Polls out of Slovenia’s parliamentary elections suggest a liberal opposition party won a landslide victory, inflicting a major defeat on populist Prime Minister Janez Janša, who has been accused of pushing the small country out of power. EU to the right during his tenure.
Polls on Sunday showed the Freedom Movement garnering 35.8% support, compared to 22.5% for the ruling conservative Democratic Slovenian party.
The Freedom Movement, a political newcomer, is likely to form the next government in a coalition with smaller centre-left groups. The party leader addressed his supporters via video message from his home as he has Covid-19.
“People are dancing tonight,” Robert Golob told the cheering crowd at party headquarters. “Tomorrow is a new day and serious work awaits us.”
Janša posted a message to supporters on Twitter, saying only: “thank you for your vote”.
The veteran politician became prime minister just over two years ago after the previous Liberal prime minister resigned. An admirer of Donald Trump, Janša had pushed the country towards right-wing populism since taking power at the start of the pandemic.
Reflecting the strong interest in Sunday’s elections, voter turnout was higher than usual: nearly 50% of Slovenia’s 1.7 million voters had voted by mid-afternoon, up from 15% compared to the previous elections in 2018.
Golob, a former US-educated business executive, became a frontrunner shortly after entering the political arena. The Freedom Movement party has advocated for a green energy transition and sustainable development, and the Liberals have described Sunday’s election as a referendum on Slovenia’s future. They argued that Janša, if re-elected, would move the traditionally moderate nation further away from the core democratic values of the EU, towards other populist regimes.
Janša’s Slovenian Social Democratic Party won the most votes in elections four years ago, but was initially unable to find partners for a coalition government. He took over after MPs from centrist and left-wing groups switched sides following the resignation in 2020 of liberal Prime Minister Marjan Šarec.
Janša was accused in power of sliding into authoritarian rule in the style of his ally, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. He has come under EU scrutiny following reports he pressured opponents and state media, and installed loyalists in key positions with control over institutions of State.