Politics

16 Nov 2018, 12:50 PM

STA, 16 November 2018 - A three-day regional meeting of the European group of the Trilateral Commission will start in the Slovenian capital on Friday. The main theme of the annual meeting will be the economic future of Europe in the light of the tenth anniversary of the outbreak of the last global economic crisis.

The meeting in Ljubljana is expected to be attended by more than 200 members of the non-governmental, non-partisan discussion group, which was founded by David Rockefeller in 1973 to foster closer cooperation among North America, Western Europe and Japan.

It has since adapted to global developments and now features the Asian Pacific, North American and European groups, whose representatives come from business, politics and academia.

The meeting will be chaired by Jean-Claude Trichet, the former chairman of the European Central Bank (ECB), who currently heads the European group. Slovenia has been represented since March by Franjo Bobinac, the chairman of household appliances maker Gorenje.

The event will open with Trichet's address, while the Trilateral Commission members and guests will also be welcomed by Prime Minister Šarec and President Borut Pahor, according to a press release from Gorenje.

Trichet expects a good and open discussion among the members, with the programme covering the key topics for the future of Europe, from the migration crisis to cross-border cooperation, which has stalled due to fear of global trade war.

Bobinac is happy that this year's meeting of the European group is hosted by Slovenia. "The meeting is an excellent opportunity for Slovenia to boost its role as a leading country in the region and an important player in the global economy."

The Trilateral Commission features or featured US cabinet members from the administrations of presidents George Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, billionaire George Soros, former Swedish PM Carl Bildt, former Italian PM Mario Monti and Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović.

15 Nov 2018, 16:20 PM

STA, 14 November 2018 - Boris Popovič, the controversial mayor of Koper, appears to be the favourite to win his fifth term, and not even more than 40 court proceedings and costly "decorative lighting" set up just before the election seem to be eroding his voter base in the largest coastal municipality.

Popovič has for years been accused of arrogance and disregard for rules, but no challenger has so far succeed in dethroning the mayor who has been leading the fifth largest city in the country since 2002.

This year, he faces a dozen challengers who have mostly called for more democracy in Koper. The mayor appears unfazed, dismissing criticism and doling out campaign treats to his voters.

Christmas lights turned on November 9th

In what his opponents decried as shameless self-promotion and abuse of public funds, Popovič decided to introduce a novel approach to Christmas lighting in the city this year.

Dubbing it decorative lighting to bypass rules that prevent cities from turning into winter fairy tales before 1 December, Popovič turned on the EUR 500,000 lighting, called Wonderland, on 9 November, less than two weeks before the election.

He argues that Wonderland, which has been described by many as a kitschy destruction of the historic character of the city, will attract people from all over Slovenia and from abroad and thus boost revenue from tourism.

The decision is not unusual given Popovič's 16-year record as mayor, which has been punctuated by disputes over aesthetics as much as by his run-ins with the law which landed him in court in dozens of cases.

Some cases are still pending, but most have turned out in his favour. He was sentenced to three years in prison in 2014 for abuse of office in the sale of municipal land, but a higher court annulled the ruling and ordered a retrial. The case has since become statute barred.

In 2009, Popovič got a three-month suspended sentence for defaming a reporter, in 2010 a suspended sentence of a year and ten months for abuse of office, tax evasion and doctoring business documents, and in 2012 a two-month suspended sentence for defamation.

But this has not shaken his foothold in Koper, nor has it provided his opposition with enough ammunition. This has also been reflected in the campaign, which has been fairly mellow, the glittery Wonderland excluded, before the final week of the campaign.

A number of suspicious incidents around the campaign

Only days before the election suspicions were raised that unauthorised people were able to access data about the support of voters to individual candidates.

Additionally, a man from Koper whose company does business with the municipality said he had received a call from the incumbent's campaign office quizzing him about his relative's candidacy on another candidate's list.

"I perceived this as a threat to my business, meaning that if I don't settle this, I'll lose the deal," the man, who said he had evidence of the phone call, told the public broadcaster TV Slovenija.

There was another minor incident, as posters of Popovič's former ally and advisor Gašpar Gašpar Mišič were removed from several bus stops by the city's utility Marjetica.

Officially, the posters were taken down because of the damage caused to the stands by the recent storm, but Mišič pointed his finger at the mayor, labelling the move campaign mischief.

Overall, Radio Koper editor-in-chief Andrej Šavko believes that the campaign has been quiet because "candidates, their campaigns and their supporters are engaged in the field instead of in the media", which is customary for local elections.

All 13 hopefuls faced off in a single debate at which "none of the candidates stood out in a positive or negative way", he told the STA.

While Popovič faces a dozen opponents, Aleš Bržan, an independent who ran for mayor on the slate of the Modern Centre Party (SMC) in 2014, is considered his most serious rival, though he is still a long shot for the mayorship.

