From election to election...
The 1992–1996 term
At the first National Assembly elections in 1992, party-based democracy was still in its infancy and the political arena, in which the parties had not yet introduced clear and coherent programmes, was as a result somewhat vague and unclear. In the elections, each party had their own electoral tactics, and the campaign was not lacking low blows and brutal confrontations. Numerous transitional characteristics could be seen in the campaign. It was something new and it did not only shake up political life, but society in general, it drew the attention of many citizens and included many scandalous stories, happily gloated over by journalists and citizens alike. In those days, as well as later, party leaders found themselves being exposed. At the same time as parliamentary elections, presidential elections were also held; the first President of the Republic of Slovenia was Milan Kučan.
The National Assembly's first line-up was rather fragmented, eight parties gained seats and the majority of votes went to LDS (Liberal Democratic Party), with the remaining parties far behind. The political leader Janez Drnovšek formed a diverse coalition dubbed the "small political miracle" – it was composed of LDS, Christian Democrats, United List (Združena lista) and SDSS (Social Democratic Party of Slovenia). Once the relationships between coalition and opposition were established, the Parliament and the Government began addressing its vast agenda. First and foremost, the agenda dealt with urgent legislative activities, as the former federal legislation had to be replaced on the one hand, and fundamental documents of numerous state subsystems had to be adopted on the other – from education, judiciary administration, tax system, ownership transformation, and the formation of a new economic system, to national security, political parties, and corruption. In addition to fundamental legislative activities, the common thread of the first National Assembly term was economic issues. Throughout the term, Drnovšek's coalition gradually dissolved, with only the LDS and SKD (Slovenian Christian Democrats) remaining in the end.
The 1996-2000 term
After elections, the second convocation of the National Assembly found itself in a stalemate position. The parties of the so-called transition right wing aggregately received 45 votes and all others, including the two members representing minorities and supporting the actual Prime Minister Drnovšek (the president of LDS, the party that was the relative winner in the elections), also received 45 votes. The Parliament, a reflection of the society, found itself in a predicament, divided equally in half ... The constitutive session dragged on and on and opposing views were in evidence at each parliamentary step. However, the politicians finally managed to reach an agreement resulting in a large coalition between the largest parties, LDS and SLS (Slovenian People’s Party), joined by DeSUS.
The coalition that was finally formed after a difficult few months was very diverse despite the small number of partners because LDS and SLS represented a combination of two conceptually and socially completely different parties. In practice, during the second term, this thesis was confirmed by parliamentary practice to a large extent. Conditions and realities in the National Assembly were often confusing; it seemed that SLS was more of an opposition party than a coalition party. Furthermore, the opposition failed to attack and control the government in a coordinated manner because it was also divided itself on an ideological level. SDS and SKD were closer to SLS and ZLSD was closer to Liberal Democratic Party. The dissolution of the coalition often seemed inevitable.
In November 1997, presidential elections for a five-year term were once again held. Despite some reservations, Milan Kučan ran again and won the election in a landslide (for the last time).
Despite all of its crises (which were quite frequent, especially those related to personnel), the shaky coalition between LDS and SLS managed to keep going until the eve of the end of its term. In the spring of 2000, only six months before elections, the coalition-opposition relationships in the Parliaments were blown apart. After many difficult meetings with ups and downs, the related parties, SLS and SKD, finally managed to agree on merging into one party that would not be a part of the coalition. The fall of the "falling" government was impending. Drnovšek did not wait for things to develop further; he was a step ahead of his partners and proposed the replacement of SLS ministers with new ones. A vote of confidence was connected with the replacement of ministers, but it was not passed. After merging, SLS and SKD became the largest party in Parliament and shortly after the demise of Drnovšek it proposed Andrej Bajuk as the new Prime Minister. However, the new parliamentary coalition was not destined to last for long, as the second term was about to end in less than six months. Also, the coalition itself experienced a severe political crisis after only a month.
