Posted on June 4, 2018

Slovenian Nationalist Party Set for Power After Winning Election

The Guardian, June 4, 2018

Slovenia’s president has said he will offer a mandate to form the government to a rightwing opposition leader whose party won the most votes in Sunday’s parliamentary elections.

Borut Pahor said Janez Janša should be given a chance to gather a parliamentary majority after his anti-immigration Slovenian Democratic party won some 25% of the vote.

The SDS would need to link up with at least two other parties to gain a majority. Most other parties that have made it into the 90-member parliament have ruled out a coalition with Janša because of his extremist views. They are more likely to form a centrist coalition.

On Sunday, Janša acknowledged any post-election negotiations would be difficult. “We will probably have to wait for some time … before serious talks on a new government will be possible,” he told reporters after he cast his vote.

“I am not obliged to award the mandate to the relative winner of the election, but I will do so because I strongly believe in democracy,” Pahor told the Delo newspaper.

Observers in Slovenia are predicting long and tough post-election talks because nine parties have entered the parliament, including the far-right National party.

The anti-establishment List of Marjan Šarec (LMS) trailed in second place with just over 12%, preliminary returns showed. The Social Democrats, the Modern Centre party of the outgoing prime minister, Miro Cerar, and the left all received around 9%.

Slovenia was once part of Yugoslavia and is the native home of the US first lady, Melania Trump. Bordering Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Italy and the Adriatic Sea, the country joined the European Union in 2004 and has used the euro as its official currency since 2007.

Janša is an ally of Hungary’s anti-immigration prime minister, Viktor Orbán. His election success mirrors the growth of rightwing populism in central and eastern Europe following a large influx of migrants from the Middle East and Africa.

Voters in a number of eastern member states of the European Union – notably Hungary and Poland – have turned to parties that oppose the bloc’s plans for countries to accept asylum seekers under a quota system.

The SDS is firmly opposed to such quotas and said most of the money used to support them should be diverted to the security forces.

“[Our] party puts Slovenia, Slovenians first,” Janša said after preliminary results were released. “We are open for cooperation, Slovenia is facing times which need cooperation,” he said.

Janša, who was prime minister from 2004 to 2008 and from 2012 to 2013, had said he would cut taxes and speed up privatisation.

He spent six months in prison in 2014 after being convicted on bribery charges related to a 2006 arms deal but was freed after the constitutional court ordered a retrial, which did not take place because a 10-year time limit expired. Janša had denied any wrongdoing.

In a highly fragmented ballot, the country’s 1.7 million-strong electorate was choosing between 25 parties. The result with 99% of the vote counted put the SDS ahead with 25 seats in the 90-seat parliament.

Šarec of the LMS, which won 13 seats, told reporters after preliminary results were released that he expected to get an opportunity to form a government, as most parties had said they were unlikely to join an SDS-led government.

“If everyone sticks to what they said before the election, we expect to get a chance to form a government,” Šarec said.

Turnout was about 51.5%, compared with 51.7% four years ago.

The election was called in March after Cerar resigned, weeks before his term as prime minster was due to end. His departure followed a supreme court order for a new referendum on a railway investment project championed by his government. Cerar’s Party of the Modern Centre was in fourth place with just 10 seats.