Slovenia became a Member State of European Union on 1st May 2004. 2019 therefore marks the 15th anniversary of Slovenia’s EU membership. In 2003, when Slovenians voted to join the EU – with a 60% participation rate – almost 90% of Slovenians were in favor of joining the EU. Slovenians are still strong advocates of the EU and its values.
After fifteen years of membership, Slovenia is participating in European elections for the third time. With a relatively small population compared to other Member States, Slovenia sends eight MEPs to the European Parliament.
Slovenians known for low turnout
Despite the fact that, according to Eurobarometer figures, more than half of Slovenians believe that their voice counts, and are pro-EU, the turnout at EU elections in Slovenia is very low. At previous EU elections in 2014, only 24.55% of Slovenians participated, which ranked Slovenia as 25th out of 28 EU Member States for turnout. Even more worrying is that only 15% of young people participated in recent European elections. To address this, the European Parliament launched a campaign – ‘This time I’m voting’ – to raise turnout among young people. So far, the outlook is better – according to the latest figures, 44.3% of Slovenians are very likely to vote in the elections this year. On the other hand, we must also consider the fact that, at the previous EU elections, the forecast participation was almost as twice as high as the actual participation.
Among candidates in Slovenia, there is one foreigner, Angelika Mlinar (ALDE), who is former Member of the Austrian Parliament and a current MEP. Angelika Mlinar is calling for a common EU asylum and migration policy and points out the importance of discussing the social union – the consequences of digitisation, automation and artificial intelligence. Angelika Mlinar doesn’t have Slovene citizenship, which some people find problematic – she is criticized that she cannot commit to Slovenian interests.
In addition to nine parliamentary parties, five non-parliamentary parties are also standing for MEP positions. Among them is the party Gibanje Zedinjena Slovenija (United Slovenia), whose leader is the controversial Andrej Šiško, known for his self-styled paramilitary, which was formed last year. He is suspected of allegedly wanting to subvert the constitutional order.
Voters’ alter the order
In Slovenia, voters may cast preferential votes to change the order of the names on the list. The preferential voting method means that mandates are not allocated in the order in which they appear on the candidate list.
For example, in the 2004 elections, the current president of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, was the last candidate on the list ZLSD (now Social Democrats). He only entered the list because he wanted to support the list with his name, but he did not really want to become MEP. The power of preferential votes was clearly demonstrated in this case – at the will of voters, Pahor was chosen to be a MEP.
Although the voters can have an even bigger impact with preferential votes, elected MEPs still have to be confirmed by National Assembly. Confirmation is more or less merely a formality, and so far, no MEP has been rejected. However, any rejection could be appealed to the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Slovenia.
Last public opinion poll
The latest public opinion poll by Parsifal, a research agency, shows that the seats in the European Parliament will be split among 4 lists of MEP candidates. The leading list is the coalition SDS + SLS (EPP), which will, according to latest poll, get three out of the eight Slovenian seats. They are followed by LMŠ (ALDE) and SD (S&D), which will each get two seats, and NSi (also EPP), which will get one seat. However, opinion polls are to be taken carefully, especially taking into account the low voter turnout in Slovenia.
The topics discussed by candidates are mainly linked to internal politics, such as migration, the performance of the Prime Minister, taxes, security and demographic challenges. Despite differences in opinion, all the candidates agree on one topic – vaccination – saying that if they get elected, they will support the mandatory vaccination of children at the European level.
A group of researchers and journalists also conducted research analysing statements which have been said on national TV during MEP candidates’ discussions. The statements have been rated as true, partially true, false, manipulation, evasion and generalization. Interestingly, the results showed that most of the candidates are not as honest and trustworthy as they pretend to be. After all, politicians are commonly known for concealing their true views when the latter diverges from majority public opinion, therefore voters must be especially mindful who they give their vote to.
European elections have already started in some EU countries. The discussions between candidates who are trying to gain additional trust of voters are still ongoing. Regional development and migration were set to dominate the debate in Slovenia. Different parties favour different interests, but according to the latest public opinion poll, four parties have gained the approval of the voters – two right political parties, left-centrist party and centrist party. Nevertheless, we cannot be sure of the predicted results. While the low number of MEPs representing the country – eight – gives voters little confidence that their representatives can have a real impact on the course of EU affairs, low participation of voters is expected, which can greatly change the results. Nevertheless, the battle of ideas will doubtlessly continue also after the European Parliament elections.