Slovenia: Anti-immigration party to make gains as polls open

Slovenia was a key transit point during the European refugee crisis with around half a million passing through in 2015.

Polls have opened in Slovenia for the country’s parliamentary elections with the anti-immigration Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) set to pick up most votes.

SDS leader and former Prime Minister Janez Jansa was forced to resign five years ago after a corruption scandal but has made a comeback, thanks in part to his strong rhetoric on immigration.

The right-wing leader, who formed a close partnership with populist Hungarian leader Viktor Orban, has vowed to defend the “Schengen border of Europe”. 

Slovenia was a key transit route for migrants and refugees trying to reach northern European states during the European refugee crisis of 2015.

Most were fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia.

No single party is expected to pick up a majority in Sunday’s election and other parties have promised not to work with Jansa if there is no outright winner.

Balkan analyst, Klisman Murati, told Al Jazeera that rhetoric on immigration was being used to distract from economic issues.

“It’s an easy stance to take if you tell the people immigration is the main issue and that’s why your country is not prospering,” he said.

“It’s worked to an extent in the US, it’s worked as a start-up movement in France with Marine Le Pen, It’s taken popularity in other EU countries.”

Far-right and anti-immigration parties have made massive gains across Europe in recent years.

Anti-immigration parties have won elections in Italy, Poland, and Hungary, and are part of a coalition government in Austria.

Prime Minister Miro Cerar resigned in March after the Supreme Court ruled to annul a September 2017 referendum vote in support of a 1 billion euro ($1.17bn) railway project.

Polls close at 7pm (17:00 GMT) with results expected on Sunday evening.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies