Slovenia is a parliamentary republic with a freely elected government. While political rights and civil liberties are generally respected, the right-wing government has verbally attacked democratic institutions including the media and judiciary; this prompted pushback from civil society, and the attacks have failed to yield a systemic weakening of the liberal democratic order. Corruption remains an issue, though media are proactive in exposing it. The judiciary, while somewhat distrusted, has established a record of independent rulings, and the rule of law is generally respected.
- A new, right-wing government led by Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) president Janez Janša took office in mid-March.
- Prime Minister Janša and other high-ranking officials verbally attacked the media, the judiciary, and an antigovernment protest movement that organized periodic demonstrations during the year. After the president of the Supreme Court denounced Janša’s criticism of the judiciary and public prosecutors as undermining the principle of the separation of powers, the president attempted to quell the dispute in a senior-level meeting in October. It produced no results, and Janša continued his criticism. (The prime minister had been indicted in the fall over a 2005 real estate deal.)
- A procurement scandal involving personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators needed amid the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a number of investigations against high-ranking officials. The whistleblower in this affair was fired from his job in October, and is appealing the termination.
- The government drafted a sweeping overhaul of media legislation that would, if adopted, increase political influence over public media and reduce their funding. The draft law prompted vocal criticism from local and international media organizations and other stakeholders.
|Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?||4.004 4.004|
The prime minister heads the executive branch and is appointed by the National Assembly (Državni Zbor) for a four-year term. The president holds the mostly ceremonial position of head of state, and is directly elected for up to two five-year terms.
Marjan Šarec, leader of List of Marjan Šarec (LMŠ), resigned as prime minister of a minority government in late January 2020. This allowed Janez Janša, the leader of the right-wing SDS, to form a majority government in mid-March. By mid-December, his government lost majority support as well, making Janša’s the second minority government in 2020.
|Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?||4.004 4.004|
The legislature is composed of the 40-seat National Council (Državni Svet) and the 90-seat National Assembly. Councilors are indirectly elected to five-year terms by an electoral college. Of the 90 National Assembly members elected to four-year terms, 88 are elected by proportional representation vote. Two additional seats are reserved for lawmakers representing Hungarian and Italian minorities.
Monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) deemed the June 2018 National Assembly elections free and fair. In December 2020, the Democratic Party of Pensioners of Slovenia (DeSUS) quit the ruling coalition, leaving Janša to rule via a confidence-and-supply agreement with the nationalist party, plus two representatives of national minority groups.
|Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies?||4.004 4.004|
The National Election Commission is an independent and impartial body that supervises free and fair elections, and ensures electoral laws are properly implemented.
|Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings?||4.004 4.004|
The constitutional right to organize in different political parties is upheld in practice. Parties need to pass a 4 percent threshold of votes to win a seat in the parliament. Parties winning less than 4 percent but more than 1 percent of the vote are eligible for a proportional share of national-budget funds.
|Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections?||4.004 4.004|
Political power frequently rotates between parties.
|Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means?||4.004 4.004|
People’s political choices are free from domination by powerful groups that are not democratically accountable.
|Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities?||4.004 4.004|
Citizens enjoy full political rights and electoral opportunities. Hungarian and Italian minorities each elect their own lawmaker to the National Assembly. Roma councilors sit on 20 municipal councils, but are not represented in the national legislature.
The Council of Europe in September 2020 recommended that Slovenia recognize Croatian, Serbian, and German as minority languages and increase funding for television programming in Italian and Hungarian.
A 35 percent gender quota is mandated by law, and parties that fail to adhere to it have had their lists rejected. However, gender quotas are enforced on the precinct level, and NGOs have long complained that women candidates are allotted precincts with lower chances of being elected. Only 24 percent of lawmakers elected in 2018 were women, a decline from the last term.
|Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government?||4.004 4.004|
Elected officials are free to set and implement government policy without undue interference.
|Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective?||3.003 4.004|
Corruption in Slovenia primarily takes the form of conflicts of interest between government officials and private businesses. The Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (KPK), mired in controversy in recent years, has seen a change in leadership and, as of February 2020, is headed by Robert Šumi, a lecturer at the police academy. The body has since taken up several notable cases of alleged corruption; these include cases related to procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical ventilators during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in April, as well as misappropriation of funds by Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec, who resigned in October as a result of the allegations.
