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Factors affecting green party development: explaining the decline of Green parties in Slovenia.


Green parties face a number of challenges to achieving parliamentary success. Achieving long term success is particularly difficult. The Irish and Czech Greens, for example, managed to gain parliamentary seats, but forfeited their legitimacy in an unwise government coalition with the right (Jepps, 2010). In Romania, the Green parties achieved early success by taking advantage of a ballot structure which confused voters, thereby securing parliamentary seats without securing legitimacy (Pavlinek and Pickles, 2000: 190-191). By contrast, the Greens in the Netherlands have been a stable faction in the Dutch parliament despite the party system being predominantly determined by the Dutch consociational political system. In the UK, the Green Party only recently entered the House of Commons--although it gained over a million votes across the country it won only one parliamentary seat (Crossley 2015). Furthermore, while it has been argued that Green party support correlates with the shift from a modern industrial society to a post-modern, post-industrial society (Burklin, 1985), this argument is not as applicable to post-socialist East European countries as to West European countries. While both structural and agential factors have been revealed to be critical for new parties seeking to enter parliament (Bolleyer, 2013), there has been little research into the factors affecting the maintenance of parliamentary seats by new political parties in general (Fink-Hafner and Krasovec, 2013) or by Green parties in particular.

So, what factors determine Green party electoral success? Researchers have so far focused only on a limited range of factors which could be generally described as external and internal. It has often been said that electoral rules and party systems (so-called 'external factors') are the primary explanation for the success (or lack thereof) of Green parties, as for example in the case of the UK.

By contrast, the case of Romania suggests a possible manipulation of electoral rules in favour of gaining non-legitimate parliamentary success, whereas the Greens in the Netherlands have succeeded in spite of the country's unfavourable external institutional characteristics. With the exception of a few brief observations (as in the cases of the Irish, Czech and Romanian Greens), this set of factors has not been systematically analysed. Nevertheless, Green parties have been observed to be organisationally fragmented since the early period of Green party development (e.g. Rudig, 1985; Kitschelt, 1989; O'Neil, 2012). Indeed, the role of agency may appear to be critical.

Intra-party conflicts in European Green parties have led to party splits, particularly during their early stages of their development (O'Neil, 2012: 174-175). Furthermore, conflicts among Green parties within a particular milieu (for instance, in the Netherlands during the 1990s) have led to inter-Green party competition which has resulted in a poor parliamentary representation for the Greens (Lucardie, and Vorman, 2008). In spite of this, Green parties have been able to join forces to obtain positions in government, as happened in Belgium in 1999 (Buelens, and Deschouwer, 2002). Since there are clearly various Green party behavioural patterns, it is important to take into account the potential significance of political agency of Green parties (Bluhdorn and Szarka 2004).

Likewise, the window of opportunity for Green party electoral success arising from the recent economic crisis has only been analysed in a few Western countries (Hernandez and Kriesi, 2015). Our analysis aims to offer an insight into the possible strategic uses of the crisis circumstances (such as the decline in the legitimacy of 'ideological' parties in power) which could enable Green parties in a post-socialist context to succeed at the ballot box.

In short, this article tests the often overlooked thesis that the characteristics of the agency within the Green party segment in a given national party system may be a crucial factor in the long-term success or failure of Green parties within that system. Furthermore, we believe this to be a timely contribution, since most Green parties in Europe appear unable to capitalise on the crisis of legitimacy currently facing mainstream parties both nationally and in the European Parliament; they have failed to occupy the gaps in political representation that have opened up.

Our particular focus is on the post-socialist context in which the question remains: to what extent does the post-socialist context affect the development of Green parties? Our thesis is that there is no single answer to this question. Firstly, post-socialist party systems since the 1989 wave of transitions to democracy have been evolving dynamically: some have undergone gradual consolidation; in some cases the party system has been frozen; and in some cases it has been destabilised (Enyedi and Casal Bertoa 2011). Secondly, post-socialist countries have to varying degrees experienced constitutional and electoral engineering (Fink-Hafner and Hafner-Fink. 2009). Both aspects considerably co-determine the opportunities for Green parties to enter post-socialist parliamentary arenas. Furthermore, there is considerable variance in dominant values among post-socialist countries (Listhaug and Ringdal, 2006).

Although in some respects Europeanisation is a factor of domestic developments, we will exclude it as a relevant factor impacting on the national party system. This is because researchers have observed little evidence of Europeanisation having impacted either on national political party politics in general (Mair, 2000; Ladrech, 2002; Lewis and Mansfeldova, eds, 2006; Aylott, et al, eds, 2007) or on Slovenian politics in particular (Krasovec and Lajh, 2008).

Slovenia makes a good case study for analysing the significance of Green parties' political agency for several reasons: Slovenian electoral rules are relatively non-stringent; it has an open party system; while Slovenian society is characterised by a considerable level of post-modern values and post-modern / post-national citizenship compared to other post-socialist countries (Inglehart and Welzel, 2005: 60-63; Hafner-Fink, Malnar and Uhan, 2013). This can evidenced by the emergence of a significant post-modern Green consciousness among Slovenian voters as early as the 1980s (Slovensko javno mnenje 1987: 37-39; Malnar and Sinko 2012).

More illustrative arguments in favour of a Slovenian case study are presented in the following section on the research question and the analytical framework. This will be followed by a brief overview of the factors identified in the literature as affecting Green party developments. Following the case study of the Slovenian Green party segment we will conclude by summarising our findings.

