05 Dec 2018, 10:20 AM

STA, 3 December 2018 - Representatives of the government and trade unions on Monday signed annexes to the collective agreements in the public sector securing rises in pay and bonuses for a majority of employees. Several unions have pulled out of the deal today, which however has no effect on its validity.

The agreement, worth around EUR 308m in the 2019-2020 period and including pay increases of between one to four brackets and increases of some bonuses, means that the strike wave announced for the beginning of December has been averted.

The measures, which will be introduced gradually, include the promotion by one wage bracket or around 4% higher wages for public sector employees up to the 26th wage bracket.

Wages for a majority of employees above the 26th wage bracket will increase by two wage brackets, while employees at posts which require a master's or PhD degree in science or specialisation will see their wages rise by three brackets.

Head teachers and nurses and midwives at the most demanding positions will get additional pay raises.

Holiday pay and bonuses also rising

The deal also increases some bonuses such as those for work on Sundays (from 75% to 90% of the hourly rate), holidays (from 90 to 120%) and for night work (from 30% to 40%) as of 1 September 2019.

It also introduces a bonus for 40 years of service (EUR 577.51) and raises pension severance from two to three average salaries, or three employee's salaries if it is higher than the average.

Prime Minister Marjan Šarec attended the signing and thanked the negotiators, saying that "what has been negotiated is the best that could be achieved," adding that the agreement "means that agreements can still be made in this country".

Šarec thanked the trade unions for understanding that the situation in the budget did not allow for more. "This is the moment when we can look each other in the eye and say that 'we have been reasonable'," he added.

Noting that the trade union representatives had realised the expectations of the employees, he added that the government and trade unions were not opponents, but should make possible that "people who work every day live a decent life".

Not all unions happy

Several unions have, however, pulled out of the deal, including the trade union of workers in the judiciary, which has given the government three months to meet its demands, otherwise it would step up its strike activities.

The decision was made after members of the union responded negatively to its representatives initialling the deal with the government. The union said that the government "did not want to enter a written commitment to actually sort out the situation in the judiciary."

The trade union of the Ministry of Defence also said today it would not sign the deal until the decree on the classification of jobs and titles in the Slovenian Armed Forces into wage brackets was harmonised and confirmed by the government in accordance with the initialled agreement.

Also refusing to sign the agreement were representatives of the KSS trade union confederation, which associates the trade unions of healthcare workers SPUKC, the trade union of accounting workers, the municipal traffic wardens' trade union and the SVS soldiers' trade union.

The unions, which did not participate in the negotiations, said in a press release today that the agreement and annexes did not eliminate the austerity measures from the 2012 fiscal balance act.

Police officers remain a sticking point

The government is meanwhile still in talks with police officers, who resumed their strike on 1 October to demand the government to restore pay ratios which were undermined when the government raised pay for some other uniformed workers in 2017.

They also demand a special bonus for each year of service, a bonus for being ready to act at all times, a compensation for not being allowed to join a political party, and the elimination of retirement anomalies.

While there was broad agreement among trade unions that the deal is good, some raised concern about whether there will be enough money for hospitals and elderly homes, which will have to give their employees higher wages.

"We're going to organise a strike as soon as wages are late in the first [public] institution," said Zvonko Vukadinovič, the president of the Trade Union of Healthcare and Social Care.

Health Minister Samo Fakin said there was enough money for everything, but he added that this would be true would only if productivity is increased and waiting lines cut, describing poor work organisation as "the cancer of Slovenian healthcare."

Public Administration Minister Rudi Medved likewise said the unions did not have to worry, since there would be enough money through 2021, the period for which the agreement is valid.

Related: Find out the average pay for various jobs in Slovenia here

04 Dec 2018, 11:49 AM

STA, 3 December 2018 - Local elections 2018 were bound to produce some surprises, and the voters delivered, kicking out many mayors that had been seen as shoo-ins given the incumbency advantage that has become entrenched in the last decade and a half. For the parties at the national level, the picture is mixed, though most find something to cheer.

Independents - both truly and notionally independent parties and lists - remain the strongest force in local politics measured by the number of mayors and the council vote, an indication according to analysts of people's deep distrust of the political establishment.

In 212 municipalities, they accounted for over 31% of the cumulative council vote, with small, local parties adding another 10%. Both figures are slightly up from four years ago. They also account for 123 mayors, up from 115 in 2014, and another eight mayors were backed by coalitions of parties, the same number as four years ago.

