The Slovenia Times

Coalition bet on tested names for EU election

The Freedom Movement's EU election candidates: MPs Tamara Vonta and Uroš Brežan, MEP Irena Joveva, youth wing head Matej Grah, and State Secretary Maša Kociper. Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

With the date of the June elections to the European Parliament approaching fast, all of Slovenia's major parties have now presented their candidates. Like the opposition, who unveiled their candidate lists a while ago, ruling coalition parties are betting on tried-and-tested names.

Half of Slovenia's incumbent eight members of the European Parliament (MEP) are affiliated with the ruling centre-left coalition, and the other half come from the two opposition parties and a fellow conservative party that is no longer represented in the national legislature. In the next European Parliament, Slovenia will have nine seats.

Only one of the outgoing MPs, Klemen Grošelj, is currently not on any of the lists after he parted ways with the Freedom Movement, the party of Prime Minister Robert Golob, because they wanted to place him penultimate on their list, a position that he has recently told newspaper Večer is "unelectable". He has not given up hope yet to run in the 9 June election on some other ticket though.

Seesaw at Freedom Movement

Grošelj and MEP Irena Joveva are the sole two Slovenian MEPs affiliated with the liberal Renew Europe group. They were elected to the European Parliament in 2019 as members of the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), the party of the current defence minister, which has since merged with the Freedom Movement.

The party has recently confirmed Joveva as its lead candidate, after sending out a lot of mixed signals, including that their top bet will be Aleksander Merlo, a doctor heading the Postojna maternity hospital. In the end, Merlo did not make the list at all with Joveva saying he opted against standing himself.

Šarec will be running as No. 6, followed by state secretaries in Golob's office, Maša Kociper and Vojko Volk, and MP Uroš Brežan, a former environment minister. Another former environment minister, Jure Leben, is fourth on the list, trailing Matej Grah, head of the party's youth wing, and MP Janja Sluga. MP Tamara Vonta will be running from 5th.

Although the order in which candidates appear on the ballot paper is important, quite a few candidates running from the bottom of their slate have won seats through preferential votes in the past. Almost half of respondents in a recent poll said they cast preferential vote.

Asked about the party's goal at the polls, Joveva said that "everything that is equal or better than what we have now will be a success", meaning two or three seats.

Social Democrats spring no surprise

The Social Democrats (SD) were the last party to confirm their candidates on 25 April, having just elected a new leadership with Economy Minister Matjaž Han succeeding Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon as the party leader.

The party's incumbent MEPs Matjaž Nemec and Milan Brlgez are both on the list, with the former topping and the latter trailing the slate. Brglez was elected from the last spot the last time, while Nemec substituted for Fajon as she became foreign minister.

Contrary to some expectations, Fajon, who served three terms as MEP, is not on the list, her wish being to continue her current job as foreign minister.

The slate features former MEP Mojca Kleva Kekuš in second and Cohesion and Regional Development Minister Aleksander Jevšek in third, followed by Lucija Karnelutti, a youth delegate of the Delegation of the EU to the UN, Economy Ministry State Secretary Matevž Frangež, Velenje Deputy Mayor Aleksandra Vasiljević, and party presidency members Primož Brvar and Neva Grašič.

The party's election manifesto highlights measures for a Europe of solidarity, green polices, innovation and security. They see a strong common policy as condition for a strong Europe and a strong Slovenia.

Left hoping for first MEP

The Left is the only parliamentary party that does not have its member in the European Parliament, but they are hoping to win one seat this time. Their list is topped by MP Nataša Sukič and Labour Minister Luka Mesec, the party's former leader, is at the bottom of the slate.

The candidates in between include Dan Juvan, a state secretary at the Labour Ministry, Katja Sluga, an adviser to the ministry, Fahir Gutić, the head of the Bosniak Cultural Association, and Zdenka Badovinac, the former long-serving director of Moderna Galerija, the museum of modern and contemporary art.

Also on the list are State Secretary at the Ministry for Solidarity-Based Future Luka Omladič, sociologist Svetlana Slapšak and representative of young activists Tara Kristan.

