Just the Facts: Slovenian General Election, 3 June 2018

The Slovenian electorate went to the polls on Sunday to elect a new Parliament. 25 political parties contested the election, with nine expected to have secured enough votes to be elected. Provisional results show the conservative Slovenian Democratic Party emerging as the largest party with 24.9 per cent of the vote. As none of the parties are forecasted to have achieved an outright majority in Parliament, negotiations to form a coalition government are expected to follow in the coming weeks.

Background

In September 2017, a referendum was held on a railway project proposed to run from the port town of Koper to the town of Divača. A civil society group known as ‘Taxpayers Don’t Give Up’ had requested the referendum on the grounds that they thought the project, at an estimated cost of one billion euro, was too expensive. The Slovenian government’s proposal to build the railway passed with 53.5 per cent of the vote, with turnout at 20.6 per cent. In March 2018, Slovenia’s Supreme Court annulled the results of the referendum and called for a new vote because of the low turnout. The ruling led Slovenian Prime Minister, Miro Cerar, to resign from his post and the general election to be moved forward by a week to 3 June.

Slovenia uses a proportional representation system to elect members to the Parliament, which is known as the National Assembly. There are 90 seats in the National Assembly, and political parties must reach a minimum threshold of four per cent of the vote in order to take their seats. Two seats are reserved for the communities of Italian and Hungarian ethnic minorities, which are elected through a first-past-the-post system.

Election Campaign

Pre-election polls showed the conservative Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) with a significant lead, although unlikely to secure an outright parliamentary majority. The SDS campaigned on an anti-immigration platform, having opposed quotas under the EU temporary relocation scheme as proposed by the European Commission in response to the refugee crisis and formally adopted by Member States in the Justice and Home Affairs Council in 2015. The SDS is known to have close ties with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who made a speech at the SDS Congress in May 2017. SDS leader, Janez Janša, has twice served as Prime Minister, from 2004-2008 and 2012-2013. In 2013, he was sentenced to two years in prison for a bribery conviction relating to an arms deal in 2006, of which he served six months before the Constitutional Court ordered a retrial that never took place because a ten-year time limit on the case expired first.

Pre-election polls showed the centre-left List of Marjan Šarec (LMŠ) in second place, in its first time contesting a general election. The party’s leader, Marjan Šarec, a former political satirist, contested the 2017 Slovenian Presidential election, finishing in second place. During the general election campaign, Mr Šarec stated his party would be unwilling to join a coalition with the SDS, as did many of the other left-leaning parties.

Despite hopes of securing a stronger mandate, the vote share of the ruling Modern Centre Party (SMC) was forecast to drop to eight per cent. Their junior coalition partners, the Slovenian Social Democrats (SD) and the Democratic Party of Pensioners of Slovenia (DeSUS), were expected to win similar vote shares.

Results

With 99.9 per cent of the votes counted, the SDS won the largest share of votes with 24.9 per cent, which would give them 25 seats in the National Assembly. The LMŠ came in second, with 12.7 per cent which amounts to 13 seats. The outgoing SMC won 9.8 per cent of the vote share which amounts to ten seats, representing a loss of 26 seats. Its coalition partners, the SD and the DeSUS, secured 9.9 per cent and 4.9 per cent respectively.

The Left won 9.3 per cent of the vote share, New Slovenia won 7.1 per cent, the Party of Alenka Bratušek won 5.1 per cent, and the Slovenian National Party won 4.2 per cent. Turnout was estimated to be 52 per cent, at a similar level to the previous parliamentary elections in 2014.

Reaction

Reacting to the preliminary results, SDS leader, Mr Janša, commented that “Those who cast their ballots for us have elected a party that will put Slovenia first”. He also stated his willingness to have negotiations with all political parties, declaring “We are open for cooperation, Slovenia is facing times which need cooperation”.

President Borut Pahor is expected to offer Mr Janša a mandate to form a government, stating after the election: “I am not obliged to award the mandate to the relative winner of the election, but I will do so because I strongly believe in democracy.” Negotiations to form a coalition government are likely to take some time.

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