Long the biggest party on the national scene, the Democrats (SDS) remain the strongest force among the established parties at the local level. They have managed to increase their share of the council vote from 14.3% to 16.7%, though they have fewer mayors, 17 compared to 19 four years ago.

However, by the party's own reckoning they have 54 mayors that they either fielded directly or endorsed.

SDS does well in rural areas, less so in cities and towns

"We're particularly glad that people have recognised that the SDS is a party with roots and has hence strengthened its position in urban and other municipalities," the party said after the run-off on Sunday.

The SDS has a strong presence in small rural municipalities, but they have not directly won a single urban municipality, even as their candidates made a strong showing, in particular in the capital Ljubljana, and the candidate they endorsed won in Novo Mesto.

The situation is reverse with the Social Democrats (SD), who appear to have regained their standing in cities.

SD mayors will lead four of the eleven urban municipalities - Kranj, Velenje, Ptuj and Murska Sobota - and had endorsed the winner in Slovenj Gradec.

But overall, they have 16 mayors that officially ran on SD tickets, down from 20 four years ago. Their share of the council vote increased marginally to just over 10%.

SD leader Dejan Židan said yesterday that the party was "returning to the cities," and doing this by insisting that its candidates be respectful in political dialogue. "Unfortunately, that cannot necessarily be said of other candidates."

Somewhat surprisingly, the non-parliamentary People's Party (SLS) remains a force to be reckoned with in local politics. Despite not having been in parliament since 2014, its robust local network has helped it secure 26 of the 212 mayoral offices with just 51 candidates for mayor.

In local councils, too it remains strong, though with just 6.2% of the overall council vote. The figure points to a problem that has almost always plagued the SLS: it is strong in small, rural municipalities but has virtually no presence in large towns and cities.

The only urban municipalities where it has secured council seats is in Celje, where its former president Bojan Šrot has been mayor for two decades, and Novo Mesto and Velenje, where it has one councillor each.

Marjan Podobnik, who recently returned to the helm of the SLS to turn the party's fortunes around, said the result was "incredibly encouraging considering the path that we have walked in recent years", confident that it will be similarly successful in the EU elections in spring.

Related: Our guides to many of Slovenia’s political parties can be found here

Good and bad news for the parties in government

For the coalition parties, the election was a mixed bag at best.


The list of Prime Minister Marjan Šarec was never expected to perform well, having fielded mayoral candidates in only nine municipalities and council candidates in just a few dozen. At the end of the day, its share of the council vote was 2.5%.

But in Šarec's home town of Kamnik, where the prime minister served almost two full terms as mayor, his hand-picked successor, deputy mayor Igor Žavbi, surprisingly lost to New Slovenia (NSi) deputy mayor Matej Slapar by more than 20 percentage points.

Šarec did not dwell on the outcome beyond saying that this marked the end of his eight-year reign in Kamnik and that Slapar was a good candidate who would do the job well.

The fellow coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) suffered a blow, having four years ago failed to get a single mayor elected but grabbing 11% of the council vote on the back of its win in the general election.

Its share of the council vote plunged to 4% this year but it has two mayors, Saša Arsenovič in Maribor, who wanted to run as an independent but opted for the SMC because he did not have the time to collect the voter signatures, and Alenka Kovač in the tiny southern municipality of Osilnica.

It is notable, however, that even though the SMC is one of many of parties in recent years formed just before the general election it is the only one not to have been completely burned in subsequent local elections, a fate that for example befell the Ljubljana mayor's party Positive Slovenia.

The Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) never excelled in local elections, but its result is even worse than four years ago. It has one mayor, just like before, but its share of the council vote dropped from 7.5% to under 5%.

The Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), known as the Alenka Bratušek Alliance (ZAB) four years ago, performed better, raising its share of the council vote from 0.2% to 0.8%, but it does not have a single mayor and remains a marginal force at the local level.

In the ranks of the opposition, the Christian democratic New Slovenia (NSi) made significant progress. It has ten mayors, up from seven in 2014, and its share of the council vote remained almost level, rising by 0.3 points to 6.4%.

Much like the SLS, the NSi remains largely confined to smaller communities, but analysts have pointed out it is gaining traction in more urban environments as well, Kamnik being a case in point.

Like the SAB, the Left remains more or less on the margins in local politics, having just 3% of the council vote compared to roughly 2% that its three predecessors won four years ago. It does not have a single mayor either.

