Slovenians vote in a tight race between populists and liberals

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia (AP) — Slovenians cast their ballots Sunday in parliamentary elections expected to be a close race between Prime Minister Janez Jansa’s ruling right-wing populist party and opposition Green Liberals in the politically divided nation of LJUBLJANA. ‘European Union.

About 1.7 million voters will choose from a range of parties vying for seats in the 90-member legislature. The ruling conservative Slovenian Democratic Party and the new Freedom Movement are leading the polls ahead of the vote.

Polls, however, have suggested that there will be no clear winner in the election and that a coalition government will need to be formed after the vote, made up of at least three or four parties.

Jansa became Prime Minister just over two years ago after the previous Liberal Prime Minister resigned. An admirer of former US President Donald Trump, Jansa has pushed the country to the right since taking office at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The main challenger on Sunday is former US-educated business executive Robert Golob and his Freedom Movement party. The party advocated green energy transition and sustainable development rather than Jansa’s nation-centric narrative.

The two blocs are expected to win an almost equal number of votes – around 20-25% – which would mean that the composition and course of the future government could depend on which small groups cross the 4% electoral threshold.

Jansa’s SDS won the most votes in an election four years ago but was initially unable to find partners for a coalition government. He took over after lawmakers from centrist and left-wing groups switched sides following the 2020 resignation of liberal Prime Minister Marjan Sarec.

Jansa has since been accused of sliding into authoritarian rule in the style of his ally, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Jansa has come under EU scrutiny amid reports that he has lobbied opponents and state media, and installed loyalists in key positions to control EU institutions. State.

The Liberals described Sunday’s election as a referendum on Slovenia’s future. They argue that Jansa, if re-elected, would move the traditionally moderate nation further away from the “core” democratic values ​​of the EU and towards other populist regimes.

Democracy watchdog Freedom House recently stated that “while political rights and civil liberties are generally respected (in Slovenia), the current right-wing government continues to attempt to undermine the rule of law and democratic institutions. , including the media and the judiciary”.

The 63-year-old political veteran, Jansa, denied this, presenting himself as the victim of an elaborate leftist libel plot. In order to polish his image ahead of the election, Jansa distanced himself from Orban and took a tough stance on Russia over the invasion of Ukraine.

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