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Slovenia’s far-right premier suffers defeat in parliamentary elections


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Slovenia’s far-right Prime Minister Janez Jansa suffered defeat at the polls on Sunday, when his acronym, the Democratic Party, received only 23.5% of valid votes, against more than 34.5% for the centrist Freedom Movement. . An admirer of Donald Trump and an ally of Hungarian Viktor Orbán, Jansa added to the list of populist leaders in Europe.

Electoral Commission results with more than 99.9% of the polls counted show that the ruling party won 27 seats in the 90-seat Parliament, while the Freedom Movement, led by Robert Golob, a newcomer to politics and a former executive at a energy, secured 41 seats. To form the government, the party is expected to form an alliance with the Social Democrats.

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“People want change and they trusted us,” said Golob, who was quarantined after contracting the coronavirus after partial results were released. Jansa has already conceded defeat in the election, which had the participation of about 70% of voters, a rate considered high by local analysts for the country’s standards.

The prime minister, who was seeking a fourth term, entered a collision course with the European Union (EU), a bloc of which Slovenia is a part, after launching attacks on press freedom and being accused by opponents of undermining the pillars of democracy. He wished Golob luck and said he hoped the new government would rise to the regional challenges.

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International institutions that monitor levels of democracy warned of the political use that Jansa had been making of the Covid pandemic to restrict civil liberties and accentuate the authoritarian turn. The American Freedom House, in its latest report, claims that the ultra-rightist government has tried to undermine the rule of law and democratic institutions, including the media and the judiciary.

In the middle of last year, for example, the Slovenian Constitutional Court declared that the main provisions of the Communicable Diseases Act, which allowed the government to restrict meetings during the health crisis, were unconstitutional.

Formerly part of Yugoslavia, Slovenia is the most prosperous and stable of the countries that emerged from the Balkan wars in the 1990s. Over the past few years, however, it has been the scene of polarization around Jansa’s supporters and opponents, who he has also held the post of premier on two other occasions, between 2004 and 2008 and between 2012 and 2013, and chaired the European Council.

Among the attacks on independent media, Jansa went so far as to call female journalists “whores” and cut funding to the country’s public communications company in retaliation for critical coverage by her government. An admirer of Marechal Tito as a young man, Jansa embraced nationalism in the early 1990s, when he played an active role in the independence of Slovenia.

Locally, he was nicknamed “Marshal twitter”, in reference to the authoritarian facets that bring him closer to the figure of Tito and the frequent attacks, mainly against the press, published by him on his official profile on Twitter.

Unlike other European far-right leaders, many of whom have taken a less critical stance toward Russia in the face of Ukraine’s invasion, Jansa has consistently criticized Moscow and vowed to reduce Slovenia’s dependence on Russian gas imports.

An advocate for the inclusion of more neighboring countries in the EU, he was one of the first leaders to visit Ukraine after the start of the war, when he traveled by train alongside his Polish and Czech counterparts to Kiev to speak with President Volodmyr Zelensky. “The war is not happening in a distant place, but in our neighborhood,” he said during an election rally last week.

Slovenia has taken in more than 18,000 of the 5.2 million Ukrainian refugees, according to official figures, and the government has said it could take up to 200,000.

Political analyst Peter Merse told Reuters that the election result symbolizes the population’s desire for political renewal. “Slovenia is once again seeing new faces, with people we’ve barely heard of before taking on posts in politics.”

Desire was what prevailed among voters’ comments heard by local journalists. Milena, 58, who voted in the capital Ljubljana, described recent years as “desperate”. “We want new faces, normality and stability.”

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