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Slovenia Presidential Elections: Parting With Orban’s ‘Values’? – Analysis

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In the second round of elections for the President of the Republic of Slovenia, scheduled to take place on 13 November 2022, Slovenia will elects its fifth democratically elected president since its declaration of independence in 1991. The president is elected for a three year term. 

Anže Logar (Dr. Romana Logar –group of voters) and Nataša Pirc Musar (Biserka Marolt Meden –group of voters) qualified for the second round of elections. In the first round Logar won 296,000 (33.95%) votes and Pirc Musar 234,361 (26.88%). The turnout was lower than at the recent parliamentary elections, as 876,687 (51.74%) voters participated in the elections. 

In the eve of the first round of presidential elections the IFIMES international institute published an analysis titled “2022 Presidential elections: In anticipation of a new momentum in Slovenian political arena.”, link: https://www.ifimes.org/en/researches/2022-presidential-election-in-anticipation-of-a-new-momentum-in-slovenian-political-arena/5090? (20 October 2022). 

What is happening with Slovenian foreign policy?

One of the important competences of the President of the Republic of Slovenia is Slovenian foreign policy, which experienced a fiasco with the adoption of the arbitration ruling on the border dispute between Slovenia and Croatia in June 2017, when finally all the cracks in Slovenian foreign policy came to light. Although the European Union was the guarantor of the arbitration agreement between Slovenia and Croatia signed in Stockholm on 4 November 2009, after the publication of the arbitration award on 29 June 2017, Slovenia remained completely alone and left to its own devices. Namely, the arbitration agreement was simultaneously the agreement on accession of Croatia into the EU and was signed by the then Slovenian Prime Minister Borut Pahor (SD) and Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor (HDZ).

As for the relations with the US, it transpired that they are not at a required level and that Slovenia maybe has the poorest relations with the US of all the countries in the region. The relations with the US, that is Joseph Biden’s administration, hit the bottom with the former Janez Janša’s government (SDS), in which the current presidential candidate Anže Logar (SDS) served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs. It is of utmost importance to develop and cultivate strategic relations with the US, as Slovenia has no open issues with the US and the US were most instrumental in the process of Slovenia becoming an independent country. According to a Gallup research, Slovenia is among the ten countries in the world with pronounced anti-American sentiments.  There are no rational reasons for such relations and major efforts need to be invested to improve such sentiment towards the US. The Slovenian politics must act in a much more prudent, responsible and long-term oriented way. 

What is happening with the Slovenian foreign policy? Is anyone being held accountable for the failures at all? Does Slovenia have political allies, friends and supporters? Its foreign policy was on the wrong track for years. This was evident in Janša’s government, when the foreign policy was in accord with the policy of the Visegrádgroup of countries (Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia). At the same time, Slovenian foreign policy in the Western Balkans has caused irreparable damage with the publication of the so-called “non-papers”, which included even retailoring of borders and envisaged disappearance of some countries, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia. For the first time in the modern history of Slovenia, in the Western Balkans Slovenia was not being perceived as a friendly country. The enlargement of the EU to the Western Balkans is a priority for Slovenia as a state and it can use it to pursue its interests. Membership in the EU and NATO is not sufficiently used, as well as the signed strategic partnerships with Turkey, France and Germany. In addition to being a member of international organizations, it also needs to intensively develop bilateral relations with different countries and new strategic partnerships. The Western Balkans is, therefore, formally a priority, but Slovenia has lost the important role that it had in the region. Specifically, priority is larger engagement in numerous organizations, particularly in the function of affirmation of Slovenia as an ambitious country and realization of its economic interests. 

Policy towards the neighboring countries is always a priority for any country. All neighboring countries of Slovenia are members of the EU and NATO, which is an excellent starting point for development of partner relations within the framework of both organizations. Slovenia is not sufficiently integrated in the West and within the EU and NATO. Slovenian armed forces lag behind comparable modern armies. The last few governments did not deal substantially with the Slovenian armed forces. 