Research question and analytical framework

Our thesis is that external factors (such as electoral rules, the characteristics of competition within a party system, the value orientation of the electorate) are important. However, external factors are neither the only factors nor the decisive factors that determine whether Green parties both enter parliament and endure the long term. The global economic crises which hit Slovenia at the beginning of 1990s and around 2011 cannot in themselves explain the persistently poor electoral results of either the existing Green parties or of the newly emerging Green parties. However, as the early 1990s confirmed, an economic crisis may provide a window of opportunity for old and new parties if their leadership is entrepreneurial enough take advantage of the circumstances. Indeed, not only have new parties with new leaders been able to enter the parliament in the recent circumstances, but they have even assumed control of the government (Slovenia being a case in point with two consecutive pre-term elections in the context of the most recent international crisis). For this reason, we argue that, where external factors make for a more accessible party system for new entrants, and where voters' (Green) values do not radically alter over time, it is the internal factor which best explain either the success or failure of Green parties in a particular national context.

Since Green parties first emerged in Western Europe in the context of the social and political changes peculiar to the 1970s and 1980s, researchers have been analysing the various factors (clusters of variables) that contributed to their emergence and development in this part of the world. As already mentioned, external factors have usually been understood in terms of the various characteristics of the national political environment and, as a rule, the internal factors have included the organisational fragmentation of Green parties. Although our focus is on the post-socialist context, we will analyse the interplay of all three factors. Indeed, we will look at the dynamic between (1) the national political-environment factor and (2) the internal agency characteristics of Green party developments; and also take account of (3) the economic crisis as an intervening factor.

From a methodological point of view, Slovenia offers a valuable case study because its experiences provide an opportunity to study Green party politics in an institutional context that is relatively stable, inclusive and post-socialist, and which at the same time fosters an open party system. As such, it provides a 'natural laboratory' for studying the role of agency in the development of Green parties.

According to the 2008 post-national citizenship index data (composed of protest potential, universalism, international trust, institutional participation, supranational identity and self-direction), Slovenia appeared to be close to the average post-national citizenship index of 21 EU member states, together with Cyprus, Estonia, the United Kingdom and Spain (Hafner, Malnar and Uhan, 2013: 879). When the countries were clustered according to aggregate indicators of new (post-national) citizenship (i.e. institutional political participation, protest participation, universalistic values, self-direction values, supranational identity, and trust in international organisations) Slovenia fell within the same cluster as Portugal and Spain (Hafner, Malnar and Uhan, 2013: 880).

Slovenian attitudes had already begun to shift in this direction during the 1980s, at the time supporting the development of the new Green social movement. By the end of the 1980s, a greater number of adult citizens surveyed held that by year 2000, environmental damage would represent a greater threat to world security than an economic crisis (47 percent of respondents for the former compared to 44 percent of respondents for the latter) (Malnar 1993: 37). 67.1 percent of those surveyed were ready to participate in voluntary environmental cleaning initiatives, 54.5 percent would save household energy (petrol, electricity), 50.6 percent were ready to contribute to a cleaner environment by participating in or supporting political organisations with such policy goals, 33.6 percent were ready to pay green taxes to maintain a clean environment (Kos 1993: 46). While environmental consciousness in the 1980s was initially more prevalent among the more educated members of the population, it soon spread more widely and across all generations, due in part to the inclusion of environmentalism in the state education system (Malnar and Sinko 2012: 489-490). While expressions of environmental concern in a narrower sense (opinions on particular environmental matters) have become less vociferous since 2011, this decline in public discourse should not be seen as an indication of a decline in environmental values (Anderson 1997; Malnar and Sinko 2012: 488). Indeed, the massive scope of mobilisation of citizens to solve environmental problems is ongoing proof that environmental values remain important to most citizens. For instance, the Let's Clean Slovenia/ Ocistimo Slovenijo initiative, organised since 2010, draws volunteers from all parts of the country (Geopedia 2013). In 2012, around 270,000 volunteers--more than 13% of the Slovenian population--participated in the initiative (Statistical Office of Slovenia 22 March 2012; Drustvo Ekologi brez meja, 2012).

At Slovenia's first multi-party elections in April 1990, The Greens of Slovenia achieved a major electoral success compared to other Central European post-communist countries, winning 8.8 percent of votes and 8 out of 80 parliamentary seats. In spite of the inclusiveness of the national political environment, none of the Green parties have gained any parliamentary seats since 1992. Not even in the 2011 pre-term elections which took place in the context of the crisis-related new window of opportunity. Only in the most recent pre-term elections in 2014 did one small Green party enter the parliament--albeit as part of the United Left coalition Zdruzena levica (see details in Appendix 1). Such developments can be explained by the internal characteristics of the Green party segment in Slovenia.

Our empirical analysis of the case of Slovenia is based on the following methods: a review of research into party politics in Slovenia and original Green party documents, some of which are accessible on the internet, and some of which are held in private archives; a secondary analysis of data from the Slovenian Public Opinion Survey; interviews with prominent Green politicians in Slovenia published in the Slovenian media (Mladina, Dnevnik, Delo); and a series of interviews conducted in 2013 and 2014 with representatives of Slovenia's Green parties.

Theortical framework: factors affecting Green Party developments

The Political Environment

The political environment is often defined as the institutional factors and characteristics of party competition (Kriesi, 1995; Rootes, 1995; Faucher 1999; Lucardie 2000; Hino, 2006; Carter, 2007 and 2008). The electoral rules determining the openness of the party system for new parties are considered to be critical factors (Pennisi, 1998; Faucher 1999; Tavits, 2006; Carter, 2007; Selb and Pituctin, 2010). The characteristics of party system competition have been identified as a factor which co-determines both the degree of openness for new parties and the viability of new parties (Kitschelt, 1988; Kaelberer, 1993; Rootes, 1995; Lago and Martinez, 2011). To some extent, culture and values have been identified as an extension of the political environment in as far as they influence party politics in the voter-party linkage (Faucher 1999).

