By Peter Tase
On May 11, 2022, Demokracija Magazine published an article about the recently held elections in the Republic of Slovenia. The following is the full content of Demokracija’s essay; elaborating further on the current political landscape of a key NATO ally and the most successful economy of the Balkans.
“General elections were held in Slovenia on the 24th of April. The relative winner of the polls was a newly formed Freedom Movement (FM), created three months before the polls. Its president is an electro-tycoon Mr. Robert Golob. The Slovenian government – established at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 – has been permanently accused of limiting a public life (freedom) during the battle against Covid and establishing a “Freedom movement” was a successful attempt to rally over 30% of the Slovenian population which opposed vaccination and most anti covid measures behind “A new face project” of the “Old boys network”.
The freedom movement (N/A) got 41 seats in a 90-seats parliament. SDS/EPP got 27, N.Si/EPP 8, SD/PES 7, Levica/PEL 5, and 2 MPs of the HU and IT minorities. After the 2018 elections, the composition of the parliament was: SDS/EPP 25, LMŠ/Renew 13, SD/PES 10, SMC/Renew 10, Levica/PEL 9, N.Si/EPP 7, SAB/Renew 5, DeSUS/PDE 5, SNS (N/a) 4 and 2 MPs of the HU and IT minorities.
SDS-led government (March 2020 – June 2022) will go down as the most successful and efficient government in Slovenia’s history so far. Today, Slovenia has record-low unemployment and the highest GDP growth rate in the European Union. Slovenia’s economic anti-covid measures were ranked 2nd best in the world by the OECD. Janša’s government also started, planned, or finished more than 2500 projects around Slovenia – new schools, hospitals, retirement homes, roads, and bridges are being built. There are significant investments in the digital and green economy also. Janša re-oriented Slovenia’s foreign policy to the Western hemisphere with the active Euro Atlantic foreign policy and the first visit of a US Secretary of State to Slovenia in more than two decades. Slovenia was also the initiator of the first foreign visit to Kyiv after 24 February 2022. To show support and give hope to the Ukrainian people, the Slovenian, Polish, and Czech Prime ministers decided to visit Kyiv while the city was still under Russian attack. Despite the historical government achievements, the three most prominent media conglomerates in Slovenia – POP TV (owned by Czech PPG Group), national broadcaster RTV and the media empire of oligarch Martin Odlazek didn’t report positively or even neutrally on a single Covid measure or governmental success in the last two years.
According to the Eurobarometer, Slovenia is one of the most pro – Russian country in the EU (https://europa.eu/eurobarometer/surveys/detail/2772). Government (and especially PM) has been regularly criticized by media and opposition parties because of its firm support for Ukraine.
During election campaign, Mr. Robert Golob and his people already forecasted that Slovenia would “normalize” relations with Russia. Mr. Golob justified the Russian occupation of Crimea by saying that the Russians followed the logic of protecting the territory where Russians live. Mrs.Marta Kos (Former secretary-general of the Forum21 movement, established by the last president of the Communist Party of Slovenia Milan Kučan. She is a proclaimed candidate for the President of the Republic of Slovenia at the elections in Novmber 2022), the VP of the Freedom movement, doesn’t hide her support for Putin either. She opposed helping Ukraine with defensive weapons and attacked PM Janša because he visited Kyiv and not Moscow. “In the future, we will have to talk to Russia, as there will be no European security or a new security structure without Russia,” said the Vice-President of the Freedom Movement.
The Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković, one of the most prominent supporters of Robert Golob (Mr. Golob was his vice president when Janković formed a similar type of party list for the 2011 general elections), refuses to return the medals he proudly received from Vladimir Putin. On January 13th, the prosecutor general of the Republic of Slovenia, Mr. Drago Šketa, appointed by the previous government, traveled to Russia and signed a cooperation agreement with the head of the Russian prosecutors, Igor Krasnov – who was blacklisted by the EU back in March 2021. The agreement was signed – without the knowledge of the Government of Slovenia – on the sidelines of a celebration dedicated to the 300th anniversary of the Russian Prosecutor’s Office. They are clearly proud of the prosecution at the time of Stalin’s terror. Drago Kos, brother of the Freedom Movement’s VP, Marta KOS, also went to Moscow in January to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the Russian Prosecutor’s Office. Drago Kos is also the husband of Tjaša Slokar Kos, the editor in chief of POP TV, the most influential TV station which ran the most prominent campaign for GS throughout the last three months. There are more and more clues that there’s the possibility of Russian money being spent on the campaign, Russian trolls and propaganda being spread through social media to influence the outcome of the elections, etc.
For example, a former Yandex manager and a current head of the taxi driver union with close connections to Russia organized a free taxi service for their voters on election day. And in return, asking the Freedom movement to roll back regulations, ban UBER in Slovenia, and promote Russian company Yandex. Chinese company Gorenje extensively financed the anti-government and pro-Russian media like Necenzurirano, who ran the fiercest online media campaign against the government. National broadcaster also helped hugely in the campaign for Golob, since a long-time editor Mojca Pašek Šetinc run for a MP on Golob’s list. Urška Klakočar Zupančič, VP of the Freedom movement, was a long-time judge, and two of the most prominent supporters of the relative winner GS were the president of the Court of Audit, Tomaž Vesel, and UEFA president, Aleksander Čeferin. They both actively contributed to their campaign.
The creators of Robert Golob’s newly formed party are trying to position it on the EU political map as liberal. The fact of the matter is that the Freedom movement’s ideology has nothing to do with liberalism. Its corpus is predominantly “Old boys network”, strengthened by the second and third generations, and it owes its success to left-wing media monopolies and far-left NGOs. Golob also took a large majority of the anti-wax and covid-denial vote – which proved to be decisive for his victory – claiming that Covid-19 is nothing more than an ordinary flue and that it should have never stopped public life. His party doesn’t have a single local branch or any other structure typical for a political party. The formal leadership is populated by anti-market demagogues from trade unions, journalists, influencers, former judges, former collaborators of secret political police, state-financed NGOs, and the public sector employees. One of Golob’s priorities will be the payback package for their supporters.
