Unknown to the general public just a few months ago, the centrist Robert Golob is about to lead Slovenia. His Freedom Movement won 34.5% of the vote on Sunday April 24 in the legislative elections, against 23.6% for the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) of outgoing Prime Minister Janez Jansa. ” This victory will allow us to restore freedom to our country “said the former businessman, expert in solar energy.
Robert Golob, 55, entered politics in January after being ousted in November 2021 from the management of the state-owned electricity distribution company GEN-I, after a series of restructurings. Former Secretary of State for Energy at the turn of the 2000s, he then took over a small environmentalist party, renamed Gibanje Svoboda (Movement for Freedom).
Father of three children, recognizable by his mid-length silver hair, the new figure of the Slovenian center-left crisscrossed the Alpine country aboard a bus, before being forced to isolate himself due to contamination with Covid- 19. Supported by former President Milan Kucan, the first President of the Republic of Slovenia from 1991 to 2002, the ex-entrepreneur campaigned for a “free and open society”, after two years of governance marked by the authoritarian drift of Janez Jansa. This vote, he hammered home throughout his campaign, is “a referendum on democracy in Slovenia”.
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The population was there: the participation rate was close to 70%, the highest since 2000 and well above that of 2018 (52%). Civil society and young voters mobilized in a vote against the outgoing head of government, accused of following the “illiberal” model of his Hungarian ally Viktor Orban.
Getting back to “normality”
Appreciated for his measured tone, contrasting with the divisive personality of his rival, this pro-European has abandoned Twitter to better stand out, preferring Facebook or Instagram. During the campaign, this engineer by training came under criticism for his high salary – €196,000 per year, more than ten times the average Slovenian salary – without this denting his popularity. Over the months, he was able to change his positions, which were initially more neo-liberal, in the field of health and education, and demonstrate their oratorical skills.
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Deeply attached to his territory of Nova Gorica, marked by the anti-fascist tradition, long involved, as a business leader, in cross-border cooperation with neighboring Italy, Robert Golob promises to reconnect with the “normalcy” and to restore confidence in relations with the European Commission, which have suffered considerably over the past two years. “This country has always been oriented towards Western Europe and I am convinced that we will return to our family”, he confided during the campaign.
A broad coalition, ranging from the center to the left of the left, had been promised to block Janez Jansa but Robert Golob, with the 41 seats obtained by his party, could govern with the only Social Democrats who obtained 6.8 % of votes and seven deputies. This newcomer to politics will need their experience and their knowledge of the mysteries of parliament to govern.