Political paralysis possible in Slovenia as Orban ally seeks support

SDS leader Janez Jansa willing to compromise after taking quarter of votes in ballot

Janez Jansa, leader of the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), and his wife Urska: Mr Jansa is a divisive figure, having briefly been jailed on bribery charges in 2014. He used strongly nationalist rhetoric during his campaign.  Photograph: Borut Zivulovic

Janez Jansa, leader of the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), and his wife Urska: Mr Jansa is a divisive figure, having briefly been jailed on bribery charges in 2014. He used strongly nationalist rhetoric during his campaign. Photograph: Borut Zivulovic

 

The anti-immigration Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) will be given a chance to form the country’s new government after winning national elections, but faces a struggle to find coalition partners in a deeply fragmented parliament.

Janez Jansa, the leader of the SDS, suggested he was willing to compromise to forge a ruling alliance after taking almost a quarter of votes in Sunday’s ballot, which translates into 25 of the 90 seats in the EU and Nato member’s assembly.

Mr Jansa is a divisive figure, having briefly been jailed on bribery charges in 2014 and used strongly nationalist rhetoric during a campaign that saw him receive vocal backing from Hungary’s controversial Eurosceptic premier, Viktor Orban.

Like its neighbour to the northeast, Slovenia was on the “Balkan route” used by hundreds of thousands of mostly Muslim migrants in 2015, and Mr Jansa tweeted recently that “Thanks to its [migration] policy, Hungary is a safe country while Belgium, due to its wrong policy, isn’t.”

Indicating he would give Mr Jansa the first shot at forming a new government, Slovenian president Borut Pahor said: “I am not obliged to award the mandate to the relative winner of the election, but I will do so because I strongly believe in democracy.”

Mr Jansa (59) acknowledged that “the time ahead will need co-operation”.

“Our door is open when it comes to dialogue and co-operation, as has always been the case when the [SDS] formed the government,” he said.

The SDS has received an open offer of support from only one party, however – the centre-right Nova Slovenija, whose seven seats would give their potential governing coalition just 32 seats, well short of the 46 required for a majority.

Former comedian

A key figure in forming the next government will be former comedian Marjan Sarec, whose eponymous party (LMS) came second in the vote and will have 13 seats.

Mr Sarec, now the mayor of the town of Kamnik, portrays his liberal, centre-left party as an alternative to a somewhat discredited political elite, and during the campaign he said Mr Jansa’s radical rhetoric and alliance with Mr Orban had “crossed all red lines”.

After welcoming the election results, Mr Sarec (40) expressed hopes he could help keep Mr Jansa out of power. “I congratulate the winner and wish him luck in assembling the government. However, we will stay true to what we said during the campaign: we will not join any government with the SDS.”

Reflecting on how several centrist parties pledged not to go into coalition with the SDS, Mr Sarec added: “If everyone sticks to what they said before the election, we expect to get a chance to form a government.”

If a coalition were to form around the LMS, possibly with Mr Sarec as premier, it would have to include a host of parties to secure a majority in parliament.

Outgoing prime minister Miro Cerar called the early election after a court defeat over a referendum on a major railway project. His centre-left Modern Centre party came fourth, taking 10 seats.

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