Ali Eminov / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0
Ali Eminov / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

First Defeat of the »Levica« and Victory of the Traditional Established Parties

Matej Klarič

Political parties with a well-developed political network all around the country won 6 out of 8 seats.

Before the elections, the public polls were showing a tightly matched battle for the 8 seats allocated to Slovenia in the European Parliament. According to these polls, even 1% of votes for a specific party could completely change the outcome of who would be moving to Brussels. In the end, the elections showed the votes were not matched as tightly as the polls were showing just a few days earlier. It seems the voters in the end decided to cast their ballots to the bigger established parties, just so their votes did not go to waste.

The winner of the elections with 3 seats won was the joined list of SDS (Slovenian Democratic Party, EPP) and SLS (Slovene’s People’s Party, EPP). SD were the runners up (Social Democrats, S&D), while the third place went to LMŠ (List of Marjan Šarec, ALDE), led by the current Prime Minister Marjan Šarec. Each of the two parties won two seats. The last MEP seat went to NSi (New Slovenia, EPP), which won 11.1% of the votes. Both left-liberal and right-center block won 4 seats in the European Parliament, which means the right-center block lost one MEP. The participation of the electorate this year, 28.3%, was more than 4% higher compared to the 2014 elections. Nevertheless, that number is still far below the European average.

All this means that for the third time in a row SDS was the victorious party in the elections for the European parliament. This year, with the joint list with SLS, they won 26.5% of the votes, which is 2% more than five years ago. Together, they will be allocated 3 MEP seats, however, only 2 of them will go to SDS (Milan Zver and Romana Tomc). In comparison, in 2014, they won 3 seats. Because of the preferential votes, one seat this year goes to Franc Bogovič from SLS, who will keep his place as a MEP in Brussels. However, taking a closer look at the results, SDS would probably also win 3 seats on their own, just as five years ago. This leads to the conclusion that the alliance with SLS did not bring SDS the desired result. Both parties in general were advocating moderate politics and distanced themselves from the far-right political agenda, which is frequently the political vocabulary of many of their members (especially on the issue of migration). Just before the elections, SDS was put in a difficult position, which could get even worse in the future. The party strongly supports the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who invested more than 2.3 million euros in media outlets close to SDS. At the same time, however, it is also a vocal supporter of Manfred Weber, who did not get the support of Viktor Orban to become the head of the European Commission prior to the elections.

Social Democrats Become the Biggest Governmental Party

The runners up were the Social Democrats, who were running the longest, and a very good campaign. As everywhere in Europe, the Social Democrats in their fight for survival had to move further to the left. That was clearly visible in their campaign, where they were promoting a European minimum wage, a 35h work week, fight against tax havens, poverty etc. With that agenda, they have snatched a substantial number of voters from Levica (the Left), who was promoting similar political goals. Their lead candidate Tanja Fajon won the most of all preferential votes among all the candidates of this year’s elections (53.400 votes or 61% of all preferential votes on the SD list). Due to referential votes, Milan Brglez moves to Brussels too, albeit only finishing 4th on the SD list, where he won 7000 votes or 8% of all votes on the list. In total, the Social Democrats won 18,62% of votes, which is far better than at the last year’s parliamentary elections, where they won less than 10% of the votes. Even before the elections, there was a debate within the party that the leadership of the party might go to Brglez or Fajon. Dejan Židan, the president of the National Assembly, was not very successful in the public TV confrontations, which most likely was the reason for the loss of many votes for the party in the past. It will be interesting to follow the situation of the Social Democrats in the foreseeable future.

Marjan Šarec Effect

The good result of the LMŠ party has important implications for the work of the coalition. Last year at the parliamentary elections, LMŠ won 12.60% of the votes. Despite their top candidate being an inexperienced 30-year-old journalist Irena Joveva, the party won 15.58% of the votes, which translates into two MEP seats. Political analysts believe the reason the party won a similar number of votes is the popularity of the Prime Minister and at the same time party leader Marjan Šarec. Since he is leading a minority government with five parties (and the support of Levica), which is also partly unstable, more conflicts can be expected between SD and LMŠ, whose position is now strengthened after the European elections. Notably, the outcome of the recent elections should not be dismissed or taken lightly, as it shows the new status of the political parties’ power. According to the public polls, the two parties mentioned above could probably form the government on their own. That would for sure strengthen their positions. At the moment, they are forced to compromise with other parties in the government, and with Levica as well. Furthermore, the conflicts in the government are also possible when the time comes to elect a candidate for the new president of European Commission. Namely, SD declared before the elections, that the party with the most votes should be the one to nominate him/her. But LMŠ will not give up that privilege that easily. Additionally, other governmental parties might have their own say in that decision. Tanja Fajon with good result can be considered as one of the favourites for this position.