You can find all our stories on the local elections here

15 Nov 2018, 13:00 PM

STA, 14 November 2018 - A majority of voters in Ljubljana may dislike the incumbent mayor or his uncompromising and often dodgy leadership style, yet Zoran Janković is likely to win his fourth term in office by a landslide on Sunday, even though his closest challenger is a rising star of the party that won this year's general election.

The latest poll commissioned by Dnevnik, the newspaper focused on Ljubljana, gives Janković a 56% to 18% edge ahead of Anže Logar, the candidate of the Democratic Party (SDS) who enjoys unanimous endorsement from all right-wing parties.

With almost 20% respondents still undecided, the other eight contenders are far behind. While turnout projections are not available, the trends suggest it will likely fall further below the 36% recorded in the 2014 mayoral election in Ljubljana.

Like the last time around, it appears that many of Janković's opponents will vote with their feet, in particular left-wing voters who would not want to benefit the opposing bloc's candidate by supporting one of the contenders from the left.

Former head of Mercator who revitalised the city, while accused of corruption

Janković, a 65-year-old Serbian-born economist who first made a name for himself as chief executive of Slovenia's largest retailer Mercator, has been campaigning on what he says is a proven track-record, a series of projects that his team implemented over the past 12 years.

Even his opponents will give him the credit for the makeover given to the centre of the capital city, large sections of which have been taken over by pedestrians and cyclists. The greening of public spaces and steps taken in green mobility earned Ljubljana the title of the European Green Capital in 2016.

By tapping into EU funds, the city has renovated and expanded its public infrastructure, schools and kindergartens, and acquired new sports and cultural infrastructure, modernised the country's biggest waste management facility, and committed to a zero-waste and zero road traffic fatality goals.

However, Janković has been facing recurring allegations of corruption, cronyism and shady ways in which the city has been awarding contracts to private partners. He has also been reproached for his autocratic, know-it-all style of leadership and unwillingness to give an ear to those who object to his plans.

With a series of criminal cases open against him, Janković is about to be put on trial over alleged EU funds abuse in the flagship project of his first term, the construction of the Stožice sports complex. The half-built mall attached to it has been falling into ruin.

While the Ljubljana centre is sparkling bright after the facelift, its central coach and train station are hardly fit for a capital city. The public transportation system is not efficient enough and too many people still resort to cars for their commute with up to 100,000 cars driving into Ljubljana daily.

Ljubljana's tourism has been booming, but skyrocketing property prices and rents are making the city increasingly unaffordable for residents, not least because new construction is targeting high-end buyers.

A recent study by the Institute of Spatial and Housing Policies showed that residential construction in Ljubljana had been seriously outpaced by population growth, and pointed to an acute shortage of social housing.

A recurrent piece of criticism is that Janković has been neglecting the city beyond the centre, although he says that of the 2,000 projects implemented, 1,700 have been in the outer boroughs.

Opponent focuses on healthcare, traffic and corruption

Anže Logar, for eight years the mayor's major antagonist in the city council, has placed reduction of waiting times in primary healthcare in the centre of his platform. Campaigning under the motto Cure Ljubljana, he is also promising to rid the city of corruption and traffic bottlenecks.

While the city does not have the power to expand the network of health service providers, Logar proposes it should buy health services on the market for the benefit of residents. He is also promising a modernisation of the public transport system, smart traffic lights and free bus rides for pensioners.

"If until now we have been hearing about the supposedly the most beautiful city - the centre is pretty indeed - we'll be hearing more about the best city from now on," Logar said, promising to make Ljubljana exceptional not only for tourists but also for those who live in it.

Logar, who has been backed by a series of civil initiatives that have been fighting against Janković's grand development plans, is also promising a participatory budget and more say to the city's boroughs. Participatory budget is also being advocated by Dragan Matić, who runs for the Modern centre Party (SMC).

Janković says that if the city followed people's sentiment it would have never closed the city centre to traffic and that no one would agree to have a waste management facility or a park-and-ride facility in their backyard.

After hosting a campaign debate between Logar and Janković, Dnevnik noted that even though many of Logar's ideas may appeal to the centre-left electorate, few will trust him that he would in fact deliver better than the current mayor, who knows the city inside out.

Janković never neglects to remind the people of Ljubljana that Logar's party took away millions from the city during its two stints in the government and that as SDS MP Logar voted against a bill that would secure more funds for the capital.

Logar, a 42-year-old who rose to prominence as the spokesman for the Slovenian presidency of the EU in 2008 and who grilled Janković as the head of a parliamentary inquiry into the 2013 bank bailout, says he had decided to run five years ago.

