SocDems elect party’s interim head Tanja Fajon their new leader

Ljubljana – The opposition Social Democrats (SD) elected Tanja Fajon, an MEP and the party’s interim head so far, its new leader at an online congress on Saturday. A total of 276 delegates of the party voted for Fajon, the first woman to take over the top post at the SD, whereas 107 were in favour of her rival MP Jani Prednik.

Fajon was elected for a full term at the helm of the party, that is until the party’s next congress, which must take place half a year after the next general elections at the latest, according to the party’s statute.

In her address after being elected the SD leader, Fajon said that she was proud to be the first woman to lead the party. She added that today’s online congress had demonstrated that the party was not brought to a stop in the face of challenges, such as Covid-19, but was brought further together to make a change for the better within its own ranks and in Slovenia.

According to her, the time has come to decide whether Slovenia will take a path of the disintegration of all values or whether it will opt for progress in the next decade. She stressed the role of trust and personal responsibility of every individual for the state of mind in society and the party.

Fajon also urged the party to let go of any potential grudges and show a united front to citizens, who expect clear answers and realistic strategies.

Speaking to the press after the congress, she said that recent months were difficult, however the party showed determination to further close ranks.

In her address prior to voting, she said that the SD was the strongest link among Slovenian centre-left parties and set a target of the party winning the next parliamentary election.

When it comes to the party’s programme, she deems it key to protect citizens’ social security and public systems as well as steer Slovenia away from a group of “problematic countries”, which is, she believes, a direction the country is taking at the moment at an increasingly faster pace.

The SD presented its key future projects at the congress, including building high-speed railway, coming up with an effective housing policy and boosting public services, particularly in healthcare, long-term care, research and development and investments in efforts for environmental conservation and a sustainable society.

Fajon was again critical of the government, reiterating allegations about its attacks on media, judiciary and the police, about political staffing and unacceptable repression, which was demonstrated at the most recent Friday anti-government protest, according to her.

The rally saw police officers removing from the site or detaining a number of protesters after Interior Minister Aleš Hojs announced stepped up IDing of protesters earlier in the week as the government adopted stricter public assembly measures to contain the coronavirus.

Prior to the result of the election congress, Fajon’s challenger Prednik wondered why the SD was describing itself as a party to lead the government only to then back an idea of an alternative government spearheaded by a technocrat prime minister without having secured enough votes to bring down the current government.

Fajon responded by saying that the pre-election period was yet to come. The SD wants this government to be replaced and the initiative could only strengthen the party, she said, adding that during the election campaign the party would be preparing for victory.

The fact that almost a third of the delegates backed Prednik is a signal taken seriously by Fajon. She attributed this also to tensions between the grass-roots and core levels of the party. She is not worried though and plans to meet with the party’s regional committees across the country.

Economist Jože P. Damijan, around whom the alternative government idea is formed, and leaders of the remaining three centre-left opposition parties addressed the congress via videolink.

Damijan called the event an important step in forming a new alternative. He thinks a new government is necessary for Slovenia to protect the constitution, boost public services and public infrastructure as well as protect citizens from Covid-19.

Fajon served as SD interim head after Dejan Židan, a long-serving SD leader, resigned in May. She is the party’s seventh leader, having been its vice-president for a number of years.

The delegates also elected Dominika Švarc Pipan vice-president of the party today. She will thus join Andreja Katič, Jernej Pikalo and Matjaž Nemec, the three other SD deputy leaders. Ajda Žižek was meanwhile elected a new member of the party leadership.