Janez Drnovšek - Prime Minister of Slovenia

Prime Minister of Slovenia

In 1992, after a Government crisis in the DEMOS coalition, which had won the first democratic elections in Slovenia in 1990 and led the country to independence, Drnovšek became the second Prime Minister of independent Slovenia. He was chosen as a compromise candidate and an expert in economic policy. His bi-partisan government was supported both by the left and centrist wing of the dissolved DEMOS coalition (the Social Democratic Party of Slovenia, the Democratic Party and the Greens of Slovenia) and by three parties that derived from organizations of the former Communist regime (the Liberal Democratic Party, the Party of Democratic Reform and the Socialist Party of Slovenia).

Shortly afterwards, Drnovšek was elected president of the Liberal Democratic Party (Liberalno demokratska stranka – LDS), the legal successor of the Association of Socialist Youth of Slovenia (Zveza socialistične mladine Slovenije – ZSMS), the youth fraction of the Communist Party of Slovenia.

In 1992, the Liberal Democratic Party under Drnovšek's leadership won the parliamentary elections, but due to a high fragmentation of the popular vote had to ally itself with other parties in order to form a stable government. Despite a politically turbulent mandate (in 1994, the Social Democratic Party of Slovenia left the coalition), the Party gained votes in 1996, remaining the largest party in the government. Nevertheless, Drnovšek barely secured himself a third term in office after a failed attempt to ally himself with the Slovenian National Party. In 1997, the Liberal Democracy of Slovenia formed a coalition government with the populist Slovenian People's Party which finally enabled Drnovšek to serve a third term in office.

He headed the government until May 2000, when he stepped down due to disagreements with the Slovenian People's Party. After less than six months in opposition, Drnovšek returned to power in Autumn of 2000, after his party gained a clear victory in the parliamentary elections.

Drnovšek's governments guided Slovenia's political and economic reconstruction. He successfully tackled the twin tasks of reorienting Slovenia's trade away from the wreckage of the old Yugoslavia towards the West and replacing the ineffective Communist-era business model with more market-based mechanisms.

Unlike the other five former Yugoslav republics which were run for much of the 1990s by charismatic and frequently authoritarian presidents, Slovenia under Drnovšek's premiership quickly emerged from the break-up of the federation as a functioning parliamentary democracy. Drnovšek's political strategy was concentrated on broad coalitions, transcending idological and programmatic divisions between parties.

Contrary to some other former Communist countries in Eastern Europe, the economic and social transformation in Slovenia pursued by Drnovšek's governments followed a gradualist approach.

Drnovšek was a staunch supporter of Slovenia's entry in the European Union and NATO and was largely responsible for Slovenia's successful bid for membership in both of those organizations. As Prime minister, he was frequently active on foreign policy issues. On June 16, 2001, he helped to arrange the first meeting of the U.S. President George W. Bush with the Russian President Vladimir Putin, which was held in the Upper Carniolan estate of Brdo pri Kranju. (Bush-Putin 2001)

In 2002, he ran for President of Slovenia, and was elected in the second round, defeating the center right candidate Barbara Brezigar.

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