STA, 16 November 2018 - Slovenian voters will flock to the polls on Sunday to cast their vote in local elections in 212 municipalities after month-long campaigning that saw some low points and bizarre publicity stunts.
A total of 688 candidates are running for mayors and 22,313 candidates for 3,400 local council seats, while some larger municipalities will also hold elections to borough or village councils.
As the trends suggest, incumbents and independents are likely to be the biggest election winners, even in some of the largest cities. Moreover, 36 mayoral candidates stand uncontested.
Mayors have long come to realise that voters appreciate most what they see, so they tend to time new construction and renovation projects for the ribbon-cutting to coincide with the campaign.
Indeed, a survey by the NGO Transparency International showed that local budgets peak with investments in election years; this year such spike is roughly EUR 420m or the equivalent of almost 1% of GDP.
In the eleven urban municipalities 87 contenders are running for mayors, with several of the incumbents projected to be re-elected, including Zoran Janković, who is eyeing his fourth term in Ljubljana.
Judging by the number of candidates and the few polls available, the fiercest battle will be fought in Maribor, where the incumbent mayor Andrej Fištravec is projected to be voted out.
The favourite for the first run is Franc Kangler, the former mayor who was forced out of office amid mass protests in 2012, but he is projected to be defeated by a newcomer, businessman Saša Arsenovič, in the run-off on 2 December.
Slovenia's second city saw aggressive smear campaigns on social media and an explicit death threat to one of the 18 candidates. Moreover, one of the contenders is running from prison.
Maribor and dead cats awaiting the incumbent in one of the smaller municipalities aside, perhaps the lowest point in the campaign was the interference in the village of Komen which cost Cohesion Minister Marko Bandelli his job after he threatened to cut off the municipality if his favourite was not elected.
Meanwhile, the campaign in Ljubljana was civilised, focusing on the battle between Janković and his long-term adversary in the city council, Anže Logar from the Democratic Party (SDS).
The incumbent in the port city of Koper, Boris Popovič, who has reportedly already organised a big party to celebrate a fifth term, tested the patience of voters with ostentatious early Christmas decoration that cost the city half a million euro.
The incumbents are also projected to be re-elected in Celje, Novo Mesto and Murska Sobota, while Kranj in the north-west will definitely get a new mayor because the incumbent is not standing.
The front-runner in Kranj is Matjaž Rakovec, the former boss of insurer Zavarovalnica Triglav, but polls indicate that a run-off on 2 December is likely.
A second run will not be needed in Murska Sobota, the north-easternmost urban centre, and in 59 more municipalities where only two candidates are standing.
Agitated in some of the municipalities and lacklustre elsewhere, the campaign did not venture beyond local issues and the results are likely to be a poor barometer of the political climate in the nation.
Aside the fact that scandals and allegations of corruption matter less than the candidates' ostensible efficiency, one of the things that is typical country-wide is the under-representation of women.
Only about one out of six mayoral candidates running is a woman, and there are none in Ljubljana. Out of the 212 mayors serving now only 16 are women and their number is likely to fall further.
More than 1.7 million voters are eligible to vote in Sunday's election. No projections about the turnout are available, but even as the trend has been negative, data from electoral commissions in urban municipalities show that more people turned out for early voting this year than four years ago.
Voters in municipalities populated by members of the Italian and Hungarian ethnic minorities and Roma will also be able to cast ballots for representatives of their communities in local councils.
There are 60 candidates running for the posts secured for the ethnic councillors; 2,734 voters are eligible to vote for Italian councillors, 5,651 for Hungarian councillors and 3,070 for Roma councillors.
All campaigning will have to stop at midnight tonight as election blackout sets it, to be in force until the polls close on Sunday at 7 PM. Around 3,200 polling stations will open at 7 AM.
No exit polls are planned, but the first incomplete results will be available from around 7:30 PM with the outcome more or less clear soon after.
Elections to local councils in larger communities are based on a system of proportional representation with the option of a preference vote, while smaller communities have a majority electoral system.
The elections and the ballot count will be observed by a delegation of five members of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe.
These are the seventh local elections in Slovenia since independence. The number of municipalities has expanded from 147 since the first elections in December 1994 to 212.
In the previous election, 158 mayors were elected in the first round and the remaining 54 in the run-off.
All out local elections coverage is here
The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, November 16, 2018.
STA, 16 November 2018 - The weekly Mladina is critical of the government for what it sees as a blunder in the sale of the bank NLB. The government planned to preserve control over the bank through state-owned companies, but then the securities market watchdog said it could not be done. The government obviously walked into this without having prepared properly.
