The Slovenia Times

Local elections reaffirm incumbent advantage, supremacy of independents

A ballot box.
Photo: Bor Slana/STA
File photo

There were few big upsets in Slovenia's local elections on 20 November, though voters delivered some surprising results. In a continuation of a long trend, independents increased their reach further and incumbents won more than half of mayoral offices, including in major cities such as Ljubljana. Conservative parties again did better than those currently in power at the national level.

In polls that were marked by a low turnout of just 47.47%, 165 of the country's 212 municipalities elected their mayor in the first round, including in six of the twelve urban municipalities where incumbents got re-elected.

Some surprises in urban municipalities

In the capital Ljubljana, Zoran Janković, 69, predictably won his fifth term in another landslide with 62% of the vote, but lost a majority in the city council with his list making the poorest showing yet, losing as many as six seats to 18 as the ruling Freedom Movement won eight in its first appearance in the local elections.

Janković does not appear to be concerned about losing majority, declaring that he was going to build a coalition with the Freedom Movement and the Social Democrats (SD) even if he had won an outright majority, because he had agreed on that with Prime Minister Robert Golob, who once served as a vice-chair of Janković's party Positive Slovenia before it fell apart.

Meanwhile, Maribor, Slovenia's second largest city, will see a repeat of the 2018 election outcome as incumbent Saša Arsenovič, another independent who holds Janković as his role model, will face off Franc Kangler, a former long-serving mayor who was swept away in 2012 by a popular revolt over speed traps.

Vojko Flis, the candidate of the ruling Freedom Movement, came in third in what analysts see as perhaps the biggest failure of the ruling party in this election, with one commentator suggesting the party could have well endorsed Arsenovič or stay out of the mayoral race as it did in Ljubljana, thus sparing itself a defeat.

Incumbent Aleš Bržan got re-elected in Koper after defeating the former long-serving mayor Boris Popovič much more convincingly than in the tight run-off four years ago. Bržan ran as an independent but had been endorsed by the Freedom Movement.

In the biggest upset of these elections, incumbent Bojan Šrot failed to muster a sufficient majority to get re-elected in Celje after running Slovenia's fourth largest city for 24 years, and will have to face independent Matija Kovač in the run-off.

In Kranj, Slovenia's third largest city, incumbent Matjaž Rakovec, a candidate for the SD, will head to the run-off with Ivo Bajec from the Democrats (SDS) on 4 December, after Zoran Stevanović, leader of the, a party founded in opposition to Covid restrictions, failed to win enough votes for a repeat of the situation in 2018.

Incumbent Gregor Macedoni, another independent, won his third term in Novo Mesto, and the SD incumbents Peter Dermol and Nuška Gajšek got re-elected in Velenje and Ptuj, respectively. In Slovenj Gradec, Tilen Klugler, an independent endorsed by the Freedom Movement and the SD, won another term unopposed.

Meanwhile, in Nova Gorica, the ruling party could well win a mayor after its candidate Samo Turel won the highest share of the vote to challenge incumbent Klemen Miklavič in the run-off. In the prime minister's home constituency, the party also won nearly 47% of the vote for the city council.

Independents reign supreme

Of the 165 mayors who won in the first round, 103 are independents, which is 15 more than four years ago, and ten ran with the support of multiple parties or lists. Incumbents got re-elected in 137 municipalities and in 51 municipalities mayors were elected unopposed.

Among established parties, the non-parliamentary People's Party (SLS), which has a traditionally strong though waning presence in rural areas, had the highest number of mayors elected, 13, down from 23 who won in the first round in 2018.

SLS president Marko Balažic was pleased with the tally, which he said would serve as a basis for the next general election.

The opposition SDS and New Slovenia (NSi) have 11 mayors each for now.

The coalition SD have ten and the Freedom Movement one, with six fielded by other, smaller parties that do not have a national presence.

In local councils independents will have a combined total of 761 councillors, far more than the first established party on the list, the SDS with 494. Despite the party's tally bing down from 537 four years ago, its leader Janez Janša said the party remained victorious for the fifth consecutive time at the local level.

The Freedom Movement won 402 council seats, which party vice-president Urška Klakočar Zupančič called a "momentous achievement" considering the party had been established only shortly ahead of the general election in spring.

The SD is at 270 councillors, a far cry from the 335 elected four years ago. Party leader Tanja Fajon said she was pleased with the outcome, but was quick to point out that local votes were more about individuals than parties.

The NSi has 193 councillors, up by 18, a result that party vice-president Janez Cigler Kralj said showed that the party had an excellent platform that focused on economic growth, local development and job creation.

The SLS has 168 councillors, a loss of fifty compared to four years ago, and the Left 22, down by nearly half on 2018.


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