Even if defeated, the right-leaning Reporter magazine says that Logar has nothing to lose, because the party may reward him with a chance to get elected into European Parliament next year, a job that the weekly says Logar always wanted.

While Janković is looking at a fresh victory, his power in the city council may be further depleted after his list lost an absolute majority by a whisker in 2014. Even if it is not, new councillors from the ranks of left-leaning parties may be less accommodating than his old allies.

All our stories about the local elections can be found here

15 Nov 2018, 10:20 AM

STA, 13 November 2018 - Marko Bandelli has resigned as development and EU cohesion funds minister after being told to do so or face dismissal by Prime Minister Marjan Šarec. The decision was announced after a session of the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), whose head accused Šarec of using double standards, while she also announced a stepped-up push for higher pensions.

Bratušek, who called today's session of SAB's executive council after Šarec told Bandelli to resign over efforts to use his government clout to impact a local election, praised Bandelli's work, while adding he was also capable of accepting responsibility and was thus resigning.

While Šarec was also critical of Bandelli's performance as minister, the main issue seems to have been his communication style, in particular when getting involved in the election race in the municipality of Komen (SW), where he was mayor until recently.

Bratušek suggested that Šarec was using double standards in this respect and should apply the same criteria to all government officials, meaning "those he has defended and those he plans to defend in the future".

Speaking about the party's situation, she said SAB did not enter the government to have three ministers but to work for the benefit of the people, of the young and of pensioners.

While giving up Bandelli, Bratušek took the opportunity to stress the party would insist in what have been SAB's demands for significantly higher pensions - these come as government faces demands from public sector and after a raising of the welfare allowance.

Also mentioning demands related to the healthcare system and the young as non-negotiable for the party, Bratušek said the party would demand explanations at the next coalition meeting on how the commitments from the coalition agreement will be honoured.

"The deadline for the bills to be adopted is 1 January 2019, which means we're actually a little short on time," she said, accusing Šarec of violating the coalition's agreement.

This also applies for the procedure for dismissing and replacing a cabinet minister. Šarec was supposed to have first discussed the situation with Bratušek, she however found out about it from the media and through Facebook.

"If these are the communication channels that the coalition will be using then our time here will be preciously short," Bratušek said.

Meanwhile, Bandelli, who threatened one of the mayoral candidates in Komen with leaving the municipality without the support of his department and of the Infrastructure Ministry, rejected Šarec's accusations regarding the delayed action plan for the drawing of EU funds. He argued he had gotten a lot of work done in the past two months.

"I replaced the main director of the body that carries the main responsibility for EU funds phasing, we changed the operative model and started fixing the problems with the IT system that had dragged on for five years," Bandelli told the press.

He also took a jab at "people currently employed around Šarec", saying some of them were in fact to blame for the mistakes that were made in the past in the phasing of EU funds.

The Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (KPK) had welcomed Šarec's call for Bandelli to resign, labelling the minister's acts and threats as unacceptable.

The anti-graft watchdog said that Bandelli had violated the code of ethics for government and ministry officials, stressing that "it was not a single act".

The KPK noted that Bandelli had also promised to help Komen residents address heavy traffic on a local road in return for forming a list of candidates for the local election and backing the party where he is vice-president.

It said that the minister's integrity had been undermined in this case too, adding that such "disputable practices should not take place in the Slovenian political space."

The watchdog thus welcomes the prime minister's decision and understands it as a sign of support for the idea of integrity of officials at the most senior posts in the country.

Bandelli, who is expected to return to parliament, announced he would continue to work for SAB, the party he helped establish.

Previously: Local Elections - Šarec Orders Bandelli to Resign After Threatening Candidate in Komen

14 Nov 2018, 14:35 PM

Are you a foreign citizen who received a notification for the local election in Slovenia recently? No, this was not a mistake. All foreigners of age (18) with permanent residency in Slovenia have the right to vote in local elections, which also includes the right to run for office for anyone coming from an EU country.

For all first time voters, here are some voting basics.

Local self-government in Slovenia dates back to the 1948 March Revolution, with the first local representatives in Carniola elected in 1850. The system of local self-governance, which grants the inhabitants of the local communities the right to decide on essential part of local affairs of public relevance, was cancelled during one-party rule in 1955, and reinstalled again after Slovenian Independence in 1991.

In 1991, there were 60 municipalities, with the number growing over the years and reaching 212 today.

In each one of the 212 municipalities you will be voting for a mayor and a number of city councillors, the number of the latter depends on the number of citizens they represent in a certain locality. To inspect the list of candidates in your municipality, please click here.

On the mayoral ballot you will chose one person from the list by circling the number in front of the candidate’s name.

On the city councillors’ ballot, you can vote for up to as many candidates as there are councillors in a particular municipality. The number of councillors depends on the number of inhabitants. The instructions on the number of councillors you can vote for, as well as how to circle the number correctly, are usually also given in the polling booth or/and written on the ballot itself.

