Participatory Budgeting in Maribor

Participatory Budgeting in Maribor


Participatory Budgeting in the City of Maribor; 

Maribor following political and economic struggles adopted various forms of direct democracy, notably Participatory budgeting. 


Background History and context:

  • Despite “prospering” after the First World War, Slovenia and its “political, economic and cultural” centre Maribor suffered following the Second World War. (Municipality OfMaribor, 2018)
      • More recently, “Maribor has fallen into the very top of Yugoslav industrial production. But this was not particularly helpful … The consequences of unilateral development were especially evident in the breakup of Yugoslavia and the loss of a significant Yugoslav market. In the 1990s, the city was in crisis. The collapse of the once largest factories, unemployment and the emigration of the inhabitants contributed to the fact that the town's pulse stopped for quite some time. Time, ambitious wishes and visions, strong will and fighting spirit have returned the city and opened new paths of development. “(Municipality of Maribor, 2018).
      • The spirit of citizens of Maribor  s the root cause of its desire to improve and develop its democracy. Maribor suffered drastic economic and political damage following the First, Second and Cold War’s.   


  • Maribor provides a valuable transport interaction for much of Slovenia, “ its position at the intersection of transport routes from central to south-eastern Europe and from western central Europe to the Pannonian Plain gave him a proven role in the past, he is taking it today and will be more likely to do so in the future. As it lies only eighteen kilometers from the state border with Austria, it represents a threshold in our country, as well as in the Balkans.” (Municipality of Maribor 2018)(He referring to Maribor)
    • Formally a “peaceful and rural town”, following the violence Europe experienced throughout the 20th century, Maribor has been anything but;
      • Popular Travel guides would describe Slovenia and Maribor’s history as “bleak” with Independence coming from Yugoslavia in 1991 following the “Ten Day. War”. The Ten Day War had negative impacts on the economy of Maribor, leaving over 60 people dead. 
  • Slovenia has had a history of Protests “ It is noteworthy that Maribor had already been the site of one of the largest workers mass strikes and protests in 1988, and seen it retrospect, it became a site of the tragic beginning of the end of socialist Yugoslavia” (Bieber and Brentin 2018). The history of political dissatisfaction within Slovenia clearly paved the way for a change in the political dynamic among individuals. 


  • Following massive protests in November of  2012, tensions rose due to economic issues, which were brought about due to the financial crash of 2008. Leading to a decline in the automotive industry which had previously dominated Slovenias economy.
    • Maribor has not always been known as Maribor, S”lovenes in the folk language for the city used the name Marprog, adapted to the German Marburg, originated from the medieval Marcpurch, which meant a castle in the border landscape.” (Municipality Of Maribor, 2018)



What is Participatory Budgeting:

  • Participatory budgeting can be defined as; “a democratic process in which community members decide how to spend part of a public budget. It gives people real power over real money” (Participatory Budgeting project 2018). Most simply a democratic process of allocating public funding. 
  • “In the process of participatory budget local citizens determine by themselves which are the most urgent investments in the community. In this way the realized investments respond concretely to the needs of the community.” (Smart City Maribor)
  • The first example of PB being used was in Porto Alegre, Brazil in the 1980s where the Brazilian people showed real desire to improve their democracy at a local level. Porto Alegre and their democratic development provided a inspiration for many local democracies throughout the world to develop and improve their own democracies to create fairer and more stable communities.  Its main focus is on the concept of redistributing wealth and creating more active political engagement. 

- “Since PB is a very dynamic social and political process, many national and 

international organizations are more interested in its technical virtues (efficiency 

and effectiveness in resource distribution and utilization) than in its democratic 

virtues (sustainability of a complex system of participation and distributive justice) 

(de Sousa Santos 2005, p. 357)”. As a system PB arguably provides greater economic benefits to actual democratic benefits. 

- A reasonably recent political phoneme, PB is an example of direct democracy. Participatory budgeting has no on concrete way process of adoption, however the Participatory Budgeting Project recommend a cyclical style of implementation;




When/where was this case?:

  • Original engagement end of 2012, implementation and process 2013 - present 
  • Slovenias Second largest city; Maribor, split into 6 districts

How many participants?:

  • Most recent example of May 2018; 
    • “KS Ravanje was attended by 37 eligible voters (out of a total of 1,125 beneficiaries), with one ballot ineffective; 57 eligible voters (of the total of 2108 beneficiaries) participated in KS Limbuš, with seven ballots inaccurate; in KS Pekra, 70 voting beneficiaries (out of a total of 1744 and 27 temporary applicants) took part in the vote, with two ballots ineffective; 87 voting beneficiaries (out of a total of 9,068 beneficiaries) attended the Tabor Chamber of Tabor, with eight ballots ineffective; 85 Voting beneficiaries (out of 7993 beneficiaries) participated in the new village of Nova vas, with six ballots inaccurate.” (Public Relations, Municipality of Maribor 2018).
    • The different regions within Maribor all with different turnout results, however all clearly low;

- “Voting was attended by 652 voters and voters from 6,033. 10.8% of all eligible voters.” 