In the context of relations with neighboring countries, the emphasis is always put on the position of Slovenian ethnic minority (Austria, Croatia, Italy and Hungary). While its status is improving, there are still many open issues related to the use of Slovenian language, schools and official support of the respective countries. 

In Austria, the issue is whether Slovenia should formally regulate its status of a successor of Yugoslavia as the signatory to the Austrian State Treaty. So far, the Slovenian policy avoided doing so, stipulating that it would negatively reflect on the interstate relations (legal experts predominantly believe that the notification is necessary).

In Italy, the status of Slovenian ethnic minority depends on the circumstances which change with the arrival of each new government, and will definitely be a pronounced issue under Giorgia Meloni’s government. The return of the National Hall in Trieste to the Slovenian minority and the act of reconciliation of the two Presidents instill hope that the relations will be further improved. 

When it comes to Hungary, there is the open issue of Slovenian ethnic minority in Szentgotthárd. The relations are particularly important because Hungary is a neighboring landlocked country and it uses the Koper port as its access to the sea. 

As for Croatia, the topical issue is the border arbitration from which Croatia has officially withdrawn and does not recognize the respective arbitration award. Janša’s government invested no effort to implement the arbitration award. Although Croatia has not recognized the award, it is evident that the award should be implemented in a way that will provide for resolution of the issue. This can be done through deft diplomatic activities, because the Croatian Parliament had officially adopted the decision on withdrawal from the arbitration. The implementation of the arbitration award can be addressed in a package with the fisheries zones issue, regardless of the fact that it includes Italy as well. It is evidently necessary to assist Croatia to overcome the gap caused by its unilateral withdrawal from the arbitration. The announcements that Slovenia will make a unilateral statement regarding Croatia’s inclusion in the Schengenarea that Croatia recognizes the arbitration award, that is the established border, are pointless. On the other side, representation of the Slovenian ethnic minority in the Croatian Parliament is an important issue. So far, it has been represented through a joint list of five ethnic minorities. Currently, the Slovenian ethnic minority is represented by a female member of the Albanian community. The issue of representation of Slovenian ethnic minority through a Slovenian representative in the Croatian Parliament will probably be addressed in a package with the issue of representation of Croats in the Slovenian Parliament. 

Austria is putting pressure for recognition of the German speaking community in Slovenia, and Croatia for recognition of the Croat ethnic minority. In that respect, the Council of Europe recommended recognition of six minorities from former Yugoslavia (Albanians, Bosniaks, Montenegrins, Croats, Macedonians and Serbs) that is appropriate resolution of the issue. Hungary is rather aggressive in caring for its minority in Slovenia and further strengthens its influence through investments in Slovenia as well. 

In the Slovenian Parliament there are two mandates reserved for one representative of the Italian and one representative of the Hungarian ethnic minority. This is already and outdated international unicum, which does not meet the requirements of the political reality regarding representation of other ethnic minorities as well. 

The current candidacy for a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the 2024/25 period is a new opportunity for global diplomatic, political and broader promotion of the country. Slovenia was a nonpermanent member of the UN Security Council for the first time in the 1998/99 period. In its second candidacy in 2012, Slovenia was defeated by Azerbaijan. This time Slovenia competes against Belarus for non-permanent membership in the UN Security Council. If it does not get elected, it will be a bad sign for the Slovenian foreign policy in the future.

Slovenian “invention” – political startups and independent candidates 

Political startups are newly established parties with an innovative idea and, as a rule, a short-term strategy for uncertain circumstances, which generate high election results. They offer strong potential and a bright future, but afterwards usually disappear from the political scene. Start-up companies (accelerators) are newly established companies with an innovative idea (product or service) in uncertain circumstances with major potential and global plans, which subsequently simply do not survive and only a few remain on the (political)market.

Another Slovenian “invention” are the independent candidates, although in the case of Anže Logar his position in the party is key – as he is the president of the Council (Main Board) of the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), which is one of the leading parties in Slovenia.