The 2000-2004 term
On Sunday, 15 October 2000, the third National Assembly elections took place in Slovenia. Once again, there was an election campaign and many appearances took place, mainly by well-known parties and faces ... The elections that occurred at the turn of the decade, century, and millennium did not represent a major milestone themselves, but they symbolically marked the entry into a new era. The first decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall, named the "Time of Freedom" by the British historian Timothy Garton Ash, was coming to an end and a new "nameless decade" was beginning; this was an elusive period without clear features. A year earlier a common European currency was introduced and NATO expanded into its first three eastern European countries, thus giving special emphasis on integration processes. The following year, on 5 October 2000, only ten days prior to elections in Slovenia, the last Yugoslav tyrant was overthrown – the Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević. All of this may seem like some historical censorship of an epoch. Slovenia was a part of these global currents and during its third National Assembly term also joined the European Union and NATO, symbolically (maybe even in an illusory manner) concluding the transition process in the country. On top of everything, the third term was also the last term led by Drnovšek's great LDS, the strongest party after 1992. The election results on 15 October 2000 were its swansong. LDS received 36.21% votes, assuring it 34 seats in the Parliament. It formed a coalition with ZLSD, SLS and DeSUS.
To a large extent, the third term and the forms of parliamentary work were characterised by the weakness of the opposition, the core of which were SDS and NSi (they themselves did not recognise the opposition status of SNS (Slovenian National Party) and the new party SMS (Youth Party of Slovenia)). The coalition was soon nicknamed "voting steamroller" and in such conditions the opposition had to remain firm. During the term, in 2002, the government had a new Prime Minister (Tone Rop) following Janez Drnovšek's election to President.
The 2004-2008 term
On the one hand, the fourth National Assembly elections, which were called by the President of the Republic to take place on 3 October 2004, gave the impression of an entirely every-day democratic routine with a standard election campaign, and yet on the other they continued to be stuck in established ideological and political patterns. The "cultural fight" between the "left wing" and the "right wing" continued, though its intensity decreased. The election results were not entirely unexpected, but they marked a major ideological turning point. The great LDS lost for the first time after 1992. On that Sunday, the winner was SDS with its leader Janez Janša, who gradually became the flag bearer of the opposition after 1996. Janša then also formed a coalition and became the Prime Minister. If the distinct supremacy of the coalition and the weakness of the opposition marked the third term, one could conclude that the fourth term would be completely different in this regard. The coalition was smaller, more diverse, and two hard-bitten parties in the opposition preyed on it, not allowing the Government to even have the traditional 100 days of peace. Different conditions and practices in Parliament were to be expected. However, no significant changes occurred and the initial (unrealistic) expectations crumpled. At the beginning, the stability and support of the coalition and the Government were high (even in public opinion), but on the hand, the coalition succumbed to internal searching and splits. In particular, LDS seemed to have been experiencing a crisis. Therefore, the fourth term was similar to the third term, only a few roles changed. European topics were the undeniable cohesive element of politics and numerous other topics were divisive along the traditional left-right axis. During this time, in 2007, new presidential elections were held, but Janez Drnovšek did not run again due to illness. The winner was Danilo Türk.
The 2008-2011 term
On the eve of the fifth National Assembly elections in September 2008, the Slovenian political arena seemed quite clear and predictable. The common thread of all parties was "welfare", but the plans in their programmes to achieve welfare were increasingly less specific and noticeably increasingly more alike. Contrary to expectations, the relative victory went to the party SD (Social Democrats) formerly known as ZLSDwhose leader, Borut Pahor, became the Prime Minister.
On the eve of the elections, it was already clear that a debt and financial crisis is spreading around the world and that it might grow into a wider economic crisis affecting Slovenia as well. Pahor's team gave the impression that it was aware of the situation, but in the following few months, it acted slowly and indecisively as per the Prime Minister's consensual approach. The first bundle of anti-crisis measures reached the Parliament at the end of the year. It was adopted by Members of Parliament on their last sitting in 2008, thus symbolically foreshadowing the main focus of the fifth term – overcoming the crisis which finally grew from a financial crisis into a political one.
