The Progressive Post

🇸🇮 Slovenian governmental parties lose election to right-wing opposition


Political scientist, former state secretary for higher education and science of Slovenia

After a landslide election victory in 2022, the liberal, Social Democrat and left-wing governmental coalition partners in Slovenia suffered a painful defeat by right-wing opposition led by Victor Orban’s ally Janez Janša’s SDS (EPP) party. With one more EPP-party winning one seat, the EPP won five out of nine MEPs in Slovenia.

After two years in power, the European elections were the first electoral test for Slovenia’s liberal Freedom Movement party-led government. The governing Freedom Movement (GS), Social Democrats (SD) and Left Party managed to win only three MEP seats (GS two and SD one) out of nine, losing ground to the right-wing EPP opposition. It was a big night for Janez Janša’s conservative SDS (EPP) party, which won four MEP seats (the most of any party in the history of EU elections in Slovenia). Despite difficulties, the NSi Christian Democrats (EPP) also (just) managed to win one MEP seat. The non-parliamentary green party Vesna came in third with its popular leader, former presidential candidate Vladimir Prebilič, gaining one MEP. 

This time around, the European elections in Slovenia were once again dominated by domestic politics and international issues such as whether Slovenia should recognise the State of Palestine (which it did two weeks before the election). They were also dominated by criticism of the government in power for the past two years, with the opposition pointing to the government’s low approval ratings and unfulfilled promises. Meanwhile, the governing parties tried to present their results and even raised public expectations of the government by making many promises just in time for the elections, such as presenting a draft of a €1 billion housing plan to be undertaken by the government, as well as holding four referenda, with everything from euthanasia to the legalisation of marijuana on the ballot, at the same time as the elections in order to raise turnout.

The Social Democrats (SD) managed to outperform the party’s 2022 general election result but lost one MEP seat compared to the party’s 2019 result. The party held an extraordinary party congress in April and elected a new leadership after the old leadership resigned following a series of media scandals over the party’s mismanagement of a project in one of the ministries controlled by a now-former SD minister, who subsequently also left the party. This brought the party’s public rating to an all-time low just three months before the start of the election campaign. Given the party’s starting position before the election, it was important for the party to retain at least one seat, which would provide a basis for future growth. For the SD, it was very important to maintain its position as a party with an MEP within the PES/S&D. All in all, however, the government parties were unsuccessful and the right-wing opposition managed to make electoral gains on the coalition. 

There were also two big surprises of the night, one being Vesna, which achieved an impressive 10 per cent of the vote on the back of their popular lead candidate. The other was the SLS (EPP), a former traditional party that had been out of parliament for some time, but that managed to garner more than 7 per cent of the vote in the 9 June elections, almost beating NSi. 

In the end, while it is customary for the EPP parties to outperform the centre-left liberals and Social Democrats in European elections in Slovenia, this was the best election night for them in a long time. With the SDS making a strong showing with four MEPs and opposing Ursula von der Leyen for the next Commission President, this is an election that moves Slovenia further to the right of the political spectrum in the EU context.

Photo credits: Shutterstock/Andy.LIU

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