Slovenian Presidential Election Fails to Calm Protestors
December 5, 2012
By: Katherine Keally | Printer Friendly
On December 2, former Slovenian Prime Minister Borut Pahor won Slovenia’s presidential election with 67.44 percent of the vote, according to the Associated Press (AP). Incumbent Slovenian President Danilo Türk earned only 32.56 percent of the vote, after losing to Pahor in the first round of the election on November 11. The second round’s voter turnout was lower than the first, with the low turnout of one in three eligible voters attributed to Slovenians’ dissatisfaction with the country’s poor economic state.
After gaining independence from Yugoslavia’s 1991 breakup, Slovenia made significant economic strides by doubling its GDP and joining the Eurozone in 2007; however, the country is now struggling to resist the need to ask for a bailout from the European Union (EU). Since 2009, Slovenia’s economy has decreased by more than 8 percent and the unemployment rate is now over 12 percent, according to the Economist. To deal with the country’s economic problems, the government, led by center-right Prime Minister Janez Jansa, has introduced unpopular austerity measures. AP reported that Jansa initiated pension and labor reforms, cut public sector funding, and promised to privatize indebted banks responsible for the crisis due to bad loans, all in an effort to decrease the budget deficit. The opposition may stunt the government’s reforms, as can be seen by its push to take the government’s banking law to a referendum.
The government’s spending cuts and alleged corruption have led to severe protests that began last week. On December 3, nearly 10,000 people partook in the largest protest in Slovenia’s second largest city of Maribor. The mayor of Maribor, Franc Kangler, has not yet resigned from his position, although he has been accused of corruption (though not convicted in court) and banished from the Slovenian People’s Party, Reuters reported. One hundred nineteen people were arrested for “disturbing law and public order,” with 25 police officers injured. Protestors used firecrackers, fireworks, and rocks against police during the demonstrations, demanding the mayor’s resignation. Protestors have also mobilized against Jansa, who is facing criminal charges for corruption, and the mayor of the capital Ljubljana, Zoran Jankovic, who is also the leader of the opposition. On November 30, protests in Ljubljana resulted in the arrest of 33 people and 15 injured, after police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse protestors throwing rocks, according to BBC.
Though he is left-leaning, Pahor has been vocal in his support for the government’s reforms. In an AP report, he expressed sympathy for Jansa due to the failure of his own government in dealing with the economic crisis in 2011: “I know what it means to be the prime minister at the time of crisis.” Because Pahor supports the government’s austerity measures, his election was considered surprising amidst the wake of anti-government protests. Pahor’s election is not expected to have an impact on the protests, and his position is largely ceremonial; however, the Economist suggested that president may provide “moral influence” in assisting the government to overcome the financial crisis. Pahor projected optimism on his supporters in light of the economic crisis in a BBC report: “The moment when Slovenian men and women, citizens of Slovenia, beat this crisis - and we will beat it eventually - we will again have the confidence we felt when we established our country and we will rise among the stars of Europe.”
BBC – Slovenian ex-PM Borut Pahor wins presidency
BBC – Why Slovenia is content no more
Reuters - Slovenia police arrest 141 in violent anti-austerity protests
The Associated Press – Exit poll: Ex-PM Borut Pahor wins Slovenia presidential election with 67.3 percent of vote
The Economist – A vote for austerity policies
Voice of America – Ex-PM Borut Pahor Wins Slovenian Presidential Election