Throughout the term, there was division on all important topics (or at least those that were stressed as such). When the Government finally managed to agree on a solution for the border issue with the neighbouring Croatia, which must undoubtedly be counted as one of its major successes, it immediately encountered firm objections from the opposition and a portion of prominent intellectuals (however, a large portion of intellectuals in the public eye supported the agreement). During the third year of the term, the trust in the Government and the Parliament was still low and dissatisfaction grew. The political arena remained implacable and the coalition was increasingly giving the impression that it was blocked from the outside and from within and that it did not have any real "exit" ideas. The path into a political crisis was thus set. The coalition gradually dissolved, ultimately consisting only of SD and LDS.
The fifth term ended by a vote of no confidence given to the Government and, with no new candidate for a Prime Minister, the President dissolved the National Assembly on 21 October 2011. For the first time in (nearly) twenty years of the Slovenian Parliament, early elections were to take place, planned for 4 December 2011. The trust in a significant portion of parliamentary parties was shaken and a significant restructuring of the political arena was to be expected.
The 2011-2014 term
Between the President's announcement that he would dissolve the National Assembly and the elections, there was not much time. In such circumstances, it was not surprising that the campaign lacked truly innovative approaches, convincing and insightful solutions and compelling addresses to the voters. The elections were quite peaceful (but not without scandals) and, for the first time in twenty years, divisive ideological topics were more evidently pushed into the background. In early October, the political atmosphere was still predictable. However, shortly afterwards, the political arena began to change drastically as new political faces and new parties appeared one after another. Less than two months prior to elections, two new parties with an extremely high rating appeared, as they climbed to the top of election polls. The first one was founded by the Mayor or Ljubljana, Zoran Jankovič (PS -Pozitivna Slovenija Positive Slovenia), and the second by the former minister Gregor Virant (Državljanska lista Gregorja Viranta - Gregor Virant’s Civic List).
If the campaign warned of major political shifts in Slovenia, the election results on Sunday, 4 December 2011, only confirmed them. The election was won by Jankovič's PS, but its president – again, for the first time in twenty years – did not become Prime Minister. The coalition was formed by Janez Janša, the leader of SDS, which received the second highest number of votes. The Parliament and the Government began fervently working and dealing with the crisis and the fiscal consolidation of the country.
The dissatisfaction of people due to the economic crisis gradually increased in the second half of 2012 and was directed specifically at political elites. Numerous "people's uprisings" erupted. The adjective "political" and politics as a profession, in the sense of dealing with the state and welfare, became derogative terms. Slogans on the falseness of the political system appeared and there were many calls to introduce direct democracy... In such circumstances, the coalition collapsed and in March 2013 a new Slovenian Government was formed under the leadership of Alenka Bratušek of PS (first woman Prime Minister). After the new Government was elected, the political storm calmed down for one year despite numerous troubles in the Cabinet and unsuccessful staff choices, until Bratušek resigned. This automatically ended the term for the entire Cabinet. No one proposed a new political figure to form a government and the new President, Borut Pahor, elected in 2012, dissolved the Parliament on 2 June and called for elections to be held on 13 July 2014 (with harsh criticism due to the summer holiday period).
The 2014– term
It was expected that the elections would, as in 2011, significantly change the political and personnel structure of the Parliament. There were several reasons for this. Following the demise of Janša's Government, the momentum of people's uprisings began to decline. However, the dissatisfaction with politics and political elites remained and the results of public opinion polls continued to be unforgiving. Therefore, a few uprising groups, such as the All-Slovenian People's Uprising, decided to use the potential of the uprisings to actively enter into politics. In December 2013, the party Solidarnost (Solidarity) was formed. The next year, on 1 March 2014, the party United Left (Združena levica) was formed following the example of the then still attractive and convincing Syriza in Greece. Just prior to the elections, additional three parties entered the political arena: the party Verjamem (I Believe) led by Igor Šoltes, Alliance of Alenka Bratušek, and the Party of Miro Cerar. The latter (later renamed into the Modern Centre Party) ultimately won with the largest percentage of votes after 1992 and subsequently formed the current Slovenian Government together with SD and DeSUS.
Jure Gašparič, Institute of Contemporary History