Russophobia and the Absurd Slovenian Election

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On Sunday, June 3rd, Slovene voters were heading to the polls to elect the new government, following resignation of the current center-left government right before expiration of its four-year-long mandate.


By Samer Hussein

Ironically, Russians, as opposed to Americans, are one of the key investors in Slovenia, giving daily bread to thousands of people and keeping a great number of companies alive.

The winner was of no surprise to anyone – as in accordance with the surveys and polls that were being conducted over the past few months, the majority of the votes went to the right-wing neoliberal Slovene Democratic Party (SDS) who managed to grab a little less than 25% of the votes and has thus won 25 out of 90 seats in parliament.

Although this might seem as if Slovenia has just made a shift to the right, in reality forming a new right-wing government might end up being a gordian knot. The percentage of the votes collected by SDS is far from desirable and prevents SDS from forming a stable government. In order to be able to form at least a barely functional government, SDS would need to find enough coalition partners to fill at least 46 seats in parliament, and yet this is where the problem lies.

Aside from the right-wing Christian-oriented Nova Slovenija (NSi) party, SDS has no possible serious coalition partner at the moment since the majority of other parties who were elected in parliament are either center-left to traditional left.

Left-wing orientation might not have been an obstacle, since SDS, although known for its populist rhetoric, is not a far-right party either, however, its stance towards parties on the central and left-leaning spectrum has been so arrogant, cynical, humiliating and degrading, that it eventually forced their leaders to not express their readiness to form a coalition with SDS.

As a party, SDS, which has roots in Slovene anti-Yugoslavian dissident movement, is known as a parade horse of Slovene staunch neoliberalism. There is obviously no place for any form of state interference in the economy, all state-owned economic assets need to be quickly sold to the highest bidder, the only light out of Slovene’s post-socialist tunnel of darkness is a tiny alley which leads to the full integration with NATO and the global military-industrial complex to counter real threats posed by Iran, Syria, North Korea, socialism and far-right anti-American European populism. There is no space for Russia either, as, like many of the SDS personalities love to point out on Twitter, Russia offers nothing but poverty to this world.

Ironically, Russians, as opposed to Americans, are one of the key investors in Slovenia, giving daily bread to thousands of people and keeping a great number of companies alive.

As a result, Slovenia’s center-left government decided not to jump the gun and impose sanctions against Russia in the wake of crisis in Ukraine. Although Slovenia never supported the Donbass Resistance, it never (to the horrors of SDS) displayed any hostility towards Russia either.

Will this change once the new government is formed? Should SDS become the new ruling party, definitely. There, however, is a big however here: nothing indicates that SDS will actually be able to form a government. Although the party was already granted support from NSi, this would not be even merely enough to set up a stable, working coalition as NSi only won 7 seats.

To be able to form a government, SDS would need to invite at least two other parties to join the crew. But who? None of the parties have expressed any particular form of readiness to join forces with SDS and its constant leader Janez Janša, with some of them even openly denying any form of possible cooperation.

Marjan Šarec, the head of Lista Marjana Šarca (LMŠ), a newly-formed center-left political party that ranked 2nd after winning 13 seats, has said that although he will likely be joining Janez Janša for a cup of coffee, he has no intention to enter the fray with SDS as that would undermine his own legitimacy. Indeed, why would he, given that he has the chance to become a Prime Minister himself. Šarec and his party have considerably better options to connect with the remainder of the parties than SDS and Janša, given that they are left leaning.

Unless Marjan Šarec cracks and breaks his pre-electional promises and commitments by joining the SDS-led coalition under the guise of “doing the best for the country,” SDS will have absolutely no chance to form a government. Provided that the promises and principles are kept in place, Slovene President Borut Pahor will pass another mandate to form a government, this time to Marjan Šarec who will then be able to form a relatively stable government with the left-leaning parties, and the coalition might even include the more flexible right-wing Christian oriented Nova Slovenija (NSi) party.

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According to some estimates, a coalition with NSi is more likely than with Levica, the traditional left-wing political party that has just managed to increase its number of parliamentary seats from 5 to 9. This party could prove challenging for the center-left oriented LMŠ, given several of its rather radical demands, such as permanent raise of the minimal wage to 700 Euros, and which act as preconditions to form any government with anyone, except with SDS and the nationalist Slovenska Nacionalna Stranka (SNS) and their leader Zmago Jelinčič who are, after seven years of absence, returning to the parliament with four seats and are known to be ideologically opposed to SDS as they are more Russia and Serbia-friendly, despite sharing a harsh stance on the migrant crisis.

A question which arises is why did SDS win with only 25%? On previous elections the norm for a winner was around 35%. Who exactly constitutes the SDS voter base? The majority of the people who supported SDS were people who either sympathize with its “one migrant is already too much” policy, its imperialist anti-Syria/Russia/Iran/ Venezuela/North Korea policies or would benefit economically from its harsh neoliberal policies such as low taxes for powerful business entities. The latter seem to be the majority of all supporters as in a country with lots of unsolved economic problems and few foreigners, having very strict border control (which was 80% of SDS pre-electional programme) isn’t a top priority for most citizens.

