Slovenian Democratic Party

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Slovenian Democratic Party
Slovenska demokratska stranka
LeaderJanez Janša
Founded16 February 1989
HeadquartersLjubljana
Membership (2013)30,000[1]
IdeologySlovenian nationalism[2][3]
Liberal conservatism[4][5]
National conservatism
Economic liberalism
Right-wing populism[6][7][8]
Social conservatism
Anti-immigration[7][8][9][10]
Political positionHistorical:
Centre-right[10][11] to centre-left[12][13]
Contemporary:
Right-wing[12][14][15][8][7][6][16][17][18]
European affiliationEuropean People's Party
International affiliationCentrist Democrat International
International Democrat Union
European Parliament groupEuropean People's Party
Colours     Yellow      Blue
Anthem
"Slovenska pomlad"[19]
"Slovenian Spring"
National Assembly
25 / 90
European Parliament
3 / 8
Party flag
Flag of the Slovenian Democratic Party
Website
sds.si

The Slovenian Democratic Party (Slovene: Slovenska demokratska stranka, SDS), formerly the Social Democratic Party of Slovenia (Slovene: Socialdemokratska stranka Slovenije, SSS),[20][21] is a liberal-conservative[4][5] political party in Slovenia. Led by Janez Janša, the SDS is a member of the European People's Party (EPP),[22] Centrist Democrat International[23] and International Democrat Union.[24]

History[edit]

Origins[edit]

The Slovenian Democratic Party has developed from the merger of two distinct political parties, being the legal successor of both of the Social Democratic Union of Slovenia and the Slovenian Democratic Union, two of the most influential parties of the Democratic Opposition of Slovenia—also known as the DEMOS coalition—which defeated the former Communist Party of Slovenia in the first open Slovenian election on April 1990, and carried out the democratization of Slovenia and its secession from Yugoslavia. The Social Democratic Union of Slovenia had emerged from an independent, anti-Communist trade union movement in the late 1980s. Its first president was the trade union leader France Tomšič, who in December 1987 organized the first successful large-scale workers strike in Communist Slovenia, following the example of Lech Wałęsa's Solidarity movement in Poland. Tomšič however resigned soon after the founding of the party, endorsing the leadership of Jože Pučnik, a former dissident who had been forced to emigrate to Germany in the 1960s. Under Pučnik's leadership, The Social Democratic Union of Slovenia gradually developed into a moderate social-democratic party, which combined the plea for a social market economy with the support of a welfare state based on a German, Austrian and Scandinavian social model.

The Slovenian Democratic Union, on the other hand, was founded in January 1989, as opposition to the Communist Party of Slovenia, emphasizing establishment of the rule of law and respect for human rights and fundamental political freedoms, respect for minority rights, and the inclusion of Slovenia in the Euro-Atlantic integrations (the European Union and NATO). It functioned as a broad but somehow fragmented coalition of several groups with different liberal, social-liberal and civic nationalist agendas.

In 1992, the Slovenian Democratic Union split into two parties: the social-liberal wing established the Democratic Party (DSS), while the conservative faction founded the National Democratic Party (NDS). Members who did not join one of these two parties decided to join the Social Democratic Party led by Jože Pučnik. Although the Social Democratic Party suffered a clear defeat in the 1992 election, barely securing its entry in the Parliament, it formed a coalition with the winning Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (LDS) and entered the cabinet of Janez Drnovšek.

In 1995, the National Democratic Party joined the party, which thus became one of the legal successors of the Slovenian Democratic Union.[citation needed]

After the year 2000, the party applied for membership in the European People's Party (EPP), adopting a liberal economic policy and later pro-austerity measures upon the late-2000 economic crisis, while retaining an atlantist foreign policy.[citation needed]

Radical populist turn[edit]

Upon being dismissed by Prime Minister Janez Drnovšek because of being involved in the attempts of the military interfering in civilian justice, the party's leader became Janez Janša, while Jože Pučnik resigned and became the honorary president of the party (a function he held until his death in January 2003). Janša was subsequently cleared, following an inquiry. The party unconditionally supported its new leader and decided to leave the coalition and stayed in opposition for the next ten years (except for a short period in 2000, when it entered a short-lived centre-right government led by Andrej Bajuk), in the meantime gaining in popularity among – as described by one of its former supporters, Peter Jambrek – "lower, frustrated social strata".[25]

The party's radical populism, nationalistic[14] and xenophobic rhetoric was noticed also by political scientists.[26][27][28] Moreover, the local Slovenian Catholic Church supported it more than any other Slovenian political party. Even though not a nominally Christian party, the local church has stood fully and unconditionally behind it.[26]

2004–2008: in power (first Janša Cabinet)[edit]

On 3 October 2004, SDS won the 2004 parliamentary election with 29.1% of the popular vote and 29 out of 88 seats.[29] SDS then formed a coalition with New Slovenia (NSi), the Slovenian People's Party (SLS), and Democratic Party of Pensioners of Slovenia (DeSUS), holding a total of 49 parliamentary seats (out of 90).[30]

The SDS-led government passed several pro-business measures, initiated the regionalisation of the country by giving more power to local governments, and, in order to please its coalition party, DeSUS - introduced economically non-sustainable changes in the pension system.[citation needed]

