01/09/2008 - Analysis
On 16th June last the President of the Republic Danilo Türk signed the decree convening voters to renew the Drzani Zbor (the lower chamber in Parliament) on 21st September.
The electoral campaign started on 22nd August last. 1,699,286 voters are being called to ballot. The electoral law stipulates that the parties who put candidates forward in all constituencies are not allowed to spend more than 680,000 € on their electoral campaign (0.40€ per voter). The companies in which the State holds more than 25% of the capital cannot participate financially in the campaign. Finally the candidates who are elected will be reimbursed 0.33€ per vote won.
Political analysts are anticipating a change in the majority. Prime Minister Janez Jansa (Democratic Party SDS) in government since 2004 with the support of the People's Party (SLS), New Slovenia (NSi) and the Democratic Party of Pensioners (DeSUS) might, if we believe the polls, be pushed into the minority.
The Slovenian Political System
Slovenia has a bicameral parliament. The Drzavni Zbor (lower chamber) has 90 members, all elected for a 4 year period by proportional representation (the Constitution guarantees a seat to each of the Italian and Hungarian minorities). The Drzavni Svet (upper chamber) is elected for 5 years by indirect suffrage and comprises 40 members: 18 representatives of the professional and socio-economic sectors (4 for the employers, 4 for the employees, 4 for the farmers, small companies and independent workers and 6 for non-profit making organisations) and 22 members representing local interests. The role of the Drzavni Svet is consultative.
7 political parties are represented in the outgoing Drzvani Zbor:
- the Democratic Party (SDS), the country's main political party, led by Education Minister Milan Zver, lies to the right of the political scale. It has 29 MPs;
- the Liberal Democratic Party (LDS), the main opposition party led by Katarina Kresal since 1st July this year. Member of all the government coalitions between 1992 and 2004 except for an interruption of several months in 2000; it has 23 seats;
- the Social-Democratic Party (SD), lies to the left of the political scale and was born of the former Communist Party (PCSQ); it is chaired by former Drzvai Zbor chairman, Borut Pahor; it has 10 seats;
- the People's Party (SLS), created in 2000 and led by Boja Srot, has 7 seats ;
- New Slovenia (NSI), member of the government coalition, led by former Prime Minister (3rd May-17th November 2000) and present Finance Minister Andrej Bajuk. It has 9 MPs;
- the Democratic Party of Pensioners (DeSUS), chaired since 2005 by present Defence Minister Karl Erjavec – member of the government coalition with 4 MPs;
- the National Party (SNS), a far right movement chaired by Zmago Jelincic, with 6 MPs.
4 years of government with Janez Jansa
Janez Jansa is undergoing criticism for two main reasons at present.
Firstly he is accused of not having been able to prevent the rise of inflation. This lay at 3.8% in 2007 and is due to reach 5.6% in 2008. In June price increases reached 7%, the highest rate in six years. According to Finance Minister Andrej Bajuk (NSi) the non-commercial sector is the main cause of the inflation. "The Slovenian economy is very open, in 2007 our country exported 70% of what it produced which shows that it is competitive," he declared to the daily Demokracija. Inflation is due to be one of the main themes in the electoral debate. GDP growth which lay at 6.1% in 2007 is declining and is due to reach 4.5% in 2008 and 4% the following year. Slovenia adopted the euro on 1st January 2007.
In an attempt to halt popular discontent and in view of the general elections the Janez Jansa's government signed an agreement in June with 21 of the 27 civil service unions which plans for a 13% salary rise over the next two years.
The Prime Minister is also accused of having lost contact with the population as well as the links he had with the business world. The Democratic Party and its government partners face a difficult battle. In spite of some success, notably the management of the Slovenian Presidency of the EU in the first half of 2008 discontent on the part of the population is clear and the government forces are finding it hard to defend the policy they have undertaken over the past four years.
According to sociologist Matej Makarovic of the Faculty of Social Sciences the slowing in foreign investments is one of the government's main weaknesses. Political analyst, Milan Balazic professor at the same faculty, believes that Janez Jansa has made too many concessions to the various members of his government coalition which now prevents him from completing his policies.
The parties in the government coalition were beaten by the opposition during the local elections on 22nd October and 12th November 2006. The Liberal Democratic Party won 17 towns, the Democratic Party, 26, and the People's Party 49. In all the government coalition in power won 85 of the 210 town councils in the country. "Voters showed the Prime Minister that something was not right but they made no sign that the opposition forces comprised an alternative," analysed political expert Vlado Miheljak. "The political parties are the losers in this election. Voters showed their preference for action that is not directed by one policy only," maintained Irena Baclija of the Social Science Faculty at the University of Ljubljana.
