Karl Erjavec returns to politics as DeSUS leader

Ljubljana – Karl Erjavec, 60, is returning to politics having won the coalition Pensioners’ Party (DeSUS) leadership contest as the party declared the results of its electoral congress on Saturday. He is starting his fifth term as DeSUS leader after defeating the only rival, Srečko Felix Krope, in a 146:71 vote.

Erjavec is replacing Aleksandra Pivec, who defeated him at January’s congress after he was at the helm for 15 years. She was however forced to resign a few months ago after losing trust in the wake of a scandal involving business trips which also involved her family.

In his address to the membership, Erjavec announced he would meet the party leadership and MPs on Monday to decide how to go on “in this very difficult situation”.

“I’m not returning because of positions, to be a minister for the seventh time or some similar ambition, but because DeSUS will celebrate its 30th anniversary next year.

“And despite everything that has been going on this year, I think it’s our duty and commitment to take the party back to where it already was in Slovenian politics,” he told the press after the results were declared.

A decision to return after withdrawing from politics after in January was hard, yet given the difficult challenges head, Slovenia needs an experienced politician, he believes.

Erjavec is a veteran politician whose party has been in all governments since 2004, with him serving as foreign, defence and environment minister.

However, it did poorly in the 2018 general election, halving the number of MPs, as well as in the 2019 EU elections, with its support in the polls being below the parliamentary theshold.

His return to politics comes when the political arena is rather polarised, with many wondering whether with Erjavec, the party could leave the Janez Janša government.

Today he said DeSUS was bound by some decisions taken by the party’s top bodies, which would be discussed to see whether they were still topical or should be changed.

He is convinced Prime Minister Janša will not change his policies if one coalition party gets a new leader.

“But I expect him to honour agreements made within the coalition and to engage in active cooperation.

“We can’t afford that the health minister puts forward a state secretary candidate who is then neither discussed at a government session nor appointed,” he said.

Erjavec wants to consolidate DeSUS as soon as possible, saying the delegates’ trust in the new leadership bode well for the hard times ahead amid the Covid-19 epidemic.

The congress, which started on 20 November with delegates voting by mail, also elected three vice-presidents: Irena Majcen, Anton Balažek and Brigita Čokl.

After Pivec’s resignation in early September, the party has been led by Tomaž Gantar, who serves as health minister.