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Slovenia: Janez Janša’s Slovenian Democratic Party Defeated by Hélène de Lauzun

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Slovenia: Janez Janša’s Slovenian Democratic Party Defeated

Parliamentary elections were held in Slovenia on Sunday, April 24th, to renew the 90 members of the National Assembly. The government was, until now, led by the Slovenian Democratic Party representative Janez Janša, who has been at the head of the coalition since January 2020, when the previous head of government, Marjan Šarec, had been placed in a minority. 

Janez Janša won only 23.65% of the vote, and was beaten by Robert Golob, a newcomer to Slovenian politics, who heads a centre-left opposition party with an environmentalist slant. Golob and his party won 34.47% of the vote, giving him 41 seats in the National Assembly—just short of an absolute majority, but more than any Slovenian party has ever won on its own.  

Robert Golob is a former solar energy entrepreneur. Pre-election polls showed him neck and neck with conservative Janez Janša but did not predict a victory with a gap of nearly 10%. Janša admitted defeat but warned his opponent: “It is easy to buy posters, to have the support of the media and the so-called civil society, but none of this will help you in the hard task ahead.” Indeed, Robert Golob’s party is a newcomer on the Slovenian political scene. “It has no infrastructure, no know-how, no knowledge of the parliamentary arena,” warns Slovenian political scientist Miha Kovač. Discussions are currently underway to set up a coalition with the Social Democrats, who received 6.7% of the vote, and with the Left, which received 4.4%. 

The election mobilised the Slovenians. The turnout was close to 70%, well above that of 2018 (52%). Robert Golob campaigned on the theme of a “return to normality,” against the “excesses” of Janez Janša, considered too close to the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. Like his Hungarian counterpart, Janša was accused by foreign observers of infringing upon the rule of law. He was particularly attacked for cutting off funding to the national news agency STA for its tone, which was considered too systematically critical of the government, and for repeatedly belittling the European Commission in Brussels, often speaking of its “overpaid civil servants.”

Janša has supported Ukraine since the beginning of the war between Russia and Ukraine. He was fiercely anti-Russian and went to Ukraine in mid-March with his Polish and Czech counterparts. The Ukrainian crisis has had no real impact on the campaign, as the consensus in Slovenia is to support Ukraine. His successor is likely to continue on the same path.

Hélène de Lauzun studied at the École Normale Supérieure de Paris. She taught French literature and civilization at Harvard and received a Ph.D. in History from the Sorbonne. She is the author of Histoire de l’Autriche (Perrin, 2021).