Originating entities and funding:

  • “The unemployment rate in Maribor reached around 25% in the early 1990s and even worse, around 70% of those fell within the category of structural, i.e. long-term, unemployment.”(Bieber and Brentin, 2018)
  • Creative force was the citizens of Maribor, after suffering economic austerity measures they felt change was needed and so acted.
  • Various corruption issues arose effecting the legitimacy and legality of the cities democratic freedoms. Many of the richer individuals in Slovenia and specifically Maribor benefited from the economic measures imposed following the financial crisis.
  • Discussions occurred assessing the democratic reforms of Porto Allegre and how Maribor could learn from these, but the people of Maribor feared that ‘Huge social mobilisation would end in disappointment and no real change” (Gregorcic and Krasovec 2017, pg29).


What Happened:


- “200 to 300 activists gathered every evening at the end of 2012, 

discussed the heated situation, and considered the social changes in Iceland, Porto 

Alegre, etc.” ( Gregoric and Krasovec, pg 172, 2016)

 -  Gregorcic and Krasovec: 

Two interrelated active citizens who were crucial in the role of participatory budgeting in Maribor: Gregoric the former member of the city council service. Krasovec known as former economist of Maribor, who more recently has been trialed for fraud charges. 

    • These actors were the original Initiators and moderators of PB, they also wrote a piece for the “Sodobna pedagogika/Journal of Contemporary Educational Studies” journal, explaining the process of participatory budgeting in Maribor, “ contextualised through the social unrest 

in Iceland and the e-PB initiative of the Citizens Foundation (CF) in Reykjavík” (Gregoric and Krasovec, pg 168, 2016)


  • “The first major politico-politico-economic decisions on the post-socialist transition regarded how to manage the national economy and what to do with social property. These topics led to a major split in the first few democratically elected governments”( Bieber and Brentin 2018). 
    • The age group of 30-50 were very underrepresented, both in terms of turnout and further committee members. 
  • The process was split into SDC = Self organised district committees, SLC = self organised local communities. SDC and SLC consisted of 10-80 members but size depended on problems in the community.
  • Differences in ages showed that change would not be gained without: “intergenerational solidarity”, challenge at first due to wide variety in age groups and desires of members. (Greogoric and Krasovec 2017)

- “ At the moment we are in the second phase of implementation, when the citizens voted on a consolidated and financially valued set of project proposals … The result of the vote will be the order of the projects where the projects will be ranked from the highest to the lowest according to the number of votes. The Council of the MOC The KS will discuss the voting order of the projects and decide on it and include the voted projects in its priority list.” (Municipality of Maribor, 2018) 

- Citizens which wish to be involved in the decision making process come and place their votes,  placing on a card which of the economic decision they feel are the most important. 





Influence, Outcomes and Effects: 


  • Participatory budgeting now used in effect within Maribor, Since, environmental incentives been introduced and levels of corruption appear to be down.
  • “The exact proportion of the investment funds to be allocated to the participatory budget will be determined each year by the City Council. The allocated funds will then be shared between individual city districts and local communities. The decision to split funds will have to be made by consensus by local communities. If this is not achieved, the funds will be divided according to the number of inhabitants of the city quarter or local community” (City of Maribor 2018)

- “Maribor is becoming a rare city with an intensive bottom-up decision-making 

process, strong and articulated self-organized community pressure groups, and a 

goal for wider social and political change.” ( G and K, pg 172, 2016). Since introducing PB Maribor has shown signs of improving democratically in other sectors not simply economically and politically, with improvements towards mobility, energy and housing. 