Mladina editor-in-chief Gregor Repovž even goes as far as to compare the state to an adult movie actress who once said that she was "the sort of girl who doesn't research in advance. I just go".
Looking back at how the sale unfolded, Repovž says that the sale prospectus presentation attracted representatives of pension and investment funds directly or indirectly controlled by the state.
The concept of controlling companies through state-controlled firms is well-established abroad, the weekly notes.
The combined share of the state and its companies usually amounts to about 40%, however the rest of the stock is so dispersed that the share suffices to control the company.
"We assumed that the government was planning something like this and it seemed prudent," Repovž says in the editorial. "Finally somebody knew what they were doing."
But then the Securities Market Agency issued a legal opinion saying that legislation regulating privatisation and investment funds made it impossible for state-related institutions to buy NLB stock.
"Because we were watching the matter closely, we learnt that this was a surprise for Slovenian Sovereign Holding, as well as the government. How is that even possible!"
Unofficial statements indicated that the government had no clue about the stock ownership in the bank. But intending to keep 25% and one share, the state should be aware of every share, the weekly says.
"We heard later that state-owned and para-state funds will be able to buy shares on the stock exchange. But such light-heartedness demands the dismissal of the heads of the Sovereign Holding and the finance minister."
Ljubljana, 15 November - The right-wing weekly Demokracija welcomes in its latest commentary the sale of the NLB bank, saying that there will be no more "free lunches" for the "leftist comrades" who are used to being fed by taxpayer money.
The "comrades" are screaming that it was a heist and that Slovenian Sovereign Holding should have rejected the "shameful price" EUR 51.50 per share, editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says under the headline Colour of Money.
He adds that the mindset of socialists in Slovenia is vividly described by a statement by chemist and economist Peter Glavič, who complained that "once foreigners get hold of Slovenian banks, they will decide whom to give a loan and whom not."
While Glavič is afraid for Slovenia's economic and political sovereignty, Bičak asks the readers whether they had been able to come to a NLB office and ask not for a EUR 100,000 loan, but for a EUR 300,000 loan, as Glavič claims.
"Of course not. In the best case you would be escorted out of the office by a security guard," the commentary says, adding that big loans (usually without adequate collateral) were being given to the chosen ones who "used NLB as an ATM or for money laundering".
Biščak admits that the price is low, but says that it was determined by the market. "The culprits for the multi-million loss are known: Miro Cerar, Karl Erjavec and Dejan Židan, who had broken promises, procrastinated and feigned ignorance."
Taxpayers will continue to pay down NLB debt for years, but this is better than throwing new billions at the bank in a year or two, so that it would remain "ours".
Something is certain, this is the end of "comrade loans" at the expense of taxpayers. If the bank ends in trouble, the owners will have to recapitalise it on their own, and "NLB will need to learn how to drive on macadam", concludes the commentary.
STA, 16 November 2018 - Slovenians will head to the polls on Sunday to elect 212 mayors. Some of the mayors seeking re-election have been in office since their municipalities were incepted, others have not been unseated for nearly two decades. About three dozen sitting mayors will not face a rival at all.
Nine mayors have been in office since Slovenia's first local election in 1994. One more has served as mayor since 1997, when his predecessor was appointed cabinet minister.
Another four mayors have held their office since 1998, when the number of municipalities in the country went from 147 to 193, as a number of local communities split into smaller ones.
The number of municipalities has been gradually increasing through the years, from 60 in 1991 to 212 in 2011.
Most of the long-sitting mayors do not often make national news, but when they do, it is typically positive news, which goes some way towards explaining their staying power.
This goes especially for Franc Čebulj of Cerklje na Gorenjskem, one of the most prosperous communities in the country, located north of Ljubljana.
Not only does it rank highest among municipalities by average salary, data for 2017 also show that the municipality had not taken out any new loans.
At least in part, the community's success can be attributed to the fact that the biggest airport in the country is located there, alongside a number of companies dependent on air transport. Currently, several international logistics firms are building new hubs near Cerklje.
On the other hand, there is Celje, in the northeast, which used to bill itself as the most developed city in the country.
But since its hay day several towns have outpaced or caught up with Celje, which has become the main source of criticism levelled against its incumbent Mayor Bojan Šrot, who has been in office since 1998.
Several of his six rivals believe that Celje should do more to attract highly-trained workers. Nonetheless, Šrot is likely to be re-elected: a poll released by newspaper Večer on Wednesday even indicated that he will carry the vote already in the first round.
Despite waning performance, Šrot is a good example of another major cause of staying power.
