“Slovenian nationalist party wins parliamentary election” declares the Guardian. “Anti-immigration party wins Slovenia elections” says CNBC. “Anti-immigrant party wins divisive Slovenian election as coalition talks set to begin” says the Telegraph.
The Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) has indeed clearly won the most votes and seats. With 99.89% of the vote counted though, it is on just 25% of the vote and has won 25 seats out of the 90-seat National Assembly. So, when one considers the rest of the Assembly it is unclear if it will lead the next government. Let us consider the result in full.
|Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS)
|List of Marjan Šarec
|Modern Centre Party
|New Slovenia – Christian Democrats
|Party of Alenka Bratušek
|Democratic Party of Pensioners of Slovenia
||Single issue pensioner’s interest, Centre
|Slovenian National Party
|Italian and Hungarian National Minority Representations
As we can see, the SDS won the most votes and seats, but to form a government they need to have the support of at least half the assembly. When you look at who they could go into coalition with, there aren’t enough obvious partners to get them across the line.
They comprise of the three parties of the outgoing government, the Modern Centre Party, the Social Democrats and the Pensioners Party (25 seats together), along with The Left, The List of Marjan Šarec and the Party of Alenka Bratušek.
Slovenia, in common with many European states, uses an open party-list proportional electoral system. The country is divided into eight regions, each represented by eleven MPs (plus two for the Hungarian and Italian minorities). Voters can choose which party they support and which candidates they want to take up the seats.
With a proportional system, vote splitting is not the issue that it is in the UK. Parties under Westminster’s broken voting system are often said to be broad coalitions. It is just that they are coalitions that the voters have no say in their composition. A voter in Slovenia who wanted a more left-wing government could vote for The Left in the knowledge that every extra MP they have would strengthen their position in the coalition.
The SDS is a controversial party. Since the European migrants crisis, it has employed increasingly anti-migrant rhetoric, with its leader, Janez Janša utilising “drain the swamp” style rhetoric and allying with the nationalist leader of Hungary, Viktor Orban. Accusations of corruption around Janša have also led to controversy, nonetheless the party’s status as largest party speaks to its enduring popularity amongst a section of Slovene society.
It is possible, therefore, that despite SDS getting the most seats, the centre-left parties could work to lock Janša out of power. For Janša to reach power he would need the support of at least 10 MPs from centre-left parties – even the addition of the largely single-issue Pensioners’ Party would still leave Janša’s party five seats short of a majority.
For journalists versed in British or American politics, it’s easy to see why they would hail the SDS’s seat haul as a victory. Elections to Westminster and Washington aren’t designed to produce government that represents the country. Only with a proportional voting system can we ensure that we get the government we voted for.