The Slovenia Times

Right bloc makes gains in EU election in Slovenia

SDS leader Janez Janša addresses the press after the party emerged victorious in the EU election. Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Like most of Europe, Slovenia saw a shift to the right in the 9 June EU election with the largest opposition party, the right-wing Democrats (SDS), emerging as the big winner on a record-high turnout, near complete results show.

The SDS, led by Slovenia's former prime minister Janez Janša, won four of the country's nine seats in the European Parliament, double its tally now, and two more than its main rival, the Freedom Movement, the largest party in the ruling centre-left coalition.

The remaining three seats went one each to Vesna, a green party formed ahead of the 2022 general election where it failed to make the parliamentary threshold, the Social Democrats (SD), a junior member of the ruling coalition, and the opposition Christian democratic party New Slovenia (NSi).

The two Slovenian members of the European People's Party (EPP) thus have five seats between them, one more than this term, when the country's eight seats were split 4:4 between the right and the left blocs.

"Those who are ostracising have been taught a lesson today," Janša said in his first reaction to the outcome.

He suggested parliament should be dissolved, saying the result "is a message of the Slovenian voters to the incumbent government coalition to make a reflection like French President Emmanuel Macron did".

Referendum gamble that did not pay off

The EU vote was held alongside a triple consultative referendum in a gamble taken by PM Robert Golob and his Freedom Movement to boost the election turnout.

At over 41% that was indeed record high for an EU election in Slovenia, comparing to less than 29% five years ago, and even if the ruling coalition won the referendums, that result did not reflect in their election showing.

In the referendums, 70.82%, voted in favour of the preferential vote and 66.64% supported legislating cultivation and processing of medical marijuana as a slim majority of 51.55% backed the cultivation and possession of cannabis for limited personal use, and 54.86% voted in favour of assisted dying.

The opposition tried to prevent the referendums being held with the EU vote with an appeal to the Constitutional Court, but failed. They were not alone though in arguing that the referendum issues overshadowed EU topics in the election campaign.

Janša accused the coalition of abusing the election campaign to enforce topics that are not relevant to Slovenian citizens and the EU's future, while violating the parliament's rules of procedure, to push ahead with the recognition of Palestine, another topic that was in the spotlight in the final week of the campaign.

PM Golob happy with result

In terms of the vote share, the SDS won 30.65%, up over four points compared to five years ago, while the Freedom Movement, contesting its first EU election, won 22.15%, the best result ever for a centre-left party in an EU vote.

Golob was satisfied with the showing, and noted that centre-left parties combined nevertheless got more than the centre right. "This is what gives us hope for the future. I am confident it will also rub off on the next general election," he said.

Vesna clinched 10.52%, almost as much as its lead candidate Vladimir Prebilič got in the presidential election two years ago (10.60%).

The party was thrilled with the result. "We have brought freshness into the Slovenian political arena and we think we have a bright future ahead," said Prebilič,, a 50-year-old defence expert who serves his fourth term as Kočevje mayor.

The SD and NSi were neck-and-neck at 7.72% and 7.66% of the vote, respectively, barely edging the non-parliamentary People's Party (SLS) at 7.23%, show National Electoral Commission data after 99.97% of the vote has been counted.

SD leader Matjaž Han said his party was happy about winning one of Slovenia's nine seats, one fewer than so far. He admitted, however, that the outcome was a defeat for Slovenia's ruling coalition, which won a combined three seats.

The NSi interprets the result as a message by voters that they want a different Europe. The NSi will strive to make the EU stronger and to help change the bloc in areas where the Union has failed, said party leader Matej Tonin, 40, who has been elected MEP as the lead candidate.

The Left is the only party in national parliament not to get a single seat, having won 4.75%. Nevertheless, the party said they met their goals in terms of substance with party leader Asta Vrečko pointing to the result of the referendums on topics that the Left had been advocating for many years.

Four MEPs re-elected

Of the current eight MEPs, four have secured new terms.

SDS's Romana Tomc, 58, was re-elected for a third term and Milan Zver, 62, will serve a record fourth term.

They will be joined by MP Branko Grims, a 61-year-old member of the party's most radical wing, and newcomer Zala Tomašič, a 28-year-old public relations officer for the party who mounted a strong social media campaign.

The Freedom Movement's MEP Irena Joveva, 35, has been re-elected, while the party's second seat has gone to Defence Minister Marjan Šarec, who served as the country's prime minister in 2018-20.

Five years ago, Joveva had been elected on the ticket of the party founded by Šarec, which was absorbed into the Freedom Movement after the 2022 general election.

Šarec was elected with preferential votes as No. 6 on the party's ballot. He did not seem thrilled when the election results came in as he will now have to resign as defence minister.

The SD's Matjaž Nemec, 44, who entered the European Parliament as a stand-in for Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon, has been re-elected as well.


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