SDS has been accused of catering to the interests of the Slovenian Roman Catholic Church in exchange for political support.[31][32] Nevertheless, the Church maintained a critical attitude towards some of the party's positions (the SDS-led Government has assumed a favourable attitude towards gambling tourism, stem cell research and passed a law recognizing same-sex civil unions, all opposed by the Roman Catholic Church).[citation needed]

Internal affairs[edit]

The government introduced measures to supervise, and to curtail the powers of the Slovenian Intelligence and Security Agency. The measures were strongly rebuked by the opposition and segments of the press as an attempt to discredit the secret intelligence service and cast a negative shadow on the policies of previous governments.[33][34]

Freedom of the press violations[edit]

The first SDS government was the target of widespread criticism due to allegations of meddling in the independence of the press.[35] The first SDS government has been accused of politicising the independent press by appointing political allies[36] to leadership and journalist positioned in the state Slovenian Press Agency,[31][37] daily newspaper Delo,[31][37] regional newspaper Primorske novice,[37] and public media and broadcasting organisation, RTV Slovenia.[31][37] State-owned companies also ceased purchasing adverts in the daily newspaper Dnevnik and weekly political magazine Mladina, two publications critical of the administration.[31] By changing the laws governing the administration of the public broadcaster RTV Slovenia, the government enabled increased political control of the state media organisation's editorial board and its board of directors by increasing the number of board members appointed by the government.[31][38] The law faced a referendum challenge, but was approved by a tight margin as it also promised to lower compulsory contributions for the broadcaster's funding.[39] In 2007, over five hundred journalists launched a petition against political pressures on the media. The petition accused premier Janša of limiting press freedom in particular, but was aimed against all infringements against press freedom by either government, political actors in general, or media company owners.[40][41] The International Press Institute voiced support for the petition and called on the government to create an independent body to investigate the claims of media influence.[42]

SDS rejected accusations of impropriety, claiming the media was in fact controlled by leftist opposition groups.[35][43]

Economy and finance[edit]

The first Cabinet of Janez Janša oversaw a period of rapid economic growth. GDP grew by nearly 5% between 2004 and 2006, reaching nearly 7% growth in 2007,[44] making it the fastest-growing eurozone member for that year.[45] The economic boom, however, was highly dependent on private debt, particularly corporate debt.[44]

The Ministry of Finance, headed by Andrej Bajuk, passed comprehensive tax reform, lowering corporate taxes and taxes on juridical persons, and the tax burden on individual incomes, flattening income tax margin progression, and simplifying the tax code. It oversaw the implementation of the Euro, privatisation of state-owned NKBM bank, lowering public expenditure, and increasing budget surpluses.[46]

2008–2011: in opposition[edit]

In the 2008 parliamentary election (held on 21 September 2008) narrowly lost against the Social Democrats, until then the main opposition party. It also lost one seat in Slovenian Parliament, falling to 28.[47]

With the election of the Social Democrat leader Borut Pahor as Prime Minister of Slovenia, the Slovenian Democratic Party officially declared it would stay in opposition and form a shadow cabinet. The shadow government was formed in late December 2008, and it includes several independent members as well as members from other conservative parties.[48]

In the 2009 European election, the SDS was the most popular party in Slovenia with 26.9% of votes, more than eight points ahead of the second-most popular party, the ruling Social Democrats.[49]

In 2009, the MP Franc Pukšič left the Slovenian Democratic Party and joined the Slovenian People's Party; the SDS parliamentary group was thus reduced from 28 to 27 MPs.[50]

2012–2013: a year in power (second Janša Cabinet)[edit]

In the 2011 snap parliamentary election (held on 4 December after the centre-left governing coalition collapsed due to internal conflict and inefficacy in passing meaningful economic reforms), SDS won 26.19% of the vote, gaining 26 seats in the National Assembly, thus making SDS the second-largest parliamentary party after the newly formed centre-left party, Positive Slovenia (PS) (headed by Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković), which won 28 MPs (28.5% of the total).[51][52][53] However, SDS succeeded in forming a ruling four-party coalition government (which included the Civic List, New Slovenia, Slovenian People's Party, and Democratic Party of Pensioners of Slovenia) (holding a combined total of 50 out of 90 parliamentary seats) some two months after the election after PS failed to form a coalition with a parliamentary majority. The coalition took power amid an alarming economic downturn (European debt crisis),[52] the worst in the independent country's history.[citation needed] The country's economic woes were further exacerbated by credit agencies' lowering of Slovenia's credit rating amid the political tumult.[52]

The coalition, headed by SDS, undertook drastic economic and financial reforms in an attempt to halt the economic downturn. Finance Minister Janez Šuštaršič pledged to speed up privatisation of state enterprises, cut public spending, and reduce budget shortfalls.[54] Janša additionally pledged to cut taxes, remove regulations, lower the deficit, and raise the retirement age.[45] The coalition passed laws transferring all state-owned enterprises into a single state holding company to accelerate privatisation efforts, and created a bad bank that would take on non-performing loans from the bad debt-ridden state-owned banks.[55] It intended to cut profit and income taxes to boost the economy,[56][57] and enact constitutional changes demanding balance budgets.[57] It also passed sweeping and highly contentious austerity measures (the Law of Public Finance Balance (Slovene: Zakon o uravnovešenju javnih financ (ZUJF))), and reportedly planned further cuts to state spending.[44][58] The ZUJF fiscal consolidation law included provisions lowering pensions (widely opposed by the public[59]), cutting wages for public sector employees, reducing education funding, social transfers and benefits.[60][44][61] The draft of the law sparked a public sector general strike,[44] and the law faced the possibility of a referendum.[62][61]