In June 2020, the National Assembly, after years of failed attempts, passed its ethics code. In October, Parliament approved a wide-ranging overhaul of the Integrity and Prevention of Corruption Act that expanded the KPK’s supervisory role, aimed to improve procedure transparency, and mandated that more officials report assets.
While whistleblower protection is regulated in anticorruption and other laws, NGOs have repeatedly called for comprehensive stand-alone legislation to better protect them.
Corruption and irregularities in the health sector remained in the public focus in 2020—especially in the light of the procurement scandal involving PPE and ventilators, which led to a number of investigations against several high-ranking officials. The whistleblower in this affair was fired from his job in October 2020 in what was widely seen as government retaliation, but is appealing his termination. A wide-raging investigation by the Court of Audit is proceeding, with suspected criminal acts in at least 13 contracts detected in 2020.
Media continue to be proactive in exposing corruption allegations. This includes allegations in September 2020 of insider trading by a government minister and the indictment in October of Prime Minister Janša over a 2005 real estate deal.
Janša dismissed concerns in the European Commission’s September 2020 Rule of Law report about underfunding of anticorruption bodies, saying he was more concerned by the lack of funds for health care than he was about statements by NGOs and other organizations.
|Does the government operate with openness and transparency?||4.004 4.004|
The government generally operates with openness and transparency. However, a September 2020 report by the European Commission revealed concerns over lack of resources for key regulators. Additionally, the government proposed a merger of all eight independent regulators into just two superagencies, citing benefits of reduced management costs and increased efficiency. The regulators themselves opposed the merger, claiming it would violate European Union (EU) and international law and curbs their independence.
|Are there free and independent media?||3.003 4.004|
Freedom of speech and of the press are constitutionally guaranteed, but defamation remains a criminal offense. In a positive development, in 2018 the Supreme Court ruled that journalists cannot legally be compelled to reveal their sources unless there is a clearly demonstratable public good in doing so.
In mid-2020, the government drafted a sweeping overhaul of media legislation that would, if adopted, increase political influence over public media (mostly public broadcaster RTVSLO and the STA press agency) and partially defund them even while their scope of responsibilities remained the same. This drew vocal criticism from local and international media organizations and a plethora of other stakeholders. Some critics assert that the change is aimed at securing public financing for outlets friendly to the SDS. In addition, the affected outlets voiced concerns about having to lay off journalists and other staff should these draft laws be adopted, which in turn would limit their ability to serve the public interest.
Media ownership is sometimes opaque, and journalists are subject to pressure and occasional harassment due to their coverage. Throughout August and September 2020, one outlet became a target of 39 lawsuits from a single individual who is considered to be an associate of the prime minister. The move is considered a collection of SLAPPs (strategic lawsuit against public participation), and was widely condemned by international and local media organizations.
Slovenia was the subject of eight media alerts in 2020 on the Council of Europe Platform to Promote the Protection and Safety of Journalists. Five of these were classified as the state being the source of the threat, and include instances of the prime minister denigrating journalists and outlets.
In a July 2020 report, the European Commission raised concerns over media pluralism in Slovenia.
State-owned enterprises continue to hold a stake in several media outlets, leaving them vulnerable to government intervention. Media published by municipalities have been abused as propaganda tools favoring incumbent mayors. Some private outlets have been accused of running stories promoting their owners’ business interests. Journalists can also face direct pressure from powerful business interests.
Journalists also face economic threats to their livelihoods, be it by cost-cutting across newsrooms, or outright terminations. These fears have been exacerbated by ownership shifts at various outlets.
|Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private?||4.004 4.004|
The Slovenian constitution guarantees religious freedom and contains provisions prohibiting incitement of religious intolerance or discrimination. However, there are occasional instances of vandalism of religious buildings, and of hate speech by high-profile figures.
Construction of a long-delayed mosque in Ljubljana was completed in 2019. Services began in early 2020 but were soon suspended, along with all other religious services in the country, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Score Change: The score improved from 3 to 4 because the country’s first mosque officially opened in February, after years of institutional resistance to its construction.
|Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination?||4.004 4.004|
Academic freedom is generally respected.
|Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution?||4.004 4.004|
Individuals are generally free to express their personal beliefs without fear of reprisal. Defamation remains a criminal offense, though officials may no longer press charges through the state prosecutor. Officials have repeatedly called for authorities to investigate the social media profiles of government critics.
|Is there freedom of assembly?||4.004 4.004|
The rights to peaceful assembly and association are guaranteed by the constitution and generally respected in practice. Assemblies must be registered with the authorities in advance, and in some instances permits are required.
