Following Viktor Orbán’s landslide victory earlier this month, many commentators worried about the future of democracy in Hungary.
But “Orbanism” does not stop at Hungary’s border. One of Orbán closest allies, Slovenia’s Prime Minister Janez Janša, has deployed the same autocratic playbook for years — and on Sunday, seeks re-election to push the EU even further along in its anti-democratic drift.
As Prime Minister, Janša has waged war on political parties of the opposition, journalists, press freedoms, environmental rights, and the very right to protest.
Recently, Janša’s government attempted to ban the political party Levica, as well as labeling the Progressive International a “terrorist” organization.
The attack on Levica was not rhetorical. The Slovenian Constitutional Court, the highest court in the land, was forced to vote on banning the party in an escalation of Slovenia’s legal warfare. In Janša’s Slovenia, simply proposing an alternative vision for society is enough to jeopardize your political rights.
Along with direct attacks against political opponents, the government has led concerted efforts to undermine press freedom and even the standing of individual journalists. The European Centre for Press & Media Freedom warned in no uncertain terms: “Prime Minister Janez Janša is overseeing an increasingly systematic effort to undermine critical media.”
In attempts to publicly humiliate and pressure the press, Janša called one reporter a “potential terrorist” and used misogynistic attacks saying two women journalists were “prostituting themselves” after they revealed links of several SDS top party members to neo-Nazi groups online.
Most worrying of all, his government has worked to starve Slovenian Press Agency (STA) through suspension of its funding, effectively kneecapping substantive, independent public media to facilitate a strategy of media capture by friendly political forces. In response to a “deteriorating situation for media freedom in Slovenia” and Janša’s “attempts to exert greater control” over the country’s public media, multiple media watchdogs urgently appealed last year directly to the European Commission.
He has labeled as “criminal” massive peaceful protests against his government, led by trade unions, journalists, and social movements. After alleged police misconduct during large protests in Ljubljana during 2020, groups like Amnesty International raised the alarm. “Freedom of peaceful assembly for the purpose of protest and freedom of expression are becoming endangered in Slovenia,” wrote Amnesty’s national director.
That is why the Progressive International is mobilizing now to Ljubljana: to stand with our members as they struggle to defend the country’s democratic institutions and fight for the rights to work, health, housing, and habitat. Few may be paying attention to Slovenia’s general election this Sunday. But for Europe, the stakes could not be higher.
Photo: Pedro Szekely/Flickr