The Green party phenomenon has usually been explained by changes in the social structure and the predominant values, characterised as a shift from a modern condition to a post-modern condition (Inglehart, 1971; Dalton 1993). The key factors affecting Green party developments in Europe have been held to include the presence of post-modern environmental values, institutional structures and the nature of party competition (Rootes, 1995). Muller-Rommel (1998:192) has observed that Green parties also represent a form of protest vote against the established political institutions. Furthermore, in those countries with socialist systems, Green movements and embryonic Green parties (along with other oppositional movements and parties) first had to fight to establish the necessary democratic preconditions before being able to pursue their Green political and policy agendas (Fink-Hafner, 1992).

The national political environment has often been recognised as a relevant factor in the development of Green parties (e.g. Burchell, 2002; Carter, 2007; Richardson, 1995, 2005). In the post-socialist context, authors have focused on the role of the political environment to such an extent that they have even under-researched other factors (Fagan, 2004; Carmin and Fagan, 2010; Cisar, 2010). In this article, we will consider the relevance of the national political environment for the value dimensions of both institutions and citizens.

The Internal Agential Characteristics of Green Party Developments

Green party agency has only been partially addressed in the literature. When it has been addressed, it has been mostly dealt with in one of two ways. Firstly, within the framework of Green political thought. Here, agency has been primarily perceived as a collective political actor in the form of a Green movement, with the Green party in question as an internally complex organism composed of various social groups following the grassroots democracy values of a 'movement party' (Goodin, 1992; Talshir, 2002: 3-16). Indeed, the personalisation of politics in terms of charismatic leaders has been regarded as being incompatible with such values (Carter 2007:117). Rather, there have either been several political persons sharing the leading political roles or there has even been a large collective leadership of this kind of political agency (Carter 2007:121). Agency in terms of leadership has remained an under-estimated element in the Green party literature in spite of the importance of political leadership recognised in the general literature on party organisation in general (see e.g. Panebianco, 1988). Some authors of the 'Green party literature' segment have glossed over the question of political leadership as a 'relatively self-explanatory category' (Burchel 2002: 48). Secondly, analyses of particular Green party adaptations in order to gain a certain share of the vote in order to enter the parliamentary party system and the related strategic challenges have tended to take priority over analyses of Green party political leadership. Indeed, research reveals that factionalism among Green parties is not uncommon and represents a major problem for agency (Rudig, 1985; Kitschelt, 1989; Kaelberer, 1993 and 1998; Rootes, 1995; Karamichas and Botetzagia, 2003), particularly in the early stages of a party's development (O'Neil, 2012). Examples in the media demonstrate how a Green party's success is often linked to the strengths of its leadership, as has recently been the case in the UK (Martin, 2015), just as a leader's eccentric behaviour may explain a party's failure--for example, the former Green leader in the UK who claimed to be the Messiah (Hattenstone, 2015).

Empirical cases have also shown that conflict is as common as collaboration among Green parties (Buelens, and Deschouwer, 2002; Lucardie, and Vorman, 2008). So far, Green parties have faced a dilemma between the 'fundamental ideological' and the 'pragmatic'. Here, the role of a competent political leadership becomes critical in steering a path between the 'fundamentalists' and the 'pragmatists'; a failure by the leadership to do so has led to the demise of Green parties (Karamichas and Botetzagias, 2003: 65). Furthermore, political leadership--especially when alienated from its members and supporters--may make strategic decisions (e.g. marriages of convenience in coalition-building) that cost the party its political survival (Jepps, 2010). Although collaboration has often contributed to Green party successes, the merits of this strategy should be questioned, not simply due to the broader ideological and political differences, but also the personal animosities among the leaders of the different Green parties (see Nadenichek Golder, 2006:79, Lukas and Outly, 2008:80).

Despite the fact that it may be a critical factor in explaining the Green phenomenon, there has been little research into the factionalism among Green parties (Karamichas and Botetzagia, 2003:67). Nevertheless, researchers have identified internal distinctions between conservative ('purist') Green parties and New Left ('rainbow') Green parties, as well as distinctions in the degree of inclusiveness between Green parties, and distinctions between 'ideologists' and 'pragmatists' (Rudig, 1985; Kitschelt, 1989; Kaelberer, 1993 and 1998; Rootes, 1995). The strategic decisions of various Green parties--whether beneficial or damaging--have usually been presented as party decisions and not as a question of leadership, as was the case in the collaboration among Green parties from Western and Eastern Germany following reunification (Burchell, 2002:54). The recent economic crisis, however, has demonstrated the importance of strategic leadership decisions for both the long-term survival of Green parties as well as the chance for Green parties to offer voters a viable non-corrupt and responsive political alternative.

The Economic Crisis

The economic crisis has presented a number of challenges. It may have had at least two potential impacts on Green party developments. On one hand, it may have impacted on the ranking of citizens' values in favour of materialist values (rather than post-materialist values). The crisis may also have affected the ranking of voters' preferences and public policies in a negative direction when it comes to the greening of politics. On the other hand, the nature of the political management of the economic crisis in some countries may have affected the legitimacy of those more mainstream parties in power and may have opened a window for opposition parties and new parties to enter the system. In any case, the global economic crisis has created a critical multidimensional situation that calls for strategic political reaction.

