Populist Parties on the Rise in Early Slovenian Elections
by Dr Alison van der Wateren-Smith
In the context of a deepening economic crisis across the European Union, the fall of Slovenia’s government received little international attention. Yet rising borrowing costs and falling demand for exports have battered the Slovenian economy, and the centre-left government lost a vote of confidence in September. On Sunday Slovenia will hold its first early elections since its democratic system was founded in 1991.
The centre-right Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) is likely to win the biggest share of the vote. It has pledged to take urgent action to prevent the country from sliding back into recession, raising the pension age, trimming public services and easing the credit crunch by setting up a ‘bad bank’ to take over state owned banks’ non performing assets. However, these reforms will be difficult to implement. The retirement age in Slovenia is currently the lowest in the European Union (57 for women and 58 for men) and the outgoing government’s pension reform plan was rejected in a referendum in June.
A brand new party, Positive Slovenia, is likely to take second place in Sunday’s elections. It plans to close the 5.8% budget deficit by raising value added tax by 1%. Another new party, Citizen’s List, will also do well by promising to cut red tape and white-collar crime while reducing public expenditure in an ‘intelligent’ way. All of the parties involved in Slovenia’s previous government (SD, Zares, LDS and DeSUS) are being punished severely by voters for presiding over the economic crisis since 2008.
These developments are significant because, until now, Slovenia has been one of the post-communist region’s most politically stable democracies. Although the voters’ tendency to blame governing parties for Slovenia’s economic woes is understandable, the emergence of populist parties claiming to have easy answers is troubling. As a small, export-dependent economy, Slovenia’s economic situation is likely to worsen as the euro-zone crisis deepens. Parties claiming to have easy answers may win votes now, but they are likely to have a hard landing in a few months’ time.
For further details of parties’ policies, see: http://www.sloveniatimes.com/looking-for-the-magic-formula
For an analysis of the political situation in Slovenia, see:http://www.robert-schuman.eu/doc/oee/oee-735-en.pdf