DeSUS launches congress, former head Erjavec top contender for presidency

Ljubljana – The junior coalition Pensioners’ Party (DeSUS) is starting an election congress on Friday to elect a new president following the resignation of Aleksandra Pivec. Karl Erjavec, who headed the party for 15 years before losing to Pivec in an election congress in January, seems to be the favourite for the post.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the congress will not take place in person and ballots will be sent in by mail. The results will probably be announced on 5 December. If Erjavec defeats his only rival, Srečko Felix Krope, he will complete a comeback almost a year after he withdrew from politics.

It has been an eventful year for DeSUS, starting with Pivec, the then agriculture minister, taking the party presidency from Erjavec, with her supporters hoping she could consolidate the party and improve its ratings.

In March, when the previous coalition of former Prime Minister Marjan Šarec fell apart, the party joined the coalition put together by Janez Janša.

Meanwhile, tensions in the party persisted, with Pivec facing criticism for joining the new coalition and her role in the government. She was also accused of impropriety and corruption involving at least two trips to the coast which had been arranged by a municipality and a winemaking company and to which she had brought along members of her family.

This led to her losing the support of the party’s deputy group. She resigned as party president on 9 September and nearly a month later, she also stepped down as minister.

Meanwhile, after announcing his comeback attempt, Erjavec has already held meetings with PM Janša as well as with Jože P. Damijan, the leader of the Constitutional Arch Coalition (KUL), an alliance of four opposition parties, which Damijan has indicated might have sufficient support in the National Assembly to oust Janša.

In response to speculation that Erjavec might take DeSUS out of the coalition, deputy group head Franc Jurša said on Wednesday that this decision was too big for one person and that party bodies would have the main word if it came to it.

Jurša is among three of DeSUS’s five MPs who have expressed support for Erjavec publicly. He said the former party leader could improve the party’s ratings.

Jurša was critical of Krope, saying he joined the party in 2018, only to leave it soon after and rejoin once again a year and a half later. He was also a supporter of Pivec.

As for Erjavec, Jurša said that if elected, MPs expected this to be his final stint at the helm of the party. It is unclear what position Erjavec would take in the government, with the top post at the planned Demographic Fund being an option.