Is the “Orbánisation” of Slovenia really the worst thing that could happen to the country?

, by Veronika Snoj

Is the “Orbánisation” of Slovenia really the worst thing that could happen to the country?
Janez Janša in 2017. Photograph: European People’s Party // Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Slovenia has a new government which is its 13th in 27 years of its independence, headed by Marjan Šarec. Many sighed with relief with the outcome, as Janez Janša, unjustifiably called “Slovene Orbán”, leader of the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), who took first place in the June elections, had to step down due to lack of support among the elected deputies.

But although his party has some anti-immigrant inclinations, which are sometimes, let’s admit it, completely legitimate, it has also a vision of Slovenia’s development which could be extremely beneficial for the future of this tiny EU country. However, the same cannot be said for Šarec’s government.

Billboards saying that a migrant cost a Slovene taxpayer at least 1963 EUR per month and a visit paid to the party’s president by the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán picture at the first glance a xenophobic and murky future for Slovenia if the misfortune befalls it to be ruled by the Slovenian Democratic Party.

The grim picture is confirmed by the party’s web magazine and TV channel Nova24 which are full of intolerant speech against refugees and migrants reaching Europe from Northern Africa and the Middle East, with the final touch being the words of the Slovene former prime minister Miro Cerar sho pronounced himself against the “orbanisation” of Slovenia, and said that the fact that nobody wants to step into a coalition with Janša is only a proof of what kind of a party SDS is.

Anti-immigrant policies are only the darkest side of the party’s campaign

But we should not forget that migration policy represents only a part of a party’s campaign. It only had the bad luck of being under the spotlight due to the European migrant crisis of the last three years. And we should also put it out that the word “orbanisation” is, despite everything mentioned above, still too strong for describing the policies of his party. The party members have regularly pointed out in the past years the completely legitimate question of how (un)prepared Slovenia is for accepting a potentially larger number of migrants if something like in autumn 2015 happens again.

We should recall that Janša has a positive attitude towards the EU and he clearly expressed his belief that Slovenia’s membership in this community is beneficial for the country. His party also has a vision of boosting the Slovenian economy by loosening up taxes for companies, generating a favourable environment for start-ups, and the modification of the education system for a greater adaptation to the labor market, among other suggestions.

But as a coalition could not be established, the future of Slovenia took a completely different path.

The new coalition is lost without The Left

Šarec’s centre-left party List of Marjan Šarec (LMŠ) is to be joined in government by the Social Democrats, the Modern Centre Party, Desus and the party of the former prime minister Alenka Bratušek. However, together they managed to scratch only 43 seats out of 90 and therefore, only with an additional support can the coalition count on the majority in the parliament.

And here is when a newcomer comes into play: The Left. Although it managed to keep away from the coalition, it had a strong influence on the forming of the coalition agreement, as it succeeded in signing an agreement with the coalition parties.

In it the The Left states that it is an opposition party which in principle supports the government but it can withdraw its support in case the coalition acts against the party’s goals, that is privatisation of state-owned enterprises, reducing employees’ rights, increasing social inequalities, subordinating learning processes to the economy, higher expenditure on the defense sector, and entering of foreign capital into the Slovenian infrastructure, among other issues.

Its traces are therefore clearly visible in the new coalition agreement: from the health system management and defence development to higher taxes, minimum wages, and pensions. What caused the greatest stir among Slovene entrepreneurs was the call for elevating the tax burden of companies, with some heads of the biggest companies suggesting leaving the country and starting to invest their capital in a “more predictable environment” due to the possible unrealistically high taxation. Such a move could lead to a higher number of unemployed people in the country, which would burden even more the state’s budget, to mention only one consequence. Goodbye, new boosting economy. Is that really the price we are prepared to pay to avoid the misstated “orbanisation” Slovenia could face instead?

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