Fresh on the heels of major upheavals to the governing landscape of EU giants Italy and Spain, one of the European Union’s newest Member States, Slovenia, has cast its vote for an anti-immigrant party led by a former prime minister who at one time was a liberal, pro-democracy dissident, but who later spent time in prison on bribery charges.
The centre-right Slovenia Democratic party (SDS) of ex-Prime Minister Janez Janša captured 25% of the vote in Sunday’s poll, enough to have come out on top. The party will most likely struggle to cobble together enough support to form a coalition government as its anti-immigrant, ultranationalist rhetoric has alienated most of the political parties that could be seen as potential allies of the SDS.
“We will probably have to wait for some time … before serious talks on a new government will be possible,” said Janša after casting his ballot, while acknowledging that the negotiations to form a new government will most likely take considerable time and effort.
Janša, who was prime minister from 2004 to 2008 and from 2012 to 2013, served a six-month prison sentence in 2014 after being convicted on bribery charges for seeking €2 million in compensation for an arms supply deal with Finnish firm Patria.
During his most recent campaign, Janša promised to cut taxes and speed up the privatisation process, while also vowing to keep migrants from the Middle East and Africa out of Slovenia, a tiny nation of just under 2.1 million people located between the Adriatic Sea and the Alps.
Slovenia is the latest East European nation to turn to the far-right as the issue of illegal immigration from the war-torn regions of the Near East and Central Asia continue to dominate the domestic social and political agenda of many of the EU Member States.
Hardline, Eurosceptic political parties in Hungary and Poland have frequently clashed with Brussels over the EU’s planned policy plans for a quota system for asylum seekers.
Janša and the SDS are close allies of Hungary’s firebrand nationalist president and fervent leader of Eastern Europe’s populist anti-immigration wave, Viktor Orbán. Much like Orbán, Janša is a former pro-democracy dissident who spent time in prison in the late 1980s for his opposition to the Communist government, when Slovenia was a constituent republic of the former Yugoslavia. Much in the same way that his counterpart has become a champion of illiberalism, Janša has also become one of the most vocal opponents of the EU’s policy to illegal immigration.
Janša’s SDS will need to partner with at least two other parties to gain a majority in the parliament, a prospect that Slovene President Borut Pahor said he would be willing to wait for if Janša and his party can quickly come to an agreement on the formation of a coalition government.
With 99% of the 1.7 million ballots cast, the SDS is poised to capture 25 seats in the 90-seat parliament. Centre-left party leader Marjan Šarec and his namesake party, the LMS, came in second with 12.6% of the vote and 13 seats. Former Prime Minister Miro Cerar‘s Party of the Modern Centre came in fourth place with just 10 seats.
“If everyone sticks to what they said before the election, we expect to get a chance to form a government,” said Šarec while commenting on his own expectations of forming a coalition government after the nearly all of the parties in the June 3 election said they would not join an SDS-led government.
The election was announced in March following the sudden resignation of Cerar only weeks before his term was scheduled to end. Cerar’s decision to step down came after the country’s supreme court annulled a September 2017 referendum to construct a railway that would link Divača, a railway hub near the Italian border, and the Adriatic port city of Koper on the Istrian Peninsula.