Academic journal article Studia Politica; Romanian Political Science Review

Unique Type of Slovenian Local Leaders Where Executive Mayors Have Mediterranean Strength

Academic journal article Studia Politica; Romanian Political Science Review

Unique Type of Slovenian Local Leaders Where Executive Mayors Have Mediterranean Strength

Article excerpt

Introduction

Local political leaders mainly represent local executive bodies and are situated at the junction of at least two lines of influence. The first is the line between politics and administration (horizontal relations) and the second is the line between the local community and central or national government (vertical relations)2. Local leadership is therefore a key element in the functioning of local authorities. Since 1980, the systems of local authorities across Europe have undergone important institutional changes, especially with regard to two institutional dimensions. First, the strategy and logic of the reforms were set to strengthen political and executive leadership, as well as improve (internal) management skills. Second, further reform strategies were directed towards the introduction of new public management and EU policies of market liberalisation. In all cases, strategies had the aim of the (external) reorganisation of local authorities. These processes occurred with assistance from external contactors or in line with the privatisation processes of local authorities. Conceptually and terminologically speaking, local leadership fits into a discussion on governance3. This means that stakeholders' networks usually operate outside local government and are defined in the descriptive-analytical understanding of the discourse on governance - therefore as part of the structure of governance4.

Executive power institutional arrangements at local level, which are the subject of numerous local government institutional reforms, are an important dimension of local leadership5. Research into local leadership therefore has its origins in an institutional context, where the significance of executive power at the local level is linked to traditional questions such as, "Where is the power located?", "Who exercises the power?" and "Who makes decisions?". Local political leaders are placed in the overall structure of local institutions, functions and responsibilities. Hence, local leadership should be treated as a political institution, which - in a network of intersecting formal and informal rules - forms (but does not also determine) the leadership of politicians, civil servants and citizens. Furthermore, local leadership provides a framework for understanding and identifying various stakeholders in political processes at the local level.

This paper presents a case study of local (self-)government institutional aspects and local political leadership in Slovenia. The main aim is to elucidate the unique position and type of local political leadership that Slovenian mayors developed in the last two decades. Our assertion is that "Slovenian mayors have developed a unique leadership type", and the research question asks whether overlapping political and administrative traditions have had a major influence on that development. These issues are important because existing typologies of local political leadership are often generalised and neglect specific institutional designs and political practices. To further this discussion, the following methodological approaches are applied: analysis and interpretation of legal documents and other secondary sources, as well as interpretation of data gathered from an empirical survey, in combination with in-depth interviews conducted with Slovenian local leaders. The paper provides the basis for consideration and future discussion of the relevance of existing political leadership typologies, as well as encouraging the discovery and creation of new (sub)type(s) of evolving political leadership.

The paper is structured in five sections. The first section presents a brief overview of literature and typologies, which serve as starting point for our analysis. In the main three sections we discuss the separation of powers in Slovenian local (self-)government system's evolution and steps towards empowering mayors, analyse mayoral involvement in municipal administration, supported by a substantial amount of empirical data, and discuss the relationship between local (self-)government and national politics in terms of autonomy and the rise of non-partisan mayors. …

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