15/09/2008 - D-7
More than 1000 candidates, one third of whom are women (the electoral law obliges every list to put a minimum of 25% women candidates forward in order to be able to take part in the election) are running in the general elections in Slovenia on 21st September next.
Prime Minister Janez Jansa (Democratic Party, SDS) is experiencing a difficult time at present. He has been accused together with the Slovenian Defence Ministry, by Magnus Berglund, a journalist on Finnish TV channel YLE, of having received bribes during the purchase of 135 armed vehicles in 2006 to a total of 278 million € from manufacturer Patria, 73% of which is owned by the Finnish State. This deal which was made obligatory when Slovenia entered NATO in 2004 represents the biggest military contract the country has ever signed.
Janez Jansa categorically denied that he had received money on the television channel POP TV and declared that he had been the target of a corruption attempt. He did however say that he could not deny that some of his team and of his party had been corrupted. Defence Minister Karl Erjavec (Democratic Party of Pensioners, DeSUS) said that the deal had been an honest one. "Until now no infringement has been pointed out. But since the report has been published everyone is speaking of corruption," he indicated.
"It is an unprecedented situation. I cannot remember a case in which a television channel from one European country has intervened in the electoral campaign of another," declared Janez Jansa who says that Finnish television has no document to prove its claims. The Prime Minister also recalled that the director of Finnish TV is a former advisor to Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen (1995-2003) – Social Democratic Party, SDP – i.e. a sister party to the Slovenian opposition party (the Social Democratic Party (SD) led by Borut Pahor). He said that the accusations against him came from Slovenian leaders led by Milan Cvikl (SD) the MP in charge of the committee of inquiry into the deal made with Patria and that these were therefore politically motivated.
In these so-called revelations Janez Jansa perceives an attempt to discredit him personally together with his government and says that their publication just before the elections on 21st September is not a coincidence. "These accusations have become my nightmare. But the worst is that 2 million Slovenians are only interested in this affair and that things will continue like this until the elections," he declared to the Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat on 8th September last. He added "instead of speaking about how we can improve Slovenians' daily lot we are concerned about whether or not I received bribes. The general elections will take place in ten days and whoever comes out victor, the next government will have to establish its priorities. In six months no one will talk of the Patria affair."
Of course the opposition has taken the affair on and is requesting the opening of an extraordinary parliamentary session. Gregor Golobic, the Zares leader (Real) said that the inquiry was dragging on because Barbara Brezigar, a close colleague of the Prime Minister was the Prosecutor. Katarina Kresal, leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDS) said that this affair bore witness to the dismantling of the State under Janez Jansa. On 9th September last the Drzavni Zbor, the Lower Chamber of Parliament, did however give its support to the Prime Minister, 41 votes in favour, 11 against, after an extraordinary session dedicated to the Patria affair.
The economic stakes and notably privatisations are the focus of the electoral debate. The latest figures released by the Statistics Bureau, published on 10th September show that Slovenia recorded a net increase in its GDP in the second quarter of the year (+ 5.1% in comparison with the same period in 2007). However capital investments declined by 9% whilst exports increased by 7.8%. The government is forecasting a GDP growth rate of 4.4% in 2008. Finally a European study has just shown that real salaries decreased by 3.5% in Slovenia whilst they increased by 2.3% on average in the EU.
The electoral campaign has focussed on two main personalities: Borut Pahor, the SD leader and Prime Minister Janez Jansa (SDS), who is running for his second term in office as head of government. According to the most recent poll published on 5th September by the daily Zurmal24 the SDS has surged ahead in the polls for the very first time since the start of the campaign. It is credited with 29% of the vote and is ahead of the SD (21%). Both parties are followed by Zares (12%), the National Party chaired by Zmago Jelincic (9%), the LDS and the Democratic Party of Pensioners (DeSUS) 7% each, and finally New Slovenia (NSi) led by Andrej Bajuk (5%).
The outgoing government coalition is due to win 43% of the vote against 40% for the opposition parties. As a result of this victory will depend on the results achieved by the 'small' parties, notably the DeSUS and on their decision to join forces with one 'big' party or another.
Half of the Slovenians say they will vote on 21st September.
Paradoxically Janez Jansa does not seem to be suffering from the accusations brought against him. On the contrary, when asked about the person they would like to see take the post of Prime Minister, 38% of Slovenians speak out for Janez Jansa in comparison with 36% for Borut Pahor (poll published in Zurmal24). Although a few weeks ago political analysts forecast a change in the political majority the election the outcome is now not quite as certain as previously announced.