Speaking from own experience, ex-PM Cerar has advice to offer to Golob

Ljubljana – Miro Cerar, a jurist who formed a government in 2014 after his new party won an unprecedented plurality, warns that now that Robert Golob is following in his footsteps, it will be important not only how he performs as prime minister but also whether he will be able to keep unity in his party and make sure it will hold on to true values.

The former prime minister, whose party has since imploded, attributes the historic victory won by Golob’s Freedom Movement to the fact that the political bloc that rallied against the outgoing Prime Minister Janez Janša got concerned about potential dispersion and subsequent loss of votes, and so did the voters.

Hence the “non-aggression policy”, which was the reason for the losses sustained by the KUL coalition of the four centre-left parliamentary parties. “Had the KUL coalition parties known what would happen, they would have acted a bit differently,” Cerar says, noting that his SMC party in 2014 faced opponents from the left and right.

One of the major reasons for the emergence of an anti-Janša coalition is “radical policies with authoritarian tendencies” and ignoring rule-of-law institutions. “If there’s no progress on democratic and legal standards, we won’t be successful as a European democracy in the long run,” he warns.

Cerar believes the main challenge for Golob will be to bring Slovenia’s deeply divided society back together. “Good rulers unite rather than split apart,” he says, adding that the election outcome is partly the expression of that desire.

Another major challenge for the new government will be energy, “which is Golob’s home terrain, which gives hope he can cope with the challenge well”. Cerar also sees public finances, and the acute issues of long-term care, youth and housing as major challenges, along with climate and demographic challenges, and the media, which have been marked by “politicisation and de-professionalisation”.

In the new National Assembly, the Freedom Movement will have 41 deputies, who are politically inexperienced. Cerar warns of the risk that while serving as prime minister, Golob may be too busy to further consolidate and develop the party. “Golob will need to have a very solid subsystem in the party to be able to keep it united”, which will be especially important when first serious challenges come up.

“We’ve seen a decline in the sense of loyalty in recent years,” says Cerar, which could be best seen in his former SMC party and the Pensioners’ Party (DeSUS), “where MPs fully renounce party policies”. It is a new political culture, based on different standards. It can be dangerous in particular for new parties “as politically inexperienced MPs are pressured by rivals and getting indecent propositions”.

Consolidation of the SMC has failed because under Zdravko Počivalšek’s leadership, the party with its senior members, ministers and in particular the deputy group, failed the programme the SMC had promised the voters and made a value shift as they joined the Janša government after PM Marjan Šarec stepped down, which was why Cerar quit the party he founded.

The SMC failed to act as a critical element in the Janša government, failing to stand up when the government betrayed democratic, liberal and rule-of-law values, Cerar says. That is why the party, which has since been renamed Concretely, “failed so miserably” at the last election, even “in coalition with some other parties, which is quite telling”.

Cerar supports potential efforts to bring together the liberal bloc, even though “Šarec double crossed us” in the previous such attempt before the last European elections. He believes there would be a desire for a tie-up even if Šarec’s LMŠ party and the SAB party of former PM Alenka Bratušek had made it to parliament, but Golob “has a much stronger position in this bloc now”.