The SDS-led government proved impotent in stemming the economic troubles facing the nation. Despite the momentous reforms efforts, the economic troubles intensified, resulting in increasing levels of unemployment, plunging living standards, a fall in domestic spending, and large budget deficits.[63][44][53] The fall in domestic demand, coupled with falling exports, resulted in a double dip recession.[64][65][66] A later report alleges that the sharp downturn in Slovenian economic outlook was a result of Janša's overdramatic public statements regarding the economic fitness of the nation. Janša reportedly made such ominous claims for political purposes as means of solidifying political power and as a negotiating strategy to strengthen his hand during negotiations with public sector unions. The PM's eerie pronouncements were taken at face value by foreign observers, however, creating a self-fulfilling feedback loop where gloomy statements made by top Slovene officials created more panic and dismay in the foreign press and various organisations, and vice versa, resulting in falling credit ratings and asset prices, and excessive capital injections/bailouts with funds borrowed at excessively high interest rates.[67]

Janša also faced graft charges even before ascending to the premiership in 2012. He was one of the defendants being tried for corruption as result of a 2006 bribery scandal involving charges of accepting kickbacks to fund his party's electoral campaign.[52][68]

In late 2012, protests began to take place in Slovenia's second largest city, Maribor, against its mayor and SDS ally, Franc Kangler, who was being investigated due to allegations of corruption.[69][70] The protests soon picked up momentum and spread across the country, becoming the largest in the independent republic's history. Protestors' main grievances were the harsh austerity measures imposed by the ruling government, looming sale-offs of state enterprises, and allegations of widespread corruption among the ruling elite. The protests also saw the worst violence in the nation's history as an independent state, with small groups of young, violent extremists - likely members of far-right and hooligan groups - clashing with police.[71][72][73][74][53] In early 2013, the instability and public resentment was compounded after the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption revealed both PM Janez Janša and the leader of the largest opposition party (PS), Zoran Janković, violated anti-corruption laws by failing to report or account for assets in their possession and received income/payments.[75][76] Media reports alleging Slovenian Intelligence and Security Agency was "infiltrated" by members of SDS also surfaced.[77] Amid continuing anti-government protests,[78] a strike of public sector workers,[76] and the lowest public opinion ratings of any government in the nation's history,[79][80][81][82] coalition partners began to depart from the coalition.[83][78][63] The government finally collapsed after a vote of no confidence, and a PS consensus candidate, Alenka Bratušek, was appointed as PM despite continuing protests demanding a snap election.[84][85][64][53]

2013–: return to opposition[edit]

On 20 March 2013, the second Janša cabinet was replaced by the cabinet of Alenka Bratušek, a four-party centre-left coalition led by the new leader of Positive Slovenia, Alenka Bratušek.[85][64][53]

In June 2013, Janša was convicted in the Patria case, but appealed the verdict. In April 2014, the Higher Court upheld the two-year jail sentence passed on Janez Janša as result of the bribery conviction.[86][87] In June of that year, Janša began serving out his sentence, 26 years after his imprisonment for leaking military secrets as a whistle-blower (his imprisonment, trial, and public reaction were a milestone in the Slovenian path to independence). Despite his imprisonment, Janša stood as candidate for MP.[88]

In the May 2014 European Parliament election, SDS came in first place nationally, garnering 24.78% of the vote,[89][90] and winning three MEP seats (out of eight allocated for Slovenia).[91]

The party received 20.69% of the vote in the snap Slovenian parliamentary election held on 13 July 2014, and won 21 seats in parliament.[92] The party remained in opposition, this time to the cabinet of Miro Cerar.[93] Janez Janša was reelected as MP despite being imprisoned. The Constitutional Court decided not to deprive Janša of his MP mandate, and Janša was allowed leave while carrying out his political functions.[94] The Constitutional Court suspended Janša's jail sentence in December, pending the ruling regarding his appeal of the Patria verdict.[95] The Constitutional Court decided to annul the Higher Court's decision in April 2015, returning it to the lower courts for retrial.[96] In September of the same year, the statute of limitations of the Patria case expired.[97]

SDS representatives expressed the belief that the trial was politically motivated and that the imprisonment of the party frontman unfairly hindered their election efforts, declaring the elections illegitimate and "stolen", and demanded fresh elections.[98][99][100] In 2018, SDS sued the state for alleged financial damages the party incurred due to the alleged election "theft".[101][100]

With a campaign largely based on anti-immigration populist rhetoric, SDS topped public opinion polls heading into the 2018 parliamentary election.[102] The incendiary electoral campaign sparked a rally under the title "Without Fear — Against the Politics of Hatred", with some 2,000-3,000 heart-shaped balloon-carrying marchers in attendance.[103][104][105]