While Green parties emerging in the economically and politically destabilised socialist context of the 1980s joined the newly emerging opposition parties against the regime (Ramet, 1995), the post-socialist environment is no longer so different from modern political systems. Consequently, the reactions of Green parties in post-socialist political systems to the recent international financial and economic crisis are comparable to the reactions of Green parties in Western political systems.

In the recent international financial and economic crisis, Green issues and their post-materialistic foundations appear to have been relatively 'crisis-proof' and Green parties do not appear to have suffered any systematic disadvantage in elections in Europe (Bukow and Switek, 2013). Moreover, the latest research (Hernandez and Kriesi, 2015) reveals that the recent recession has in fact enhanced opportunities for dynamic changes to party systems. The mainstream parties have been losing to the radical populist right, the radical left, and to non-mainstream parties (chiefly among them have been Green parties). The crisis has in fact served to accelerate the existing long-term trends in the restructuring of Western European party systems (Hernandez and Kriesi, 2015: 26). In the idiosyncratic post-socialist contexts, however, in which the incumbents have been punished less for economic hardship than for increased corruption (Hernandez and Kriesi, 2015: 25), the predictability of the incumbent vote has increased while the volatility of CEE party systems remains considerably higher than in Western Europe (Hernandez and Kriesi, 2015: 26). Although a strategic combination of environmental and socio-economic issues could arguably mobilise a significant share of the vote in such circumstances, the responses of Green party leaders in a post-socialist context (as well as in Western countries) can only be revealed based on an empirical analysis.

The development of Green parties in Slovenia

Although Slovenia has a century's old tradition of nature conservation activism within civil society, acquiring the modern environmental movement in the 1960s (including the creation of the national environmental umbrella organisation, the League for the Protection of the Environment in Slovenia/Zveza za varstvo okolja v Sloveniji, established in 1971), it was the post-modern environmental movement (a type of new social movement of the 1980s) which in fact became one of the sources of oppositional political parties to emerge at the end of the 1980s (Fink-Hafner 1992, Knep and Fink-Hafner 2011). The post-modern environmental movement began as a loosely organised but publicly-visible protest-movement against industrial development in the first half of the 1980s. Its most notable campaigns included the shutting down of the Krsko nuclear power plant and the Zirovnica uranium mine, campaigning for the installation of cleaning devices in several of Slovenia's coal-burning power stations, and cutting the price of lead-free petrol. For a while it found its political place beneath the umbrella of the increasingly oppositional League of Socialist Youth (Zveza socialisticne mladine). As in other parts of Europe, The Greens of Slovenia/Zeleni Slovenije had their roots in new social movements (Feinstein 1992, Bomberg 1998, 2005, Burchell 2002, Muller-Rommel 2002, Jehlicka et al. 2011). At the end of the 1980s, they joined an emerging bloc of oppositional political leagues demanding democratisation (Seserko 1990 and 1992, Fink Hafner 1992, Klemenc 2011).

The Greens of Slovenia/Zeleni Slovenije not only achieved a remarkable success in the watershed elections of April 1990, but also entered the anticommunist governing coalition, Demos, led by Lojze Peterle (Slovenian Christian Democrats/Slovenski krscanski demokrati) before internal organisational consolidation. The then vice president of the Greens, Vane Gosnik, was even elected Vice President of the Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia. At the elections for the Presidency of the Republic of Slovenia on 8 April 1990, the prominent green activist, Dusan Plut, became a member of the collective Presidency. While the Greens gained important positions in the government, including ministerial positions in the fields of environmental protection and health and energy, which enabled them to influence crucial policy decisions, they also had to address some crucial macro political issues of the time. These included: the establishment of a new economic and political order; the creation of an independent Slovenian state; and repositioning the country for European integration. The Greens of Slovenia succeeded in reentering parliament in the 1992 elections, which were held on the basis of the new constitution adopted in December 1991. However, since the 1996 general elections, no Green party has managed to enter the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia at the 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2011 elections, nor the European Parliament (EP) in the three European elections in 2004, 2009 and 2014 (Appendix 1). These series of electoral failures have been accompanied by the emergence of new Green parties, the formation of Green coalitions prior to elections, as well as attempts by Green parties to form new alliances both with established as well as non-parliamentary political parties.

At the 1996 general elections, a faction of The Greens of Slovenia, which had established a new party--Green Alternative/Zelena alternativa--competed separately. Due to the electoral defeat of 1996, the factions of The Greens of Slovenia formed a coalition (The Greens of Slovenia and Green Alternative) prior to the 2000 general elections, in which they competed (unsuccessfully) as The United Greens/ Zdruzeni zeleni. At the 2004 general elections (under the influence of EP elections and representatives from the European Federation of Green Parties/ European Green Party), three Green parties negotiated a united Green list for the EP elections. The three parties were: The Greens of Slovenia, the Youth Party of Slovenia/ Stranka mladih Slovenije and the Party of Ecological Movements/ Stranka ekoloskih gibanj. However, their inability to agree on a list of candidates led the Party of Ecological Movements to abandon further negotiations (Lipic 2013). Ultimately, all three parties competed independently and failed to gain a single parliamentary seat.

