Will Slovenia join Hungary and Romania as examples of constitutional back-sliding?

von Matej Avbelj

Slovenia is heading for a snap election on July 13, 2014, the second in less than three years. However, this time around there is a very high risk that the election is going to take place contrary to the standards anticipated in a liberal constitutional democracy based on the rule of law. The leader of the centre-right opposition, Mr. Janez Janša, chairman of the Slovenian democrats, appears to be ousted from the political battle as he is to start serving his 2-year prison sentence on June, 20, just three weeks before the election.

Of course, while we are used that politicians go to jail, even if infrequently, but often on corruption charges, it is less usual, at least for so-called Western Europe, to see leaders of the opposition jailed literally just days before the election. Such cases are per se suspicious for a potential abuse or at least instrumentalization of the judiciary by the ruling powers against their potential political opponents. The Slovenian case, briefly presented in what follows, shows with full force that such use of the judiciary is possible even in a formally well-ordered and law-abiding EU Member State.

It all publicly started in 2008, a few weeks before the general parliamentary election, when the Slovenian national TV showed a Finnish documentary claiming that the then Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša was bribed by the Finnish arms-selling corporation Patria, which was consequently and as a result awarded the contract with the Slovenian government. The documentary identified the recipient of a bribe exclusively with the letter J, that a couple of years later turned out to stand not for Janša but for a Croatian businessman Jerković.

Nevertheless, a huge political controversy understandably broke loose. The political scandal made Janša finish second in the parliamentary election and resulted in the establishment of the political left government ...

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