Janša, Janez (Slovenia)
A key figure in Slovenia’s independence movement in the late 1980s, Janez Janša was elected prime minister for a second time on 28 Jan. 2012. He had previously served as premier from Nov. 2004 to Nov. 2008 and was twice defence minister.
Janez Janša was born in Ljubljana on 17 Sept. 1958, when Slovenia was a constituent republic of Yugoslavia. In 1982 he graduated in defence studies from the University of Ljubljana. In the same year he was appointed president of a wing of the Alliance of the Socialist Youth of Slovenia.
In 1988 Janša was involved in the publication of a working paper on the constitution written by Slovene novelists, lawyers and sociologists. It was condemned by the Central Committee of the League of Communists and Janša was arrested and detained. He and three journalists were charged with betraying military secrets, with the trial of the ‘Ljubljana Four’ provoking mass demonstrations that became known as the Slovene Spring. Janša was found guilty and sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment.
On his release in 1989 Janša became editor of Demokracija magazine and co-founded the centre-right Slovene Democratic Alliance (SDZ). In Slovenia’s first multi-party elections in April 1990, he was elected to parliament and became minister for defence in a coalition government. He managed the transformation of Slovenia’s territorial defence force into the Slovene army which fought the Yugoslav People’s Army in the 10-day war that followed Slovenia’s declaration of independence on 25 June 1991.
In 1991 the Slovene Democratic Alliance fell apart and Janša joined the Social Democratic Party of Slovenia (SDS—which became the Slovenian Democratic Party in 2003). He was returned to parliament in 1992 and in May 1993 became president of the party. In March 1994 the National Assembly impeached Janša for ‘transgression of the civilian sphere by the military’ and removed him from office, prompting demonstrations against bureaucratic corruption. He was re-elected to the National Assembly in 1996 and served again as defence minister from June–Oct. 2000 in the short-lived government of Andrej Bajuk.
The SDS gained the largest share of the vote in parliamentary elections in Oct. 2004 and Janša was confirmed as prime minister on 9 Nov. He pursued a programme of privatization and oversaw Slovenia’s entry into the eurozone in Jan. 2007. Slovenia assumed the 6-month rotating EU presidency in Jan. 2008. Janša’s SDS narrowly lost the general election of Sept. 2008 and he was succeeded as prime minister by Borut Pahor.
Pahor’s government fell after a parliamentary vote of no confidence in Sept. 2011. In a snap election on 4 Dec., a new centre-left party named Positive Slovenia gained an unexpected victory, taking 28 seats to the 26 won by the SDS. However, Positive Slovenia’s leader, Zoran Janković, failed to build a viable coalition and in Jan. 2012 Janša was appointed as prime minister, having gained the support of four other centre-right parties.
The then president, Danilo Türk, stated that Janša lacked legitimacy given that he had recently been put on trial for bribery relating to a defence deal made by the government in 2006—the ‘Patria Case’. However, parliament endorsed Janša’s appointment on 28 Jan., with 51 votes in favour and 39 against.
Parliament approved Janša’s first cabinet on 10 Feb. 2012, the slimmest since independence with only 12 ministers. He pledged to reduce public spending by 10% in his first year in office as part of sweeping efforts to tackle a budget deficit that had grown substantially under the previous government. His austerity programme met with widespread protests through the year.
The negative public sentiment with the government increased further in Jan. 2013 with the publication of an anti-corruption report that revealed Janša’s repeated failure to report his assets. Janša’s attempts to discredit the accusations rapidly escalated into a large-scale corruption scandal and the SDS was issued an ultimatum to find a replacement for Janša. The crisis culminated with the fall of Janša’s government in Feb., following a vote of no confidence. The opposition leader Alenka Bratušek was tasked with forming a new government.
In June 2013 Janša was sentenced to 2 years in prison by a Slovenian court after he and two accomplices were found guilty of soliciting €2 m. worth of bribes from a Finnish defence firm as part of a military supply contract in 2006. The ruling was later upheld in April 2014 by the High Court of Slovenia and his prison term began 2 months later.