Left elects new leader
Culture Minister Asta Vrečko has been elected the new leader of the Left, a junior coalition partner, in a move that signals the party will continue pursuing a moderate direction instead of opting for a more radical leftward shift under the firebrand MP Miha Kordiš, the only other candidate for leader.
The Left did not reveal the number of votes Vrečko received beyond saying that she won "convincingly", which contrasts with the results of the June election of the party's 25-strong governing council, where Kordiš's radical faction won 15 votes, prompting leader Luka Mesec to announce his withdrawal.
Vrečko had been the party's deputy leader since 2021 and entered national politics by becoming minister in 2022. A 39-year-old doctor of art history, she believes that nearly a decade after the Left entered the political scene, she can unite it and take it on a new course.
In her first statement in her new role, she said on 2 September that her two-year term would be focused on unification and consolidation of the party on the ground, a reference to Kordiš's insistence than the party must return to its grassroots. One of her first steps will be visiting local chapters.
"The Left remains a solid, strong and stable party on the left, working for a decent life for all," stressed Vrečko. The new leader is optimistic that the party will prove to be "a platform of diverse left voices that unites to become an even more important political force on the left."
The leadership contest came after the council election left Mesec's fate up in the air, prompting him to offer his resignation. Speaking on 2 September, he said he had realised after the council vote that his presence at the top had become "too polarising".
He is however not withdrawing from the party and remains labour minister. "I've withdrawn from the helm of the party for the good of the collective, because I believe this will make it easier for us to move forward together, which is our common goal".
Handing over to Vrečko, Mesec highlighted what he considers the Left's biggest achievements - a higher minimum wage, closure of shops on Sunday, and "the creation of a framework for a well-functioning and modern system of long-term care".
Slovenian commentators have described the leadership contest as a signal the party is entering a new era.
While the newspaper Delo said it was becoming less radical at the risk of being indistinguishable from the ruling Freedom Movement, Dnevnik argued that the message of unity brandished by Vrečko belied turbulence and mounting dissatisfaction in the party that risked ripping it apart.
The Left was established in 2017 by two of the four parties that made up the United Left, a grouping that emerged from the anti-government protests in 2012/13 and entered parliament with 6 MPs in its first general election in 2014. Vrečko was among its founding members.
The Left consolidated its political reach in the 2018 election by winning 9 MPs. It entered into a partnership with the Marjan Šarec government, but exited arguing its proposals were ignored, which triggered the fall of the government in early 2020.
It was in opposition until it joined the Robert Golob government after last year's election.