SLS gets new head, aims to become strong moderate party again

Ig – Marko Balažic was elected the leader of the non-parliamentary People’s Party (SLS) at Saturday’s election congress in what was practically a unanimous vote. He said that the SLS must once again become a strong moderate party and that Slovenia needed a liberal state and conservative politics.

“Liberal in the sense that the state does not interfere in matters that can be managed without it, and conservative in the sense that we should stick to the tried and tested first and not experiment where there is no need to do so,” the new SLS head said in his address after the announcement of the congress outcome.

Balažic, best known for being a right-wing political pundit in the past, was the only candidate for the post. A total of 79 ballot papers were cast in the election for party leader, 78 of which were in favour of Balažič and one was invalid.

The 37-year-old also noted that the party would pursue the policies of the late Ivan Oman, who was the head of the SLS precursor, the Slovenian Farmers’ Association, as well as end with the old patterns to move forward.

Before the April general election Balažič was a spokesperson for the Let’s Connect Slovenia movement, which included the parties SLS, Concretely, Greens, New People’s Party (NLS) and New Social Democracy. Having won 3.41% of the vote, they did not make it into parliament.

Balažic succeeds SLS co-founder Marjan Podobnik at the helm of the party after the latter failed to bring it back to its former glory. The SLS is one of the oldest Slovenian parties, having been founded in 1992, but since 2014 it has been a non-parliamentary party.

The change in party leadership comes before the autumn local election, which is extremely important for the SLS as the party is at its strongest at local level and has the most mayors of any party. It won 26 of them in the last local election, and a number of its members were elected mayors as non-party candidates.

Ahead of the congress, Balažič told the STA that after a series of election defeats, the party’s first priorities were internal consolidation and preparations for the local election, a view he reiterated today.

He expects the SLS’s three key pillars to be food safety, small and medium-sized enterprises and sustainability.