The Slovenia Times

Sunday's Vote Battle of Old and New and Divisions on Way Forward


Miro Cerar, the leader of the eponymous centrist party which went from zero to front-runner status in a matter of weeks, says this election might be the last chance for Slovenia to be master of its own destiny by electing politicians who can break the old divisive habits.

Democrat (SDS) leader Janez Janša, who is campaigning from jail where he is serving a two-year prison sentence from corruption, has framed the election as a last stand against "regime parties" that he says threaten independence-era values that his party and the centre-right bloc stand for.

It is these two politicians who have been at the centre of what is arguably the most unusual campaign Slovenia has ever seen, courtesy of Janša's departure to prison just three weeks before the vote and Cerar's meteoric rise.

Though adamant that Janša's incarceration has hobbled the party, the SDS has built its campaigning about what it says is Janša's status as a political prisoner framed by a justice system controlled by remnants of the former Communist regime and a clear conservative platform.

Moreover, in the final days it has veered to the right with claims by Janša and other senior SDS officials that a leftist coalition would stage a coup of sorts by overhauling the Constitution by enshrining gay rights and cracking down on religious freedom.

Cerar's campaign has brandished his credentials as an untarnished jurist with a long record of legal expertise, a centrist who can bridge the deep left-right divide that has plagued Slovenian politics in the past two decades by strengthening the rule of law.

However, he has come under heavy criticism, lobbed from the left and the right, that his platform is vague and short on specifics. He counters that the party has promised little but would do what it says.

Cerar and his group have also been accused of being merely a front for powerful lobbies that had in the past helped run parties such as the Liberal Democrats (LDS), Zares and Positive Slovenia (PS), but Cerar vehemently denies any connections to forces from behind the scenes.

Between them the two parties look set to pick up about 60% of the vote, but Slovenia's proportional representation system requires painful coalition-building, giving small parties outsize influence.

Like often before the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), which ranks third in the polls with about a tenth of the vote, looks set to become a kingmaker, which in practice means it would push through its agenda of preserving the level of pension rights and countering efforts to carry out a pension reform.

Only three or four other parties look like they will make it to parliament. Only the Social Democrats (SD) appear comfortable, with the New Slovenia (NSi), People's Party (SLS) and the Alliance of Alenka Bratušek, who triggered the early election by stepping down as prime minister, just above the 4% threshold for entering parliament.

At least two parties currently in government, the PS and the Citizens' List (DL), are barely detected by the polls, as Cerar appears to have picked up the voters disgruntled by serial corruption scandals and perceived incompetence.

While Sunday will be a day of celebration for some and a day of disappointment for many, it will mark just the start of serious work. The coalition building, which usually takes several weeks, will have to be followed by immediate action.

The new government faces the mammoth task of sorting out Slovenia's public finances and securing compliance with EU demands that leave little room for manoeuvring. Further spending cuts will probably be needed in addition to tax hikes.

The new government's task has not been made easier by the outgoing cabinet. Bratušek, in an apparent effort to woo voters, decided to halt privatisation procedures until the new government is in office, which has made investors jittery and threatens to defer the inflow of much needed privatisation revenue.

Moreover, it appears as if it will also have to finalise an extension of wage cuts in the public sector. This after comments made by SMC leader Cerar prompted some of the trade unions to hold out for a potentially better deal.

This will give the new government just weeks to secure a new deal and avert a pay rise in 2015 that could further undermine an already shaky budget.

Just over 1.7 million voters will go to the polls on Sunday. The first unofficial partial results will start trickling in right after the polls close at 7 PM, but judging by previous elections exit polls released at 7 PM will give an accurate picture of the outcome.


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