The Slovenia Times

Left-right split in EU vote still a toss-up

EU election promo material at the European Parliament Liaison Office in Slovenia. Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

The division of Slovenia's European Parliament seats remains open two days before election day. While the Democrats (SDS) look set to win a plurality of the vote, the centre-right is not guaranteed to have the largest number of MEPs again as centre-left parties have been gaining ground in the latest polls.

The latest projections indicate that the SDS, the largest opposition party, is on course to win three seats, up from two at present, but could clinch one more depending on how things evolve downballot.

Prime Minister Robert Golob's Freedom Movement, long projected to win two seats, has been on an upward trajectory in recent days, apparently buoyed by the government's push for the recognition of Palestine, which happened this week amidst accusations by the opposition that it staged a procedural coup d'etat by voiding a referendum motion.

"This may seem harsh, but Palestine is to the left what migrants are to the right. This is their issue," pollster Andraž Zorko of the polling agency Valicon told the news portal Necenzurirano on 6 June.

However, the ruckus regarding Palestine does not appear to have had much of an impact on the rating of the junior coalition parties, the Social Democrats (SD) and the Left, even though they were much stronger advocates of Palestine than the Freedom Movement.

The SD is projected to win one seat, down from two at present, while the Left appears unlikely to make the cut.

The Christian democratic New Slovenia (NSi) has one seat secured according to the latest polls, but both it and the SD currently poll below Vesna, a green party that looks set to clinch at least one seat with its lead candidate.

One potential wildcard at the tail end is Resnica, an anti-establishment party with a strongly pro-Russian agenda that some polls suggest is within reach of one seat, has managed to extend its reach in the last several days of campaigning.

The People's Party (SLS) has also had a strong campaign, spearheaded by Peter Gregorčič, the former head of the RTV Slovenija council, but none of the polls indicate they could gain enough ground.

Palestine, migrants, environment

Palestine recognition, which became a bitterly divisive left-right issue, overshadowed all other topics in the final week of campaigning.

An accusation by Klemen Grošelj, a Freedom Movement outcast, that he was forced downballot due to a deal between Prime Minister Robert Golob and Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, which led him to abandon the party and join the Greens in his bid to get re-elected MEP, cast a long shadow as well, though the Greens are polling so low pollsters say they are unlikely to make the cut.

In general, campaigning was placid, dominated by many of the same issues that preoccupy voters across the bloc.

The right pushed hard on migrations and against excessive greening of the economy and European Commission overreach. The left focused on European values and the EU's role as a guarantor of peace and the rule of law.

"The right sees migration as a threat to European values and the left as a civilizational and economic necessity," international relations expert Jure Požgan has told the Slovenian Press Agency.

Yet the right-wing bloc is far from monolithic. Unlike the NSi and SLS, the SDS does not support European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen for a second term.

And the SDS is the only party open to the European People's Party (EPP) cooperating with the far right factions in the European Parliament.

Referendum impact palpable

The EU vote is being held alongside three referendums - on assisted dying, preferential vote in general elections and cannabis legalisation - despite the wishes of the opposition, which branded them as an underhand way for the coalition to get out the vote.

Referendum campaign took a back seat to the elections, though they ate into precious free air time that would have typically been reserved for election debates.

Polls however suggest it will have an impact on the election turnout, which multiple pollsters indicate could approach 40%, over ten points more than in any of the previous EU elections.

Yet, higher projected turnout cannot be ascribed solely to referendums. Zorko says that Generation Z is much more likely to vote in general than Millennials, who tend mostly to stay home, as evident from years of surveys Valicon has undertaken.

The Generation Z vote is thus becoming much more important and they are more interested in social issues than the generation before them.

"But this is also a generation that gets its information differently. They are more skilled at finding and checking information, and they are less naive - they recognise fraud, insincerity and pretence much faster. This is why candidates face a difficult task," he said.


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