Slovenia's opposition Liberal Democrats in disarray


Slovenia's Liberal Democracy party is the largest opposition party and was in power for most of Slovenia's independence since 1991. But last year it experienced changes and challenges when President Janez Drnovsek resigned. Since then other senior figures have followed Drnovsek leading many to ask - what's the future of the opposition Liberal Democracy?

The once dominant party in Slovenia that led Slovenia through its transition from independence from the former Yugoslavia to membership in the European Union has immense problems since it lost its leading role in parliamentary elections in October 2004. Another problem seems to be that after Janez Drnovsek's resignation the party was not able to stay united and friction among party members became more and more obvious. Lately the biggest opposition party has become even more weakened and the once seemingly unanimous party is losing ground and preoccupied with internal struggles.

Milan M. Cvikl, a member of parliament, became the latest in a wave of senior academic figures of the Liberal Democrats to resign. He explained in a note he sent to the LDS office that his decision was prompted by the fact that the LDS congress in late January brought little hope that the LDS could once again become a party capable of finding appropriate solutions to the challenges faced by Slovenia. Cvikl's departure comes after LDS president Jelko Kacin won a vote of confidence at the party's congress, which prompted immediate resignations by former education minister Slavko Gaber and former justice minister Miha Kozinc. The week ahead of the congress also saw the resignations of eight members of the LDS.

Andrej Verlic of the LDS believes that one of the major reasons why prominent members of the LDS resigned their memberships is that the party had difficulty adjusting to the fact that it's no longer the governing party. The delegates at the congress were at least unanimous in their support of the party's new manifesto. The main goals in the document are strengthening the welfare state, withdrawing from the economy and bolstering autonomy of the media and public institutions. It also stresses human rights and the rights of minorities, as well as respect for democratic rules, according to the author and former health minister Dusan Keber.

The document is aimed at presenting an alternative to the policies of the current government. It says that the state must guarantee access to all types of education and the best possible health care. What remains to be seen is what role the LDS will play in the Slovenian political arena in the future. Much depends on the actions of its lawmakers.