Slovenia held a general election on Sunday, 24 April to elect members of its parliament, the National Assembly. Provisional results show that the ruling Slovenian Democratic Party, which is led by populist conservative Prime Minister Janez Janša, was defeated by the green – liberal Freedom Movement of Robert Golob, who campaigned that this election was a “referendum on democracy”. This Just the Facts looks at Slovenia’s political system, the election campaign and the results of the 2022 General Election.
Background: Slovenia’s Political System
Slovenia is a bicameral parliamentary republic, with 90 MPs elected to the National Assembly for four-year terms. From that, 88 MPs are elected through a party-list proportional representation system, while the final two are held by the Hungarian and Italian-speaking ethnic minorities. Parties must reach a 4% threshold of votes at elections to enter the National Assembly.
The National Council, similar to an upper parliamentary house, consists of 40 representatives each of whose term is five years and who represent local, social and economic interest groups in Slovenia. The National Council is not directly elected and has a limited role in the legislative process.
The head of government is held by the Prime Minister, where a working majority of 46 MPs is required in the National Assembly to form a government. Following the resignation of Marjan Šarec in January 2020, due to proposed changes to health legislation, Janez Janša became Prime Minister in March 2020, his third time taking this office. He previously served as prime minister from 2004 – 2008 and from 2012 – 2013.
His minority government consisted of his own Slovenian Democratic Party, Modern Centre Party, New Slovenia – Christian Democrats, and Democratic Party of Pensioners of Slovenia.
The role of the President of Slovenia is a largely ceremonial role, but they can declare when to call a general election and is responsible for “entrusting the mandate to form a government to the candidate for prime minister once the votes are counted.” The President is commander-in-chief of the Slovenian Armed Forces. Borut Pahor, from the Social Democrats, has held the role since December 2012.
2022 Election Campaign
A feature of Slovenia’s political landscape is a high level of party fragmentation, with around 20 parties standing in the 2022 election in a country of 2.1 million. This results in smaller parties playing a critical role in coalition government formation after an election.
When President Pahor announced the date for the election in February, early polling indicated that opposition parties were collectively outperforming Janša’s government parties.
Since becoming Prime Minister in March 2020, commentators have highlighted measures that Janša has introduced that have resulted in democratic backsliding. In 2021, Freedom House, published a ‘Nations in Transit’ report, which monitors “elector process, media independence and corruption”, among other issues. It had found that “democratic standards in Slovenia declines more in 2021 than in any other country in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.”
Janša had hoped to benefit from introducing measures to soften the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, including payments of €150 to pensioners. Despite being described as Eurosceptic, it is reported that he “is a staunch advocate of EU enlargement, including Ukraine.”
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine featured in the campaign, at one rally Janša spoke of how the war “is not somewhere far away. It is in our neighbourhood, and we ask how this could have happened”. Janša’s government has announced that it is in negotiations to help expand Croatia’s LNG terminal, so that both EU Member States can reduce their dependency on Russian gas imports. Slovenia has so far taken in more than 18,000 Ukrainian refugees, with its government saying it could accept as many as 200,000.
One of the main parties to stand in the election was Freedom Movement, originally called the Green Actions Party when it was founded in May 2021 by Jure Leben, a former Slovenian environment minister. Robert Golob, a former power company manager, became chairperson and renamed it the Freedom Movement in January 2022. The Freedom Movement’s priorities included a “focus on green agenda, open society, normalisation and modern welfare state.” Golob had campaigned that this election was a “referendum on democracy” in Slovenia.
2022 Election Results
Based on initial results, Freedom Movement won 34.54% of votes in the 2022 general election, exceeding expectation by winning 41 seats in the National Assembly, just shy of an overall majority of 46.
Janša’s Slovenian Democratic Party saw a slight decline in its voting share, of 23.53% (-1.39%), but gained two seats, with a total of 27 won. His government coalition party New Slovenia – Christian Democrats gained one seat, winning a total of eight, while the Democratic Party of Pensioners of Slovenia lost all of its seats in the National Assembly.
Turnout reached its highest level in over two decades at around 70%, a significant increase from 53% since the last general election in 2018. Reports indicate the higher turnout was the result of civil society and younger voters, in particular, being mobilised to vote.
It is expected that Golob will form a coalition government with the Social Democrats, who won seven seats and the Left who won five seats – that would lead to governing majority of seven in the new National Assembly.
Initial Results of the 2022 Slovenia General Election to the National Assembly
|Party||Seats won in 2022||Seat change since 2018||European Parliament Group|
|Slovenian Democratic Party||27||2||European People’s Party|
|New Slovenia – Christian Democrats||8||1||European People’s Party|
|Social Democrats||7||-3||Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats|
|The Left||5||-4||The Left in the European Parliament|
|List of Marjan Šarec||0||-13||Renew Europe|
|Let’s Connect Slovenia||0||-10||–|
|Party of Alenka Bratušek||0||-5||Renew Europe|
|Slovenian National Party||0||-4||–|
|Democratic Party of Pensioners of Slovenia||0||-5||Renew Europe|
|Italian and Hungarian national minorities||2||–||–|