Following their extended period of defeat, the Green parties began to seek new alliances with the more established political parties and to form new Green alliances. At the 2008 parliamentary elections, The Greens of Slovenia competed independently, but two of its factions which had previously created two locally active Green parties, namely Green Progress/ Zeleni progres and The Green Party/ Zelena stranka, formed an alliance named The Green Coalition/ Zelena koalicija (Ogrin 2013). Additionally, the Youth Party of Slovenia allied with the centre-right Slovenian People's Party/ Slovenska ljudska stranka, while the Party of Ecological Movements allied with the centre-left Social Democrats/ Socialni demokrati. Although the two joint lists in which a Green party allied with an established party both won enough votes to enter the National Assembly, none of the Green candidates gained a single parliamentary seat. Prior to the 2009 European Parliament elections, the Greens formed a new Green alliance, again named The United Greens. It was formed from The Greens of Slovenia, Green Progress, The Green Party and the Party for Clean Potable Water. This new Green alliance was also unsuccessful. Prior to the 2009 European elections, the Youth Party added a Green label to the party's name and competed independently but nevertheless failed to elect an MEP. Prior to the 2011 pre-term general elections, the Youth Party allied itself with several small non-parliamentary political parties, including some of the smaller Green parties. They also negotiated to include The Greens of Slovenia, but the negotiations failed and The Greens of Slovenia decided to compete independently. Additionally, during the period of destabilisation of the Slovenian party system in 2011, notable activists, including former members of The Greens of Slovenia and the Liberal Democracy of Slovenia/ Liberalna demokracija Slovenije, established a new Green party--the Party for Sustainable Development of Slovenia. Although this new party gained considerable public attention and achieved the highest electoral result of any Green party, it once again failed to gain enough votes to enter parliament. At the 2014 pre-term elections, the coalition between the Party for Sustainable Development of Slovenia and the parties of the new left together gained 5.97 percent of votes and six seats. In spite of this, there remains no visible change in Green parliamentary representation.

Explaining the development of Green parties in Slovenia

The Political Environment

Institutional rules. Slovenia's new constitution, adopted in December 1991, establishes Slovenia as a parliamentary democracy. A proportional electoral system has been in place since 1989 with only minor changes (Fink-Hafner 2010). Both the parliamentary political system and the proportional electoral system are recognised in political science literature as favourable to both political parties representing particular interests as well as to new political parties attempting to enter parliament. In fact, even after the introduction of a four percent threshold in 2004, new parties have not only been able to enter parliament, but have even joined coalition governments as the dominant party from which the Prime Minister has been chosen (Fink-Hafner and Krasovec, 2013).

Party system characteristics. The polarisation of the party system in Slovenia has been more moderate than in many other post-communist countries that joined the third democratisation wave (Enyedi and Casal Bertoa 2011). The major left-right political division in Slovenia runs along historical conservative-liberal lines (Kos 1996), but also overlaps with the strong communist-anti-communist divide, which is closely related to the opposing assessments of both the Second World War and the post-war domestic politics; furthermore, this division also increasingly encompasses the pro-welfare versus the minimal state debate (Fink-Hafner 2010, 2012). While this divisive fault line has challenged Green parties, the greening of the manifestos of non-Green parties has proved to have been a case of paying lip-service and has not particularly threatened the Green parties' support base. Indeed, as shown by Zajc, Kropivnik, Kustec Lipicer (2012: 90-91), government coalition agreements have only included environmental policies as a dedicated segment when there have been Green representatives in the government. Even then, environmental policy has usually been packed together with spatial and planning issues, housing and water policy. Since 2004, it has gained a consistent representation in recent coalition agreements within the environment and spatial sector.

Party financing. The establishment of a cartel of parliamentary parties has deprived extra-parliamentary parties of considerable state financing, despite the intervention of the Constitutional Court (Krasovec and Haughton 2011). Green parties have been affected by this systemic exclusion of non-parliamentary parties from state financing; meanwhile numerous Green groups active at the sub-national level have been unable to count on the substantial resources from the highly fragmented and financially weak local communities. Additionally, the financing of Green parties in Slovenia has become problematic due to the internal divisions among The Greens of Slovenia. When Green MPs collectively joined the Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (constituting the LDS's Ecological Forum) in March 1994 mid-term, they continued to enjoy all the financial benefits available to them due to their occupation of Green parliamentary seats until the end of the term in December 1996. This episode both split the Greens of Slovenia and has poisoned relations between Green parties ever since.

Electorate. Initially, it was believed that The Greens of Slovenia were a new post-modern centre-left Green party attracting the support of those who had both turned their backs on the reformed political organisations of the old regime and who had shunned the new centre-right parties. Public opinion surveys clearly indicate that in the second half of the 1980s and the early 1990s there was an increase in general environmental concern among the general public. This can be traced to both the promotion of environmental awareness due to the mass media's coverage of a series of environmental catastrophes in Slovenia as well as to the Chernobyl disaster (Fink-Hafner 1992; Knep and Fink-Hafner 2011, Malnar and Sinko 2012). The Greens of Slovenia capitalised on the greening of Slovene political values in this period (Fink-Hafner 1992) and were able to attract voters from across Slovenia (Kropivnik 1993). Although concern for the environment had previously been higher among the more educated public and the youth segment, these differences among citizens over 18 years have decreased considerably during the last decade (Malnar and Sinko 2012). While perceptions of environmental risk have gradually decreased since 1990, attitudes towards the issue of environmental protection have remained relatively positive (Malnar 1992, Malnar and Sinko 2012). In Slovenia, although environmental values still appear to be regarded as being less important than economic values (Hafner-Fink et al., 2011) environmental values persist (Malnar 2002). In spite of this, Green parties have been unable to mobilise voters effectively since the early 1990s, and thus failed to make any impact on public opinion polls until 2011 (Tos et al. 1990, 1992, 1996, 2000).

