Local Elections: Scandal Hit Politicians Attempt Comebacks Around Slovenia (Feature)

By , 14 Nov 2018, 13:00 PM Politics
Local Elections: Scandal Hit Politicians Attempt Comebacks Around Slovenia (Feature) Montage: JL Flanner

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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.

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