During the 2018 electoral campaign, SDS also begun to send postable questionnaires ("voter consults") to Slovene households. The questionnaires contained loaded questions and proposals (e.g. "... Do you support SDS's proposal that the healthcare system be set in order?"). The effort was apparently part of the party's electoral campaign, and likely fashioned on Hungarian "national consultations", which the country's ruling party has practiced for years.[106][107][108]

SDS once again emerged as winner in the 2018 parliamentary election, garnering 24.92% of the vote and winning 25 MP seats.[109] President Borut Pahor announced he would afford Janša the mandate to form a coalition government, however, it appeared unlikely he would be successful in doing so, most parties having declared they do not intend to enter into a coalition with SDS. Janša declared he would be willing to relinquish his post as PM designate to some other SDS MP if this would ease tensions and enable SDS to form a coalition government. The second largest party, the List of Marjan Šarec, said it had already started informal talks to form a coalition excluding SDS days after the election.[110] Some two weeks after the 2018 election, Janša again met with Hungarian PM Orban during a private visit in Budapest. Janša and Orban also held a conference call with US president Donald Trump during the meeting.[111]

Shadow Cabinet[edit]

In July 2015 Slovenian Democratic Party, as the biggest party of the official opposition, formed The Shadow Cabinet, which is actually a party structure. Members of the Shadow Cabinet are the following:[citation needed]

  • President: Janez Janša (former Prime Minister, former President of the European Council, former Minister of Defence, President of the Slovenian Democratic Party, MP)
  • Finance: Andrej Šircelj (former State Secretary, MP)
  • Justice: Vinko Gorenak (former Minister of Interior, former State Secretary, MP)
  • Foreign Affairs: Milan Zver (former Minister of Education, MEP)
  • Economical Development and Technology: Andrej Vizjak (former Minister of Economy, former Minister of Labour, Family and Social Affairs, former State Secretary, former MP)
  • Labour, Family and Social Affairs: Romana Tomc (former State Secretary, former Deputy Speaker, former MP, MEP)
  • Education, Science and Sport: Borut Rončević (university professor)
  • Culture: Vasko Simoniti (former Minister of Culture, university professor)
  • Defence: Aleš Hojs (former Minister of Defence)
  • Infrastructure and Spatial Planning: Zvonko Černač (former Minister of Infrastructure, former MP, Vice-president of the Slovenian Democratic Party)
  • Agriculture and Environment: Matjaž Kočar (former State Secretary)
  • Interior: Božo Predalič (former Secretary-General of the Government)
  • Public Administration: Fidel Krupič
  • Health: Alenka Forte
  • Slovenians Abroad and Slovenians in Neighbouring Countries: Miro Petek (former MP)

Ideology[edit]

Populism[edit]

During the European migrant crisis, SDS sharply intensified its nationalist populist rhetoric.[102][112][113] The party came out in opposition of migrant quotas and advocated shifting resources from non-governmental organisations to increase security spending.[114] Janša furthermore lambasted the "degenerate left".[115][102] The party's heated rhetoric and allegations of corrupt practices have led "to concerns among international observers about the direction of Slovenia, which is generally regarded as a regional success story" as SDS topped opinion polls heading into the 2018 parliamentary election.[102]

The party has also co-opted US President Donald Trump's populist rhetoric,[115] with Janša and the party frequently echoing Trump's catchphrases "drain the swamp",[102] "deep state",[116][117] and "fake news".[103][118] The party has also proposed requiring that for each new regulation, two existing regulations must be repealed,[119] a proposal notably advocated for and enacted by Trump.[120] Janša has also used the phrase "Slovenia first" on several occasions.[121][115][122][123]

Domestic policy[edit]

Economic policy[edit]

SDS has been described as broadly pro-market,[22] and its economic policies have been characterised as neoliberal.[123] SDS advocates for lower taxes and speeding up privatisation efforts.[121]

Social policy[edit]

SDS introduced legislation allowing for same-sex civil unions while in government,[22] but has opposed recognition of same-sex marriages.[124][125]

Education policy[edit]

SDS advocates for the introduction of educational programs that would foster patriotism "from kindergarten through high school".[126] The party supports full public financing of private school compulsory programs.[127]

National security[edit]

In early 2016, SDS proposed the establishment of a national guard composed of some 25,000 "patriotic" volunteers. The guard would replace all current reserve formations of the Slovene armed forces, would be under direct command of the general staff, and would be mobilised during natural disasters or during "altered national security states" (like the European refugee crisis, which was ongoing at the time). Both sexes could enlist. MP Žan Mahnič stated the establishment of the formation was a priority of the party's electoral platform. The proposal was prompted by worsening global national security prospects, in part due to the migrant crisis, a SDS representative said.[128] Government representatives argued that such a formation is unnecessary as the current reserve formations are sufficient.[129]

Judiciary and law enforcement[edit]

SDS advocates for trials to be open to the public (except in special circumstances).[130]

Other policies[edit]

SDS has long advocated for a change in the Slovene parliamentary electoral system, namely the shift from the current proportional electoral system to two-round plurality voting. SDS argues this would result in more stable and effective governments.[131][132]

SDS supports citizens' legal right to bear arms, and has come out in opposition to further restrictions. It strongly opposed new EU regulation of firearms which the European Commission moved to pass after the 2015 Paris terrorist attacks.[133][134][135][136]

