Wednesday

28th Feb 2024

Analysis

Slovenia's convicted ex-PM: down but refusing to be out

  • Janez Jansa - an indeliable part of the Slovenian political scene (Photo: consilium.europa.au)

For almost six years Slovenia's internal affairs were overshadowed by the so-called Patria affair in which one of the strongest men, Slovenia’s ex prime minister and the current opposition leader Janez Jansa was recently found guilty.

He was sentenced to two years in prison for taking bribes for his Slovenia Democratic Party (SDS) in 2007 from the Finnish military company Patria that was selling armoured vehicles to Slovenia at the time.

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Now that chapter might end as Jansa must finally go to prison.

This week he announced via Twitter that he received an official court order by which he has to report to Dob prison on 20 June.

Nevertheless, he is insisting that the whole case is a plot against him and his party, to prevent their victory in next month’s early elections.

"How can the elections on 13 July be fair, if on 20 June the president of the party will be imprisoned. Who can win them?” he told local radio this week.

At the recent EU elections his party “with the most trustworthy team and the soundest programme,” as he put it, won the elections, getting three of Slovenia’s eight EP seats.

Now, ahead of the elections for the national parliament, Slovenia is in an awkward position: the country’s laws do not regulate for this kind of situation.

It is in theory possible to become a prime minister, even if one is in prison. Jansa can also run for a seat in the parliament despite being in prison.

This has the hallmarks of absurdity. Nevertheless Jansa does not want to step down as a party president, nor does he spell out whether he will run to be an MP.

A year ago he said that he would fight against the Court’s order with all legal and political means.

Throughout he has received strong support from the European People’s Party. Last month EPP leader Joseph Daul, while in Slovenia, said there should be a special EU body set up to supervise the judiciary in member states.

“[The] judiciary has to be under supervision in the same way as acts of the people. Judges have to be under surveillance by an organisation of lawyers and judges which is above them," Daul said.

Jansa and his party in recent years have repeatedly attacked Slovenia’s judiciary with the ex-PM saying a court that finds him innocent should be “created”.

Other political parties, like the Christian Democrats (NSI) or Slovenia’s People’s Party (SLS), are struggling to deal with the situation ahead of national elections.

Their common position is that they would like to cooperate with SDS, but not with Jansa. Leftist parties, on the other hand, feel powerless.

After the EU Parliament elections two coalition party presidents – Igor Luksic of the Social Democrats (S&D) and Gregor Virant of the Civil List (Alde) – resigned due to their respective party's election results.

In recent weeks, three new parties have appeared on the political scene.

One, led by the current centre-left prime minister Alenka Bratusek, is called the Alliance of Alenka Bratusek. The PM has urged the fragmented centre-left parties to reunite.

The second was founded by popular legal professor Miro Cerar and a third one, called "I Believe" was set up by Igor Soltes, who also won a seat in the European Parliament. Soltes wants to promote Slovenia as the “Trade mark for the quality of life”.

Slovenians, on the other hand, are quickly losing interest in politics.

At the EU elections, turnout was 24 percent, higher only than Slovakia and the Czech Republic.To make matters worse, 32 percent of the votes cast went to parties that did not win any seat.

Part of the reason for voters’ disillusion is the economic crisis.

Last year Slovenia was tipped as the next bailout candidate after Cyprus and was facing one of the highest borrowing costs in the eurozone. The other contributor is the dragging-out of the Patria case, which has sapped the country’s ability to look forward.

One of the many surprises at the recent EU elections in Slovenia was the appearance of the “Dream Job” Party. They got 3.5 percent of votes, a lot for a newly-created Facebook organisation whose main programme is to oppose democracy itself.

They did better than the nationalists, greens and even one of the governing coalition’s liberal parties. They call it a socio-political experiment. Arguing that politicians are insincere, the party picked its EU candidates by casting lots.

And this is maybe the best illustration of Slovenians' feelings towards politics today: many are convinced a simple lottery is better that voting.

It is in this bitter and fractured context that Slovenes will go to the urns in a month’s time.

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Some 25 percent of Slovenians have voted for the anti-immigrant Slovenia Democratic party headed by Janez Jansa, a former PM who spent six months in jail for corruption.

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There is a letter waiting for Alenka Bratusek, the would-be next EU commissioner in charge of energy union. A letter she does not want to pick up from the local post office in Slovenia, close to her home.

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