Janez Janša suffers heavy defeat as newcomer party wins Slovenian elections – POLITICO

Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša’s party suffered a heavy defeat in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, losing to a left-leaning party founded just earlier this year.

The freedom movement, which was taken over and transformed by businessman Robert Golob in January, received about 33 percent out of more than 99 percent of the votes counted, according to the National Electoral Commission.

Janša’s Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) got around 28 percent, her main coalition partner, New Slovenia and the Christian Democrats, around 8 percent.

The freedom movement won 40 seats in Parliament. The Social Democrats won seven seats and have already announced that they will join Golob’s government in order to secure the necessary majority to form a government. The Left Party could also join them and form a broad coalition of left-wing parties.

“Janez Janša is the biggest loser in these elections,” said political scientist Alem Maksuti.

“We expect him to question the legitimacy of the elections, just as he supported Donald Trump’s claim that the US elections were rigged,” Maksuti said.

Pro-SDS media published several articles after polling stations were closed, alleging Russian interference in the election. While this claim has not appeared in serious Slovenian media, the European People’s Party is – of it Janša is a member — tweeted from his official account on Sunday that it is concerned about “possible Russian interference in Slovenian elections, which is clearly a consequence of Slovenia’s firm and unequivocal support for Ukraine”.

Janša has stated that his opponents support Russia’s demands on Ukraine due to their left-wing political leanings.

The outgoing SDS government took office after former Prime Minister Marjan Šarec resigned in March 2020 following a dispute over healthcare legislation.

Instead of the widely expected snap elections after Šarec’s resignation, Janšas SDS rallied support for a coalition of right-wing parties and formed a new government by parliamentary vote.

The time since then has been marked by a decline in democratic standards. A recent Freedom House report indicates that Slovenia has experienced the worst democratic decline of any of the 29 countries it monitors, based on factors such as the legislative process, media independence and corruption.

“The damage done in these two years is significant. Transition or return to a pre-Janša state will take time and expectations are high,” Maksuti said.

From the placement of cadres loyal to the SDS in key institutions, to questionable deals with state-owned companies, to ongoing attacks on critical news outlets, Janša’s government has often been compared to those in Hungary or Poland in terms of democratic backsliding.

Janša has spent the last two years promoting the belief that Slovenia has been attacked, either by international left-wing conspiracies or by remnants of the communist elite, who he claims control the country’s political scene.

“Janša’s main political ideology is to invent non-existent enemies and try to eliminate anyone who stands in his way,” Maksuti said.

But unlike other populist parties in power in Europe, the SDS has consistently garnered around 20 percent in polls since it first formed government in 2004 (in the 2018 election, the SDS won 24.9 percent of the vote, according to POLITICO polls).

The freedom movement’s victory came as little surprise, given that the party led the polls ahead of the election and also because Slovenian voters often tend to elect newcomers to power.

Voting behavior in Slovenia is “very volatile. Around 20 percent of voters regularly change their voting preferences at every election,” Maksuti said.

“Political parties that were previously successful in elections will fail and disintegrate in the next elections,” he said.

According to Tea Jarc, a trade unionist who was a key figure in the civil society movement Voice of the People, these elections have been a long time coming.

Along with thousands of other Slovenes, she protested against the Janša government every Friday for 105 weeks. Many said they felt cheated of elections to be held when Šarec resigned.

“The Friday protests started as soon as it became clear that Janša would not allow snap elections – the previous government had promised that when it collapsed,” said Jarc.

Jarc and around 100 other civil society organizations decided in September last year to create Voice of the People to bring together the issues that matter most to voters across the country.

“No one expected them to continue for two years. You would have thought that the government would have taken seriously the fact that thousands of people are protesting every week,” Jarc said.

Jarc has been the subject of several smear campaigns by SDS-affiliated news agencies, as have countless other activists, journalists and opposition politicians. She said many in the country were still shocked at how quickly the country had slipped into a “more autocratic system”.

“We never thought that a democratic system could change so quickly,” Jarc said.

https://www.politico.eu/article/janez-jansa-suffers-heavy-defeat-as-newcomer-party-wins-slovenian-election/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication Janez Janša suffers heavy defeat as newcomer party wins Slovenian elections - POLITICO

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