The Slovenia Times




Despite these bad omens, Šarec formed his government, independently, with the poise of an experienced equilibrist, managing to sustain balance while leaning both left and right, even though many were eager to see him slip. Among those who were convinced they would see him fail was Janez Janša, the skilled and cunning politician who failed to translate his party's convincing election victory into his third term of office. Of course, it is much too early to draw conclusions as to how well or how long the new government will persevere and, in any case, it would be a mistake to underestimate the newcomer in Slovenian state politics, Marjan Šarec, and dismiss him too soon.

Though not as unique as described by the Slovenian media, Šarec's government is special in many ways. Slovenia has had a government composed of six parties already - the first democratically elected DEMOS government, elected in 1990. Similarly, there was a minority government, headed by Prime Minister Andrej Bajuk, for a short time in the second half of 2000.

Šarec's government is characterised by their motivation, grounding the government's formation and existence. Primarily, it has to do with the interest of parties and their leaders to prevent election winner, Janez Janša, from forming his government. In many ways, this situation is similar to that in 2011 when Zoran Jankovič, the surprising winner at the elections, was unable to form a government. Jankovič was prevented from doing so by both the left- and right-wing parties who joined forces to eliminate the arrogant newcomer from national politics once and for all.

The second defining characteristic of the new government is cooperation with the left. To effectively attract new voters and spark unrest among the traditional Slovenian parties, especially the Social Democrats, the left adopted an approach similar to that of the Greek Siriza, Spanish Podemos and German Die Linke. The status of the left is relatively unclear and even political theoreticians are having a hard time defining it because the party's representatives are persistently asserting that they belong to the opposition, even though they actively took part in coalition negotiations and the compilation of the coalition contract. Aside from traditional appetite quenching on the part of the coalition partners and ego-curbing on the part of individual political champions, the greatest challenge Šarec will face as prime minister will be to navigate through negotiations with the unpredictable left.

On two occasions before the new government was formed, when representatives of the left made some uncoordinated political statements about their intentions to amend the tax legislation and increase the tax on capital gains, the indications were there. These statements provided the opportunity which the Slovenian economy, particularly the agile Slovenian Business Club, expertly seized. Entrepreneurs and practically all of the economic associations acted uniformly, resolutely refusing the idea of higher taxes. Things escalated to the extent that some of the most prominent entrepreneurs announced they would move abroad. Though the new prime minister and his head economic advisor, esteemed manager, Vojmir Urlep, hurried to explain that nothing has been settled, the victory by the entrepreneur's was more than obvious. From the very beginning they showcased their power to Šarec's government, limiting the room for manoeuvre to plan potential tax legislation amendments and other reforms, e.g. healthcare reform - the first big challenge to test the efficiency of the new government. The appointment of the new minister, experienced health service manager, Samo Fakin, garnered public approval but, at the same time, it also raised expectations which will be difficult to live up too. It is perfectly clear that the current healthcare contribution rate cannot support the broad scope of healthcare rights enjoyed in Slovenia. Sooner or later, someone in politics will have to muster up the courage to state this loud and clear.

The second important test will involve negotiations with public sector unions. Here, the previous government has left behind ruins, especially in the period when the head negotiator was Boris Koprivnikar, the unskilled minister who wanted to make a good impression on the public and recklessly submitted to the demands of the medical union. Doing so, he opened a Pandora's box of demands from other unions. What followed was Koprivnikar's infamous resignation. Having piled up, the unions' appetites hungrily await the new government.

The third crucial challenge for the coalition's perseverance and prime minister's capability will involve personnel appointments in company administrations, the Bank Asset Management Company (DUTB), the Slovenian Sovereign Holding, etc. Even though the share of state-owned companies in Slovenia is extremely high, in such a numerous coalition the demand for influential and well-paid positions will surely exceed the supply.

Nevertheless, Marjan Šarec - at least for now - should not fret too much. The economic forecasts are favourable and Slovenia is currently in good economic condition, which is a great prospect for the future of the government. After all, it is much easier to grant funds from the budget than it is to cut or limit budgetary expenditures.


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