SDS argues the current text to the Slovene national anthem—the 7th stanza of France Prešeren's A Toast ("Blessed be all nations/Which yearn to see the light of day/When where'er the Sun doth wander/The lands' strife shall be cast away/And when free every kinsman will be/Not fiends, only neighbours in foreigners we'll see!")—is "too internationalistic, and insufficiently patriotic", and advocates other stanzas from Prešeren's poem be added as text to the official anthem.[137][138][139] The party also advocates banning "all public expression of ideas through use of totalitarian symbols" and "all public displays of affection for totalitarian regimes".[138][139] The party has denied accusations that it is merely attempting to outlaw the red star,[140] which was the symbol of the Slovene Partisans during WWII,[141] and is still often used in the Slovenian public sphere,[142][143][144] including as a symbol/logo of political and parliamentary parties.[145][146] The proposed law would not, on the other hand, ban wearing Nazi uniforms in public or displaying symbols associated with the Nazi-aligned anti-Partisan Slovene Home Guard.[141]

Foreign policy[edit]

The party is pro-European,[22] but staunchly anti-immigration and strongly opposed to EU asylum quotas.[121]

Post-communist cabal conspiracy[edit]

Perhaps the most peculiar aspect of SDS ideology are the unique beliefs and rhetoric frequently employed by members of the party. The central tenet of the party's view regarding the country's political situation is that a sinister clique composed mostly of leftist former communist party officials has retained significant control over the economic, financial, political, social, judicial, and journalistic aspects of Slovenian public life. Some of the beliefs and language used are also shared by other right-wing populist political actors, or have entered into the mainstream political discourse.[147][148][36][123][citation needed]

SDS members and affiliates frequently employ particular phrases and concepts to represent their world-view, most notably:

  • "Udbomafia" (from UDBA, the Yugoslav secret police service) – a portmanteau neologism coined in the early 1990s to refer to an alleged cabal of former Slovenian Communist Party members, and UDBA informants and collaborators that supposedly still hold the reigns of economic and political control. The phrase is often used by SDS and affiliated publications.[148][149][150][151][152][153][154]
  • "Uncles from behind the scenes" (or "godfathers from behind the scenes") – alleged sponsors and influencers of prominent Slovene politicians who are said to merely act as fronts for the vested political and economic interests of the "uncles". Former PMs Miro Cerar,[155] and Alenka Bratušek,[156] PS head Zoran Janković,[157] and anti-establishment newcomer Marjan Šarec[158] are some of the politicians accused of having "uncles from behind the scenes". The phrase was also occasionally used by former PM and President Borut Pahor, on one occasion accusing the "uncles" of attempting to topple his premiership.[159][159] Milan Kučan, who is most often accused of being the foremost "uncle from behind the scenes", demanded Pahor clarify his insinuation.[160] Pahor also accused his main 2017 presidential election challenger, Marjan Šarec, of being well looked after by the "uncles". Šarec likewise demanded Pahor clarify his statements, but also did not receive an answer.[161]
  • Milan Kučan – the former two-time President of Slovenia and last leader of the League of Communists of Slovenia is frequently accused by SDS of exerting supreme covert influence on the Slovenian political space.[123][148][162][163][164] Politicians allegedly under Kučan's influence include New Slovenia leader Ljudmila Novak and 2018 newcomer Marjan Šarec,[165][166] former PM Alenka Bratušek and Ljubljana mayor and PS leader Zoran Janković,[167][157] and others. Janša was fined €12,000 after labelling two female RTV Slovenia journalists as "cheap, used-up prostitutes" of "#pimpMilan" [Kučan] in a tweet.[168][169][170]
  • Forum 21 – a Slovenian liberal think tank established by Milan Kučan and attended by prominent members of the Slovenian political and economic elite to discuss relevant problems facing the nation.[171][172][163] SDS has accused the think tank of undue influence in appointment and policy decisions of liberal governments.[173][174][175]
  • Murgle – the upscale Murgle residential district known for its one-story houses is home to many prominent Slovenian political and economic figures, including former liberal presidents Milan Kučan (often the main target of allusions to "Murgle") and Janez Drnovšek (deceased), former PM Miro Cerar, and Liberation Front partisan and last president of the SR Slovenia, Janez Stanovnik, among others.[176] "Murgle" is thus another reference to the alleged behind-the-scenes influence exerted by the country's ostensibly retired leftist elites. Upon being sentenced to a two-year prison sentence in the Patria corruption case, Janez Janša stated that the verdict was "written in advance in Murgle and by known authors".[162] SDS later labelled the 2014 parliamentary election as illegitimate due to the conviction and resulting concurring prison term of Janša.[177][178][99] Janša also blamed "Murgle" after prosecutors filed a motion to confiscate Janša's illegally obtained holdings.[179] As part of its 2018 electoral campaign, SDS released an ad where a couple orders pizza delivery from SDS and "Pizza Murgle". The Murgle box is revealed to only contain half a pizza.[180][181][182] SDS-affiliated[183] Nova24TV news portal also promoted videos entitled "Murgle Puppet Theatre", which satirically portrayed a closed-door meeting presided over by Milan Kučan discussing political strategy with recently resigned PM Miro Cerar (leader of ruling Modern Centre Party), Agriculture Minister Dejan Židan (leader of the Social Democrats), Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec (leader of DeSUS), and Marjan Šarec (leader of the List of Marjan Šarec).[184][185]