 Inhabitants

 Councillors   

<3.000

7–11

<5.000

12–15

<10.000

16–19

<15.000

20–23

<20.000

24–27

<30.000

28–31

>30.000

32–35

>100.000

36–45

 

The election day is Sunday, November 18th, polling stations open at 07:00 and close at 19:00. The address of your polling station is stated in your notification letter. There is a possibility to vote early, and when and where exactly is decided and declared by each of the municipalities.

Don't forget to bring your ID card, and if it’s your first time maybe take a picture when casting a ballot, to show your friends back home that you’re now a full member of Slovenian society.

14 Nov 2018, 13:00 PM

STA, 13 November 2018 - Several former political heavyweights are attempting comebacks in the upcoming local elections, some of them despite of scandals that seemed to have buried their political careers already. Standing out are Franc Kangler in Maribor, who resigned in the face of violent street protests, and Pavle Rupar in Tržič, who has served prison time.

Maribor

Kangler won the mayoral vote in Slovenia's second largest city Maribor in 2006 and 2010 but was then forced to resign in late 2012 amid violent mass protests triggered by his decision to erect automatic speed traps, which had been seen an attempt to skim money from the people at a time when the city was struggling with high unemployment.

He has had a prison sentence - which cost him his seat in the upper chamber of parliament and membership in the People's Party (SLS) - and a suspended prison sentence related to his mayoral activities quashed by the Supreme Court and is thus entering the election with a clean record.

The newspaper Večer recently reported that out of 21 cases brought against him by police and prosecution, 14 have already concluded in his favour. While sent into retrial, the major cases had wiretapping evidence excluded by the Supreme Court, making a conviction all but impossible.

However, what is very possible according to polls is Kangler's return to the mayor's office, which he said he gave up because the violent protests threatened the lives of police officers.

"A single police officer's life is worth more than mayorship," the 53-year-old, who started out as police officer himself, has said.

Tržič and Kočevje

Meanwhile, Rupar, a former member of the Democrats (SDS), is mounting a comeback attempt after serving a one-year prison sentence in 2014 over misuse of municipal funds.

Rupar, who ran Tržič (NW) for 12 years, fell from grace in 2006, when a recording was leaked of him attacking his alleged lover in an apartment he had failed to report to the Corruption Prevention Commission.

The 58-year-old, who became the first Slovenian MP to resign due to a criminal investigation against him, was later found guilty of several more counts of abuse of office.

"I paid for my sins, have gone through a lot and have learned from this," he says now, arguing locals have also started perceiving him differently than during the scandal period.

Some of the other comeback examples are less scandal-tinged but nevertheless noteworthy, including Janko Veber, who served four terms as the mayor of Kočevje (S) after 1994 and was also an MP between 1996 and 2018.

Veber's political career has been on a downward spiral ever since he was dismissed as defence minister in 2015 for having ordered the military intelligence service to conduct a national security analysis of a later shelved privatisation of Telekom Slovenije.

A former senior party member, Veber parted ways with the SocDems in early 2018 and formed his own party, Unity, which failed to make it to parliament in the June election.

Kamnik and Ptuj

An experienced local politician is also returning to the scene in Kamnik, where the mayoral seat was vacated by Marjan Šarec, the new prime minister.

Tone Smolnikar held the post for 16 years before Šarec and while he is relatively happy with the latter's performance, he is promising to do even better.

A comeback attempt is also being mounted by three-time Ptuj (NE) Mayor Štefan Čelan, defeated in 2014 by Miran Senčar, who will not be vying for a second term.

Also running in Ptuj is 28-year-old Andrej Čuš, who took over the non-parliamentary Greens after a clash with the SDS, which included an attempt to pin a cocaine scandal on him.

Destrnik, Ajdovščina and Videm

Another SDS defector, four-time MP Franc Pukšič, will try to revive his mayoral career in the tiny municipality of Destrnik (NE), which he ran for 18 years before losing the post in 2011 due to a new law preventing deputies to serve as mayors.

He made it to parliament in 2011 on the slate of the People's Party (SLS), but later parted ways with it.

The candidacies of two more former MPs have been raising eyebrows, one of them being 73-year-old Marjan Poljšak, whom most Slovenians remember for his eccentric speeches in parliament in the early 1990s.

Poljšak was defeated in Ajdovščina (SW) in 2014 after serving for 14 years. In 2018 he failed in his bid to get elected to parliament for United Slovenia, the fringe nationalist party led by Andrej Šiško, recently arrested for organising a self-styled militia.

Šiško, currently in detention, is running for the mayoral post in Maribor.

