Limited reform capacity, unstable government
For a number of reasons, the reform capacity and the stability of the new Šarec government appear limited. The new prime minister, who only entered the national political scene in 2017, lacks political experience. Consisting of five parties (and including two former prime ministers), the governing coalition is vulnerable to infighting. As a minority government, it critically depends on the support of the leftist Levica party. Moreover, the government faces a strengthened opposition, which feels deprived of its victory in the 2018 parliamentary elections. While the strong political polarization might help to keep the governing coalition together, it will make it more difficult to initiate much-needed reforms, and reduce the public disenchantment with politics and politicians that has beset Slovenia for some time.
Tougher stance on corruption necessary
In order to regain the lost public trust in political institutions and political elites, 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 continued under the Cerar government, should be ended and the career civil service model should be remodeled. To counter weakening media freedom and independence, the strategy for media regulation presented to the public in summer 2016 should be first amended and then implemented rigorously.
Need for structural reforms remains strong
While steady economic growth has reduced short-term reform pressures, the need for structural reforms remains strong. Without major pension and health care reforms, demographic trends (e.g., an aging population) are likely to result in substantial fiscal pressures in the short- to medium-term. Adopting substantial health care and pension reforms, particularly in a failing public health care sector saddled by corruption, should be a clear policy priority. In order to strengthen the economy, the government should intervene less (whether formally or informally) in state-owned companies and implement a strategy to privatize remaining state-owned enterprises, including the NLB. The new government should also invest more into R&I and higher education, two areas which have been neglected in the past.
Planning should focus
on long term
on long term
Achieving these goals could be facilitated by a number of changes in Slovenia’s policymaking process. The government should 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 public acceptance for much-needed reforms.
Polarization a major
block to policymaking
block to policymaking
Party polarization is very high in Slovenia and presents a major obstacle for policymaking. Political parties are divided into two parliamentary blocs: a center-left bloc of six parties and a right-wing bloc of three parties. These two blocs rarely cooperate. Furthermore, both the opposition media and the mainstream media, which is largely biased in favor of the center-left, help fuel this divide through sensationalist reporting that sometimes borders on hate speech.
Governing coalition excludes largest party
Polarization between the two camps complicated the formation of a new government after the early parliamentary elections in June 2018. The center-left parties refused to discuss the possibility of forming a ruling coalition with the winner of the elections, the center-right Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) of Janez Janša, which won twice as many votes as its nearest rival. Instead, five center-left parties (List of Marjan Sarec, LMŠ; Modern Center Party, SMC; Democratic Party of Pensioners of Slovenia, DeSUS; Social Democrats, SD; Party of Alenka Bratušek, SAB) opted to form a minority government, which is tolerated by the leftist Levica party. The lack of a political party occupying the space in the political center between the two ideologic blocs is unusual for a country that was led by a centrist party, the Liberal Democratic Party of Janez Drnovšek, from 1992 to 2004. (Score: 3)