In yet another headache for the embattled EU, the anti-immigrant Slovenian Democratic Party looks set to win the most votes in Sunday’s election in the country.
Led by Janez Janša, it has seen an increase in support since nearly half a million migrants crossed Slovenia to Western Europe two years ago. “We believe that today a first step will be made toward Slovenia becoming a country that will put the well-being and security of Slovenians first,” Jansa said.
Recent polls put Janša on just over 25 percent, with Šarec’s party second on just under 14 percent. But most other parties have said they are reluctant to join a coalition with the SDS, whose leader Janez Jansa acknowledged any post-election negotiations would be difficult.
“We will probably have to wait for some time (after the election)… before serious talks on a new government will be possible,” Jansa – a two-time prime minister – told reporters after voting in Sentilj pri Velenju.
He is competing against Miro Cerar of the centre-left Modern Centre Party, who was prime minister from 2014 until March this year and Marjan Šarec, an independent candidate who was elected Mayor of Kamnik in 2014.
Political analysts such as Miha Kovac suggest that Janša has employed tactics from other world leaders.
“This election campaign was actually really brilliant for Slovenian standards,” he explained.
“They (SDS) copied many things which were done by Fidesz in Hungary, many things which were done by American ultra-conservative Republicans in their election campaign. They mixed all these into one and they really performed very well.”
But, a lack of potential coalition partners could keep Slovenian Democratic Party out of office.
Slovenia is holding parliamentary elections on Sunday, June 3. They were officially sparked by the resignation of Prime Minister Miro Cerar in March but a vote was due to take place this year regardless.
Cerar, leader of the centre-left Party of Modern Centre, stepped down amid frustration at alleged obstructions to the government’s work.
His resignation came just hours after the supreme court scrapped the result of a referendum approving a €1 billion railway project.
He was also under pressure from trade unions and coalition partners after strikes in the country demanding higher wages.
Who are the key parties?
Party of Modern Centre (SMC): Formed in June 2014, it carried Cerar to power less than six weeks later in Slovenia’s last parliamentary poll with a 34.4% vote share.
Democratic Party of Pensioners of Slovenia (DeSUS): The centrist movement was in coalition with SMC after securing a 10.2% share of the vote four years ago, its best result since being formed in 1991.
Social Democrats (SD): The centre-left party, which emerged from the Communist Party of Slovenia, was a junior partner in the last coalition government.
Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS): The right-wing movement, led by former prime minister Janez Jansa, is predicted to win Sunday’s election.
Others: There are eco-socialists The Left; the conservative New Slovenia movement; and List of Marjan Šarec, the populist party of a former comedian who topped opinion polls as recently as last December.
What are the issues?
Welfare, healthcare and levels of salaries are all issues in the run-up to the election, according to Danica Fink-Hafner, an expert on Slovenian politics from the University of Ljubljana.
While Slovenia’s economy is forecast to grow by a healthy 5.1% this year, boosted by exports and investments, waiting lists for medical examinations and operations are long and the system is short of money and staff, reports Reuters.
Recently the last three consultants quit Slovenia’s only child surgical cardiology department, saying a lack of doctors meant they could no longer work there.
The hospital management is now hoping to keep services going using visiting doctors from Croatia and the Czech Republic.
What about immigration?
A massive surge in the number of people trying to cross into Slovenia has pushed migration up the electoral agenda.
Police dealt with 1,226 illegal border crossings in the first four months of 2018, compared with 322 over the same period last year.
The country was also hit during Europe’s migrant crisis, especially after Hungary erected a fence on its border with Croatia in October 2015.
Slovenia saw asylum applications leap from 275 in 2015 to 1,310 a year later as migrant flows were directed elsewhere.
The populist SDS, which top latest opinion polls, have vowed to secure the border against illegal migration and bun the burka and niqab in public.
Why is the election important for the rest of Europe?
If Jansa’s SDS do triumph it could provide further evidence of the swing to populism in some parts of Europe, which has seen anti-establishment parties win sweeping gains in Hungary and Italy in recent months.
What is the likely outcome?
Slovenia’s political landscape is so fragmented that it is very difficult to predict who will make up the next coalition.
Even if SDS wins the election, other parties’ expressed unwillingness to work with it may mean it cannot form a government.
“I expect very long coalition talks. We will certainly not have a new government before September,” Tanja Staric, a political analyst at national broadcaster Radio Slovenia, told Reuters.