Internal Agential Factors

The organisational development of Green parties in Slovenia

The Greens of Slovenia were established in 1989, taking as their model the German Greens (Die Grunen). Similar to many other oppositional parties at the time, the party soon faced internal left-right divisions. Problems also arose from the fact that the party had entered government before it had consolidated its organisation. In fact, after 1993, The Greens of Slovenia split into several Green parties while some leading Green political figures exited politics altogether in protest at the environmental conduct of the governing coalition. The Green MPs soon left the Greens of Slovenia and joined The Greens--Eco-social Party/ [Zeleni--eko-socialna stranka], which in March 1994 merged with the Liberal Democracy of Slovenia. Furthermore, together with some of the former members of The Greens of Slovenia, Leopold Seserko (who had held the post of Minister for Environmental Protection and Regional Development before exiting the governing coalition), established a new Green party: The Green Alternative of Slovenia.

Since 2003, when Vlado Cus became the president, The Greens of Slovenia have split further. Part of its membership joined the small non-parliamentary Progressive Party/ Progresivna stranka to form Green Progress/ Zeleni progres. Meanwhile, some local Greens organisations formed the independent Green Party/ Zelena stranka (Ogrin 2013).

Environmentalists who had allied with the successor to the transformed League of Communists (the current Social Democrats) competed separately and unsuccessfully at the 1990 elections as the Citizens' Green List. Karel Lipic, a former representative of several trade unions, was able to attract considerable membership and subsequently led the organisation's re-orientation toward a non-governmental environmental umbrella organisation which later served as the basis for the Party of Ecological Movements of Slovenia.

In 2002, some former members of The Greens of Slovenia joined the Party of Ecological Movements of Slovenia. Among them was Leopold Seserko (previously the president of the Green Alternative of Slovenia) and Bozidar Voljc (initially serving as a member of Liberal Democracy of Slovenia as Green Minister for Health until 1997). After failing to establish a coalition among Green parties prior to the 2004 EP and general elections, the Party of Ecological Movements of Slovenia again turned to the Social Democrats. At the 2008 general elections, two candidates from the Party of Ecological Movements of Slovenia (one of which was its president, Marinka Vovk) participated as a candidate on the Social Democrats' list. The Social Democrats also established an ecological-rural forum which managed to attract some members of the Party of Ecological Movements of Slovenia. The Party of Ecological Movements of Slovenia is now considered defunct as a result of its total merger with the Social Democrats (Lipic, 2013).

After losing its parliamentary position in 2004, the Youth Party of Slovenia announced its turn towards Green politics by joining the European Greens just prior to the 2004 EP elections. However, this failed to convince voters. Dusan Plut, one of the early leading Green activists, and Matjaz Hanzek, the former human-rights ombudsman, both contributed to the emergence of the Movement for Sustainable Development of Slovenia/ Gibanje za tranjnostni razvoj Slovenije in 2011 and its political wing, the Party for Sustainable Development of Slovenia/ Stranka za trajnostni razvoj Slovenije (TRSJ. Some of the members of Liberal Democracy of Slovenia and the new party Zares-New Politics (established in 2007) joined the Party for Sustainable Development of Slovenia in 2011. However, TRS proved to be another disappointment. The party both lacked a charismatic leader and demonstrated breathtaking organisational incompetence by failing to comply fully with the administrative rules when returning its candidate list for the 2011 pre-term elections. As a result, it forfeited its chance to compete at the elections in all desired electoral wards and thus remained a non-parliamentary party. At the 2014 pre-term elections, TRS joined the United Left coalition led by Luka Mesec--ideologically close to Syriza--and once more fell into obscurity.

Ideological divisions and internal disputes among the Greens

The Greens of Slovenia were internally divided more or less evenly along the liberal-conservative ideological lines and were therefore unable to decide whether to join the Demos party bloc at the first multi-party elections, and later hesitated again in joining the Demos government (Plut 2009). However, while voters positioned The Greens of Slovenia near the centre of the left-right ideological continuum in the period from 1991 to 1993 (Kropivnik 1994), the internal party disputes along left-right lines proved damaging for the party's sustainability. This fact, together with the public personal animosities, damaged the party's reputation leading to its split in March 1993. The centre-left (liberal) wing of the party, which included party leader Dusan Plut, created a new party: The Greens-Eco-social Party. The conservative (centre-right) faction under the leadership of Vane Gosnik remained within The Greens of Slovenia (since 2003, the party has been led by Vlado Cus) (Trampus 2000). The centre-left (liberal) wing of The Greens of Slovenia was represented within the ecological forum of the Liberal Democracy of Slovenia until its decline at the turn of the millennium.

The Party of Ecological Movements of Slovenia has offered voters a red-green option by having officially cooperated with the Social Democrats since 2008. Although the Youth Party of Slovenia had originally positioned itself on the centre-left, supporting the creation of a centre-left government following the 2000 elections, it has also been a pragmatic player, later entering pre-electoral party alliances with centre-right parties.

The recently established Party for Sustainable Development of Slovenia with its emphasis on social policy matters has positioned itself closer to the red-green than to the liberal-green option (Hanzek 2011, Kosir 2011, Lipic 2013, Majhenic and Valic 2013, Ogrin 2013).

