Clashes broke out tonight in the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana as angry demonstrators tried to push through a police cordon to storm parliament.
Several protesters were arrested and police fought to disperse the crowd, which was throwing rocks, bottles and firecrackers at them.
Tensions have been soaring ahead of this weekend’s presidential run-off in the small, economically struggling EU nation.
Thousands joined the protests against Prime Minister Janez Jansa and his Cabinet, accusing them of corruption and fraud and demanding their resignations.
Carrying banners that read “You are finished” and “Thieves”, about 8,000 people braved the drizzle and cold to express their discontent with government cost-cutting measures and other reforms designed to avoid an international bailout.
Slovenia is facing one of the worst recessions of the 17 nations that use the euro currency. Its economy has shrunk more than 8% since 2009 and continues to decline, resulting in a sharp drop in exports and living standards and a surge in unemployment, which now stands about 12%.
The vote on Sunday pits incumbent President Danilo Turk against former prime minister Borut Pahor.
Many among Slovenia’s two million people are angry with their leaders’ inability to join forces and pull the country out of its economic crisis.
They are also upset over austerity measures – spending cuts and tax hikes - which they say target the poor rather than the rich.
According to an opinion poll published today in the Delo daily, Mr Pahor will win about 55% of the vote, while Mr Turk will garner 24%. The poll was conducted among 780 people with a 2.5% margin of error.
Mr Pahor said that the protests “signal a lack of confidence” in government institutions.
“It is important that by not using force we give people hope that all problems can be solved,” he said.
The 49-year-old has supported some of the government’s reform measures, unlike current president Mr Turk, who has been a fierce critic.