Key Challenges

Growing political polarization; pressing
need to regain
lost public trust
Once famous for its consensual policy style, Slovenia has been subject to growing political polarization since the early elections of June 2018. While the center-left parties of the governing coalition have been preoccupied with keeping arch rival Janez Janša from taking office, his supporters have felt deprived of their victory in the elections and betrayed by what they perceive as a liberal elite and the establishment. The polarization between the two camps has had a considerable impact on the media, making the defense of media freedom and pluralism in Slovenia a major challenge. The polarization has also been visible in the appointment of Constitutional Court justices, the selection and promotion of civil servants and in daily policymaking. Overcoming such political polarization is essential to reducing the public disenchantment with politics and politicians that has beset Slovenia for some time. Regaining the lost public trust in political institutions and political elites also requires taking a tougher stance on corruption.
Slowing growth calls
for structural reforms
The cooling of the economy in 2019 is a reminder that economic growth cannot be taken for granted and that the need for structural reforms remains strong. Without major pension and healthcare reforms, the demographic trends, most notably the aging of the population, are likely to result in substantial fiscal pressures in the medium- and long-run. Adopting substantial healthcare and pension reforms, particularly in a failing public healthcare 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 the remaining state-owned enterprises, starting with Telekom Slovenije. As areas which have been previously neglected, the government should also invest more in R&I and higher education.
Institutional reform
would boost capacities
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, limit the politicization of the civil service and greatly improve the RIA system. Such changes would make it easier for the government to plan and act on a long-term basis, overcome resistance and obstacles by special interest groups that often hinder or even disable governmental activity, and win public acceptance for much-needed reforms. Neglected for far too long, institutional reform deserves a more prominent place on the political agenda.

Party Polarization

High level of polarization; parties refuse to cooperate across blocs
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 center-right bloc of three parties. These two blocs rarely cooperate, if ever. 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. 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 assisted by the far-left 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)
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