Slovenia is a parliamentary republic with a freely elected government. While political rights and civil liberties are generally respected, the current right-wing government has continued attempts to undermine the rule of law and democratic institutions, including the media and judiciary; this prompted pushback from civil society. Corruption remains an issue, though media are proactive in exposing it. The judiciary has established a record of independent rulings.
- In June, the Constitutional Court declared that key provisions of the Communicable Diseases Act, which enabled the government to restrict movement and assembly during the COVID-19 pandemic, were unconstitutional. The government amended the law in July to pass other coronavirus-related public health restrictions by decree, without public consultation.
- For most of the year, the government withheld public funds from the Slovenian Press Agency (STA), despite two separate laws that provide for its financial support. The Office of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for Communication (Ukom) initiated a contract dispute intended to compel the agency to submit to greater government control. Critics speculated that Ukom deliberately dragged out the dispute to drain the STA of funds, so as to weaken their negotiating position.
- In October, police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse thousands of antigovernment protesters in Ljubljana. Interior Minister Aleš Hojs criticized police for dispersing a simultaneous far-right demonstration intended to disrupt the antigovernment protest; the officers involved received disciplinary actions.
|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, currently Borut Pahor, holds the ceremonial position of head of state and is directly elected for up to two five-year terms.
After Marjan Šarec, leader of List of Marjan Šarec (LMŠ), resigned as prime minister in late January 2020, Janez Janša, leader of the right-wing Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), became prime minister and formed a majority government. His government lost majority support and became a minority government in mid-December of that year, though Janša remained in power.
|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) elected indirectly, and a 90-seat National Assembly. Of the 90 National Assembly members elected to four-year terms, 88 are elected by a system of proportional representation. Two additional seats are reserved for lawmakers representing Hungarian and Italian minorities.
Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) monitors deemed the June 2018 National Assembly elections free and fair. The SDS currently leads the parliament with a minority government.
|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.
Supporters of a July 2021 referendum on the Waters Act accused the government of using voter suppression tactics to affect the outcome of the poll. Vote-by-mail request forms were sent to nursing homes only 12 hours before the application deadline; the Commission failed to sufficiently staff voting centers (which were poorly marked and had long lines); and there were unusual changes in voters’ polling stations.
|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 to win a seat in the parliament. Parties winning more than 1 percent of the vote are eligible for a proportional share of funds from the national budget.
|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.
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 nongovernmental organizations (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. Public anticorruption institutions experience pressure through coordinated social media campaigns to influence their decision-making. The Janša government has failed to appoint at least 12 public prosecutors, diminishing the institutional capacity of anticorruption efforts. Journalists continue to be proactive in exposing corruption allegations. In June 2020, the National Assembly, after years of failed attempts, passed its ethics code.
The Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (KPK), led by Robert Šumi and mired in controversy in recent years, has taken up several notable cases of alleged corruption; including cases related to the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical ventilators during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
|Does the government operate with openness and transparency?||3.003 4.004|
While the government generally operates with openness, several challenges to government transparency emerged in 2021. In June, the Constitutional Court declared that key provisions of the Communicable Diseases Act, which enabled the government to restrict movement and assembly during the COVID-19 pandemic, were unconstitutional. The Janša government amended the law in July to pass other coronavirus-related public health restrictions by decree, without public consultation. These decrees were also subject to review by the Constitutional Court.
Also in July, the National Assembly amended public procurement rules as a part of a vaguely worded omnibus bill, ostensibly to reduce bureaucracy. However, critics—including the chairman of the National Audit Commission for the Audit of Public Procurement Procedures (DKOM)—expressed concerns that the amended rules would reduce the transparency of public tenders.
Score Change: The score declined from 4 to 3 because the government has relied on decrees and an opaquely authored omnibus bill to change policies and regulations.
|Are there free and independent media?||2.002 4.004|
Freedom of the press is constitutionally guaranteed, but defamation remains a criminal offense. State-owned enterprises continue to hold a stake in several media outlets, leaving them vulnerable to government intervention. Media ownership is sometimes opaque, and local outlets have been abused as propaganda tools favoring incumbent mayors. Journalists are subject to pressure from powerful business interests and occasional harassment due to their coverage.
For most of 2021, the Janša government withheld public funds from the STA, despite two separate laws that provide for its financial support. Ukom instead initiated a contract dispute intended to compel the agency to submit to greater government control. National and international media organizations, President Pahor, and the European Commission (EC), among others, protested the government’s actions. Critics speculated that Ukom deliberately dragged out the dispute to drain the STA of funds, so as to weaken their negotiating position. The STA was forced to downsize 10 percent of its journalists, who either switched to different outlets or left journalism altogether. The STA director resigned in protest in September. In November, the two sides agreed on financing terms for 2021, though 2022 financing remained unresolved.
International media advocacy groups have noted an increasingly hostile environment toward the media and a worrying increase in violence against journalists. A retrial of a criminal case against Prime Minister Janša, accused of defamation by two female journalists, began in June 2021. One of the journalists received threatening letters containing unknown substance in June and September. The substance in both cases turned out to be nontoxic. In April, National Security Secretary Žan Mahnič posted threatening messages on Twitter toward Peter Žerjavič, the Brussels correspondent for Delo Daily, which was condemned by the main Slovenian media organization, Delo Journalists’ Association (DNS).
In September 2021, a group of antivaccination protesters forced their way into a Radio-Television Slovenia (RTVSLO) studio, demanding to have their COVID-19 conspiracy theories broadcast. The group was eventually removed from the premises by the police.