Scattered Votes of the Unsuccessful Liberals

The remaining three governmental parties from the ALDE coalition all decided to compete in the election on their own. Had they competed together, they would have won one seat in the European Parliament. SMC (Modern Center Party) performed particularly badly, winning only 1.6% of the votes. With that result, they would not even be able to be represented in the Slovenian parliament, as the threshold is 4%. In contrast, only five years ago, they were victorious in the parliamentary elections with 34.5% of the votes, whereas last year they received 9.75%. After that election, Milan Brglez was expelled from the party, whereas now, as an SD candidate, he is moving to Brussels with the help of the preferential votes. Voters rewarded his stance – opposing anti-immigrant rhetoric and legislation.

Other two governmental parties – SAB (Party of Alenka Bratušek) and DESUS (Democratic Party of Pensioners) won only 4% and 5.7%, respectively . Both had strong candidates – Angelika Mlinar (SAB) and Igor Šoltes (DESUS) are both former MEP, although elected on different lists in the previous elections. It is completely possible that neither of the parties will reach the 4% threshold to get into the Slovene National Assembly in the next elections. On the other hand, the positions of LMŠ and SD are significantly strengthened after the European elections.

Defeat of Far-right Nationalist Parties

The positive news from this year’s elections in Slovenia is that the voters did not reward anti-immigration, hateful and racist discourse and policies. The main losers of the elections are the parties basing their campaigns on those issues. SNS (Slovenian National Party) received 4% of the votes, although some public polls predicted they would get one MEP. Even less voters (1.7%) casted their ballots to the new party DOM (Patriotic Home League), which looks up to Salvini’s LEGA. Voters did not reward their racist policies and campaign slogans, which they primarily spread on social networks (e.g.: “Slovenia should stay white and immigrants are not welcome here”). Zedinjena Slovenija (United Slovenia), another party with a militant anti-immigration stance, attracted less than 1% of the votes (0.7%).

Huge Blow for Levica

Levica, for which the GUE/NGL group had high hopes, suffered a big disappointment. Violeta Tomić, who was also a European »Spitzenkandidat« in the elections, was proven to be far “too big for her boots”. In the public TV conformations, her weak answers could not convince the voters. On two occasions (once in a European confrontation, and another time in a confrontation on a Slovene commercial TV station), she received only 5% of the approval from the viewers, making her the worst evaluated candidate of all. She could not persuade the Slovenian people, let alone the viewers on the continental level, where she was competing against experienced European politicians. She did not justify being selected as the (sole) »Spitzenkandidat« from Slovenia. One of the reasons for the bad results is also Levica’s campaign, which was almost the same as for last year’s parliamentary elections. This time, they used the slogan: »For a Europe of people, not capital«, which shows they did not prepare for this year’s campaign in particular (since a similar slogan was used in previous elections). On many issues, their own agenda was in fact better presented by the SD party. The election result will have to be an important warning and a lot will need to be changed. Before the campaign, the polls showed they would get around 9% of the votes. The final result was only 6.34%, which is only slightly more than five years ago, when they received 5,5% of the votes, whereby at the time they were, to the public, a completely unknown alliance of parties.

All in all, the results show, with the exception of LMŠ, that the parties with a good political network and with a wide territorial base performed the best. At the same time, that is what Levica lacks, especially being a left-wing party, promoting workers’ rights. The party still has an important influence in Slovenia, being the cause of the division of power between the parties in the National Assembly. Furthermore, it is crucial for the functioning of the minority government. Nevertheless, its power is withering with their bad election result, and with the success achieved by the Social Democrats. Levica’s political presence can be strengthened by a further promotion of values which advocate green ecological policies. Notably, Slovenia is one of the countries where »green parties« did not make a breakthrough and will not be represented in the EP.

The conclusion is that Levica and the GUE/NGL group did not achieve a good result on the European level. It is more than obvious that the left movement will need significant changes, if it wishes to play a more important role in future continental politics. Paraphrasing Walter Benjamin – the rise of the far-right is a consequence of the failure of the European left parties that cannot attract the voters to cast votes in their favour. The left in Slovenia and all around Europe still has a lot of theoretical, practical and organizational work to do in the future.