The Slovenia Times

Decision Time



On the second Sunday in October, thousands of Slovenians will head to their local polling station. They will be deciding on who should be on their local council, and who should represent their town as mayor.

As always, they will have a lot of choice. In the last local elections, held in 2006, there were 25,000 candidates vying for local council seats - or, to put it another way, 1.25 percent of the Slovenian population. Almost a thousand candidates ran for mayoral seats.

This year's local elections will be the fifth held since Slovenia gained independence in 1991. The first were held in December 1994, when the country was divided into 147 separate municipalities. Sixteen years later, and the country has 210 municipalities - each and every one with a local council and a mayor.

Interestingly, two areas are not taking place in electoral activities this year. In referendums held in November 2009, the people of Ankaran and Mirna decided to break away from Koper and Trebnje. The National Assembly therefore created two new municipalities but this act was later vetoed by the National Council. As a result the Constitutional Court has stopped the execution of 2010 local elections in these two communities.

Striving for equality

Efforts have once again been made to ensure that there is gender equality amongst these candidates but with limited success. Quotas state that at least 30 percent of either gender must be represented on lists for local candidates but women are only just meeting that level - 33 percent of candidates in 1996 were female, but only 21.5 of elected candidates were women. Put another way, of 3,386 municipal councillors 728 are female.

When it comes to the mayoral elections, matters are even worse. The share of women mayors stands at a measly 3.3%: among 210 heads of municipalities there were only seven mayoresses elected.

The rise of the independent

Women may be struggling to have an impact on local elections but independents are having no such issues. Since 1994 more and more non-party candidates have appeared and the last elections were marked by their unexpected success. Almost a third of all mayors and a fifth of all councillors are now not aligned to a specific party - a vast contrast to 1994 when only nine percent of councillors and 20 percent of mayors were independent.

By far the most successful non-party list at the last elections was that of Zoran Janković, Ljubljana's mayor. Janković was elected with 82,107 votes - a share of 63.03 percent - while his list won 23 of 45 councillor seats, securing it an absolute majority in the City Council.

Focus on the cities

Although there are 210 municipalities the primary focus is always on the big city municipalities, foremost Ljubljana and Maribor, where mayoral races attract extensive attention. Slovenia's two biggest cities have the largest number of mayoral candidates in the October elections, with some high-profile names. In Ljubljana there are thirteen candidates this year. Incumbent Janković is far from the only interesting candidate. Former Health Minister Zofija Mazej Kukovič from the opposition Slovenian Democrats (SDS) is also fighting for the right to lead Slovenia's largest capital and is not the only minister in the race - 37-year-old Nova Slovenija candidate Mojca Kucler Dolinar was the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology in the Janez Janša government.

If the polls are to be believed, though, both former ministers are likely to lose to a re-elected Janković. It is also possible that Slovenia's second-largest town will keep the same mayor for the next four years. Current Maribor mayor Franc Kangler has announced he will stand again for the opposition People's Party but does face tough rivals in the eleven other mayoral candidates. As is often the case in politics, incumbency seems to be an advantage when it comes to local elections in Slovenia. Out of 157 mayors who were elected in 2002, 126 of them were re-elected again four years later. 37 mayors have been successful at all local elections so far, and so in post for sixteen years. In other words, they have been mayors for sixteen years.

Can these "original" mayors continue their terms? Will Janković be once again elected mayor of Slovenia's capital? Will the number of women in local government increase this year? Answers to these fascinating questions - and more - will become clear later this month.

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