Right-wing conservative politician Janez Janša was embroiled in corruption scandals. Now he is to form a new center-right government.
Could soon also be EU Council president: Janez Janša Photo: Jure Makovec/afp
Conservative Slovenian politician Janez Janša has the chance to form a new government in Slovenia. President Borut Pahor gave him the green light this week. Now he must form a new coalition government within 14 days. This marks the return of one of southeastern Europe’s most colorful politicians to the European spotlight. The friend and political ally of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban will strengthen the right-wing conservative Eastern European axis in the EU – Slovenia will take over the rotating presidency of the European Union in the second half of 2021.
Janez Janša is considered a controversial right-wing conservative politician in his home country who has also been involved in several corruption scandals. The center-left minority government under Marjan Šarec had failed after only one and a half years because Šarec, a comedian and actor, had sought new elections based on favorable polls.
But two parties from his governing alliance, the Party of the Modern Center (SMC) and the Pensioners’ Party Desus, did not go along. They feared for their existence in the event of new elections. And immediately conducted negotiations with Janez Janša and his party SDS, the Slovenian Democratic Party, which has been the strongest party in parliament since the 2018 elections. By switching sides, they can build a four-party alliance with the SDS and the New Slovenia party, which has a slim majority in parliament.
Janez Janša still belongs to the generation of politicians who experienced the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the war in 1991 in a leading position. As late as the 1980s, Janša described himself as a pacifist and was a member of the editorial board of the left-wing newspaper Mladina, but in reality he was already building up a Slovenian army underground in 1990, which was then in a position to fight the Yugoslav People’s Army when independence was proclaimed in June 1991. Janša became a national hero.
Janša built up underground army
After independence, Janša logically led the Ministry of Defense and built his party. When he lost the 1994 elections, he moved further to the right politically and ideologically, allying himself with Slovenia’s conservative anti-communist forces, which had fought the anti-fascist partisans on the side of the Germans during World War II.
At its core, Slovenia is still divided between anti-fascists and supporters of the Home Army; the discussion about history is still fought hard. Janša first became prime minister after winning the 2004 election, but lost the post only to regain it in 2012. But links to the Finnish company Patria, which allegedly paid bribes for a defense contract, heavily incriminated him and two associates.
Janša was sentenced to two years in prison; the sentence was later overturned by the Supreme Court, but his reputation was tarnished. It was only with the refugee crisis at the end of 2015 that he managed to make a comeback: He put himself at the forefront of populist currents and led his party to victory in 2018: It became the strongest faction in parliament, but was dependent on a coalition. But the smaller parties ignored him, and Marjan Šarec succeeded in forming a center-left government.
In addition to social measures such as higher pensions and free daycare centers, however, Janša now wants far-reaching changes. For example, he wants to reintroduce compulsory military service. But he wants to be especially active in the area of justice. His friend Orban could give him advice should he want to undermine the independence of the judiciary. One coalition partner, however, has already announced resistance: the SMC, the party of the modern center, does not want to go along with this.