The results of the general election show that it has a strong base in the capital Ljubljana, where it got 8.5% of the council vote, but it is struggling to expand beyond its urban base, having a progressive platform that is finding better reception among young urban voters.

The far-right National Party (SNS) remains on the margins as well, with just 1.1% of the council vote and not a single mayor.

04 Dec 2018, 10:20 AM

STA, 3 December 2018 - The mayoral race in Koper was too close to call until all mail-in ballots were counted on Monday. The count confirmed Aleš Bržan, a radio host, managed to dethrone long-serving Mayor Boris Popovič, but by a mere seven votes.

Of the 46 mail-in votes, 45 were valid, commission chair Miloš Senčur told the press.

Twenty-five votes were for Popovič and 20 for Bržan, which means that according to unofficial results, Bržan received 13,921 votes and Popovič 13,914.

In his first statement after the mail-in votes were added to the tally, Bržan said "people have decided on change and the change is here, so all I can say is thanks to all those who have made an effort and to all who turned out to vote".

He did expect a narrow result, yet not that narrow. "Nobody expected such a narrow outcome. We expected a margin of several hundred votes."

Earlier in the day, Bržan said he would demand recount since last evening's count of the votes from early voting revealed some irregularities.

It was reported that there were 2,715 ballots from the early vote, but the number of ballots exceeded by six the number of people who were registered as having voted.

But this is according to Bržan not an option now. "For us, this story is over."

In a comment to a fierce race, Bržan said "both candidates should first calm down people and passions so that we can start living normally again".

Meanwhile, Senčur explained that the number of ballots and the number of people having voted in advance in fact matched. Of the 2,715 ballots, nine were invalid.

He explained, however, that complaints about the performance of the local electoral commission could be filed until midnight.

Asked whether it was still possible for the Koper vote to be annulled, he said: "Anything is possible if the complaint is justified."

The mayoral race in Koper provided one of the biggest surprises in this year's local elections.

Not only did Popovič lose after 16 years in office while he was set to win his fifth term in a landslide even two weeks ago, but also for Bržan, who, except on the coast, was until recently relatively unknown.

Securing 30.4% of the vote in the first round, Bržan trailed Popovič by 14 points, but was then endorsed by almost all the other mayoral candidates in Slovenia's fourth largest municipality.

Popovič, who conceded defeat already last evening, has run Koper in a rather authoritarian manner, which many locals got fed up with, apparently also Bržan, who announced to bring change to the style of leadership.

Bržan, born in Koper in 1976, is a logistics engineer, but he is best known as a host on a popular local commercial radio station.

The website of his Aleš Bržan List (LAB) party says that over the past decade, he has managed a small company.

While still a student, he overhauled the Koper students' club and revived the streets of Koper with a special project.

Not entirely a political novice, Bržan challenged Popovič before, in 2014, when he, with the support of the Modern Centre Party (SMC), emerged as the runner-up.

He later distanced himself from the SMC, the party of the former prime minister, Miro Cerar, and has spent most of the past four years as independent city councillor.

He founded his LAB party just before this year's local elections, but was not among the fiercest critics of Popovič. On the contrary, he credited his predecessor with a number of achievements.

Given that his party has won nine seats on the city council to emerge as the second strongest, it seems that such restrained rhetoric worked for both the party and him.

All our stories related to Koper can be found here

03 Dec 2018, 16:21 PM

STA, 3 December 2018 - Slovenia will take over the rotating EU presidency for the second time in the second half of 2021, having already held it in the first half of 2008. Preparations started less than two weeks ago with a several-month delay. The costs are estimated at EUR 75-80m. Finding qualified staff has been identified as the biggest challenge.

Slovenia's presidency of the Council of the EU in 2008 was praised as successful, but the stint in 2021 will be much different as the role of the country holding the presidency has changed significantly after the 2009 Lisbon Treaty, which introduced president of the European Council and the foreign policy chief.

The presidency of the Council has thus lost influence: the prime minister of the EU presiding country no longer chairs the European Council, and its foreign minister no longer represents the EU externally.

Almost all government departments will be involved

Preparations for Slovenia's presidency started with a delay of several months because of the general election and government formation, which Prime Minister Marjan Šarec confirmed in a recent interview with the STA.

The government launched the preparations on 22 November with the appointment of Igor Mally, a state secretary at the prime minister's office, as head of the project.

The project will be headed from the prime minister's office, but the preparations will involve virtually all government departments.

