results, Bržan received 13,921 votes and Popovič 13,914.
In his first statement after the mail-in votes were added to the tally, Bržan said "people have decided on change and the change is here, so all I can say is thanks to all those who have made an effort and to all who turned out to vote".
He did expect a narrow result, yet not that narrow. "Nobody expected such a narrow outcome. We expected a margin of several hundred votes."
Earlier in the day, Bržan said he would demand recount since last evening's count of the votes from early voting revealed some irregularities.
It was reported that there were 2,715 ballots from the early vote, but the number of ballots exceeded by six the number of people who were registered as having voted.
But this is according to Bržan not an option now. "For us, this story is over."
In a comment to a fierce race, Bržan said "both candidates should first calm down people and passions so that we can start living normally again".
Meanwhile, Senčur explained that the number of ballots and the number of people having voted in advance in fact matched. Of the 2,715 ballots, nine were invalid.
He explained, however, that complaints about the performance of the local electoral commission could be filed until midnight.
Asked whether it was still possible for the Koper vote to be annulled, he said: "Anything is possible if the complaint is justified."
The mayoral race in Koper provided one of the biggest surprises in this year's local elections.
Not only did Popovič lose after 16 years in office while he was set to win his fifth term in a landslide even two weeks ago, but also for Bržan, who, except on the coast, was until recently relatively unknown.
Securing 30.4% of the vote in the first round, Bržan trailed Popovič by 14 points, but was then endorsed by almost all the other mayoral candidates in Slovenia's fourth largest municipality.
Popovič, who conceded defeat already last evening, has run Koper in a rather authoritarian manner, which many locals got fed up with, apparently also Bržan, who announced to bring change to the style of leadership.
Bržan, born in Koper in 1976, is a logistics engineer, but he is best known as a host on a popular local commercial radio station.
The website of his Aleš Bržan List (LAB) party says that over the past decade, he has managed a small company.
While still a student, he overhauled the Koper students' club and revived the streets of Koper with a special project.
Not entirely a political novice, Bržan challenged Popovič before, in 2014, when he, with the support of the Modern Centre Party (SMC), emerged as the runner-up.
He later distanced himself from the SMC, the party of the former prime minister, Miro Cerar, and has spent most of the past four years as independent city councillor.
He founded his LAB party just before this year's local elections, but was not among the fiercest critics of Popovič. On the contrary, he credited his predecessor with a number of achievements.
Given that his party has won nine seats on the city council to emerge as the second strongest, it seems that such restrained rhetoric worked for both the party and him.
All our stories related to Koper can be found here