Other radical beliefs[edit]

Some SDS members and functionaries have also been known to express other fringe beliefs. Slovene philosopher Slavoj Žižek, writing about the beliefs associated with the party while commenting on the 2018 parliamentary election results, quotes Bernard Brščič, characterising him as one of the party's "main ideologists". Brščič, writing in the SDS party publication, Demokracija, stated that Hungarian billionaire philanthropist George Soros (who is of Jewish descent) is "one of the most depraved and dangerous people of our time" as he is facilitating the "invasion of the negroid and Semitic hordes and thereby for the twilight of the EU … as a typical talmudo-Zionist, he is a deadly enemy of the Western civilisation, nation state and white, European man." Continuing, Brščič writes that Soros is building a "rainbow coalition composed of social marginals like faggots, feminists, Muslims and work-hating cultural Marxists" to perform "a deconstruction of the nation-state, and transform EU into a multicultural dystopia of the United States of Europe."[186]

Brščič has also caused controversy by denying the Holocaust in a TV appearance, drawing condemnation of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.[187] Brščič, speaking as a guest on Nova24TV, described the "alleged" Holocaust as a Jewish ploy intended to cause collective guilt so that a "multicultural dystopia" could be established.[188] After widespread condemnation in the public sphere, Nova24TV web portal published two articles labeling the criticism as a "pogrom" against Brščič and claiming WWII was a ploy by Jewish bankers to help facilitate the establishment of a Jewish state by martyring fellow Jews.[189][190][191] Brščič has also expressed a multitude of other questionable views,[189] and has called for a replacement of the Slovenian "vaseline right with an alternative, alt-right right".[192] Bernard Brščič is an economist and a former professor of economics at the Ljubljana School of Economics, a former state secretary of the Second Janša Cabinet, president of the board of the Jože Pučnik Institute, and one of the key supporters of SDS.[193][189][194][195] Brščič is a frequent commentator and columnist, particularly in SDS-affiliated publications.[196][197] He also wrote the foreword to Manifesto for the Homeland, a book published by the Slovene branch of the alt-right Identitarian movement (the book was published by SDS-affiliated Nova obzorja publishing company).[198]

SDS MP Branko Grims, speaking to a gathering of a patriotic ultranationalist group in early 2018, said "Now is the era of Trump. He is the greatest thorn in the foot of the globalists, who control the US mechanisms, with Soros at the helm. Soros is the symbol of this. But there's also the Rothschilds and many other wealthiest families of financial speculators."[199] SDS MP Marijan Pojbič, in a 2017 Statehood Day address on Facebook, called for "No more mayors that aren't real Slovenes, and even fewer national politicians who aren't real Slovenes by birth."[200]

After the 2011 parliamentary elections, which saw the victory of Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković (who is of Serbian descent) and his party,[201][202] a contribution published on the official SDS webpage by a "Tomaž Majer" caused considerable public outrage.[203][204][205][206] Majer states that Janković was elected by "well-disciplined new citizens" living in "high-rise neighbourhoods", tracksuit-clad voters (in Slovenia, a common stereotype of immigrés from Southern republics[citation needed]) with foreign accents arriving at polling places in groups holding notes with instructions on who to vote for. These "new citizens" were allegedly mobilised by being admonished their citizenship will be revoked if "the right" is elected.[207][202] Majer further states that one of his acquaintances (who is of Bosnian descent) was even offered monetary reward to vote for Janković. Majer also claims that the roughly 1/3 of Janković voters of Slovenian descent were ordered to vote for PS by Milan Kučan and Janez Stanovnik.[208] Several media organisations attempted to identify the author, but were unsuccessful.[202][209][210] It has been speculated that the real author of the text was in fact Janez Janša, based on similar known past statements (specifically, his 1993 commentary on the poor electoral performance of SDS during the 1992 elections).[202] In the wake of the 2011 election, Janša and several other SDS MPs and candidates expressed similar but somewhat toned-down nationalistic sentiments while commenting on the election and its winner.[202] The public reaction culminated in a "March of the Tracksuits", a rally where participants attended clothed in tracksuits to protest against division and intolerance.[205][206]

Lucija Šikovec Ušaj, a prominent Slovene lawyer, SDS MP candidate during the 2018 parliamentary election,[211] and regular columnist on SDS-affiliated Nova24TV[212] has on multiple occasions voiced opinions favourable to neo-nazis through her tweets. After neo-nazis disrupted a controversial theatre performance by a Slovene theatre director in the Czech Republic in May 2018,[213] Ušaj declared that "Lately, neonazis have more brains and taste than anyone else!"[214] After propaganda posters bearing Nazi imagery (including Gothic script, and a swastika overlaid over the municipality seal) and the message "For family, For country, For race" were posted across Velenje in June 2018,[215][216] Ušaj mused "What's wrong with being for family, country, and race?", going on to explain "... regarding race, everyone probably supports one's own" and "migrants are not of my race".[211] She also retweeted an animated image of Ralph Fiennes shooting a sniper rifle (cut from a scene from the film Schindler's List, where Fiennes portrays a concentration camp commandant shooting internees for sport) in July 2018, writing "What a man......".[211] Additionally, Ušaj retweeted an anti-feminist tweet by "Nazi sympathizer" Mark Collett in June 2018,[tweet 1][217] with Ušaj's retweet later also retweeted by Janša.[citation needed]