According to Mally, a rough staffing plan was made at the beginning of the year and the experiences of the countries holding the presidency have already been reviewed.

350 full-time jobs will be created, starting next year

In 2008, the project of EU presidency cost EUR 62.3m. Considering inflation, and the costs of other countries of a similar size that recently held the presidency such as Estonia, Slovakia and Bulgaria, the costs are estimated at EUR 75-80m, Mally said, adding that a more reliable estimate would be made at the end of February.

Most of the funds will go for the 350 full-time jobs. Officials in Brussels and Ljubljana agree that finding the right staff and providing them with proper training will be a major challenge.

Ministries will start hiring at the beginning of next year, but most of the job vacancies are expected to be filled in 2019 and 2020.

Compared to 2008, ministries now reportedly have much less staff with required skills. Ten years ago, a pool of staff experienced in European affairs was available as part of the Government European Affairs Service.

After the EU presidency, many of these people got a job at EU institutions and the service was merged into the Foreign Ministry.

Mally said that those who were actively involved in the 2008 presidency would train the new staff.

A packed schedule over the six-month EU presidency

During the six-month spell, the country will preside over around 30 ministerial sessions and more than 2,000 various working meetings and host around 15 ministerials at home.

Since most of the meetings will be held in Brussels, the Slovenian permanent representation there will need to be expanded - both in terms of staff and rooms.

Mally expects 119 officials to be sent to Brussels, which means the number of staff at the representation office will almost triple.

The office will thus have to at least temporarily move to new premises and a decision on this is expected to be made shortly, according to Mally.

Most of the meetings in Slovenia will be held at the Brdo Conference Centre, which Mally believes is the most suitable venue from the financial, logistic and security points of view.

The priorities of Slovenia's EU presidency will be determined in cooperation with Germany and Portugal to ensure continuity of the agenda. The trio also cooperated ten years ago.

An obligation and an opportunity

Among the possible topics that could be Slovenia's priorities Foreign Minister Miro Cerar recently mentioned the issue of integration of the Western Balkans, security in the face of migration, the strengthening of the welfare state, and modernisation and digitalisation.

Slovenia's Ambassador to the EU Janez Lenarčič, who was European Affairs Ministry state secretary during Slovenia's first stint at the helm of the EU, believes the presidency is both an obligation and an opportunity for the country.

Mally said each presidency wanted to leave a mark. "It's a matter of ambition. Either you want to carry out the presidency merely as a routine or you want to take advantage of the opportunity to make a difference, which is what Slovenia is aiming for."

03 Dec 2018, 12:50 PM

STA, 2 December 2018 - Slovenian voters appear to have opted for change in the mayoral run-off on Sunday as they showed many incumbents the door to usher in newcomers that promised a sea-change in the way their communities are managed.

With elections held in 56 municipalities, perhaps the biggest surprise came in Koper, where radio host Aleš Bržan appeared to have defeated incumbent Boris Popovič.

But after Popovič already conceded, the local electoral commission revealed the gap was only twelve votes - more than 25,000 ballots were cast, so there is still a chance postal ballots, which will be counted tomorrow, may change the result.

In Maribor, businessman Saša Arsenovič convincingly defeated former mayor Franc Kangler after the incumbent, Andrej Fištravec, was drubbed in the first round.

When the final tally was made, Arsenovič carried the vote with 58%, having campaigned on his record as successful businessman and promising to turn the city's economic fortunes around.

The vote pitted the more urbane Arsenovič against the more rural Kangler, who had been ejected from office in 2012 under a cloud of corruption allegations that he has mostly deflected in court since then.

Changes in all other run-off races

All other municipalities classified as urban holding run-offs also got new mayors tonight.

In Kranj, Matjaž Rakovec, the former chief executive of insurer Zavarovalnica Triglav, will fill the mayoral seat vacated by Boštjan Trilar. He won 68% of the vote against the independent Zoran Stevanović.

In Nova Gorica in the west, the 43-year-old Klemen Miklavčič defeated two-term Mayor Matej Arčon with 51.6% of the vote, despite Arčon having a 12-point lead in the first round.

Tilen Klugler, an independent endorsed by centre-left parties, emerged victorious in Slovenj Gradec in the north-east, edging the incumbent Andrej Čas with 52% to 48%.

And in eastern municipality of Ptuj, Social Democrat (SD) Nuška Gajšek has become the sole woman mayor in one of Slovenia's 11 urban municipalities as she surprisingly defeated the former mayor Štefan Čelan with nearly 67% of the vote.

