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Coalition that spearheaded independence founded 30 years ago

Ljubljana, 4 December - A coalition of parties that would go on to win Slovenia's first multi-party election and formed a government that would lead the country to independence was formally founded 30 years ago, to the day.

Ljubljana
Protagonists of the DEMOS coalition attending yesterday's reception at the Presidential Palace.
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA
File photo

DEMOS, standing for the Democratic Opposition of Slovenia, brought together the parties that had been founded in the year and a half before as part of the democratic movement that demanded an end to the one-party Communist regime.

The coalition was formally founded on 4 December 1989 as the Slovenian Democratic Union (SDZ), Slovenian Social Democratic Union (SDZS) and the Slovenian Christian Democrats (SKD) signed a cooperation agreement.

This was after an oral agreement to found the coalition was reached at the home of Ivan Oman, the leader of the Slovenian Farmers' Alliance (SKZ, later People's Party/SLS) in the village of Zimec near Škofja Loka on 27 November 1989.

The SKZ and the Greens formally joined DEMOS in January 1990, followed by the Slovenian Craftsmen Party (SOS) in February and the then pensioners' party - the Grey Panthers, in March that year.

Representing a great variety of interests, political and ideological views, the parties had one goal in common - to change the political system, which also involved taking Slovenia out of a federation in which the Communist regime and old ways still very much held sway.

The parties comprising DEMOS won the general election on 8 April 1990, the first multi-party election since 1945, securing 54.8% of the vote to defeat the parties that evolved from the political organisations of the former regime.

It was expected that the ensuing government would be formed by DEMOS leader Jože Pučnik (1932-2003), the chairman of the SDZ party, but he renounced the post of prime minister in favour of Lojze Peterle, the leader of the SKD, the party that won the largest share of the vote among all DEMOS parties (13%).

While Pučnik took over as vice-president of the executive council, as the government was called at the time, fellow SDZ party members assumed other senior posts; Janez Janša took over as defence minister, Igor Bavčar as interior minister, Dimitrij Rupel as foreign minister, Rajko Pirnat as justice minister, while France Bučar was appointed the National Assembly speaker.

The DEMOS government would then carry out the independence project; in a referendum on 23 December 1990, 88.2% of those eligible to vote voted in favour of Slovenia breaking away from Yugoslavia and on 25 June 1991 the National Assembly passed the declaration of independence.

With its main goal achieved, the DEMOS coalition fell apart on 30 December 1991, because of the difference in views on how to transform the economy, in particular on the best mode of privatisation.

The DEMOS anniversary was marked with a ceremony hosted by President Borut Pahor on Monday. The keynote speakers, members of the DEMOS presidency Hubert Požarnik and Matjaž Šinkovec, noted the role of dialogue between the parties at the time, which made the success of independence possible.

"National unity for independence did not appear out of nowhere," Pahor said, adding that the politicians of the time could serve as an inspiration today for succeeding in getting their political opponents on board for their plans.

ep/eho
© STA, 2019