He visited Ukraine last month along with two other European leaders. The Prime Minister Janez Jansa from Slovenia wanted to show solidarity and support the war-stricken country ahead of what was expected to be close parliamentary elections.
The election scheduled for Sunday takes place amid rising political divisions in Slovenia. The vote will decide whether the 2 million-strong Alpine nation slides further into right wing populism under Jansa, or returns to its moderate balance.
Recent opinion surveys revealed that Jansa’s Slovenian Democratic Party was in a close race with the Freedom Movement (a newly formed liberal-green party). Robert Golob (a U.S.-educated specialist) is the party’s leader. He has pledged to unify left-oriented and centrist groups in a future coalition government.
Both parties seemed to have around 20% voter support. According to polls, there were several smaller right- and left-leaning parties that trailed in the race for seats at Slovenia’s 90-member national assembly. Surveys suggested that 20% of voters remained undecided.
Analysts predicted that Jansa would have a greater chance of forming a government with Golob than any other party, as no one party is likely to win enough votes.
Jansa, a 63-year old veteran politician, was elected head of government in the wake of the coronavirus virus pandemic of 2020. He succeeded a liberal who had resigned. Although the prime minister boasts of economic success in difficult times, critics are concerned about his increasingly authoritarian approach.
Jansa stated that the race was tight at a party convention. “We will fight to get every ballot.”
Slovenia is a country known for its natural beauty and love of nature. It was considered one of the best countries in Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of communism. Slovenia was one of the 10 countries that joined European Union in May 2004. This was the largest single expansion.
It has been under EU scrutiny because Jansa has formed close relationships with Viktor Orban, the Hungarian Prime Minister.
Recent victories in reelection saw Orban and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, another right-wing regional leader, win sweeping victories.
Jansa was elected leader of the Slovenian Democratic Party in 1993. He has been both prime minister and defense minister many times. He also faced corruption trials and has had constant fights with journalists.
He denied the recurring allegations that his party has attempted to take control of public media, intimidate critics, and place loyalists at key positions in state institutions.
In spite of simmering anger and street protests, the left-wing factions that were left behind failed to challenge Jansa for more than two decades. A variety of civic movements joined the protests to mobilize public discontent and build a larger movement.
Golob, 55 years old, is a new face that appeals to Slovenians disillusioned by the political mainstream. He has pledged a green transformation to support the “We deserve a Better State” slogan, which contrasts with Jansa’s narrative of a strong nation.
Andraz Zorko is a public opinion analyst with Valicon agency. The current campaign was marked by grassroots effort and tireless fieldwork, which were designed to inspire the new generation of Slovenian youth to vote.
Zorko stated that “trends are now in favor the Freedom Movement.”
Zenel Baragelj a political analyst, said that the outcome of the AP election is difficult to predict due to fluctuating loyalties, and multiple parties hovering around the threshold level of 4%.
Jansa and Orban’s anti-liberal rhetoric, governing styles, and financial dealings are all similarities according to observers. Orban’s associates invested in Slovenia’s progovernment media and companies.
Reporter, a pro-Jansa magazine, has recently asked Slovenian voters to ask themselves “if you would like to live in a country like Orban’s Hungary.” An anonymous group of intellectuals and public figures warned that Sunday’s election was “historic” and the “last chance for Janez Jansa to end his authoritarian tendencies.”
Jansa dismissed the criticism as a leftist plot against his government, and promised stability and continuity to voters in uncertain times. He distanced himself from Orban and took a strong stand against Russia’s invasion in Ukraine to polish his image.
Jansa, along with the prime ministers from Poland and Czech Republic, traveled to Ukraine’s capital in mid-March. This was an attention-grabbing decision meant to show regional leadership within Europe. The Slovenian government opened the country’s Kyiv embassy and encouraged other EU countries to follow suit.
According to surveys, citizens are more concerned about domestic issues like social equality, environment protection and the rule-of-law than the conflict in Ukraine. Jure Mocivnik, who is a Ljubljana resident, expressed optimism about the election’s success and high voter interest.
Mocivnik, when asked about the outcome, replied: “I don’t have a clue. Everything is possible.”