Several larger cities that are not classified as urban municipalities got new mayors as well.

Prime Minister Marjan Šarec's party lost primacy in its home base in Kamnik as his chosen successor at the mayoral office, Igor Žavbi, was defeated by the candidate of the conservative New Slovenia (NSi) Matej Slapar.

In Jesenice in the northwest, Blaž Račič, 44, a correspondent for the daily Delo, ended the 12-year reign of Tomaž Tom Mencinger with a convincing 64.6% of the vote, having already narrowly won the first round.

And in Črnomelj in south Slovenia, a staunch anti-immigrant platform did not help Democrat (SDS) candidate Maja Kocjan, who was defeated by businessman Andrej Kavšek with a clear 72.9% of the vote, having already convincingly carried the first round.

All in all, only 11 incumbents who entered the run-offs secured re-election, a stark contrast to the first round, when incumbents posted serial wins.

But it was not all upsets, as Tržič, where the campaign was bitterly fought, delivered a resounding win for the incumbent Boštjan Sajovic against former mayor Pavle Rupar.

In Brežice, long-serving mayor Ivan Molan stood his ground, as did Toni Dragar in Domžale.

At the cumulative national level the trend has changed little, albeit keeping with a long trend.

The People's Party (SLS) remains the strongest force with 26 mayors in 2012 municipalities, largely thanks to a strong base in small, rural communities. The Democrats (SDS) have 17 and the Social Democrats (SD) 16.

The three dominant political forces on the local level have long been losing ground to mayors who are running as independents (although some have very clear political pedigrees).

There are now 123 mayors classified as independents, up from 115 four years ago, with another eight fielded by multiple parties, the same as in 2014.

However, there has been a reversal of the trend of declining voter engagement, as turnout stood at 48.4%, almost two points below that of the first round but five points higher than in the run-off in 2014.

01 Dec 2018, 09:13 AM

Mladina: An alliance is needed to fight SDS-associated media

STA, 30 November 2018 – The left-leaning weekly Mladina welcomes PM Marjan Šarec's appeal against state-owned companies running adds in hate-peddling media, but says it is only a first step. What needs to follow is the fostering of an alliance that will protect these companies in case of a change in power, Grega Repovž says in the weekly's latest editorial.

"Slovenian media have a problem... The Democrats (SDS), a political party, has an increasing number of products on the Slovenian market that are pretending to be media outlets... Because this propaganda machine it costly, it gets financial help from Hungary, from Viktor Orban," Repovž says.

He argues that the people of Slovenia and its media and journalists are not the only victims of this proliferation of fear and hatred by far-right parties working in concert.

Companies also find themselves under pressure, in particularly those that are involved with the state. Their managers know, including from experience under past SDS-led governments, that SDS leader Janez Janša will eventually end up issuing them a bill if they fail to cooperate.

Šarec's call was in order, but now the government has to follow up this first step by offering assistance and an alliance to these companies.

"If he is serious about this, it is not enough to point the finger at these companies. We posit that the reason why most of the exposed companies are advertising on these media platforms is their desire to secure the peace they need to do business normally," Repovž says under the headline First Step.

Speaking of the need for an alliance, he argues "this would benefit all genuine media" and lists several centrist and left-leaning media as well the right-leaning weekly Reporter.

It would also benefit politics, companies and above all the public. "The thing is a that radical politics is abusing liberal democratic institutes and institutions and rights (including those pertaining to the media and freedom of speech) and that this entails the undermining of democracy itself - and through that also of corporate autonomy."

Demokracija: Šarec’s anti-hate speech campaign is an attack on opposition media

STA, 29 November 2018 - The right-leaning weekly Demokracija says PM Marjan Šarec's recent call to state-owned companies to reflect on whether to advertise in media outlets instigating hate amounts to "the worst attack on the freedom of speech since independence", making him No. 1 enemy of the freedom of expression.

Šarec's call not to advertise in media outlets which are critical of mass migrations was a case of abuse of power par excellence, editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says on Thursday.

Although Šarec did not specify what hate content is and did not mention any media outlet, "it was clear he meant private opposition media – Demokracija and Nova24TV".

Instead of endorsing a referendum on whether Slovenia should join the UN-sponsored deal on migration, he in fact started implementing its objective 17, which speaks about media funding and advertising standards.