"If I'm elected, I will continue to be a determined voice of a progressive civil society striving for social justice, a just green transition for human rights, for peace," said Sukič, who also plans to advocate for higher minimum wages and pensions at the European level.

Mesec is on the list as a supporting candidate, trailing last because he wants to complete his work at the ministry, including the upcoming pension reform. He could potentially be elected with preferential votes, which is "a risk the party is willing to take," he said.

Polls favour SDS as strongest contender

The opposition Democrats (SDS) have consistently polled as the strongest contender ahead of the EU election with the latest poll, published by the newspaper Delo on 9 March, suggesting they will win as many as four seats.

The Freedom Movement is projected to win two and the remaining parliamentary parties, the Social Democrats (SD), New Slovenia (NSi) and the Left, one each.

More than 81% of the respondents said they would definitely or probably vote, but turnout projected by polls is usually overestimated. Janja Božič Marolt, director of the polling agency Mediana, which conducted the survey, estimated the turnout could reach 36%.

Only 28.9% voters turned out to cast their vote in the 2019 election to European Parliament in Slovenia, far below the EU's average of 50.6%.

The latest Eurobarometer poll, published earlier this month, also suggests that the turnout will be higher this time, with 62% of the respondents in Slovenia indicating they would likely cast their vote. This is 10 percentage points more than ahead of the 2019 elections, but still below the EU average of 71%.

SDS sets demands for "fair election"

The SDS have issued a set of demands which they say should ensure that the EU election in Slovenia is fair and democratic. These include reopening of smaller polling stations and changes to when ballots cast in early voting are counted.

Ballots from the early voting are counted after the polls close on the election day, which is Sunday in Slovenia. The party wants them to be counted at the end of each day of early voting. They note that the results matter, beceauset in recent years the share of voters who cast their vote early reached 10% or more.

Janez Janša, the party leader and former prime minister, said that at present "these ballot papers are uncounted ... locked in some offices or in some basements, without any serious supervision", until the election day.

The party also posed several demands with respect to the software used to record and tally election results, including conducting an independent audit and expanding access to the software to representatives of smaller parties.

They argue there is a theoretical risk of manipulation in the sense of computerised addition or subtraction of votes to parties that are just below or just above the threshold to win seats.

"We are not saying that this is happening, but we are saying that there is a possibility that it could be happening because there is no control over this part of the electoral technology," Janša said.

Non-parliamentary parties go for celebrities

Quite a few non-parliamentary parties have announced their bids for the EU elections. To run, they need the support of at least four MPs or at least 1,000 voters.

Having collected more than 1,680 voter signatures, the green party Vesna is so far the only non-parliamentary one to have submitted its bid with the Electoral Commission. There is still time as the deadline expires on 10 May.

The party will campaign on its green agenda with Kočevje Mayor Vladimir Prebilič as the lead candidate. He picked 10.60% of the vote in the 2022 presidential election. Other candidates include Vesna vice-president and vice-president of the national Mountain Rescue Service Klemen Belhar and co-founder of the International African Forum Ibrahim Nouhoum.

The Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), which was part of several governments before being squeezed out of parliament in the latest general election in 2022, is planning to run with another smaller party. They have enlisted quite a few well-known persons, including Uroš Lipušček, a former New York correspondent for the public broadcaster, economist Bogomir Kovač and actress Saša Pavček.

Similarly, Resnica (Truth), the party that evolved from an anti-vaxxer movement during the Covid pandemic and recently faced accusations of having ties to Russia, is fielding some well-known figures and influencers.

These include Tanja Ribič, an actress and a former Eurovision Song Contest entrant, Polona Frelih, a former Russia correspondent for the newspaper Delo, and gynaecologist Sabina Senčar, who won nearly 6% in the 2022 presidential election.

Meanwhile, the Pirate Party has filed a lawsuit in a bid to have administrative units open specially-designated counters where voters can verify their signatures of support. With the staff on strike every Wednesday, the party says its supporters are often turned away by long waiting lines.


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