Then there is also Branko Marinič running for mayor in Videm (NE). Marinič resigned as an SDS MP in 2013 after being convicted to a suspended prison sentence over having somebody else, using a fake ID, take a German language exam for him.

All our local election coverage can be found here, while our guides to the various political parties can be found here.

13 Nov 2018, 16:45 PM

STA, 13 November 2018 - While most local races revolve around things such as traffic and the local economy, illegal migrations have featured prominently in the election campaign in the town of Črnomelj in the south east. Incumbent Mayor Mojca Čemas Stjepanovič seems to be caught between a rival calling for more anti-migration measures, and opponents of such measures.

Although four candidates are running for Črnomelj mayor, the two main protagonists are Čemas Stjepanovič, a candidate of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) and the Social Democrats (SD), and Maja Kocjan, put forward by the Democrats (SDS) and supported by the New Slovenia (NSi).

Kocjan, a municipal councillor of the SDS who has been very active in an anti-immigration group called the Bela Krajina Civil Initiative, advocates a harsher approach to migrations.

Illegal immigration in Slovenia rose by 400% in first nine months of 2018

The number of illegal crossings of the Slovenian border surged by more than 400% year-on-year between January and September, to 6,667. As many as 2,050 of the crossings were recorded in the Črnomelj area and the number rose to 2,498 until 4 November.

Kocjan believes Slovenia should send a signal to migrants that the Slovenian border cannot be penetrated, so she is calling for additional fencing along the bordering Kolpa river in places where there is no fencing yet.

Čemas Stjepanovič told an election debate aired by the commercial broadcaster Kanal A at the end of last month that additional fencing was being erected in the most critical areas and that future steps would depend on the number of migrants crossing the border.

She also expressed her grievances regarding the costs of migrations that fall on the municipality. "This means that we have less money available for other purposes," she said.

Kocjan would also like soldiers to protect the border and that the state authorities were more susceptible to the safety concerns of local population, including about any plans to set up migrant centres in the region.

But while Kocjan has criticised Čemas Stjepanovič for not being determined enough in the face of migrations, the opponents of anti-migration measures claim the opposite on social media.

A Facebook group opposing the border fence in Bela Krajina is upset by Čemas Stjepanovič's collaboration with the police in the erection of additional fencing along the Kolpa.

Saying that the two parties which support her advocate a different approach to migration, the group claims Čemas Stjepanovič is taking on the same anti-migration rhetoric ahead of election as the SDS candidate, Kocjan.

"Another election this year is being marked by repressive measures and scaremongering in what is no emergency situation," the group wrote on Facebook at the beginning of the month.

Immigration not such an issue in other border areas

Interestingly, migrations have not emerged as a major topic in any of the other municipalities affected by migrations, even though it seemed they might become a prominent issue in particular for centre-right parties.

The issue has come up only in Kočevje, where the National Party (SNS) candidate, Alenka Jelenovič, one of the four candidates challenging incumbent Mayor Vladimir Prebilič, voiced opposition to the setting up of a migrant centre unperturbed by there being no such formal plans for the area.

All our local election coverage can be found here

13 Nov 2018, 11:50 AM

STA, 12 November 2018 - Municipalities in Slovenia are obliged by law to provide a range of public services to residents. However, funding is often a tough task causing friction in relations with the government, which provides a considerable amount of money for municipal budgets.

All of the country's 212 municipalities must provide services such as day-care for pre-school children, primary school, primary healthcare and social services.

They are also obliged to manage local transport infrastructure, and provide utility, firefighting and environmental protection services.

They have to make sure that their local government institutions - from the city council and mayor to the city administration - carry out their tasks duly.

To provide all these services, which are generally set down in the local government law, municipalities receive funds from the state.

These funds are known as "povprečnina" and were introduced with the new local government act as of 2007. Their main source is personal income tax.

€573.5 state funding per capita

The amount a municipality receives a year is calculated as an annual lump sum per capita and transferred from the state budget.

It is calculated by the Finance Ministry on the basis of the average cost per capita the municipalities have spent in the past four years to provide their services.

The government and the municipalities have just recently reached a deal on the per capita budget transfer for 2019, meeting half way at EUR 573.5.

Robert Smrdelj, who heads one of the three municipal associations, says this is 20 euros higher than this year but still 35 euros below the projected costs for 2019.

Municipalities underfunded since the last financial crisis

Ever since 2011, municipalities have received lower budget transfers than they are legally entitled to.

Apart from the per capita budget transfer, municipalities expect the state to provide the funds for higher wages which are currently subject to public sector talks.

Although "povprečnina" is the main source of revenue, municipalities are also funded from other own sources.

They for instance collect a property tax known as the compensation for the use of building land, tourist tax, inheritance tax, and various fines.