Organization and political affiliation[edit]

As of 2013, SDS membership numbered some 30,000 strong, more than any other political party in Slovenia.[218] Slovenian Democratic Youth (Slovene: Slovenska demokratska mladina, SDM) is the independent and autonomous youth wing of the party.[219]

The party is affiliated with the Jože Pučnik Institute, the major liberal-conservative think tank in Slovenia.[220][221][222][223][224] It is also closely affiliated with the civic platform Rally for the Republic (Zbor za republiko).[225][226][227] Committee 2014 (Slovene: Odbor 2014) is a civic organisation that was established to protest and demand the overturn of the corruption convictions in the Patria case, the freeing of SDS leader Janez Janša from prison (sentence resuling from the conviction), and the "actual implementation of the rule of law, human rights, basic freedoms, and establishment of a democratic society".[228][229] Committee 2014 held regular protests in front of the Higher Court building in Ljubljana.[228][229] The Alliance for the Values of Slovene Independence (Slovene: Združenje za vrednote Slovenske osamosvojitve, VSO) is a patriotic veteran non-governmental organisation intended to commemorate the values of the Slovenian independence movement.[230][231] VSO leadership consists of prominent SDS members and associates. The organisation holds public speaking events, commemorations, and is engaged in other activities as well.[231][232][233]

SDS has seen some support from the Slovene Catholic Church.[22] The party is supported by and closely affiliated with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (Fidesz).[35][234][7][112][103][114][235][236]

Affiliated publications[edit]

SDS is also affiliated with several current and past publications, including its de facto party publication, Demokracija,[237] and tabloid Škandal24[238] (both owned by Nova Obzorja (English: "New Horizonts") publishing company, which is in turn jointly owned by SDS and a Hungarian publishing company with close ties to Hungary's ruling party, Fidesz).[237][35] The publishing company has profited from providing literature to, and advising the SDS parliamentary group/SDS MPs (activities for which parliamentary groups receive state funds), and has also benefited financially from doing business with government agencies, which were particularly bountiful while SDS was in government.[239] Nova24TV, a media conglomerate consisting of a television channel and online news portal, was established by SDS MPs and members, and party sympathisers, and later also received financial injections from Hungarian Fidesz-affiliated companies.[240][35] Additionally, the SDS-friendly political web portal Politikis is also owned and managed by a close SDS associate.[37][241][242] Slovenski tednik and Ekspres, free newspapers distributed in the run-up to the 2008 parliamentary election, were also later found to have been directly linked to SDS and its electoral efforts.[37][39][243] As with Slovenski tednik and Ekspres, Škandal24 announced it will cease print publication the day after the 2018 parliamentary election, only continuing as an online publication.[244]

Supporters and affiliates[edit]

The party enjoys strong support in some Slovene conservative and classical liberal intellectual circles. Public figures who have publicly voiced support for SDS or affiliated themselves with the party include economist Ljubo Sirc (joined the party in 2010),[245] philosopher Ivan Urbančič,[246][247][248] historians Vasko Simoniti[249][250] and Alenka Puhar,[251][252][253] writer and essayist Drago Jančar,[254][255] theologian and philosopher Janez Juhant,[256][257] and poet Tone Kuntner.[258] Public supporters of the party also include sportsmen Miran Pavlin,[259][260] and Katja Koren,[261][262] pop singer Marta Zore,[263] designer and cartoonist Miki Muster,[264] and actor Roman Končar.[265]

In 2008, SDS was found to have falsely attributed "supporter status" to many prominent Slovenes on its webpage. The party sent a request to comment on the ruling government for its party newspaper to numerous notable public figures. Though they were never asked whether they support the party or informed they will be listed as supporters, SDS nevertheless listed them as such.[266]

Former supporters and affiliates[edit]

Former supporters or affiliated individuals, now party critics and dissidents, include one of the fathers of the current Slovenian Constitution, Peter Jambrek,[267][268][269][270] the former chairman of Rally for the Republic[271] and Civic List party leader[272] Gregor Virant,[273] and liberal economist Jože P. Damijan.[274][275][276][277] Miha Brejc became persona non grata after his son-in-law Gregor Virant distanced himself from Janša and established the Civic List.[278] Former public supporters also include sportsman Miran Pavlin.[259][260]

Controversies and criticism[edit]

Ties to extremist groups[edit]

SDS has been criticised for alleged links to a neo-Nazi extremist group; the Slovene branch of Blood & Honour.[103][279] The journalist who uncovered the links (Anuška Delić) was charged with leaking confidential information.[279][103] The state intelligence agency, SOVA, headed by an SDS appointee at the time of the indictment,[280] inadvertently confirmed allegations made by Delić by stating that the information revealed in the reports was consistent with findings of an ongoing investigation into the activities of the violent extremist group.[281][282] SOVA argued that the information revealed in the reports could not have been obtained by any other means than by gaining access to information collected during the agency's covert investigations, and that the publication disrupted its efforts to monitor the group by alerting B & H of the monitoring efforts.[283][284] Delić alleged the charges were "politically motivated".[285][286]