Bad political decisions and failures of leadership

On the basis of interviews with Green political leaders published in the mass media between 1989 and 2014 and interviews conducted in the period 2013-2014 we can identify a number of decision-making failures by Green political leaders as well as some leadership failures that have significantly contributed to the long-term decline of the Green party segment in Slovenia. The following six are among the most critical failures. Firstly, the decision by the Greens of Slovenia to join the Demos coalition proved to be a mistake. Not only was the broader leadership indecisive (the votes were 28 against 28), but the final decision came down to the deciding vote by the party leader, Dusan Plut. Plut's decision to lead the Greens of Slovenia into the Demos centre-right government was based on an agreement with the government to close down the Krsko nuclear plant. Failure by the Demos government to fulfil its promise not only resulted in disillusionment among the supporters of the Greens of Slovenia but also led to the splintering of the Green party segment. Plut has publicly accepted this as his personal failure--'osebni poraz' (Plut 2009). Secondly, various segments of the newly emerging Green parties (including the centre-left wing of the Greens of Slovenia together with all Green MPs) have tried to integrate closely with other (mostly centre-left) parties--Liberal Democracy of Slovenia and the successor of the reformed League of Communists. Decisions to collaborate or even integrate with such 'ideological' parties have proved to be primarily beneficial either to the non-Green parties or to the Green politicians who used the collaborations to further their political career rather than promote a Green party agenda. Thirdly, the increasingly fragmented Green leadership has been unable either to resolve the conflict over the alleged misuse of the parliamentary party funding following the initial split of the Greens of Slovenia or to take the allegation of corruption up with the appropriate institutions. Attempts at mediation by the European Green Federation failed as dialogue between Green party members broke down in acrimony. Fourthly, several locally self-made politicians have exploited local Green political organisations to shore up their own personal careers at the local level without contributing to the construction of a nationally strong Green party. Fifthly, even when the left-oriented Green party, TRS, was established and gained a surprisingly high level of public support just prior to the 2011 pre-term elections, the party leadership failed to file all candidate lists in accordance with official rules and thus forfeited their opportunity to win enough votes to enter parliament. Sixthly, in spite of the perceived mismanagement of the global economic crisis in Slovenia, which has led voters to shift their support to new centre-left parties, no Green party leadership has managed to take advantage of these circumstances to integrate the Greens with these new left anti-establishment sympathies. Rather, TRS joined the newly emerged leftist political groupings under the young leader of the new left in Slovenia.

The Impact of the economic crisis

The recent international financial and economic crisis, together with budget mismanagement and the numerous political scandals, have radically shaken up the party system in Slovenia. New parties have not only gained a considerable share of seats in the parliament but have also succeeded in forming coalition governments with their leader as prime minister. By emphasising the economic and social agenda over the environmental agenda (Beltran, ed. 2012, Majhenic and Valid 2013), the newly established Party for Sustainable Development of Slovenia/Stranka za trajnostni razvoj Slovenije managed to appeal to the public mood more successfully than any of the newly-established political parties in the run up to the 2011 pre-term elections (Kurdija et al. 2011). Nevertheless, as mentioned, poor administrative management caused them to fail to capitalise on this support.

By contrast, the citizens' initiative (Ecologists without Borders/ Ekologi brez meja) using the slogan 'Let's clean up Slovenia in one day'/Ocistimo Slovenijo v enem dnevu, has--with the support of the mass media--managed to attract several hundred-thousand supporters each year since 2010. Additionally, a decrease in the already low levels of public trust in parliamentary political parties, coupled with greater radicalisation, has caused voters to become more open toward newly-emerging political parties. This was again evident in the 2014 pre-term elections.

Yet, not a single Green party has managed to integrate Green issues with the issues of rising unemployment, the anti-austerity mood and the de-legitimisation of mainstream parties leading unsuccessful governments. Unlike the 1980s, Slovenia's current Green parties have been unable to learn from the German Greens' successful 'green new deal' which managed to combine environmental policy with the need to create jobs (Rudig, 2012). Slovenian Green parties have failed to enjoy any of the recent global rises in Green party fortunes (Wahtler, 2014; European Green Party, 2014).


Our paper has considered the interplay of three factors affecting the development of Green parties: (1) the national political-environment factor; (2) the internal agency characteristics of Green party developments; and (3) the economic crisis as an intervening factor.

As national political and environment matters and favourable external conditions do not automatically translate into electoral success for Green (or any other) parties, our analysis of Slovenia (a country with a supportive national political-environment and opportunities for a New Left orientation brought about by the recent economic crisis) reveals that the internal--particularly agential--characteristics of Green party developments may be crucial for explaining the decline of Green parties in particular national circumstances. While Weber (1968: 58) notes that the charisma of political leaders cannot be learned but rather must be 'awakened' and 'tested', political scientists analysing Green party developments appear to have overlooked the fact that leaders' personal characteristics, motives and political experiences and skills do affect the success of the Green party segment. It is to be expected that some mistaken political decisions were made in the early post-socialist context when the new political party elites lacked political experience. Furthermore, it is to be expected that some individuals would prioritise the benefits of public office at the local and national level for their own personal gain--as has occurred in a number of countries during the early stages of democratic development. And, as the case of the UK Green Party demonstrates, a particular leader may prove decisive in a party's success at the ballot box even in the context of the United Kingdom's extraordinarily restrictive electoral rules.