The voter turnout at the elections was exactly 52%. What is particularly interesting is that majority of people who showed up at voting booths were elderly people, whereas most people aged 18-30 preferred to be elsewhere. This is of course understandable. With the exception of the few rather utopian ideas of making radical changes to the social policies that were outlined by the left-wingers of Levica, and which are, given the circumstances, extremely difficult to materialize, no party came out with sensible long-term solutions on how to enable the younger generations of people to start living normal lives.

Among the 18-30 age group the unemployment rate is very high, and most of the people who work usually do underpaid jobs, often below their qualifications, thus making it difficult for them to start thinking about having children. As a result, more and more young people are departing Slovenia, with thousands of them leaving the country each year, meaning Slovenia is under huge brain-drain at the moment. In the long-term, the results of the current policies will be devastating, as the country will not only be left without highly-skilled people, it will also come out as a big waster of financial resources, given that in Slovenia where higher education, master’s degrees including, are covered by taxpayer’s money. An average university student costs the taxpayers between 2,000 and 10,000 Euros on an annual basis.

To most people, not only the younger ones, living under normal social conditions is of far greater importance than having firmly secured all sides of the state border up to the last bit, given that the migrant crisis has barely affected Slovenia in comparison with Austria, Italy, and Germany where things will soon go out of control. The number of the migrants who actually asked for an asylum in Slovenia is indeed low when compared to the aforementioned countries or for instance Macedonia or Serbia, as the center-left government ordered lots of background checks on people who decided to stay, in addition to setting up the border fence relatively quickly, a thing because of which it got in a row with the leftists of Levica.

The latter, however, despite their stance on the Migrant crisis issues, didn’t exactly turn out to be another Chomskyite controlled opposition. During one of the last pre-election public TV debates, Levica ‘s leader Luka Mesec openly criticized the EU for doing nothing to stop the crisis in Syria, a country where a number of migrants come from, noting how the EU supported Trump during his recent illegal Syria strike, a thing which along with plenty of similar actions by the Trump administration, according to himself only accelerated the flow of migrants into Europe. Such things are rarely said by the left nowadays in EU, instead putting all the blame on Bashar Al Assad.

This particular narrative of blaming Assad is also being peddled by Janša’s SDS that sees Assad as one of the major obstacles in paving the road towards world peace and democracy. In general, a phenomenon on Slovene right is that none of its traditional representatives have expressed any type of support or approval for Bashar Al Assad’s counter-terrorism actions, thus making them one of the very few in Europe not to do that. This is certainly a thing where Janet Janša and his official supporter, the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, differ.

While Orban previously repeatedly said that those foreign powers responsible for creating a terrorist mess in Syria, shall bear the consequences of the migrant crisis instead of Hungary, Janez Janša would prefer seeing Bashar Al Assad going down Saddam-style no matter what. The main SDS media outlet even went as far as to publish a dozen of fabricated photos from Eastern Ghouta and claim that “Animal Assad is mercilessly killing his people”, borrowing the words from Donald Trump. This is somehwat ironic, given how much hostility towards migrants and refugees coming from Syria was over the past few years expressed by several members of SDS party.

But this is not the only thing where the two are apart. Further differences show up when it comes to Russia. For Janša and SDS, Russia is considered one of the major threats to European security and shall be sanctioned even harsher. Should Janša join the Visegrad Group as one of his pre-electional goals, he would have to tame down that rhetoric a bit, in order to be more synchronized with his ally Viktor Orban.

At the same time, Janez Janša would, as a possible Prime Minister, have to be on good terms with Sebastian Kurz, a new populist Chancellor of Austria. The latter has previously said that should Slovenia continue to send tens of thousands of its citizens on a daily work in Austria, it would have to recognize Slovenia’s Austrians as a minority like it previously did to Slovenia-based Italians and Hungarians, a thing Janez Janša isn’t particularly fond to hear.

Did the Syrian curse really strike Slovenia’s elections? Unless Marjan Šarec breaks that curse by lowering his legitimacy to the very bottom and Janez Janša, aside from the already promised to be in the possible coalition NSi, manages to find another party to join the band (in that case it would probably have to be the centrist democratic union of Slovenia’s seniors which won 5 seats and already was a member of the two SDS-led governments in the past, but was recently under heavy criticism from SDS) to get a somewhat stable government, it is possible to say that there is some aura of the Syria curse left.

Samer Hussein is a Slovenia-based lawyer, translator, and political analyst. Through 2017, he was also a daily news-writer and editor at Fort Russ News. His articles have appeared on numerous sites including Global Research and websites affiliated with the Center for Syncretic Studies. 

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