Šrot used to helm the People's Party (SLS), a political grouping that although it has not made it into parliament since 2014 usually does rather well in local elections, especially in dozens of small rural municipalities. In fact, many of the long-serving mayors come from its ranks.
While many of the mayors who have been in office for two decades or more have changed parties during this time, most of the mayors who did not break party allegiances in fact come from the ranks of the SLS.
Local election races are usually quite intense and can even get dirty, but the situation is much quieter in more than 30 municipalities where incumbent mayors face no rivals.
In the nortwestern-most municipality of Kranjska Gora, for example, there are almost no indications election weekend is coming up. While some posters promoting council candidates have been posted along the Upper Sava Valley, there are virtually no posters of the incumbent Janez Hrovat, who faces no rival.
But interestingly, a great number of municipalities with only one mayoral candidate are in the northeast.
One of them is the tiny community of Razkrižje, whose incumbent Stanko Ivanušič has been in office since 1998 and, facing no rivals, will remain mayor a sixth term.
The reason why they are not faced with a rival is because of good cooperation with all political groups in their municipal councils, the mayors of Sevnica and Križevci pri Ljutomeru, Srečko Ocvirk and Branko Belec, recently told the national broadcaster TV Slovenija.
Nonetheless, Belec added that a real election race shows the candidate how much they are really worth, while another unrivalled incumbent mayor from the Pomurje region, Damijan Jaklin of Velika Polana, added that competition is welcome because it forces candidates to do better.
All our local elections coverage is here
STA, 16 November 2018 - Standing halfway between Ljubljana and Maribor, Celje has been facing environmental issues and a drain of young people, having recently lost the title of the third-largest city in Slovenia. But everything suggests that there will be no change after local elections as long-time Mayor Bojan Šrot is virtually unrivalled.
Šrot, who has been at the helm of the city administration for two decades, is heading for the first local elections with his own list, after leaving two years ago the People's Party (SLS), which he led between 2007 and 2009.
No major party has managed to put forward a candidate in the last 20 years who could seriously rival Šrot, who still enjoys strong support despite lingering criticism and is likely to carry the vote in the first round.
Šrot has established his own party, the Celje Mayor's List, which has gained nearly 400 members since its inception in late August. He says the party is positioned strictly in the centre and "quite un-ideological", focusing on local issues.
His competition this time includes Sandi Sendelbah, a former municipal accountant who was actually fired recently by the mayor, and who will run alone in the elections as his list Open Celje has been rejected for administrative reasons.
Supported by a group of voters, Sendelbah strives for what he calls democratisation of the local government, and also stresses measures to address environmental issues and measures to keep young people from leaving the city.
Related: All our local elections coverage is here
The Democrats (SDS), the largest parliamentary party, are running with music teacher Matjaž Železnik, 61, who would like to revive the city centre, construct a new retirement home and introduce measures to encourage the young to stay in the city.
The incumbent is also facing Marko Zidanšek, the former party colleague who resigned as the SLS president after the party narrowly missed the threshold to enter parliament in the June general election.
Zidanšek, who heads a waste management company, sees the creation of new jobs with high added value as a priority, as this would make the city attractive to young people and highly-qualified workforce.
The Left has put forward librarian Mateja Žvižej, who if elected would discuss with representatives of local communities ways to introduce participatory budget at the micro level.
She believes that Celje needs to attract companies which employs highly educated staff with high added value and that every elderly citizen need to be provided with timely and quality home assistance.
Also in the running are Branko Verdev, the oldest candidate, aged 63, who runs with support from the Social Democrats (SD) and Matevž Vuga, the youngest candidate (31), who has been put forward by the Modern Centre Party (SMC).
Polls carried out among the residents suggest that many people indeed want change. In October, half of respondents said it was time for a change at the helm of the municipality, and only 20% said the current team should stay on.
But on the other hand, only a quarter are satisfied with the competition Šrot is facing in the elections, and more than half believe that he is facing mediocre competition.
The most recent survey shows Šrot getting more than 50% of support of the decided respondents and other candidates failing to get more than 5%. Šrot is also projected to win the most seats in the city council with his own list.
But whoever wins on Sunday following a lacklustre election campaign will have to address the issue of young people leaving the city, as they see not much opportunity there, and the environmental burden brought by the old site of chemical company Cinkarna Celje.
Many young people who leave Celje to study in Ljubljana or elsewhere do not return to their home town, disappointed by a job market that has been weak despite efforts by the authorities to create an innovative business environment.
The city is also in dire need of a bypass road as cargo vehicles still practically drive through the city centre, which is in turn seeing a lack of activity and events as many shops, cafes and restaurants are being closed.
All our stories about Celje are here
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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