Slovenia Rises In Artful ‘Protestivals’

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-weight:bold”>The change of government is one of the outcomes of protests that have included as many as 100,000 people across Slovenia since a local corruption scandal surfaced last November in the industrial city of Maribor, Slovenia’s second largest population center. People have been demanding, in particular, the resignation of political elites who have been in power ever since Slovenia’s split from Yugoslavia in 1991. A member of the European Union since 2004, this tiny country of two million inhabitants between the Alps and the Adriatic Sea has been severely hit by the Eurozone recession, and it is on the verge of a bailout. Severe austerity measures following bad bank loans have resulted in rising unemployment and poverty, as well as uncertainty about what the future will bring.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-weight:bold”>As a result of this unprecedented protest movement, the mayor of Maribor resigned in December — a first step toward the goal of freeing the Slovenian political scene from the most stubborn politicians. The national anti-corruption commission issued a report on January 8 that made serious corruption allegations against the heads of the two leading parties, including the right-wing prime minister Janez Jansa and the left-wing Ljubljana mayor Zoran Jankovic. The highly unpopular prime minister was ousted in a vote of no-confidence in the parliament on February 27 — marking another major step. On March 13, a left-center coalition agreement was signed, which was endorsed in the parliament on March 20. In line with protesters’ demands, the prime minister-designate Alenka Bratusek already announced that she would ask for a confidence vote a year after the government is sworn in to gauge people’s satisfaction. A state secretary will be appointed as a liaison to popular movements.

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-weight:bold”>At a rally outside the parliament yesterday, Bukovec said, “This spontaneous gathering is a message to the new government that protests will continue until political and economic structures are changed on a deeper level — to ensure equal opportunities to all inhabitants of Slovenia.”

line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-bidi-font-weight:bold”>Protestivals build on the legacy of culture as a form of resistance in Slovenia’s history. Before joining Yugoslavia in the 20th century, present-day Slovenia was ruled by various Germanic empires for over 700 years. Expressing identity through a unique culture and language was thus necessary for surviving under foreign rule. The protestival goes by the motto, “Don’t wait for spring, spring is already here!” — a refrain from a popular Slovenian song. After Prime Minister Jansa’s party called the protesters “communist zombies” in a tweet on December 21, protesters came to the subsequent protestival masked as zombies, and masks have been a presence throughout the movement ever since. They stand for the rottenness of present-day politics, which protesters hope will be replaced by more life-supporting social structures.

Leave a comment