In conclusion, our main finding from the case of Slovenia is that political agency matters, because it links internal party characteristics and the choice of party strategies with electoral success. Indeed, it seems to be a necessary (albeit insufficient) precondition for the success of a political party in general elections. In order to fully grasp the importance of the internal agency factor in relation to other factors that determine party electoral success, a comparative view of the variations among national contexts--as well as among party families--is required. Further research will need to identify not just the necessary but also the sufficient conditions for the short-term and long-term electoral successes of Green parties.
Appendix 1: List of Slovenian Green parties which competed
at the national parliamentary elections and at the European
Parliament elections, and their electoral results (1)

Year of           1990          1992        1996        2000
Green political

The Greens of     8.84% (8)     3.7% (5)    1.76% (0)   --

Green             --            --          0.52% (0)   --

United Greens     --            --          --          0.90% (0)

Green Coalition   --            --          --          --

Party for the     --            --          --          --
Development of

Citizens' Green   1.99% (0)     0.62% (0)   --          --
List/ Slovenian
Movement/ Party
of Ecological
Movements of

Youth Party of    --            --          --          4.33% (4) (4)
Slovenia/ Youth
of Europe

Coalition         --            --          --          --
United Left (9)

Total             10.83 % (8)   4.32% (5)   2.28% (0)   0.9% (0) (4)

Year of           2004 EP         2004        2008        2009 EP
Green political

The Greens of     2.3% (0) (5)    0.69% (0)   0.51% (0)   --

Green             --              --          --          --

United Greens     --              --          --          0.73% (0)

Green Coalition   --              --          0.21% (0)   --

Party for the     --              --          --          --
Development of

Citizens' Green   0.59 % (0)      0.41% (0)   -- (6)      -- (6)
List/ Slovenian
Movement/ Party
of Ecological
Movements of

Youth Party of    2.3% (0) (5)    2.08% (0)   -- (7)      1.96% (0)
Slovenia/ Youth
of Europe

Coalition         --              --          --          --
United Left (9)

Total             2.89% (0) (5)   3.18% (0)   0.72% (0)   2.69% (0)

Year of           2011            2014 EP         2014
Green political

The Greens of     0.36% (0)       0.83% (0)       0.53% (0)

Green             --              --              --

United Greens     --              --              --

Green Coalition                   --              --

Party for the     1.22% (0)       See Coalition   See Coalition
Sustainable                       United Left     United Left
Development of

Citizens' Green   --              --              --
List/ Slovenian
Movement/ Party
of Ecological
Movements of

Youth Party of    0.86% (0) (8)   --              --
Slovenia/ Youth
of Europe

Coalition         --              5.47% (0)       5.97% (6)
United Left (9)

Total             2.44% (0)       0.83% + (0)     0.53% + (9)

In brackets: % of votes and number of parliamentary seats won

(1) Several predominately local parties which appeared at
the national level by chance are excluded from the list (The
Green Movement of the Ljubljana Municipality of Moste-
Polje, which competed at the 1992 parliamentary elections
and won 0.06% of the vote; the List for Clean Potable Water,
which competed in the 2008 parliamentary elections and won
0.39% of the vote and joined the United Greens for the 2009
European Parliament elections; and the
Acacias, which competed at the 1996 and 2004 parliamentary
elections as the independent list of Marko Brecelj, and at the 2008
and 2011 elections and won 0.11%, 0.05%, 0.02% and 0.02% shares of
the vote).

(2) Different alliances of the factions of The Greens of
Slovenia competed under the United Greens. At the parliamentary
elections in 2000, an alliance was formed between The Greens of
Slovenia and the Green Alternative (Trampus 2000), while at the
European Parliament elections in 2009 an alliance was formed between
The Greens of Slovenia, Green Progress, The Green Party and the Party
for Clean Potable Water (MMC RTV SLO/ STA 2009).

(3) The Green Coalition is an alliance between two factions
of the former members of The Greens of Slovenia, established
for the purpose of competing in parliamentary elections. Each of these
factions established its own political party--Green
Progress and The Green Party--active mostly at the local level.

(4) Prior to the 2004 elections, the Youth Party of Slovenia was
not profiled as a Green party.

(5) The Greens of Slovenia and the Youth Party of Slovenia competed
with a joint list of candidates at the 2004 European Parliament
elections. The electoral result shown in the table refers to the
joint list.

(6) The Party of Ecological Movements of Slovenia has competed on
a joint list with the parliamentary party the Social Democrats
since the 2008 parliamentary elections. However, none of the
candidates from the Party of Ecological Movements has gained
a parliamentary seat.

(7) The Youth Party of Slovenia competed at the 2008 national
parliamentary elections on a joint list with the parliamentary party,
the Slovenian People's Party. The joint list won 5.21% of the vote and
gained 5 parliamentary seats. However, none of the Youth Party's
candidates gained a parliamentary seat.

(8) At the 2011 parliamentary elections, the Youth Party formed a Green
alliance called the Youth Party of Slovenia--The Greens, which
incorporated non-parliamentary political parties, the Youth
Party--the Greens of Europe, the Green Coalition, the Christian
Socialists of Slovenia, the Democrats of Slovenia and the
Union for the Slovenian Littoral (Mavsar 2011).

(9) A coalition of the Party for Sustainable Development of Slovenia
with radical left parties.

Sources: Krasovec and Boh 2002, DVK 2004a, 2004b, 2008, 2009, 2011,
Party for the Sustainable Development of Slovenia 2014.


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Danica Fink-Hafner (1), and Matej Knep (2)

(1) Danica Fink-Hafner, PhD, Centre for Political Science Research, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana. E-mail:

(2) Matej Knep is an external collaborator at the Centre for Political Science Research, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana.
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Title Annotation:POLSCI PAPERS
Author:Fink-Hafner, Danica; Knep, Matej
Publication:Romanian Journal of Political Science
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4EXSL
Date:Jun 22, 2015
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