LIDE party founded with Zorčič as one of leaders

Ljubljana – A new party called Liberal Democrats (LIDE) was founded on Wednesday with National Assembly Speaker Igor Zorčič elected as one of up to three leaders in a move showing the party is open to alliances. Promoting liberal values, the party will seek to strengthen the middle class.

Addressing reporters after the congress, which was held online, Zorčič said the party’s statute was devised in such a way as to allow alliances with other players thus envisaging up to three party presidents. For the same reason slots were also left vacant on the party council.

Apart from the statute, the founding congress also adopted the party’s platform which Zorčič described as liberal and in many ways giving the party a centre-left profile.

The programme as set out is “abstract”, but serves as “the ideological compass to work out an election platform”.

Over the next weeks the party is “awaiting many talks”, said Zorčič but would not say who are the persons or groups they are in talks with or whom they see as potential partners.

In his address to the congress, Zorčič declared the party’s intention to work in a unifying rather than disruptive fashion, offering it as an “alternative to everything bad”.

LIDE is not just an “anti-Janša party” but one that can prove through its work that Slovenia is ruled by a people who does not want to be divided and trapped in a web of divisions, but wants to live in peace in a country of equal opportunities.

The founding members of LIDE are mainly “the liberals who have ended up without a party”, some of members or supporters of the former Modern Centre Party (SMC), Zares and Liberal Democracy (LDS). The latter dominated Slovenian politics from the mid-1990s to 2004 before sinking into oblivion.

Tipped for party council head is Lana Gobec, the head of the LGBT+ rights NGO Legebitra, with another member Roman Dobnikar, the head of the Athletics Association of Slovenia and a former member of the management of energy company Petrol who later left for GEN-I.

One prominent founding member is Tomaž Gantar, the former health minister who used to be a member of the Pensioners’ Party (DeSUS). Pavel Gantar, who served as parliamentary speaker in 2008-11, is said to have helped draw up the platform.

In it, a strong economy and free enterprise rank prominently, along with values such as freedom, responsibility, open society, justice, equality and culture of dialogue.

Evoking the liberal tradition, they say “liberal and democratic values must be upgraded with values and principles that are rethinking our attitude to the environment and nature, and to fellow human beings”.

The party sees a strong economy as a “generator of prosperity and a welfare state tailored to citizens’ needs”, and a broad and strong middle class as key to a stable society.

They call for sustainable public debt and control of public finances, promising to stimulate people to work and stay in work longer, and not to limit work beyond pension.

They believe the labour market should not pose obstacles to young, older and those on shortened hours and pledge to advocate for better legal protection of the self-employed, to make permanent employment contracts through tax policy more appealing to employers and stimulate quick return to labour market.

The party’s platform also expresses commitment to a professional police and armed forces, the fight against organised crime and an efficient and fair judiciary. They advocate boosting state prosecution and increasing prison sentences for sex offenders.

The party also pledges to work for even and balanced regional development, for good public infrastructure and to stimulate construction of affordable housing.

Among other things they also pledge to support sports, enhance the excellence of higher education institutions and boost investment in research and development and better link science and research institutions with businesses.

The party summarised its commitments in a 13-point manifesto for Slovenia’s normalisation where they pledge to form a strong and trustful alliance of political parties and civil society, and co-form a government that will respect all branches of power and institutions.

LIDE also promises to stop the decline of the rule of law and boost trust in key social sub-systems while insisting on a socially acceptable expert-based consensus to deal with social and health crises.

Among other things, they also plan electoral reform to boost trust in politics, enhance the public health system and prepare the country for climate change.

They will push for a foreign policy that will be committed to the EU’s fundamental values and will support a strong and united EU and will assert Slovenia’s position as a core EU country.

Other pledges include setting up a legal framework to boost media freedom, boost integrity in public administration and local government and enhance the fight against corruption also by giving more power to the anti-graft watchdog.