He announced, in the manner of the hardest communist times, attacks on the media which promote different views from those of the government and left-wing activists.

As an elected representative of the people, Šarec has a right to influence state-owned companies, for instance if state assets are poorly managed.

"But he is absolutely not authorised to use a state-owned company to suppress the fundamental and most important human right, that of the freedom of expression."

Biščak notes there is a short way from dictating state-owned companies where to advertise to police violence against those with different views.

"What is more, his actions show that he would be one of the first to abolish elections and ban opposition, whereby risking a civil war.

"He crossed the Rubicon, which he never should have," Biščak says, quoting philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein's thesis "What we cannot speak about, we must pass over in silence."

While not denying Šarec the right to be critical or even harsh, Biščak says his instruction that advertisers should end their business cooperation with the opposition's media is "scandalous".

"In this way, by abusing power, Šarec has become enemy No. 1 of the freedom of speech," according to the commentary headlined Ludwig Wittgenstein's Seventh Thesis.

Other posts in this series can be found here (note that sometimes we use another right-wing weekly, Reporter)

29 Nov 2018, 20:00 PM

STA, 29 November 2018 - Mayor of Ljubljana Zoran Janković pleaded not guilty as he appeared in court for a pre-trial hearing on Thursday in the Gratel case, in which he is charged with taking a bribe from a company to the benefit of the city.

"I think I'd be guilty if I hadn't done what I'm charged with," he told judge Vladislava Lunder at the Ljubljana District Court.

The case concerns EUR 500,000 which the mayor demanded from construction company Gratel in March 2007 to allow it to dig roads to install optic cables.

Gratel then transferred two EUR 250,000 instalments to the municipality as a donation for the renovation of Ljubljana Castle.

This enabled it to resume its work under a new development permit after Janković had initially banned Gratel from digging on public premises.

The payment was compensation for the damage incurred by the city because Gratel had dug up wider conduits and installed more cables than agreed.

Janković had already denied the allegation of bribery when the police raided the offices of the municipality and several other locations in February 2014.

His defence counsel Janez Koščak demanded today that evidence obtained in the 2014 house searches be excluded, arguing it had been obtained by violating human rights.

The lawyer explained the relevant court order had not specified the suspected crimes, which made the house searches unlawful.

Upon leaving the courtroom, Janković said he did not understand what prosecutor Blanka Žgajnar wanted to achieve with the indictment.

"A private company has paid compensation because it assessed it had installed too many cables," Janković repeated his view of the case.

He reiterated there was nothing wrong with a company making a donation to a public institution, saying it caused no damage to anyone and nobody except the prosecutor was claiming anything back.

Janković is convinced he is innocent: "I believe I'll prove my justice. They cannot sentence an innocent person."

He told the judge he had came to the courtroom "out of respect for the court", having had a business trip scheduled for today, which means he could have avoided it.

The main hearing in the Gratel case will start on 3 January.

Janković has another trial coming up soon, where he faces allegations of fraud concerning EU funds for the Stožice sports complex project.

While the trial starts next week, the pre-trial hearing for him is scheduled for 12 December.

Jankovič, who has led Ljubljana since late 2006, is also subject to criminal proceedings in several other cases.

29 Nov 2018, 18:00 PM

STA, 29 November 2018 - Slovenia has been fixated on Maribor and Koper as local elections enter the run-off on Sunday. Maribor will get a new mayor in any case and in Koper the incumbent faces the biggest challenge of his career. But there are plenty of other races that could produce surprises as well.

In Maribor, Slovenia's second largest city, former mayor Franc Kangler, the candidate of the right, and businessman Saša Arsenovič, an independent running on the Modern Centre Party (SMC) ticket, are neck-and-neck with just days to go until the polls open.

The latest poll by Večer, the Maribor-based daily, puts Arsenović less than two points ahead of Kangler, but the race is too close to call. In the first round, Arsenovič was well ahead, with 38.2% to Kangler's 31.4%.

While the campaign ahead of the second round shifted a gear lower from the tense and at times aggressive campaigning for the second round, the race is lively given that the candidates represent two very distinct visions of Maribor.

The more urban Arsenovič, a businessman credited with helping to revive the struggling centre of the city, looks up to the long-term mayor of Ljubljana, Zoran Janković, as he tries to infuse town hall with a bit of business acumen.