Some Blood & Honour members were allegedly also members of SDS,[287][288] and formally met with SDS MP Branko Grims.[287][289] The group (the members of which allegedly received training by members of the Slovenian armed forces on an army training area, borrowed army weaponry (a rocket launcher), attempted to purchase handguns, and were in direct correspondence with Anders Breivik by both mail and e-mail, with multiple B & H members receiving his manifesto before Breivik's killing spree[289][290]) was allegedly intimately implicated in orchestrating the violent riots which took place amid the 2012–13 Slovenian protests.[289][290] The organised group of violent agitators that disrupted a major protest in Ljubljana was also suspected of having been trained, hired, and compensated, possibly by a political party, according to unofficial sources within the police.[291]

More recently, SDS has also fostered close ties with Generation Identity Slovenia, the Slovenian chapter of the far-right Identitarian movement organisations.[292] In August 2018, the party's publishing company, New Horizons,[293] anonymously published the Slovene Identitarians' alt-right book, Manifesto for the Homeland.[294][295] The book was also promoted by SDS-affiliated media organisations and individuals, including SDS leader Janez Janša,[296][297][298] with SDS MP Žan Mahnič even going so far as to post on Twitter a photo of the book taken from his parliamentary seat, with the floor of the parliamentary chamber in the background.[299]

Political self-dealing accusations[edit]

The party has been accused of political self-dealing and nepotism, appointing relatives, allies, and friends to government (and other) positions. Many close relatives of prominent SDS members have found employment in the Slovenian and European parliaments, high ranking public sector positions, and state-owned companies (some despite not meeting the official job requirements).[31][300][301][302][303]

SDS has been accused of political firings and replacements in, and selective financing of many institutions under the public sphere, and creating an environment where politisation of the public workplace was permissible and pervasive while in power.[304][303]

Cult of personality[edit]

SDS leader Janez Janša has continuously served as party head since 1993 without a single other contender for the post.[236] Party members are extremely loyal to Janša,[22] and it has often been noted that the party appears to resemble a cult,[305][306] a view also shared by numerous past members of the party who claim any dissent within the party is strongly rebuked.[307][308][309][310]

Campaign financing impropriety allegations[edit]

In the run-up to the 2018 Slovenian parliamentary election, SDS attempted to receive a loan of €450.000 from an individual residing in Bosnia and Herzegovina[311] to fund its electoral campaign. The party came into contact with the individual via Nova obzorja publishing company (partially owned by SDS). SDS also put up its share in Nova obzorja as collateral.[312] The sum borrowed exceeded limits set by campaign finance laws, however, and SDS was obliged to return the borrowed funds. A police and financial court investigation was also triggered after the terms of the loan became public.[313] An investigation into the lender was also launched, based on suspicions of money laundering, tax avoidance, destruction and falsification of business documents, and overseeing dummy companies.[314][315] The individual was allegedly a part of a criminal organisation managing dummy companies that received funds of undisclosed origins (including the funds later loaned to SDS).[315][316]

Less than a week before the 2018 parliamentary election took place, it was revealed that media/publishing companies closely affiliated and partially owned by SDS received some €800.000 from two Hungarian nationals (or, rather, their companies) - both with close ties to Hungarian president Viktor Orbán - months before the election, bringing the total amount SDS-affiliated media companies received from Hungarian entities to over €2.2M. The SDS-affiliated media companies that received the funds in turn purchased campaign adds for SDS. Nova obzorja publishing company also attempted to loan €60,000 to the party. The same Hungarian individuals also provided funds for political allies in Makedonia. It is furthermore also known that the loan SDS attempted to obtain from a Bosnian citizen some months earlier had a Hungarian connection.[35][103][183][317][318][319][235][118]

Parliamentary representation[edit]

Electoral performance[edit]

Election Votes % Seats +/– Position Government
1990 79,951 7.4
6 / 80
Increase 6 Increase 7th Coalition
1992 39,675 3.3
4 / 90
Decrease 2 Decrease 8th Coalition
1996 172,470 16.3
16 / 90
Increase 12 Increase 3rd Opposition
2000 170,228 15.8
14 / 90
Decrease 2 Increase 2nd Opposition
2004 281,710 29.0
29 / 90
Increase 15 Increase 1st Coalition
2008 307,735 29.2
28 / 90
Decrease 1 Decrease 2nd Opposition
2011 288,719 26.1
26 / 90
Decrease 2 Steady 2nd Coalition
(2012–2013)
Opposition
(2013–2014)
2014 181,052 20.7
21 / 90
Decrease 5 Steady 2nd Opposition
2018 222,042 24.9
25 / 90
Increase 4 Increase 1st Opposition

Party leaders[edit]

Presidents of the Social Democratic Party and Slovenian Democratic Party

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Tweets[edit]

  1. ^ @lucijausaj (June 28, 2018). "lucija usaj on Twitter" (Tweet) – via Twitter.

External links[edit]

Sources[edit]