Not insignificantly, they are also entitled to concession fees for the use of public good in their municipality or the tax on lottery prizes of their residents.

Nevertheless, municipalities and experts have been warning about insufficient funds, especially since they were cut during the crisis to fall below the guaranteed sum, while at the same time new tasks are being transferred onto them.

This makes funding extremely difficult, affecting especially new investments and infrastructure maintenance, posing a risk to the country's balanced development.

As municipalities carry out a number of infrastructure projects with the help of EU cohesion funds, they also fear they will not be able to secure the required share of own funds.

Boštjan Brezovnik from the Maribor Faculty of Law says municipalities are the founders of almost 1,100 public institutions which employ more than 60,000 workers, and can issue more than 1,200 different types of administrative decisions.

He says that many of their tasks are also set down or specified in laws governing individual fields, such as zoning or infrastructure construction.

Small municipalities must provide the same services as large ones

They manage municipal property, take care of water systems, energy and utility objects and local sport infrastructure. Some are also in charge of air, water and soil quality as well as of waste management, he explains.

Municipalities differ greatly in the number of residents, but they are all obliged to provide all the services practically on an equal footing.

Brezovnik says "Slovenian law does not distinguish between small and large municipalities", noting that small municipalities with few civil servants are unable to carry out all of the allocated tasks.

"For instance, the smallest municipality, Hodoš, with 376 residents, and Ljubljana as the largest one with almost 290,000 residents, have equal powers and tasks."

To cut their costs, municipalities have joined forces as part of "joint municipal administrations", which carry out certain tasks for multiple municipalities. In 2017, there were 52 such administrations, with all but 10 municipalities taking part.

Nevertheless, some municipalities are heavily indebted, although total municipal debt, which rose during the crisis, dropped for the third year in a row in 2017.

According to a Finance Ministry report, their debt was at almost 842 million euro at the end of last year, down 0.3% from 2016, but more than double what it was a decade ago.

At the end of last year, only 16 municipalities had no debt, but these are mostly small municipalities.

In absolute terms, large municipalities have the biggest debt burdens, not least because they carry out the biggest investments.

Ljubljana has €624 debt per capita

For example, Ljubljana had the highest debt at the end of December - EUR 171m, followed by Maribor and Koper with EUR 63m and EUR 46m, respectively.

However, calculated per capita, large municipalities are often less indebted than smaller ones, which is also true for Ljubljana.

Its debt per capita was EUR 624, which made it one of the less indebted municipalities when the average per capita debt stood at EUR 408 in 2017, the report says.

Overall, municipal debt is not seen as a cause of concern, with the exception of a few municipalities which have had their accounts blocked for several years due to overdue debt from the past.

All our local election coverage can be found here

13 Nov 2018, 10:20 AM

STA, 12 November 2018 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec has told Marko Bandelli, the minister without portfolio in charge of development and EU cohesion funds, to resign or face dismissal over efforts to use his government clout to impact a local election. Reactions by the coalition parties indicate Bandelli would not survive a dismissal vote.

Šarec said he has warned Bandelli twice before about his communication, right after the government was appointed and then again a few weeks ago, when Bandelli came under fire for using emergency lights on his service vehicle. "Now I've decided he should leave."

Šarec and Bandelli met today after the story broke last week that Bandelli had threatened one of the candidates for the mayoral post in Komen (SW) with leaving the municipality without the support of his department and of the Infrastructure Ministry.

Both are controlled by the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), on whose slate Bandelli was elected the mayor of Komen in 2014 and earlier this year as MP, which meant he had to give up the mayoral post.

Bandelli, who left today's meeting with Šarec without a comment, had apologised for the September e-mail to Erik Modic, in which he accused the candidate of being driven merely by self-interest and a personal vendetta.

The apology was also highlighted in today's press release by SAB, whose leadership will meet to discuss the situation on Tuesday morning.

But Šarec said that neither the apology nor SAB's initial defence that mayors are used to a different style of communication was convincing. "It was also insulting to all current, past and perhaps future mayors," said Šarec, who used to serve as the mayor of Kamnik.

While the largest parliamentary party, the opposition Democrats (SDS) already threatened with a dismissal motion ahead of today's meeting, the first reaction by SAB's fellow junior coalition parties confirmed Bandelli would not survive a vote were he to hold on to the post.

The Modern Centre Party (SMC) welcomed Šarec's decision, arguing Bandelli had undermined trust in the government. In the case of vote, the SMC would back the dismissal, as would the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) whose Karl Erjavec said he would have probably acted the same way as Šarec in such a situation.

Erjavec however indicated that the Komen e-mail had not been the sole reason for Šarec's decision. According to his knowledge, Bandelli also still owes the PM a report on the drawing of EU funds.

