Corruption and Lack of Transparency Led to Unrest in Slovenia

Corruption and Lack of Transparency Led to Unrest in Slovenia

It has been known for a long time that something was wrong in the office of Franc Kangler, the Mayor of the city of Maribor. The media constantly reported over corrupt and non-transparent practices by his administration. On Monday 26 November the situation escalated and led to unrest when thousands of people expressed their demands for the Mayor to step down.

It all started on  12 November when some people gathered in front of the Mayor’s office and demanded his resignation. The next gathering, on 21 November, the crowd was larger but the demands were the same.

The reason for these demands can be found in accusations of the Mayor’s involvement in corrupt and non-transparent practices during his term. The Commission for the Prevention of Corruption issued a report, on 7 November, in which it accused Mr. Kangler of misusing his authority in the company Farmadent, which is partially owned by the municipality. He coerced the Farmadent manager to sign a contract with a certain consulting company, to employ a certain person and other corrupt practices. The Commission therefore concluded that this was a case of systematic clientelism by Mayor Kangler and other persons related to him (the report of commission in Slovene language). It was a typical case of non-transparent decision making and doing business “under the table”.

The case would be just another one in long history of similar cases throughout the world if there was not a financial crisis and a special situation surrounding the city of Maribor. Until the 1990s, Maribor was an industrial town with several large factory complexes. After Slovenia gained independence in 1991, all of these large companies collapsed and suddenly there were many people left unemployed. In spite of many attempts to revive the once flourishing town, all efforts were fruitless. For more than 20 years, many people lived on the verge of poverty and were disappointed and embittered because of this. The corruption has infuriated the inhabitants of Maribor.

On Monday 26 November, thousands of people (estimates range from 6.000 to 10.000 in a town with 100.000 inhabitants) gathered at the main square to peacefully protest against the Mayor and to demand his resignation. During this peaceful protest they burned Mr. Kangler in effigy. Unfortunately, among the protesters there were also some troublemakers who threw bottles and granite cubes against the city hall building and at the police.  These actions gave the police the excuse to use tear gas, and to drive the protesters away (video). There are rumours that in some cases policemen provoked protesters (video) and used excessive force. One day after the protests, Pirate Party of Slovenia issued a statement in which it supported all the claims of the protesters but also condemned the violence that erupted at the protest.

The whole situation reflects the current political situation in Slovenia where some high ranking politicians are being prosecuted – the most notorious is the case against PM Janez Janša related to suspicion of corruption – or are under investigation – for example, the Mayor of capital Ljubljana and leader of most powerful opposition party Zoran Janković. Both of them refused to resign. The Mayor of Maribor, Franc Kangler,  is acting in a similar way despite demands from people on the street and even demands from his own political party. Instead of resigning he merely went on vacation.

Like in the Arab Spring, people organized through social networks, mainly on Facebook. It seems now that protests will spread all over the country. There are already demands for some mayors to step down (Ptuj, Koper, Trebnje, Novo Mesto). There was a small protest on Tuesday in Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana, and there will be another on today against all corrupt Slovenian politicians.

Featured image: CC BY-SA Jumpin’Jack