Politico on Janša: A Strongman Who Plays to Win

By , 12 Mar 2020, 12:39 PM Politics
Politico on Janša: A Strongman Who Plays to Win Screenshot from Google image search

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International attention rarely turns to Slovenian politics, but whenever it does there’s been at least one constant for more than three decades – Janez Janša, the man who will soon become Slovenia’s Prime Minister for the third time. What’s more, at a robust and vigorous looking 61, he’s likely to be on the scene for years to come.

Janša is, to put it mildly, a polarising figure. Starting public life as writer for Mladina, and going to jail for his actions against the Communist authorities of Yugoslavia, he was, like Orbán in Hungary, widely seen as a force for good in the years around the end of the Iron Curtain. Indeed, if you want to see how cool he was in the late 1980s then check out this 1989 clip from the UK’s Rough Guide to Slovenia, with more clips from the show here.

In that segment on Mladina you’ll also see Marcel Štefančič Jr., a familiar face on television with his long grey hair and ponytail, both absent at the time of filming. And it’s Štefančič that Politico turn to for some context in their profile of Janša, titled “Slovenian strongman back at EU top table”, a reference to the fact that Slovenia will hold the EU Presidency in the second half of the year (for the second time, with the first being in 2008, when Janša was also Prime Minister, and Europe also faced a crisis).

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Orbán and Janša at an SDS rally. Facebook

As all non-Slovene articles about Janša seem to do, the emphasis is put on his relationship with Viktor Orbán, as well as the similarities and differences between the two men. The overall statement is that Janša “plays to win”, with Štefančič claiming that his former co-worker is “a little bit of Trump, a little bit of Boris Johnson, a little bit of Orbán.” Štefančič goes on to express some concern that Slovenia could follow Hungary down the path of “illiberal democracy”, noting that if Janša decided to do so “I don’t think the other parties that are in coalition with him would stop him.”

However it’s that coalition that Ali Žerdin, of the newspaper Delo, sees as a limiting factor on any great changes to society. Žerdin claims that the parties joined the coalition for fear of being wiped out in a snap election, and thus they preferred to help Janša gain power, keep him in check, and position themselves for the next elections, due in mid-2022 at the latest.

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The art world in particular likes playing with Janša, and Janša finds much to excite his supporters with in the art world. There are actually three artists known as Janez Janša, while the Prime Minister himself was born Ivan Janša.

The article goes on to give more background on Janša, and why those in the centre and on the left who have followed his career for decades have some concerns about what’s coming next, particularly with regard to interference in the media. You can read the whole thing here, and – if you’d like to get some idea of what the next Prime Minister is like then you can see his very active, in English and Slovene, Twitter account here.

All our stories on Janez Janša can be found here

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