Therefore, it is underlined that it is necessary for the president to remain autonomous and independent in his/her work, act as a corrective to any government, and at the same time represent the unity of the nation towards the outside world. Even if a candidate is an independent candidate, it would be “hygienic” that he/she is not a member of any political party, let alone president of the Council (Main Board) of the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), as is the case with Logar. A strategic mistake in the case of Logar is that he had not publicly and irrevocably left the SDS in a timely manner, which would increase his chances to be elected as the president of the state. 

Parting with Orban’s “values”?

In the second round of presidential elections, the question of values that the respective candidate advocates is often asked. The question of values is a very complex question, similar to the positioning of the political left and right wing in the Slovenian society, which does not reflect the established definitions.

The confrontation of worldviews of the candidates is an important part of the election campaign and can inform the decision of the voters. The relation of presidential candidates towards a civil society and active citizenship (citizenry) is a very sensitive issue, bearing in mind its role and relevance. The background of the candidacy of Anže Logar is directly related to Janez Janša, who is his close associate and an advocator of values that experienced a debacle at the April parliamentary elections. In many aspects, these values are the same as the ones that Fidesz President Viktor Orban has been advocating and applying in Hungary for quite a number of years already. These values are not acceptable for a majority of Slovenians, as indicated by the results of the recently held parliamentary elections. 

Analysts believe that the second round of presidential elections is the last chance for an advocator of values of Viktor Orban to be elected as the President of Slovenia, as the position of the president of the state allows for promotion and imposition of such values in the public discourse. Therefore, there is justified concern. Namely, the previous two years of the rule of Janez Janša in which Logar served as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, have seen attempts to introduce Orban’s system of “values” to such an extent that it was a project aimed to completely change the mindset of Slovenians, which are a profoundly antifascist nation. This included abuses of state institutions, such as ministries, police, Slovenian security-intelligence agency (SOVA), Financial Administration (FURS), Office for prevention of money laundry, inspection services, etc. It could be said that there was almost no state institution that had not been abused for a showdown with “dissenters”, that is anyone who could possibly “threaten” the establishment of Janez Janša’s regime with all the associated Orban’s “values”. Therefore, in the second round of the presidential elections, Slovenia is faced with a choice, does it wish to develop as an open or closed society. 

Presidential candidate Nataša Pirc Musar has no partisan affiliations and is just the opposite of her contestant Anže Logar. She has never been a member of any political party and figures in the Slovenian and international public as a defender of fundamental freedoms and human rights, without any ideological prefix. Namely, Slovenia needs a president who will not constantly manipulate with questionable values, as Janez Janša does, or his pupil Anže Logar, who overnight transformed or went through a metamorphosis from being exclusive to being a cooperative politician. Slovenia needs a president who will truly promote and defend constitutional patriotism, which is based on fulfillment of constitutional rights and obligations, both of citizens and the state. 

According to analysts, the presidential elections are one of the last attempts to openly or covertly introduce “values” of Viktor Orban through election of the president of the state with the assistance of his network and enormous amounts of dubious (Russian) money. 

The presidential elections are an opportunity for Slovenia to part with Orban’s “values”, which still constitute a real threat to Slovenia, and to elect a president who will be up to the task in changed and demanding geopolitical and international circumstances, that will result in a fundamental change in the global order. For the first time in the history of the young Slovenian state, a path has been created for Slovenia to elects its first female state president. 

IFIMES

IFIMES – International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan studies, based in Ljubljana, Slovenia, has special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council ECOSOC/UN since 2018. IFIMES is also the publisher of the biannual international scientific journal European Perspectives. IFIMES gathers and selects various information and sources on key conflict areas in the world. The Institute analyses mutual relations among parties with an aim to promote the importance of reconciliation, early prevention/preventive diplomacy and disarmament/ confidence building measures in the regional or global conflict resolution of the existing conflicts and the role of preventive actions against new global disputes.

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