Just briefly posting to note the conclusion of that other election saga that has been gripping the world’s attention: Slovenia is about to have a new government. We reported back in September that the Slovenian Social Democrat partyhad narrowly emerged as the largest party in the Parliament following the general election, apparently ending the reign of the centre-right coalition led by Janez Jansa.
A mere seven weeks on from the results being declared, the negotiations for a new coalition have concluded, with a new government about to be formed by the expected coalition of the Social Democrats, two liberal parties (Zares and the Liberal Democrats) and the left-leaning Pensioner’s Party. The new coalition will hold 50 of the 90 seats in the National Assembly, providing a sizeable majority, and will be headed by Social Democrat leader Borut Pahor. Pahor will be confirmed as Prime Minister by the National Assembly tomorrow (yes – a parliament meeting on a Saturday apparently!).
Despite it being centre left-led, I wouldn’t expect anything too radical from the new government – especially given the entry of two liberal parties into the coalition. However, barring a grand coalition with the centre-right, this is effectively the ‘minimum’ possible Social Democrat led coalition: if the Liberal Democrats had not entered then the putative government would have had just 45 seats out of 90. As with all governments, the new Slovenian administration’s main focus will be the economy. Whilst this is the prosperous end of the former Yugoslavia, with growth originally forecast as 4.8% for this year, the slump now appears to be hitting Slovenia hard. A further key issue facing the government is its stance towards the accession of neighbouring Croatia to the EU – the well-known historical tensions between the two nations are currently being played out in the form of a territorial waters and fishing dispute over part of Slovenia’s minuscule coastline. Last month the outgoing Slovenian government warned that it would block Croatia’s accession talks until the dispute was resolved – any resolution being unlikely prior to the formation of a new Slovenian government. With the worsening economic situation, Croatia is likely to want to agree EU accession as quickly as possible, so Slovenia could quickly find itself the object of significant pressure from Brussels and Zagreb to reach an agreement.
Still no definitive news on government formation in Slovenia’s northern neighbour Austria, but progress seems to be being made towards a new grand coalition of centre-left and centre-right, with the conservative People’s Party agreeing to the Social Democrat’s demand to bring forward progressive tax reforms.