Slovenia – EU Parliamentary Elections

Political Background

Slovenia joined the EU in 2004, and became the first country to join the Euro after its initial launch.

Slovenia can trace its democratic routes to the seventh century when local farmers would elect their own Dukes.

Formerly part of Yugoslavia, Slovenia had been the most productive Yugoslav Republic. Despite representing less than 10% of Yugoslavia’s population, Slovenia represented 20% of the GDP of the former Communist federation.

Slovenia was the first Yugoslav republic to declare independence but was not badly affected by the break-up of the country. Isolated on the opposite side of Croatia, it had little to fear from Slobodan Milosevic’s Serbia, and while Croatia had border disputes with the country (recently resolved) it was more concerned about Serbia.

There was a war of independence in 1991, but it lasted only ten days with an official death toll of 63. While this is, of course, tragic it is a drop in the ocean compared to the 140,000+ killed elsewhere in the wider Yugoslav Wars.

Slovenia has been one of the most successful post-Communist states in Europe. On declaring independence Slovenia already had an advanced and prosperous economy in relative terms. Today it has a modern service and industrial economy. Slovenia has successfully attracted large amounts of foreign investment. Today, even after a loss of 7-9% of GDP from the 2008-9 financial crisis Slovenia enjoys the highest nominal GDP per Capita of any former Communist state and ranks above Greece and Portugal in this measure as well.

In addition, Slovenia is one of the most equal countries in the world by many measures, and Slovenia enjoys a relatively high ranking in the Economist’s Democracy Index at 28th, joint with France and second only to the Czech Republic in Central and Eastern Europe.

The financial crisis affected Slovenia badly. As such, as in other EU states, the country has been pushed into unpopular austerity measures. Growth since 2009 has been slow to non-existent and the country entered a double dip recession in 2012, returning to growth in late 2013. Nonetheless growth is slow. Unemployment in Slovenia is relatively high at 14.8%. Social order has been threatened by violent anti-austerity and anti-corruption protests in 2012 and 2013.

Protesters have since begun to move into politics, and several anti-austerity parties have formed on the left.

Until 2004 Slovenia was more or less dominated by the Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (LDS), a left-leaning liberal party which won every election between 1992 and 2004 and who held the premiership for all but 6 months in 2000. Nonetheless, the LDS never enjoyed anything close to a majority (their best ever result was 34 seats of 90 in 2000) and Slovenian politics is quite fragmented. Four party governments are common.

In recent years party politics has fragmented even more seriously and has seen the rise and fall of multiple parties.

The last national election, in 2011, saw the rise of two new parties, the classically liberal Civic List of former cabinet minister Gregor Virant and Positive Slovenia, founded by controversial centre-left Ljubljana mayor Zoran Jankovic. PS won the election, but Virant backed a centre-right government, until, after a year, it controversially pulled out of government and backed a centre-left government instead, without fresh election, headed by PS.

Positive Slovenia’s new leader Alenka Bratusek became the country’s first woman Prime Minister. The government was unpopular and became deeply unstable. There was a public perception that the government lacked democratic legitimacy due to its coming to power mid-term rather than after an election. Its inability to turn the economic situation also harmed it as did its continuation of austerity.

The government was also harmed by the machinations of Jankovic. Jankovic retook the leadership of Positive Slovenia earlier this year in a bitterly hard fought contest with Bratusek and subsequently attempted to become Prime Minister. Rather than do that, the government resigned en masse and called for early elections. Bratusek split the party. Slovenia is currently ruled by a caretaker cabinet headed by Bratusek until new elections can be held.

As in other post-communist states Slovenia suffers from corruption and cynicism of political elites.

Slovenes are not an especially pro or anti-European bunch and tend to show up as average in terms of pro-European views. Anti-austerity protesters have increasingly used some anti-Euro rhetoric of a similar type to Greece’s Syriza.

Electoral System

This year, Slovenia will elect 7 MEPs, down 1 from the Lisbon redistribution. As one of Europe’s smallest states, only Estonia, Malta and Luxembourg elect fewer MEPs.

Slovenia uses a semi-open list system, in which voters vote for parties who receive their seats broadly in proportion to the number of votes. Seats are generally filled from the party list. Voters may also cast a vote for a specific candidate. Candidates who win more than around 7.1% of the vote can be elected ‘out of order’.

Perhaps uniquely, opinion polling in Slovenia for the European elections bears almost no resemblance whatsoever to opinion polling for the national parliament. This is partially due to the presence of unique party List Verjamem which has not registered for national parliament elections yet, but may also be due to anticipated low turnout (turnout was 28.4% in 2009) and views that European parliamentary elections provide an opportunity to punish governing parties.

2009 Election Result

Party European Political Party Votes Seats
Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) European People’s Party 26.7% 3
Social Democrats (SD) Socialists and Democrats 18.4% 2
New Slovenia (NSi) (running with SLS this year) European People’s Party 16.6% 1
Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (LDS) Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe 11.5% 1
Zares – Social Liberals Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe 9.8% 1
Democratic Party of Pensioners (DeSUS) None 7.2% 0
Slovenian People’s Party (SLS) (running with the NSi this year) European People’s Party 3.6% 0
Slovenian National Party (SNS) None 2.0% 0

New parties since 2009:

Civic List (DL)

List Verjamem (LV)

Positive Slovenia (PS)

United Left (ZL)

Likely results

The situation in Slovenia is currently very fluid, due to the recent collapse of the government. European polls also differ widely from national polls, and it is possible that national polling may provide a better guide. Nonetheless, the European polls suggest the following.

The polls show the SDS and the NDi-SLS joint list are leading the pack, The SDS is likely to win 2-3 seats. The NDi-SLS is likely to win 2, but could pip the SDS for a third seat.

List Verjamem is likely to win a single seat, and the final seat appears to be a fight between the Social Democrats and Positive Slovenia.

I dare say that the final result has a good chance of not resembling this outcome at all.