After four years of relative political stability, the upcoming parliamentary elections in 2018 are likely to bring about change to the political scene in Slovenia. The three parties of the governing coalition have scored poorly in the polls and, as has been the case in previous elections, new political forces will likely emerge. Marjan Šarec, a comedian turned mayor who came second in the presidential elections in 2017, has already announced that he will establish a new political party. The strong showing in the polls of the center-right SDP led by Janez Janša, a controversial former prime minister at odds with major parts of the political elites, further strengthens the concerns that building a stable new government after the elections might become difficult.
Strong anti-corruption stance needed
In order to regain the lost public trust in political institutions and political elites in general, the new government should strengthen the judiciary’s quality and take a tougher stance on corruption. In addition, the selection and promotion of civil servants on the basis of their political affiliation, which has continued under the Cerar government, should be brought to an end and the career civil service model should be rebuilt. To counter fears about a weakening of media freedom and independence, the strategy for media regulation presented to the public in summer 2016 should be first amended and then implemented rigorously.
While steady economic growth has reduced short-term reform pressures, the need for structural reforms remains strong. Without major pension and health care reforms, aging demographics in Slovenia are likely to result in substantial fiscal pressures in the medium- and short-term. Adopting substantial health care and pension reforms, particularly in a failing public health sector saddled by corruption, should be a clear policy priority. In order to strengthen the economy, the government should also intervene less – whether formally or informally – in state-owned companies and implement its strategy to privatize remaining state-owned enterprises. The government should also stand firm on its decision to give much more attention to R&I and higher education, two areas which have been neglected for years.
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Achieving these goals could be facilitated by a number of changes in the Slovenian policymaking process. The government could make greater use of expert advice, strengthen strategic planning and improve the RIA system. Such changes would make it easier for the government to plan and act on a long-term basis, overcome resistance by special interest groups, which often hinder or even disable governmental activity, and win larger share of public acceptance for much-needed reforms.