The SocDems, another junior coalition party, did not wish to comment on the situation today, but with the ruling Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) naturally sharing the view of the prime minister, Bandelli's fate seems sealed.

"I'm convinced I did the right thing. We'll see what happens next," Šarec said.

Other issues with Bandelli’s communication style in local politics

The controversial correspondence was reportedly not an isolated case of the minister communicating inappropriately with a candidate in the Komen election.

Media also highlighted an October exchange on Facebook with Sergio Stancich, in which Bandelli expressed support for Stancich's rival candidate Dean Zalesjak, announcing the latter would "of course get maximum political support, know-how and ministerial information".

He later argued that he just highlighted the obvious fact that "mayors and municipal councillors of parties that are part of the government have easier access to ministers".

The news portal Siol reported last week that Bandelli erased his profiles on social networks last week.

In general, Bandelli appears to have not performed according to expectations, in particular now that the government has come under heavy pressure due to the poor drawing of EU funds.

Unofficial information obtained by the STA suggest Šarec demanded Bandelli that he present measures to improve the phasing of EU cohesion policy funds by last week, something the minister did not do.

But the demand that he resign also comes in the midst of rising tensions between Šarec and Brastušek, who recently requested a government debate about the realization of coalition priorities.

Her party attempting to take over the mantle of pensioner protection from the DeSUS, she said she would not rescind her demands for significantly higher pensions, even as the government faces demands from public sector unions that could run into several hundred million euro per year.

If Bandelli resigns or is dismissed, he will be allowed by law to return to the National Assembly as an MP.

All our local election stories are here

12 Nov 2018, 16:30 PM

STA, 12 November - Slovenian voters will head to the polls on Sunday to elect mayors and local councils in 212 municipalities. Coming less than half a year after the general election, the vote will be closely watched for signs of shifting political sentiment, but the results are likely to make for a poor barometer of the political climate in the nation.

For well over a decade, local elections have been dominated by truly hyperlocal issues, and 2018 does not look any different. In fact, judging by the candidacies and the handful of polls carried out, the vote may simply affirm trends that have become entrenched in the last decade-plus.

For one, large parties that are established at the national level do not necessarily perform well in local elections, with two constant exceptions: the Democrats (SDS) on the right and the Social Democrats (SD) on the left.

The SDS has won the last three local elections in terms of the total share of the vote for local council, while the SD has been near the top, finishing third in 2014, second in 2010 and third in 2006.

In 2006, the second strongest party was the Liberal Democracy (LDS), which has since disappeared from the political map, and in 2014 the runner-up position went to the then newly established Miro Cerar Party, since then renamed the Modern Centre Party (SMC).

The People's Party (SLS) has always done well and finished in fourth place in the last three elections, a feat achieved in 2014 despite having just been ejected from the National Assembly in what was a major upset for the once major political player.

In terms of the number of mayors, the SLS has been the undisputed leader, having the highest number of mayors of any party even in 2014, seemingly regardless of its fluctuating fortunes on the national political arena.

Local politics in Slovenia is a rural affair

These results reflect Slovenia's low rate of urbanisation, which is among the lowest in Europe, and the fragmentation of local communities.

The vast majority of Slovenia's municipalities are rural. Only 11 of the 212 qualify as urban, and the smallest among them has only 17,000 inhabitants.

In small rural communities, conservative parties tend to do well, and because there are so many small municipalities, centre-right parties have an upper hand by default when it comes to the sheer number of mayors.

But even more importantly, there has been a surge in independent and semi-independent parties and local lists, which have come to dominate the fragmented local political landscape.

In 2006, 67 mayors were elected from independent local lists. The figure rose to 70 in 2010 before exploding to 115 in the last election in 2014; that year, the SDS won 14.3% of the vote and had 31 mayors as the strongest individual party.

The trend is similar when one looks at the number of local councillors elected. In absolute terms strong parties such as the SDS have the highest number of local councillors, but independents have been gaining ground.

Independents accounted for just under 20% of all councillors elected in 2006 but 22% in 2010 and over 29% in 2014. Additionally, a tenth of councillors in each of those years was elected on the slates of smaller national or regional parties.

Another major trend driving Slovenian local elections has been the advantage of incumbency, which has been accelerating.

A 2015 study of local elections in Slovenia revealed that the rate of re-election rose from 77% in 1998 to over 80% in 2006 and as high as 84% in 2014.

As of 2018, ten of the 212 mayors have been in office for almost 24 years and many more have been mayors since their municipalities were first established (municipalities were created in several rounds in 1995, 1998, 2006 and 2011).

The incumbency advantage is so large that in as many as 36 municipalities, there is a single candidate for mayor, 35 of them being incumbents.

One major source of uncertainty disrupting these trends is the Slovenian tradition, especially on the left, of the rapid creation of parties, some of which tend to burn down fairly quickly.

