Fifteen Years of Slovenian Independence
Ljubljana, 11 December - The past year was marked by the 15th anniversary of Slovenia's independence. The country was "born" on 25 June 1991, six months after an overwhelming majority of Slovenians endorsed independence in a referendum. Many believe Slovenia emerged under favourable conditions in Europe when the old continent was politically reinventing itself after the fall of the Berlin Wall. But independence would most likely not have come about without the near unanimous support of the people and the relative unity of the political elite in independence efforts, especially in the final stages of preparations and during the ten-day independence war that followed Slovenia's declaration of independence.
The unity may well have been a product of the decision of Slovenians to divide power among the old and the new political forces at the first multi-party election, held in April 1990. The winner of the election was the DEMOS coalition of right-leaning parties, while the strongest party on the opposite side of the political spectrum was the Democratic Reform party, the successor to the Communist Party and the predecessor of what is now the Social Democrats (SD). The voters additionally balanced the political scene by electing Milan Kucan the president ahead of Joze Pucnik, the head of DEMOS and one of the key figures in Slovenia's independence efforts.
Slovenia successfully steered through transition, with economic indicators showing stable growth. Although foreign organisations praised the country's efforts in building a market economy, the opposition was critical about the overly lenient and unjust privatisation and control of all pores of social life. It attributed this to the 12-year rule of the Liberal Democrats (LDS), who won their first general election in 1992, following the break-up of DEMOS after the right-wing coalition carried through key independence projects. Headed by Janez Drnovsek, who succeeded Milan Kucan as the country's president in 2002, the LDS managed to remain the most powerful party for over a decade, successfully heading governments composed of parties from both sides of the political spectrum. The broadness of the coalition outfit prevented right-leaning parties from creating a unified front against the LDS, which however gradually shed support as its years in power grew.
The centre-right parties managed to form a united alliance prior to the 2004 general election, after the conservative People's Party (SLS) left the LDS-led government. The conservatives also created an Assembly for the Republic, a right-leaning pressure group. The right-of-centre coalition was headed by the Slovenian Democrats (SDS), which took just under 30% of the vote in 2004. The SDS built a coalition with its allies, the SLS and the New Slovenia (NSi). The period after the election was marked by a crisis of the left parties, chiefly the LDS, which found it difficult getting used to life in the opposition.
SDS president Janez Jansa also invited the leftist Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) into his government, whose main achievements include reform efforts in all areas. Key project undertaken by Jansa's government include the successful conclusion of efforts to adopt the euro, one of the biggest achievements of Slovenia following independence. The SDS also played a key role in producing accord on two other very important projects: Slovenia's accession to the EU and NATO. Both projects fostered near total unity among parliamentary parties. This was reflected in referendums in March 2003 when voters backed both EU and NATO membership.
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