  • “The participatory budget is currently not specifically defined in the Slovenian legislation. Municipality of Maribor approaches to it with the civil society initiative modelled after European cities, where citizens already decide on priority investments within the expected budgets. It is therefore a direct decision making of the implementation queue of projects in urban areas. Out of the proposed projects citizens establish a priority list by voting. Projects which receive the most votes will be included in the municipal budget” (Smart City Maribor)


- Gregoric and Krasovec’ research into PB in Maribor showed results highlighting that participatory democracy “strongly influences’ individuals. These individuals had not only been enlightened politically but had also made new friends, ‘not only doubled their number of friends, 

but have found a new family, a new social community, and a new meaning in life, 

and they have become happier, more self-confident, and more tolerant” (Gregoric and Krasovec, pg 176, 2016)
























Analysis and Lessons Learnt (538 words)


From this example of PB in Maribor we can learn that PB is often a development of direct democracy that often comes hand in hand with other measures taken by policy makers, often to try and improve a city politically and economically. Effectively PB often comes with other methods of direct democracy. Rarely is it implemented solely. In the case of Maribor other measures were taken following the implementation of PB to try and improve Maribor as a whole. Measures such as regulations regarding environmental harm. 

As mentioned, in this example a certain age group was underrepresented in the process of PB, 30-50 year olds. It appears that there are other examples that show PB is often not effective at being wholly inclusive. The original example of PB in Porto Alegre failed to represent the interest of women effectively, and this case of Maribor failed to represent the interests of middle aged adults effectively. PB however good natured, will not improve a democracies representation of minorities or in this case certain age groups.

PB and other forms of direct democracy can be used in order to improve democratic transparency, much of the distaste towards Politicians in Maribor was due to a lack of transparency, various corruption and fraud charges facing many Slovenian politicians and business owners marred the relationships between everyday citizens and those in decision making positions. Despite Slovenia and Maribor still having large issues regarding corruption, since implementing PB this problem has improved, the Group of States Against Corruption group assessed the situation; “praising Slovenia’s government for gender equality at the cabinet level … adding this was important for combating corruption” (Flanner, 2018). Slovenia and Maribor’s democratic improvements are clearly having an impact.

The efficiency of PB In the case of Maribor can be questioned, turnout is still extremely low despite being implemented for nearly 5 years now. Like many other political institutions such as elections, PB and its legitimacy can be questioned when turnout is so low. 

The simple lay out of a website such as Smart City Maribor, many modern cities could learn from. It is extremely useful for citizens and researchers of PB but also other democratic innovations to be able to access a clear, easy to understand website which explains the ways in which their city intends to improve economically, politically and culturally. 

The angle taken by Greogoric and Krasovec can be highlighted through this example of Maribor, PB despite having political roots, is an inherent economic  process which focus is on the economic decision making as opposed to representation. Representation is crucial to any democracy and so despite PB being an effective tool for political activism, it is not an effective tool for political representation. 

Particiaptory Budgeting is a process of direct democracy which has grown via a lesson learned basis, in that states and governments have seen the process work effectively in other examples and so have adopted PB for themselves. 


Overall, there are many lessons which can be learnt from this case of Participatory Budgeting in Maribor, in my view most importantly that any efforts to innovate and improve a democracy should be encouraged and supported, especially in smaller countries and smaller states which may have had troubled histories such as Slovenia and this case of Maribor.




External links:



Bieber, F. and Brentin, D. (2018). Social movements in the Balkans. (n.d.). “Gotovo je!”: Reflections on Direct Democracy in Slovenia. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Oct. 2018].

Flanner, J. and Flanner, J. (2018). European Anti-Corruption Report Praises Slovenia on Legal Standards, But Notes Lack of Implementation. [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 Dec. 2018].

Gregorčič, M. and Jelenc-Krašovec, S. (2017). Pedagogical dimensions of participatory democracy.

Gregoric, M. and Krasovec, S. (2016). Social and learning practices in participatory democracy process The case study of self-organized communities in Maribor, Slovenia, contextualised through the e-participatory budgeting in Reykjavík, Iceland. Sodobna pedagogika/Journal of Contemporary Educational Studies, 67. (2018). A Short History of Maribor. [online] Available at: [Accessed 29 Oct. 2018]. (2018). Mestna občina Maribor. [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 Dec. 2018].





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Case Data


General Issue(s): 
Specific Topic(s): 


Maribor Maribor


Start Date: 
Saturday, December 29, 2012
End Date: 
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Number of Meeting Days: 
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Total Number of Participants: 
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If yes, were they ...: 
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Facetoface, Online or Both: 
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Who paid for the project or initiative?: 
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Who else supported the initiative? : 
Prime Minister of Slovenia, Mayor of Maribor
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Total Budget: 
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