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The First President Of The Republic Who Wanted To Be The President Of All Slovenians, Has Bid Us Farewell

Borut Pahor has bid us farewell as President of the Republic. The first, and perhaps at least for one generation, the last President of the Republic who really tried to be the President of all Slovenians. As he stressed in his latest address at the beginning of the annual report of the President of the Republic of Slovenia: “I bid you farewell with satisfaction and with the hope that I have done my best to meet the expectations of the people who elected me. I have tried my best to also be the President of the people who did not elect me. For the last ten years, I have tried to be the President of all people.”

Pahor was known for not being the President of the left-wing electorate nor the right. He was the President of all Slovenians. He presided in such a way that we have completely forgotten that he was once the President of the Social Democrats party (Socialni demokrati – SD) and even led it to the only parliamentary victory in the party’s history.

His role was completely removed from everyday political issues, which the left resented immensely, because they wanted him – like all other institutions they own – to speak out when it was necessary to falsely demonise the right-wing government. But he did not go along with these games. He attended both the commemorations of the partisans and the Home Guards. He tried to remain impartial.

He did not interfere in the elections
While we can see that the new President of the Republic has a clear political preference for the left and especially for her association of aspiring feminists called “OnaVe” (She Knows), Pahor has been similarly reticent at the elections as the presidents of republics in the West when it comes to defining their political preferences. As he said, “I have not made public statements about elections, including presidential elections. This was also part of my efforts as President of the Republic to not be just another politician who has a position on everything but a President of the Republic who, as a rule, is very reticent, especially on matters that concern the regulations of power and authority in the country.” Unlike his predecessor Danilo Türk, who not only took a stand but actively worked to keep the right from coming to power (recall the bizarre attempt to make Voljč Prime Minister instead of Janša).

The most important successes of his mandate
During Pahor’s mandate, the Slovenian National Community in Italy formally saw the return of the National Hall in Trieste, one hundred years after it was burnt down by Italian fascists and nationalist groups. The signing of the document on the return of the Hall was witnessed by Presidents of both Slovenia and Italy – Pahor and Sergio Mattarella at the Prefecture Palace in Trieste.

On the same occasion, the two Presidents also made a gesture that has been recognised by European politicians, academics and historians as one of the most important acts in the history of Central Europe – the two Presidents laid a wreath, first at the monument at the Foiba in Bazovice, where a large number of innocent Italians were murdered by Slovenian partisans. Then the Presidents laid a wreath at the monument to the Heroes of Bazovica, the four men executed after their conviction in the 1930 Trial of Trieste – these four men are officially still recognised as terrorists in Italy.

With this symbolic act, they caused quite a stir both on the Italian far right and on the Slovenian far left. Prominent Slovenian far-left figures, such as Zoran Predin, branded Pahor a traitor. Similar words were spoken about Matterella on the Italian far right. Meanwhile, most of the people in the centre agreed – this was a great gesture. A symbol that old grievances are forgotten, and now both nations can move forward into a common European future. Of course, we cannot imagine such a thing happening under Nataša Pirc Musar, who, as her first act as President, insulted the Slovenian minority in Austria.

His moderate policy also led to the Austrians apologising after a hundred years for the injustices and delays in the realisation of the constitutional rights of the Carinthian Slovenians. At a joint ceremony in Klagenfurt, marking the centenary of the Carinthian plebiscite, attended by Pahor and Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, the latter also apologised in Slovenian for the injustices and delays in the realisation of their constitutional rights.

What will Pahor do in the future?
There have been rumours circulating for some time now that Pahor might start his own party. A few months ago, he announced that he wants to become active in a party again and that he planned to discuss this with the SD party, which he led for 15 years. But the party has become quite radicalised since his departure, so much so that there is probably no room for a moderate politician of his calibre there. Recently, however, on the show “Dobro jutro” (Good morning), he hinted to the hosts that he is thinking of continuing his work in the foreign policy field.

“I would like to do something I love to do because then I would do it well. I have no intention of returning to domestic politics, I have completed my work here. I feel that I have some skills, some know-how in conflict resolution, and I can negotiate when trying to find better solutions. If I can do something like this at home or abroad, I will be happy to do it. I want to do something that I would do with my heart and with love. I can already say that I have received some offers, mainly from abroad,” he said.

He hopes that he has helped bring about reconciliation
On Thursday, Pahor bid farewell to the citizens with his last message: “It has been a great honour to have been your President,” he said. He felt a sense of satisfaction at his departure, and he had tried to be a President of all of us, to bring us closer together and to make us all take a step forward together towards reconciliation, he added.

Andrej Žitnik

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