Is the upcoming European election in Slovenia developing into a tragic comedy? Foto: BoBo
Is the upcoming European election in Slovenia developing into a tragic comedy? Foto: BoBo
Dragan Barbutovski
The Slovenian EP election campaign is turning into a tragic comedy. But still has the elements of fresh air, says Dragan Barbutovski in his latest blog. Foto: MMC RTV SLO

Firstly, we now have a bizarre, morally unacceptable situation, when we have MEP candidates appearing on an election list of a political party they have in fact acrimoniously departed. We now have 16 confirmed lists with some of them actually hosting ‘ghost candidates’.

Secondly, we have candidates topping the lists who now openly state that due to the splits within their new party, they would prefer to be a candidate of a different one. Does this indicate desperation at all costs to become an MEP and does it undermine commitment and loyalty to a party? Candidates can rely on personal popularity to win elections, but surely it is the policies of the party the candidate represents that should be the basis of their actions with the EP if elected. Candidates prepared to switch parties simply to become an MEP calls into question whether the candidate supports the policies of their party or not. Or to put it differently: such a candidate cannot credibly represent positions of any party. If this is the case, can the electorate be confident that their voting opinions will be represented in the EP?

Thirdly, we have political parties which started the election campaign being members of one European political grouping in the EP but are now either dropping the alliance at the 11th hour or seeking membership of a different one, confusing the electorate to the point that we no longer know what their manifesto is any more.

Fourthly, do we have candidates with no domestic or EU political experience positioning themselves ahead of more qualified candidates? If so, the question is why, especially when Slovenia, now more than ever, requires experience and political nous from seasoned individuals to represent the country in these economically and challenging times. Questions should be asked of novice candidates to explain how a lack of experience would be beneficial for Slovenia or clarify what their aspirations actually are?

Fifthly, we have incumbent MEPs who have been ditched at the last minute, for whatever reason, adding to the already torn image of Slovenian politics as being a potential kakistocracy. This is underlined by one political leader being convicted by a court of law, who is now publicly undermining the judiciary thus ensuring the EP elections will now be dominated by political scandal instead of allowing the electorate to focus on the European issues.

Sixthly, the electorate will be treated as ‘marketing fodder’ for the new political parties to test how much we like the new political ‘Spring/Summer collection’ – which in fact is interested only in early general elections and not in running for the EP. The elections will now take place before the summer.

And seventhly, all female actors have – in this tragic comedy – been pushed into just the ‘supporting roles’. The politics in Slovenia is still ‘alpha male’ dominated. If anybody knows that ask the next Prime Minister.

And what was the trigger for the entrance on stage Slovenia of all these eccentric characters? Could it be the decision of a bunch of politicians (who we have unfortunately elected, hoping the ‘new bunch’ will be better that the ‘old lot’) who have put petty political and personal interests above those of the country with the backing of the ‘old guard’.

All of this is of course overshadowed by the fact that the leaders of Slovenia’s top two political parties both govern under a shadow of allegations of corruption. Our embarrassed country also has a Slovenian MEP convicted for two years after pleading guilty in a bribery scandal. The political and economic elite must realise the only important thing is the reputation of Slovenia and so must society.

For a second I thought these EP elections would in fact deal with the European issues – but unfortunately, I was naïve.

But the campaign has surfaced two bright spots:
- We now have a remarkable Muslim woman who is proud to wear a head scarf running to be an MEP. While she might not have real chances to get elected, this equal right campaigner and a nominee for the ‘Slovenian Woman of the Year’ is nevertheless a breath of fresh air.
- Equally, we also have a black candidate living in Prekmurje who with an impressive career of a translator is already behind him, has the backing of the whole region. This demonstrates that the EU can be about acceptance and tolerance.

These two candidates also demonstrate that Slovenia is not an insular and xenophobic country but is capable of shaping diverse leadership of a country that is so many times criticised for being too much ‘the same’.

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Dragan Barbutovski