Becoming a republic

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  • Democratisation and independence

    Poet Tone Pavček presenting the May Declaration. Photo: Tone Stojko, source: National Museum of Contemporary History

    Yugoslav crisis

    Due to its complexity, economic as well as social and political, the crisis that was not acknowledged by the political elites in Yugoslavia for a long time (the term crisis was consciously avoided by leading politicians), and was becoming an increasingly apparent hallmark of the period of the 1980's. Numerous solutions, which were gradually developed, were very different and very clearly associated with individual elites in particular republics; this situation led to a severe escalation of relationships in the otherwise federal country. The strongest and the most aggressive elite formed around Slobodan Milošević (at first, the president of the Central Committee of the Serbian League of Communists and then the President of the Presidency of the Socialist Republic of Serbia), who, together with his allies (the leaders of Montenegro, Kosovo, and Vojvodina), advocated greater powers for the central federal authorities. On the other side, a looser connection was formed between Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia, who were mainly brought together by the fear of the centralist and nationalist offensive put forward by Milošević's circle. Within this circle, the leadership of the League of Communists of Slovenia represented their standpoint in the clearest manner; it mainly promoted the democratisation of society, allowing the formation of non-communist political groups, a greater role of republics, and market economy.


    The appointed Peterle’s Government. Photo: Tone Stojko, source: National Museum of Contemporary History
    The second round of presidential elections. Photo: Tone Stojko, source: National Museum of Contemporary History
    Declaration of the sovereignty and independence of Slovenia. Photo: Salomon 2000, source: UKOM

    The first post-war democratic elections

    The already delicate federal system became increasingly unstable and political control in individual republics began to waver. The demands for pluralism and systemic changes were becoming increasingly strong. Therefore, the Slovenian Socialist Assembly adopted numerous constitutional amendments to the Slovenian Constitution during its last term from 1986 to1990, thus providing a suitable groundwork for gradually attaining independence and achieving a multi-party system. In such increasingly escalating conditions, delegates actually introduced an asymmetrical position of Slovenia in the federation on 27 September 1989, with the strong support of civil society. Furthermore, conditions for direct and secret voting were established, the establishment of parties was enabled, and elements of a market economy were introduced. 

    At the elections in April 1990, in addition to some former social and political organisations which reformed into parties, new parties also ran and they combined to form a coalition called Demos. Combined, these parties received the majority of votes and formed the Government led by Lojze Peterle. At the same time as the Assembly elections, elections for members and the president of the Presidency of the Republic were held. Milan Kučan was elected president. Political life was developing in the spirit of multi-party parliamentary democracy. On 25 June 1991, the Slovenian Assembly adopted three key independence documents, on the basis of which Slovenia became an independent and sovereign country. Six months later, it also adopted a new Constitution establishing a classic parliamentary system with a new representative and legislative body named the National Assembly. A short time later, Demos was dissolved and standard party conflicts surfaced, leading to the fall of Peterle's government. The new government, which lasted until the first elections into the National Assembly, was formed by Janez Drnovšek in April 1992.

    In 1990, elections were also held in other Yugoslav republics that also formally introduced classic parliamentary democracy, even though it was authoritarian in practice. The Croatian president Franjo Tuđman, who was also the president of HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union), the strongest party, overtly shaped himself after Tito, and the Serbian (Yugoslav) president Slobodan Milošević built a specific family-based sultanistic system. Wars began, but they were not the result of a hundred-year-old ethnic hatred, but a part of a programmed plan of political centres which used nationalism only as a transitional ideology to achieve their political goals.

    Jure Gašparič, Institute of Contemporary History