In 2020, senior government officials called for legal action against protesters attending weekly demonstrations against various government measures and policies. Janša demanded that charges be filed for what he characterized as death threats, though the state prosecution found no grounds to do so. Interior Minister Aleš Hojs repeatedly demanded that police take a tougher approach with protesters, and investigate their social media posts. While the police refused to do so, and the information commissioner warned against such invasions of privacy, protest participants were frequently subject to fines and police procedures based on alleged health violations. At the height of the protest movement, there were instances in which police stopped and searched individuals on grounds related to protest-related activity at locations nowhere near the protests.
|Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work?||4.004 4.004|
Numerous nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) operate freely and play a role in policymaking. However, as a part of one of the coronavirus relief packages, the ruling coalition changed environmental protection acts to (among other things) limit NGO involvement in spatial planning and impact assessments. The Constitutional Court in July 2020 temporarily stayed the NGO-related changes, pending final ruling.
|Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations?||4.004 4.004|
Workers may establish and join trade unions, strike, and bargain collectively.
|Is there an independent judiciary?||4.004 4.004|
The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and efficiency has increased in recent years. However, a significant portion of the general public still has a negative perception of the courts, although this too has improved somewhat in recent years.
Prime Minister Janša continued his regular criticism of the judiciary throughout 2020, prompting the president of the Supreme Court in August to denounce his remarks as undermining the principle of division of power. The president sought to quell the dispute in a senior-level meeting in October, but it solved little, and Janša has since doubled down on his criticism of the courts and public prosecutors.
|Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters?||4.004 4.004|
The rule of law is respected in civil and criminal matters. Programs aimed at reducing court backlogs have seen some success in recent years.
|Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies?||4.004 4.004|
People in Slovenia are generally free from threats of physical force. Prison conditions meet international standards, though overcrowding has been reported.
Paramilitary groups (called “Wards”) became more active in 2020, claiming that their patrols were aimed at protecting the Slovenian border from illegal migrants. After striking down a bill to outlaw these formations in March 2020, parliament approved a similar measure in September.
|Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population?||3.003 4.004|
Some deficiencies exist in the protection of equal rights in Slovenia, including in the treatment of asylum seekers and Roma. In July 2020, the media reported on police restricting the movements of asylum seekers, denying them legal aid, and intentionally conflating the statuses of illegal immigrants and asylum seekers. Proposed amendments to the Aliens Act released in September would allow for stricter asylum measures in case of sudden increases in the number of migrants attempting to enter the country. Advocacy groups said that the amended law would effectively prevent refugees from applying for international protection and would formalize mass deportations.
While their legal status and ability to claim compensation have been resolved to a large extent, some individual cases of “The Erased”—a group of more than 25,000 non-Slovene citizens purged from official records in 1992—relating to restitution and reestablishing legal rights remain pending. Roma face widespread poverty and societal marginalization. Although there are legal protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation, discrimination against LGBT+ people is still present. However, recent research suggests that the social gap experienced by LGBT+ persons is closing. Despite legal protections, people with disabilities still often face workplace discrimination.
|Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education?||4.004 4.004|
Citizens enjoy the right to change their residence, employment, and place of education.
|Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors?||4.004 4.004|
Individuals may exercise the right to own property and establish private business in practice.
|Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance?||3.003 4.004|
Individuals generally enjoy personal social freedoms. People entering same-sex partnerships enjoy most of the rights conferred by marriage but cannot adopt children or undergo in-vitro fertilization procedures. Marriage is still legally defined as a union between a man and a woman. Domestic violence is illegal but remains a concern in practice, though nearly all reported cases are investigated. According to the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ), the number of reported cases increased in 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
|Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation?||3.003 4.004|
Authorities actively prosecute suspected human traffickers and work to identify victims.
Many people at the beginning of their careers or nearing retirement are employed under precarious conditions. According to labor unions and advocacy groups the situation is getting worse every year, and was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Labor unions cite extended work hours and workplace quality as pressing issues, while experts say that the main problem is lack of oversight.
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