In 2011, for example, the party of Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković won 28% of the vote in the general election. But, unable to form a government, the party pretty much collapsed in time for the 2014 local election and won just 0.25% of the votes for local council.

In 2014, on the other hand, the newly established SMC profited from its win in the general election to finish second by the share of the local council vote. Nevertheless, it did not manage to get a single mayor elected despite fielding candidates in 40 municipalities.

This year, it is the prime minister's Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) that is in a unique position. It finished as runner-up in the spring general election with 12.6% of the vote, half of what the election winner, the SDS, received, and then managed to put together a five-party coalition.

But the party has its roots as a local player in Kamnik, where Šarec served as two-term mayor, and it has not yet built up a network of local chapters, which are seen as key for any party planning to become a serious player at the local level.

The LMŠ plans to field candidates in just 40 municipalities while also backing several candidates of other parties.

Given these trends, it seems likely that the SDS, SD and SLS may once again emerge as the strongest parties in the nation-wide tally, but independents, especially incumbents, are just as likely to affirm or even extend their dominance.

In the end, the results will probably give many players a cause for celebration. Some will brag with the number of mayors and local councillors, others will celebrate their outsize influence at the local level, and some will be happy with anything short of disaster.

You can find our guides to all the main political parties here

10 Nov 2018, 08:18 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, November 09, 2018.

Mladina: Cerar pushing Slovenia to the right on UN Migration Agreement

STA, 9 November - The left-leaning weekly Mladina says in its latest commentary that Foreign Minister Miro Cerar is actually criticising his former self as prime minister as he is changing his mind on Slovenia's support for the UN Global Compact for Migration.

In the commentary headlined Cerar against Cerar, editor-in-chief Grega Repovž notes that Cerar had said that "Slovenia endorsed this spring the Global Compact for Migration, but that the circumstances have changed since".

"'Slovenia must make sure ... that the present way of life, the European way of life is preserved'", Repovž quotes Cerar, wondering what is the European way of life he was referring to, adding that "we are in a serious trouble".

If you take a look at the list of countries which decided not to endorse the document, which is expected to be adopted in Marrakesh in December, one can see that it is not a list of countries of the European way of life.

"Hungary, Poland, Croatia, Austria - is this the company Minister Cerar would like to push Slovenia into?", Repovž wonders.

UN document clearly separates migrants and refugees

What is funny is that Cerar speaking about "changed circumstances" reads like criticism of Miro Cerar as prime minister, who agreed with the European Commission acceding to the Global Compact for Migration.

"As long as the accession to the Marrakesh agreement was something the European Union expected us to do, this had to be done. How provincial and typical."

But immediately after the right started expressing doubt about the document, the foreign minister was quick to talk about changed circumstances.

Cerar and Prime Minister Marjan Šarec should actually defend the agreement and stand behind it, present it to the public, introduce it into public discourse as a positive shift. But Cerar is obviously not taking the document seriously.

It is actually a very though-through, relatively conservative document, which very clearly separates the issues of refugees and migrants. Politicians could use it to stand against the rightist agenda which abuses migrants for populist purposes, concludes the commentary.

Demokracija: UN Migration Declaration Will Spread “Eurabia”

STA, 8 November 2018 - The right-wing magazine Demokracija sets out its case against the UN Global Compact for Migration in its latest editorial, asserting that signing the declaration without seeking people's endorsement in a referendum first would be high treason.

Referring to the 2005 riots in France, the terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine and Muslim ghettoes in Europe, such as Molenbeek on the outskirts of Brussels, editor-in-chief Jože Biščak argues that European countries are losing the battle against the spread of "Eurabia".

"Pockets of little Eurabias are scattered throughout the western part of the continent. Whenever right-wing politicians try to restore state jurisdiction over their territories, violent unrest follows.

The only solution is to use “brutal power” to remove immigrants

"The planned signing in December of the Marrakesh Declaration, which is irreversibly taking away countries' sovereign right to decide on migration flows on their territories, could seal the fate of Europe as we know it. This is why signing the declaration without having asked people's opinion in referendum will be high treason."

Biščak says that the way for Europe's Islamisation was paved by the 1975 Strasbourg Resolution, backed by 200 members of parliament from West European countries.

The resolution said that Arab immigrants to Europe had a right to transfer their culture, customs, way of life and religion to Europe.

"The native population tried to preserve their customs and traditions, but the political authorities did not demand of the immigrants to integrate in the western society, but rather let the Muslim immigrants, joined by blacks from Africa, to create their territories (little Eurabias) where they live by their rules. An the Marrakesh Declaration will legalise all that."

Finally, Biščak says that the only solution is to use "brutal power" and to have the army surround these Little Eurabias and move all the immigrants out of the country.

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