Score Change: The score declined from 3 to 2 because the government withheld legally mandated funds meant for the country’s public broadcaster for much of the year.
|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. In Domžale in May 2021, reports emerged that headstones in a Muslim cemetery had been vandalized.
In June 2021, the government disbanded its Office for Religious Communities. Several religious leaders claimed this left a void of support from the government, especially regarding religious practice during the coronavirus pandemic. The government established a separate council tasked with resolving open questions specific to the Roman Catholic Church, but no other religious community.
|Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination?||4.004 4.004|
Academic freedom is generally respected, though at times the Janša government has attempted to influence appointments to academic institutions; the government continued to refuse to appoint Igor Žagar as head of the Education Research Institute.
In December 2021, the parliament adopted changes to the Education Financing and Organization Act, which increases the political influence in kindergarten board member appointments. Experts and labor union leaders strongly criticized the change.
|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.
|Is there freedom of assembly?||3.003 4.004|
Assembly and association rights are guaranteed by the constitution and generally respected in practice. Assemblies must be registered with the authorities in advance and sometimes require permits.
In 2021, the government used the Communicable Diseases Act, passed in 2020, to limit and at times completely ban mass gatherings, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the Constitutional Court declared parts of the law preventing assembly unconstitutional, the government tightened restrictions by means of parliamentary decrees. Police issued harsh fines for activities that were newly considered offenses by the government’s new policies. Senior government representatives repeatedly accused protesters of spreading COVID-19 without evidence. In March, underage students were prosecuted for violating assembly bans when protesting the closure of schools.
In October 2021, police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse thousands of antigovernment protesters in Ljubljana. Interior Minister Hojs criticized police for dispersing a simultaneous far-right demonstration intended to disrupt the antigovernment protest; the officers involved received disciplinary actions.
Score Change: The score declined from 4 to 3 because authorities forcefully disrupted antigovernment protests and attempted to restrict assembly rights through unconstitutional means.
|Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work?||3.003 4.004|
Numerous NGOs operate freely and play a role in policymaking.
However, the Janša government created an increasingly hostile environment for civil society in 2021. Senior officials, including Janša himself, made spurious and unsubstantiated claims about organizations’ activity and funding throughout the year. The Ministry of Culture unsuccessfully attempted to evict several NGOs from an old office building. Similarly, the government attempted but failed to change public tender rules for NGOs applying for grants from donor countries in the European Economic Area (EEA), including Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein.
Prime Minister Janša routinely equates NGOs with business lobbying interests, often calling into question the legitimacy of organizations that criticize him. Other officials have followed suit.
Score Change: The score declined from 4 to 3 because the government attempted to restrict NGO funding and senior officials created a hostile environment for civil society groups.
|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. Unions were openly critical of the Janša government’s actions in 2021.
|Is there an independent judiciary?||3.003 4.004|
The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and judicial efficiency has increased in recent years. A significant portion of the public still has a negative perception of the courts, although this too has improved somewhat.
Prime Minister Janša continued to criticize and disparage the judiciary throughout 2021. He repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that the Constitutional Court was responsible for deaths caused by the COVID-19 pandemic after the court ruled against the Communicable Diseases Act in July. The government also ignored several judicial rulings, including one that compelled them to fund the STA, and legal obligations throughout the year.
Score Change: The score declined from 4 to 3 because the government delayed its compliance with judicial rulings, including a ruling to restore funding to the country’s public broadcaster.
|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, though the COVID-19 pandemic has somewhat reversed this trend.
The government significantly delayed the appointment of two prosecutors to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) and proposed legal changes that would give them more power than the Public Prosecutors’ Council to choose appointees in the future.
|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 became more active in 2020, claiming that their patrols would protect the Slovenian border from migrants. After striking down a bill to outlaw these groups 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 impede the protection of equal rights in Slovenia. Roma face widespread poverty, are socially marginalized, and lack access to early and secondary education, legal housing, and basic utilities.
In July 2020, reports emerged that police were restricting the movements of asylum seekers, denying them legal aid, and intentionally conflating their statuses with those of illegal immigrants. Amendments to the Aliens Act enacted in April 2021 allow for stricter asylum measures in cases 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. In September 2021, the Human Rights Ombudsman petitioned the Constitutional Court to decide on the legality of a Slovenia-Croatia agreement of returning migrants en masse.
Discrimination based on religion, ethnicity, and other identities remains a pressing challenge. In May 2021, several NGOs accused the police of racial profiling during a pro-Palestinian protest. Prime Minister Janša claimed on Twitter that the Quran had caused the most pain and suffering in human history, which the Islamic Community in the Republic of Slovenia, a local religious organization, worried could induce vandalism and hate crimes. Progovernment propaganda outlets regularly publish pieces, both in Slovenian and English, vilifying George Soros, placing him at the center of antisemitic conspiracy theories.
Although there are legal protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation, discrimination against LGBT+ people remains a challenge. In June 2021, the Janša government lauded the Hungarian government’s passage of controversial anti-LGBT+ legislation.
|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.
Cases of gender-based violence continued to rise in 2021; the number of domestic murders reached the prepandemic average by the end of March.
|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.
According to a survey by the trade union Mladi Plus, the average length of unemployment for young people increased in 2021, while those who remained employed saw their salaries reduced. Many people at the beginning of their careers or nearing retirement are employed under precarious conditions.
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