Who is Dejan Židan? A Short History of Slovenia’s New Speaker

By , 24 Aug 2018, 09:35 AM Politics
The faces of Dejan Židan The faces of Dejan Židan Montage: Google Image Search results

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STA, 23 August 2018 - Dejan Židan, the leader of the Social Democrats (SD), comes to the top job at the National Assembly with a long track record in government, having served as agriculture minister in the centre-left governments of Borut Pahor, Alenka Bratušek and Miro Cerar. 

The 50-year-old took over as party leader in 2014, at the apex of a tumulus period for the party, which was reeling after a difficult stint leading the government in 2008-2011, a period of deep depression at the peak of the financial and economic crisis.

He succeeded political sciences professor Igor Lukšič, then considered the main party ideologue, after a disastrous showing in the EU parliament elections in which the party finished 5th with just 8% of the vote and one MP.

Židan's appointment was an effort to rejuvenate a party that is the successor of the reformed communists and wanted to shed the baggage of history, which was further reinforced by the appointment of younger staff to other senior party posts.

Židan himself was never a member of the Communist Party but he is a veteran of the Slovenian independence war, who has always avoided ideological flighting.

His record in government is mixed.

"Buy local" policies that he championed have, at least to a certain extent, helped Slovenian producers to get their produce on store shelves, as has his relentless campaign for the protection of pollinators which resulted in the birthday of Slovenian beekeeper Anton Janša being declared World Bee Day.

A strong focus on forestry has also helped kick-start a revival of the once mighty wood processing industry in the country.

But the way he undertook this was met with sharp criticism by liberal types who objected mostly to the centralisation of state forestry in SiDG, which has a monopoly on exploitation of wood in state-owned forests and has driven many smaller firms out of business.

He has also been strongly criticised for his handling of the Teran wine dispute with Croatia, which many felt Slovenia should have tackled more decisively and earlier. The dispute is currently being handled by the EU Court of Justice.

Before the 3 June election, he was seen as a possible candidate for prime minister, given that his SD was among the top three parties in the public opinion polls. Finally, the party finished third with just under 10% of the vote to trail the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) and the Democrats (SDS).

Holding a degree in veterinary medicine, Židan started his career as a veterinarian before he took a job at the pig breeding department of the National Veterinary Institute.

In 2007 he became chairman of Panvita, one of the biggest food groups in Slovenia, a post he held until he became minister the first time in 2010.

Židan is married to his college sweetheart with whom he has two adult children.

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