Kangler, a former police officer and MP who was ousted as mayor in 2012 in mass protests sparked by allegations of corruption, has a can-do attitude but connects better to Maribor's suburban and rural population with his populist, salt-of-the-earth rhetoric about returning the city to its industrial glory.

The race in Koper, the biggest city on the coast and home to Slovenia's sole seaport, pits incumbent Mayor Boris Popovič, who has run the city with a penchant for strong-arming for 16 years, against radio host Aleš Bržan.

It had been widely expected that Popovič would be a shoo-in for his fifth term, but he has spent years fending off corruption allegations, and spent months in courtrooms, sometimes for cases that became statute-barred in odd circumstances.

Local political pundits say the people appear to have become fed up with his authoritarian style, hence the shift to the mild-mannered Bržan, who has led a low-key campaign while letting Popovič defend his record in office.

Popovič edged Bržan by almost 14 points in the first round, but since then nine unsuccessful candidates, who together accounted for nearly a fifth of the first-round vote, jointly backed Bržan. There have been no polls for Koper ahead of the run-off so far.

Another major race is in Kranj, the centre of the wealthy Gorenjska region, but polls suggest the result will be more clear-cut.

Matjaž Rakovec, the former boss of insurer Zavarovalnica Triglav who is running with the support of the Social Democrats (SD), is expected to carry the mayorship easily against independent Zoran Stevanović, a prominent councillor.

Both focused their campaigns on buttressing the city's economy, with Rakovec pledging to bring over a thousand jobs to the city under his watch. Rakovec is projected to win about 70% of the vote, according to a poll carried by Dnevnik.

In the absence of local polling it is difficult to gauge many other races under way in the 56 municipalities that are holding run-offs, but many are interesting merely by virtue of the illustrious and industrious candidates on the ticket.

In Jesenice, which vies with Kranj as the economic centre of Gorenjska, incumbent Tomaž Mencinger has had to surprisingly enter a run-off against Delo journalist Blaž Račić. In the first round, they were neck-and-neck at just over 23%.

In the nearby Tržič, the incumbent Borut Sajovic faces former mayor Pavel Rupar, who is attempting his second return to politics after spending time in prison for defrauding the municipality and who became a tabloid sensation after phone conversations with a mistress were published in 2006.

In southern Slovenia, all eyes are on Črnomelj, where a local member of the opposition Democrats (SDS) managed to enter the run-off with a staunchly anti-immigrant agenda, ousting the incumbent Mojca Čemas Stjepanovič in the process.

But the real surprise there was Andrej Kavšek, a local businessman who carried 45% of the vote with a distinctly pro-business platform emphasising the need to revive the economic fortunes of the community.

In Kamnik, the party of Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, who served two terms as mayor there, faces a major test. Its candidate, deputy mayor Igor Žavbi, finished neck-and-neck with New Slovenia (NSi) candidate Matej Slapar, another deputy mayor.

Smaller communities scattered around the country could deliver surprises as well, as many famous and infamous candidates are on the ticket.

Journalists Bojan Traven in Bohinj and Dejan Karba in Ljutomer are in the run-off. Disgraced former ambassador Milan Balažic will try his luck in Moravče east of Ljubljana, and Roman Leljak, a former convict and amateur historian well liked in conservative circles, is in the run-off in Radenci in the east.

Overall, the second round is much more local since only mayoral run-offs are held and parties at the national level have mostly stayed out of campaigning, which dovetails with the increasingly pronounced trend of established parties giving way to independent and semi-independent local lists in local elections.

In the first round, independents carried well over half of all mayor offices and as a bloc they are the strongest contingent in municipal councils.

All of our local elections coverage can be found here

28 Nov 2018, 12:50 PM

STA, 27 November 2018 - Successful Slovenian businessmen frequently get the feeling that politicians and municipal representatives expect gifts or high-value rewards in exchange for conducting business, according to a survey by Deloitte Slovenija.

All in all, 72% of the respondents assessed the business environment as moderately corrupt, with only a tenth saying corruption is low, the head of Deloitte forensics for the Adriatic region Yuri Sidorovich told the press on Tuesday.

In recent years there have been no substantial efforts to tackle graft. "The question is not how much corruption there is in a country, it is what the state is doing about it," he said.

Problems seen with public projects, judiciary and law enforcement

He summed up the results by saying that Slovenians are disproportionately honest, but they are also disproportionately tolerant to those who steal.

Deloitte set out to poll successful businessmen, including the wealthiest Slovenians and members of management and supervisory boards.

