Slovenian EP Elections Nicolas Raymond, Flickr
Slovenian flag

Surely those living in Slovakia or Slovenia have more to say about their respective countries than those who usually mix the two. While many are confused by the similar names that they have in the English language (Slovakia and Slovenia) Of two in essence different countries, the real similarities exist somewhere else. For instance, the name Slovakia in Slovakian language “Slovensko” actually means “slovenian” in Slovene language. 

The crisis in Slovenia has, not as much as in Slovakia, hit the economy severely. In 2013 Slovenia was on the verge of inviting the troika for a bailout, however, this was put aside under the leadership of Alenka Bratušek, first female prime minister in Slovenia. Still, due to not following the party's economic program, fractions within the party of prime minister Bratušek (Pozitivna Slovenija – Positive Slovenia) led to a party congress with significant impact on the future of the country. Sadly, Slovenian political environment, although one of the smallest Member States within the family of EU, does not project or relate to the peacefulness of the beautiful landscape that surrounds the country.

In the beginning of May, the Slovenian prime minister Bratušek resigned as a consequence of losing the presidency in her political party (Positive Slovenia), being replaced at the party helm by its first president and founder in 2011 Zoran Janković (currently serving his 2nd term as mayor of the Slovenian capital city of Ljubljana). 

Resignation by Bratušek came after coalition partners insisted on leaving the coalition government if she fails to convince the party members that she is worthy of presiding her own party. Under the suspicion of accusations due to corruption as former CEO at Slovenia's biggest retailer and mayor of Slovenian capital city, Janković is not seen as a worthy partner in the government by the coalition partners, although he still hasn't been officially convicted of any wrongdoings. Currently, there are ongoing talks when the parliamentary elections should be held (July or September this year).

Resignation of the prime minister put a shadow on the EU elections campaign in the first two weeks. Currently, a couple of days into EP elections in Slovenia (May 25) the majority of national lists are visiting its grass-roots supporters as well as contributing with info on social media. Not any particular highlights with TV ads or billboards, unfortunately. This is mainly due to lower funds that are attributed to the European campaigns in general, consequence of the crisis itself and a change in the financing of political parties which especially hit non-parliamentary lists. 

Altogether, 16 different party lists are to be competing in the Slovenian elections for 8 EP seats. We can divide these lists into three groupings, each of them connected to their current involvement in the Slovenian, as well as European, political party system.

In the first group we have parties with their representatives in current EP formation (2009-2014), which lead the campaign by stating “more Europe is needed” (affiliates in EPP, S&D, ALDE). The second grouping is set up by those parties that have been left out from EP 2009-2014 as well as current national assembly mandate. These parties can be further divided into two subgroups of those opposing current EU development and those that believe more active involvement of Slovenia is needed in the EU. The third grouping is only composed of two lists, each unique on its own. First list, called “The Dream Job”, nominated 7 (out of 8) candidates for EP posts with no political affiliation or political experience. It’s a civic movement initiative established via social media which addressed ordinary citizens by large and which nominated candidates by a public draw among those that supported the list in the first place through that particular social media. The second list (a Slovenian Pirate party) in this last grouping only one candidate was nominated.

Much of the campaign is being led on social media and by grass-root visits. Not much focus has been put to billboards for instance, only having a couple of them in the capital during the campaign. As well as not much TV debates have been undertaken in the first two weeks of the campaign - they are to be followed. Nor have there been any confrontations recently on substance of the elections, that is European policies or issues that need to be dealt with in the new EP formation 2014-2019. Much of the talk is focused on the role of the EU in the crisis and its neoliberal agenda that caused the crisis. Part of the campaign is actually being directed as a campaign for early parliamentary elections that are to be held at the beginning of July or in early September (still to be decided).

All in all, people who are not politically active, or involved in the social media cannot be informed as much about who to vote for, what the candidates stand for or to what EP political group they affiliate to (or will affiliate), just to name a few important issues when choosing a candidate. They still don’t know the exact role of MEPs, something which MEPs themselves as well as media are having difficulties presenting sufficiently. If, however, MEPs are mentioned in the general media, it’s usually about their wages, flat rates for their offices and what they have done for Slovenia (or what they haven’t done but they should have).

The picture is even worse when talking about the support in the run for a new President of the European Commission (only one TV debate was broadcasted on Slovenian TV stations). Also the lists themselves haven’t made the link with political groups in the EP or European party federations in their names or logos (only 5 out of 16). 

Although some newspapers have put a lot of effort (as well as both EP Information Office and EC Representation in Ljubljana) into providing information on their websites, the widespread acknowledgement of who to vote for and why, is not present. It looks like that scholar description of EP elections is unfortunately proving to be a reality in Slovenia. And consequently, the low voting turnout is widely expected.

Billboards

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Current Slovenian MEP Jelko Kacin (his 2nd term), part of ALDE group in the EP (rapporteur for Serbia) who is heading his own list called “Kacin – concrete(ness)” (at first he intended to run by his national political party – LDS – but then decided to have his own list). I guess his motto refers to his concrete work in the EP, but I’m not sure if the voters know that he mainly deals with the Western Balkans issues, where he’s quite successful, though. 

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This billboard has a good message if you know the background of the person heading the billboard.

He is leading the list of the used-to-be biggest parliamentary party, Positive Slovenia (when Bratušek was still the prime minister). He is not a member of that party, but retired law & economy professor at the Faculty of Law in Ljubljana. He is seen as an eurosceptic in Slovenia, and at one of the debates he positioned himself with the European Left (although Positive Slovenia wanted to be part of ALDE – talks about joining have been postponed due to Bratušek's resigning).

The name of the billboard means Positive EUconomy (interconnection of EU and economy), which makes sense because of his economic background and party program that much relies on alternative economic governance than the current one in the EU.

European Parliament Information Office in Ljubljana and its posters in Slovenia

There are couple of these posters in Slovenia, but I think they are the same as those in other countries. Quite some effort has been put from their side to promote the elections, as well as from the media via their websites. Unfortunately, the discussions about the substance do not reflect the importance of MEP’s work in the Parliament, mainly because they focus too much on what needs to be done for Slovenia rather than what needs to be done for Europe, so that Slovenia and similar countries would gain more from the EU membership. 

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Edited by: Lisa Enocsson