The Forces at Play
The leading opposition party, the Liberal Democratic Party elected its new leader, Katarina Kresal in Zalec on 1st July. The 34 year old woman, who is almost unknown to the public, won 287 votes far ahead of the mayor of Zagorje, Matjaz Svagan, who won 42 votes. Katarina Kresal succeeds Jelko Kacin who had led the party since the start of 2006 to become the first woman to lead a political party in Slovenia. Victory during the general elections on 21st September is her primary objective. She wants "to get rid of the present government which is keeping us in the 20th century." She accuses the Prime Minister's team of continuing along the wrong lines. "The government does not focus on projects or the future. It only speaks of the past and focuses on old feelings and personal grudges. It is not the government I want for the next four years."
After dominating the Slovenian political arena for more than a decade the Liberal Democratic Party was beaten in the general elections on 3rd October 2004 and for the first time found itself on the opposition benches. The management of the defeat was then difficult and tension increased between the party's leaders.
Zares (Real) which was founded in March 2007 by 7 MPs former members of the Liberal Democratic Party is new to the political arena. Its motto is "A new policy" and it is led by Gregor Golobic, former advisor to Janez Drnovsek, former Prime Minister (1992- May 2000 and November 2000-2002) and former President of the Republic (2002-2007).
"The present government has a totally different attitude from the one it had when it came to power and is only interested in handing out presents to voters," declared Gregor Golobic. Zares' economic programme is not just restricted to the next four years. Gregor Golobic likes to recall for example that in 2013 pensioners will outnumber the workers in Slovenia, a situation which ought to preoccupy politicians now. The Zares leader criticises the privatisation policy undertaken by the outgoing government, which in his opinion, is not in the interests of the companies and therefore the country but has been established simply to satisfy the business classes.
Although the number of analysts forecast Gregor Golobic's entry into government if the opposition wins the latter refuses to imagine any possible alliances. Zares may win voters from New Slovenia, since the two parties are ideologically similar.
The Social Democratic Party led by Borut Pahor announced that he would not co-operate with the Liberal Democratic Party after the general elections on 21st September. "The Social Democratic Party cannot offer the Slovenians an alternative to the policy undertaken by the Liberal Democratic Party and also say it is ready to work with the very same party," said Igor Luksic to the newspaper Reporter at the end of July.
Apart from Zares created 18 months ago the political scene increased in size on 26th July with the creation of another party: the Christian Democratic Party (KDS). Chaired by Joze Duhovnik, the party which lies to the left on the political scale claims to be the defender of Christian values. Its programme which mainly aims to re-distribute wealth focuses on 3 points: the family, the middle classes and education. Political analysts, without wanting to damage its mid-term future, doubt that the Christian Democratic Party can rise above the obligatory 4% vote threshold.
The leader of New Slovenia, the present Finance Minister, Andrej Bajuk has promised that his party will promote new personalities "including young people and women." He also recalled that the pollsters had never been able to forecast his party's result and has promised "a surprise" on 21st September next. Finally he accused the former President of the Republic, Milan Kucan (1992-2002) of being at the root of the creation of the new Christian Democratic Party and says that the electoral results will show which of the two parties really do defend conservative values.
Alojz Peterle (NSi), the unlucky candidate in the government majority in the presidential election of 21st October and 11th November 2007 (he won 31.74% of the vote, against 68.29% for Danilo Türk in the second round), has on several occasions denied the rumour which says that he was planning to join the Christian Democratic Party; this hypothesis emerged because the pollsters were crediting New Slovenia with such a low number of votes, some even doubt whether the party can rise above the obligatory 4% to be represented in Parliament.
Finally the Democratic Party of Pensioners led by present Defence Minister Karl Erjavec will defend the interests of the eldest and notably those of the retired. Slovenia is a country which is ageing rapidly and where the reform of pensions comprises a main priority.
According to the latest polls the Social Democratic Party is due to win the elections on 21st September with around 25% of the vote. It will be followed by the Democratic Party (23%), Zares (9%), the National Party (7%) and the Liberal Democratic Party (7%) and finally the Democratic Party of Pensioners (4%). Whatever the result of the elections on 21st September the next government will probably not make great changes to the economic policy and management of the country.
Reminder of the results of the last general elections in Slovenia, 3rd October 2004
Turn out: 60.64%