It received only 53 completed surveys. "Many responded, but they did not want to participate because of questions regarding anonymity," said Deloitte manager Aleš Berham.

More than one in three said that public projects are overpriced because of corruption, and almost half said they did not trust Slovenian judiciary and law enforcement when it comes to white collar crime.

Sidorovich said that not a single respondent fully trusted law enforcement. "Is it normal that people with access to information, who know what is going on in the financial world do not trust law enforcement?," he wondered.

28 Nov 2018, 11:50 AM

STA, 27 November 2018 - The strike announced for 5 December seems increasingly unlikely after a number of public sector trade unions and the government initialled on Tuesday an agreement stipulating pay hikes for public sector employees. The deal is yet to be approved by the bodies of the 19 individual unions represented by negotiator Jakob Počivavšek.

The unions are expected to make a decision about the agreement, which will be the same for all of them, within a few days.

The chief government negotiator, Peter Pogačar, believes that the strike agreement could be signed early next week.

He thanked the strike committees, appointed after a number of public and private sector unions said they would go strike in early December, for "fair but also tough negotiations".

Počivavšek said today that the unions he represented found it key that all public sector employees would see their salaries increase.

He also underlined the importance of having reached a promise from the government to ensure funding sources for the pay increase.

This comes after the SVIZ union of teachers and two healthcare unions initialled a deal with the government last week. Getting the majority of unions on board is essential for the agreement to become valid for the entire public sector.

The deal will see pay rises and bonuses for working on Sundays and holidays

Pogačar believes that the agreement is a good omen for future cooperation and commended Počivavšek for doing a good job in coordinating and representing the strike committees of 19 unions.

Počivavšek thanked the government negotiators and expressed satisfaction that the unions, representing different activities and interests had a common position and followed the principles of equality and solidarity.

He said that there was however a bitter aftertaste "that the strike agreements that had been initialled earlier followed some other principles".

Počivavšek said that the sides also agreed to go over the system of promotions in the public sector next year to see whether there are unjustified differences between different occupations.

The deal initialled today entails a pay hike, increases of some bonuses such as those for work on Sundays and holidays. The agreement is to introduce a bonus for 40 years of service and raise pension severance from two to three salaries.

The unions represented by Počivavšek represent veterinarians, customs officers, public administration clerks, social services employees, as well as health care, as well as two soldiers' unions that are not allowed to go on strike.

26 Nov 2018, 16:27 PM

STA, 26 November 2018 - The latest poll released by Delo indicates the government is becoming increasingly popular, but this has not helped the ruling Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), which has lost ground to their coalition partners, the Social Democrats (SD). The opposition Democrats (SDS) remain by far the strongest party.

The government's approval rating improved from 2.52 to 2.76 on a 1-5 scale, shows the Mediana poll carried by Delo on Monday.

In the party rankings, the SDS has retained the top position, although it lost some ground. It polled at 18.3%, a drop of more 0.3 points.

The SD gained ground, apparently mostly at the expense of the LMŠ.

It mustered 8.9%, almost two points higher than in October, while the LMŠ saw the reverse trend, going from 8.9% to 7%.

In the ranks of the opposition, the Left remained flat at 6.1%, New Slovenia (NSi) added 0.6 points to 5.5% and the National Party (SNS) was also up 0.6 points to 3.8%.

Related: Our guides to most of Slovenia’s political parties are here

Among the coalition parties, the Modern Centre Party (SMC) and Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) lost ground, polling at 3.7% and 3.2%, respectively, while the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) was up over a point to 3.4%.

Buoyed by a solid result in the local election, the non-parliamentary People's Party (SLS) went from 1.7% to 3.8%.

Pahor the most popular figure in Slovenian politics, but Janković also rises

In the politicians' popularity rankings, President Borut Pahor remains in the top position with a grade of 3.57 on a 1-5 scale, while Prime Minister Marjan Šarec made the jump from fourth to second, his ranking going from 2.89 to 3.18.

EU Commissioner Violeta Bulc and MEP Tanja Fajon, who have for years been trading places in runner-up position, have been pushed to third and fourth place, respectively.

SDS lawmaker Anže Logar, who failed to beat incumbent Mayor Zoran Janković in the recent local election but managed the best result so far for a centre-right candidate, is in fifth place, but Janković, in seventh, made the biggest jump of all the politicians in the top 20.

The poll was carried out by Mediana between 13 and 22 November and involved 714 respondents.

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