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Slovenia Commemorates Independence and Unity Day, Marking Referendum Anniversary

Slovenia observes Independence and Unity Day on 26th December, commemorating the 1990 declaration of the referendum results that set the nation on the path to independence.

The landmark event followed the 1980s’ pro-democratic movements, which culminated in Slovenia’s first free multi-party elections in April 1990. The Democratic Opposition of Slovenia (DEMOS) emerged victorious, paving the way for the crucial independence referendum in collaboration with the opposition, who initially advocated for a spring 1991 referendum but later agreed to the December timeline.

A compromise, reached between DEMOS and the government, dictated that the referendum would only be valid if a minimum of half of the eligible voters supported independence, a shift from DEMOS’s initial majority rule proposal.

On December 6, 1990, a historic agreement was signed by parliamentary political parties and deputy groups, committing to a united front in preparing and conducting the referendum.

Subsequently, the parliament unanimously passed the referendum law, with 203 affirmative votes and four abstentions. This rare political consensus is believed by many historians and analysts to have galvanized the electorate, leading to a massive turnout for the referendum.

On December 23, 1990, a staggering 95% majority voted in favor of independence, with a 93.2% voter turnout, meaning over 88% of all eligible voters supported the move.

Jože Pučnik, the leader of DEMOS, famously declared the end of Yugoslavia and the focus on Slovenia, as the results were announced on the evening of the vote.

Officially declared three days later, on 26th December, these results led to a pivotal year in Slovenian history, including its June 1991 independence declaration and the ensuing ten-day conflict.

Since then, Independence and Unity Day has been a national holiday in Slovenia. While current Slovenian politics is more divided, the day serves as a reminder of the unity that once propelled the nation towards its sovereign status. In his address during the main national ceremony, Prime Minister Robert Golob highlighted independence as an inspiring success story born out of unity.

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