Slovenia celebrates anniversary of independence referendum

Ljubljana – Slovenia celebrates Independence and Unity Day, marking the day in 1990 when the results of the independence referendum were declared.

Following a rising wave of pro-democratic movements in the 1980s, the first free multi-party general elections in Slovenia were held in April 1990.

The Democratic Opposition of Slovenia (DEMOS) won, formed a government and completed key steps towards the independence referendum in cooperation with the opposition, who wanted to shift the referendum to the spring of 1991 but eventually accepted the December date.

In return, DEMOS and the government acquiesced to the rule that the referendum would be successful if at least half of all the eligible voters opted for independence, after DEMOS had initially wanted an ordinary majority.

On 6 December 1990, the representatives of political parties and deputy groups in parliament signed a compromise agreement, in which all signatories pledged to work together in preparing and executing the referendum.

They stated that they were aware of the historical significance of the decision. Based on that agreement, the parliament passed a law on the independence referendum. The vote was unanimous, with 203 votes in favour and four MPs abstaining.

It was precisely the overwhelming political unity on this issue that, according to many, convinced and united the electorate, which turned out in large numbers for the referendum.

The one and only question in the independence referendum was: ‘Should the Republic of Slovenia become an independent and sovereign state?’

On 23 December 1990, a 95% majority voted “yes”, with a turnout of 93.2%, which means that over 88% of all eligible voters voted in favour.

When the results were proclaimed shortly after 10pm, DEMOS leader Jože Pučnik famously said that Yugoslavia no longer existed, and that it was all about Slovenia now.

The results of the referendum were officially proclaimed on 26 December, which has since been celebrated in Slovenia as Independence and Unity Day, a bank holiday.

Immediately thereafter, proceedings for a formal declaration of independence were initiated and Slovenia officially declared independence on 25 June 1991.