This unusual Slovenian political situation is hard to understand without insight into the last three elections. Each time the same informal group of influential people – the so-called “Old Boys’ network” – established an entirely new political party weeks before the elections. In 2011 the winner was Mr. Zoran Janković with a new party called Positive Slovenia. In 2014 the winner was Mr. Miro Cerar, with a new party named the Party of Miro Cerar. In 2018 Mr. Marjan Šarec formed a government with a new party called the Party of Marjan Šarec. And finally, in 2022, Mr. Robert Golob created a new Freedom Movement (Svoboda) and again won the elections as a new face, without having a single party local committee, no municipal councilor, mayor, or deputy.
The creators of the Freedom Movement are currently forming a new governmental coalition with the left Social Democrats (7 seats) and extremist Left party (5 seats), whose ideal is the Venezuelan socio-political system. They demand higher taxes, nationalization of private property, withdrawal of Slovenia from the NATO alliance, and exit from the EMU, among other things.
The formal president of the Freedom Movement, Mr. Robert Golob is currently involved in one of the biggest scandals in the Balkans with charges of money laundering stemming from Balkan branches of Gen-I, the state-owned company he ran for the last 16 years. The longevity of Golob’s rule is consequently questioned by the international financial investigation of financial transactions from Gen-I to private bank accounts across the region. The latest discovery was a transaction to a Montenegrian bank account owned by a current Kosovo diplomat Mr. Martin Berishaj, who then withdrew 500k EUR in cash in a couple of months. The money trail was lost after that. The parliament of Kosovo recently established a special committee to investigate this case. The investigation discovered that Mr. Robert Golob had a covert bank account in Romania (Raiffeisen Bank), but he stated that it was opened without his knowledge. This last case was largely published in several countries across the region, but not in the Slovenian mainstream media. They all defended Mr. Golob, claiming that his identity was stolen.
So far, all these one-issue lists, formed shortly before Slovenian general elections by the Old boy’s network during the last decade, ceased to exist within one or two mandates. The list of Zoran Janković, Miro Cerar’s list, and the List of Marjan Šarec don’t exist anymore. But the creators are still there, controlling media, judiciary, trade unions, hundreds of NGOs, and para-state institutions.
Most of these monopolies are now protected by the EU regulations and their people working in Brussels. When we tried to make some reforms, we were attacked that we interfere with the “independent” media or judiciary. When we asked for help and guidelines to make reforms according to the “EU standards”, there was an awkward silence, or an excuse delivered. The Old boy’s network is strong enough to persuade Berlin and Washington that they are pro-European. Pro-western. And our European, German, or American friends haven’t noticed that:
Slovenian Foreign minister appointed by the last few governments led by “new faces” has traveled 13 times to Moscow and never to Berlin or Washington;
NATO and US have been pictured mostly negatively and Russia mostly positively in their media during the last two decades;
Slovenian army has been almost depleted during their rule, claiming that Slovenians will not pay for US wars;
that Mr. Milan Kučan, indisputable boss of the “old boy’s network” and an old friend of Putin, the creator of all new lists, Freedom Movement included, accused Ukraine to bear the same responsibility for Russian aggression as the aggressor itself;
that they publicly sing “Europe is a gang of thieves” and “Anthem of the Red Army” songs at their events (https://youtu.be/ifydoT0v3J8), claiming that these are purely cultural events;
SDS, together with N.Si, who also gained a seat in the last elections, totally defeated all opposition parties. They lost all but 12 seats. But SDS lost the 2022 general elections against a deep state, protected by the national monopolies and blindness of Brussels. We have been trying unsuccessfully to explain the Slovenian situation to our foreign friends for the last 15 years. Trying to tell how the unfinished transition from a totalitarian regime to democracy is endangering not only one country, but a neighborhood and the region, too. They didn’t believe us even when the Slovenian general elections were stolen in the middle of the EU in 2014. Nobody even reacted when this was proven at courts a year later. We didn’t understand then. Now, after 24 February 2022, we do understand. Namely, a much bigger picture was overlooked regarding a failed transition in Russia. We have been meeting people, who called themselves proud Europeans, who fiercely attacked many member countries from Central or Eastern Europe on EU values. Countries that tried to dismantle a communist legacy from its institutions and finish a democratic transition. At the same time, these proud Europeans:
- blocked MAPs for Ukraine and Georgia at NATO summits;
- invested their political influence to make the EU even more dependent on Russian gas and oil;
- entered executive boards of the Russian gas and oil companies and took millions of Putin’s moneys;
- allowed EU companies to bypass sanctions introduced on Russia after the occupation of Crimea, including arms sales;
- after Russian aggression from February 24th, 2022, tried to block effective measures to make Ukraine stronger and Russia weaker, opposing military help to Ukraine and painful sanctions against Russia;
- opposed delivery of a fast-track EU membership perspective to Ukraine.
This was a moment when we realized fully that a bigger game is being played here and that Slovenia is not but a sideline theatre.
Then Ukrainians made a difference. They resisted against all odds. Public opinion across Europe and all of the West started to change. It’s late and we are facing a Cold war 2. Because of the same “Europeans”, who made Putin strong. Because of those “Europeans”, who have protected “Old boys’ networks” across Central and Eastern Europe, Slovenia included.
The same people and circles have welcomed a relative majority of the openly pro-Russian “Svoboda” in the last Slovenian elections as the victory of the “European values”. Now we fully understand where we are.”