The State Election Commission has announced the nine candidates who will stand in the sixth Presidential Election in independent Slovenia’s short history, to be held on Sunday October 22.
But what does this mean? Who is standing? What do they stand for? And who will win? Read on if you want to learn more.
The President of Slovenia is elected every five years, and can serve for a maximum of two consecutive terms. This is a largely ceremonial position, one that deals with protocol issues and the like, albeit also serving as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, and with authority over certain appointments. Real power in Slovenia, such as it is, lies in the hands of the Prime Minister, who is appointed by members of the National Assembly, and is currently Miro Cerar of the SMC (Stranka modernega centra, SMC; formerly Stranka Mira Cerarja, SMC). The main issues this country faces, such as border dispute with Croatia, or the economic insecurity felt by so many, are thus unlikely to have much of an impact on the results.
That said, the election is not entirely meaningless, as it will give a sense of how a country feels about itself, and in what direction it is heading. Moreover, this year is notable for the number of female candidates, five out nine, equal to the total in the past 27 years. However, whether this is due to these women really breaking the glass ceiling, or the reluctance of their male colleagues to stand against Pahor and instead wait until 2022, remains a matter for debate.
Anyone can stand as a candidate provided they gain support from some combination of National Assembly members, parliamentary parties, non-parliamentary parties, or public signatures, with the threshold for the latter alone being 5,000 names. This process casts a fairly wide net, and can draw a diverse set of characters all vying for a national platform, with the existence of a clear front-runner this year making it perhaps easier for smaller names to get their chance, as the stronger candidates sit this one out.
The biggest name, and the man to beat, is Borut Pahor, the current President and lifelong politician, not to be confused with Boris Pahor, the elderly and much-acclaimed Slovenian novelist. No, Borut is a career politician, though perhaps more familiar to expats as a human meme, the good-looking guy who knows how to Instagram
and even started his own trend, #boruting
, based on a particularly soulful pose he adopted to express his love of Slovenia while in Cairo.
But the Barbie label given to the former model and fitness fanatic is a little unfair, as the story of Borut Pahor is in some ways that of modern Slovenia. Entering politics as a student communist, Pahor became a socialist and then a third-way leader in the Tony Blair mould. In a career spanning more than 30 years he’s held all three of the highest political positions in Slovenia: Chairman of the Parliament. Prime Minister and President. It can be assumed he knows what he’s supposed to be doing, and that he’ll look charming while doing so.
Pahor was the leader of the Social Democrats (Socialni demokrati, SD), but is standing as an independent this time. With regard to policy positions, such as they matter for this job, he is a pro-NATO, pro-EU and pro-market, someone for the status quo rather than against the establishment.
While Pahor is the front-runner, with over 40% in recent polls, there’s a chance he won’t get more than half the vote in the first round, which means he’ll face off against the second ranked candidate in the next round, three weeks later, on Sunday November 12. In which case his most likely opponent is Marjan Šarec, a former actor, comedian and impressionist, who turned all serious since becoming Mayor of Kamnik. He’s young and presents well on television, is a member of a party named after himself (Lista Marjana Šarca, LMŠ) and broadly left-leaning. At around 20% in the polls, he’s unlikely to win the first round, but could cause an upset in the second.
In alphabetical order, the other seven candidates are as follows.
Maja Makovec Brenčič
The candidate from Prime Minister Cerar’s SMC, she is the current Minister of Education, Science and Sport.
Suzana Lara Krause
The candidate of the Slovenian People's Party (Slovenska ljudska stranka, SLS), a conservative, Christian democratic party, is also a professor of Russian and Slovene.
Aa retired school principal, and Janez Janša’s former teacher, Likovič is standing for the conservative A Voice for Children and Families party (Glas za otroke in družine, GOD).
Another candidate from the right, and the leader of the New Slovenia – Christian People's Party (Nova Slovenija – Krščanski demokrati, NSi), a pro-European Christian democratic party that supports "traditional values" and a social market economy.
The mayor of Koper, who is standing for president under the banner of Slovenia Forever (Slovenija za vedno, SZV).
An active anti-communist since high school, in 2006 Šiško was sentenced to two years in jail for attempted murder. A vocal supporter of Donald Trump, he also favours red baseball caps and is representing United Slovenia (Zedinjena Slovenija, ZSi).
Currently an MEP and standing for the Slovenian Democratic Party (Slovenska demokratska stranka, SDS), a liberal-conservative party led by the bête noire of local leftists, Janez Janša.