The Carniola Party (German: Krain Partei; Slovenian: Kranjska Partija), also known as KP, is a Slovene-nationalist and autonomist political party in Austria, active exclusively in the province of Carniola. It was the provincial associate of the federal Slovene Democratic Party and is still in a "free association" with the Slovene Minority Party of Styria (SVGS) and the Slovene Political Alliance of Trieste-Istria. The KP governed Slovene-majority Carniola from their landslide breakthrough win in 1984 in a single-party government until their historic loss of the majority in 2008, when they governed in a coalition alongside the Social Democrats until 2012, when they had their worst showing in party history and became the third party behind the Social Democrats and People's Alliance. They are currently led by Gregor Golobič.
The Carniola Party was founded in 1979 by France Bučar and Milan Kučan, both at the time Social Democrats in the federal Parliament. Bučar, the more provincially-inclined of the two, broke from the then-dominant Socialist Party of Carniola (SPKR), where he was the Justice Minister, to organize a party list for the 1980 elections. It was the first serious challenge to the Socialists since the early 1950s, and the KP performed surprisingly well in the 1980 provincial election with Bučar as leader, earning 23 of the available 75 seats, making them the official opposition. In the early 1980s as opposition leader, Bučar cultivated a legion of young, ambitious provincial-level leaders such as Dimitrij Rupel, Peter Jambrek, Tone Peršak, and Velentin Hribar and his wife, Spomenka. Their federal sister party, the Slovene Democrats, entered Parliament for the first time in 1983, proving that there could be a future for the upstarts. The true breakthrough for the party would come in 1984 when they won 48 seats and a clear majority in the Provincial Assembly of Carniola (Provinzversammlung von Krain) and over half of the vote, relegating the then-dominant Socialists to opposition for the first time in history.
The Carniola Party was imagined by Bučar as a party that had only the "ideology of Slovenes" in mind, and thus openly invited both the right and the left to join the party. In practice, the KP served as an economically left-wing and culturally conservative party, and many of its voters were former Socialists animated by the idea of autonomism. Bučar stepped down as party leader and Staatsminister in 1988 after the party lost eight seats despite the Slovene Democrats sweeping the province at the provincial level and was replaced by Dimitrij Rupel, who would govern until 1991 as a more decided autonomist. The failures of the autonomy movement in the early 1990s - including the aborted autonomy referendum and the botched plan for a "Province of Slovenia" that would include Slovenian-speaking parts of Styria and Carinthia while ceding Italian-minority parts of Carniola to Trieste-Istria - led to Rupel's resignation at the hands of more devoted right-leaning nationalists led by Lojze Peterle, who despite forcing a no-confidence vote that dissolved his cabinet were unable to appoint their own leader when the Socialists, now known as the Social Democrats, and the minor People's Party of Carniola (VPK) led by Jože Pučnik, agreed to a floor vote that appointed Pučnik as Staatsminister on the grounds that he join the KP and appointed a two-thirds mixed cabinet. In the following elections in 1992, the KP ran against their own Staatsminister and yet still managed to earn a majority. However, with the ultra-nationalists now led by Janez Jansa at the federal level and Andrej Bajuk at the provincial level and having expanded their vote proportion total in both levels of the party, the Socialists once again leveraged Pučnik, the technocrat, into power.
The major split in the party would come in 1995 when the federal party agreed to merge with the Party for Istria into the Democratic Party, a move opposed by the left faction of the Carniola Party but preferred by Jansa and Bajuk's factions. Though the move was irreprably damaging to the Slovene Democrats at the federal level, the Carniola Party was relieved by Milan Kucan's decision to return to Carniola and stand for Staatsminister, a unifying force for the party who rallied both soft Bajuk supporters and anti-merger forces into a landslide defeat of Jansa at the 1995 party conference in Novo Mesto. Kucan served, much like Pučnik, as a non-controversial technocrat who would lead the province for six years, instituting neoliberal tax reforms in conjunction with his friend and ally Chancellor Franz Vranitzky while expanding social services and Slovene-language schools. The KP was returned with a 50-seat majority in 1996, the peak of its power. In a landmark 1999 speech, he said that "a referendum on the status of Carniola is indefinitely impossible." It permanently removed the idea of secession, or even autonomist association, from the political discussion.
With the defection of Jansa to the VPK in 2000 and the retirement of much of the KP's old guard, Kucan announced he would retire after the party lost ten seats in the 2000 elections and fell two seats shy of losing their majority. Anton Rop, long the Deputy President of the party, replaced him as head of the party in 2001 and led the party to a regaining of three seats in 2004, but a series of scandals, including one tying KP mayor of Laybach Zoran Jankovic to the Slovenian and Italian mafias, helped torpedo their election chances in 2008, and they lost thirteen seats to drop to thirty seats, just ahead of the Social Democrats with 28. In order to prevent a coalition between the SPK and the VPK, Rop agreed to form a "grand coalition" with the Social Democrats, with himself as Staatsminister. However, after an austerity revolt in 2009 over his budget policies including riots in Laybach, he resigned that year and was replaced by Danilo Turk. After an ineffectual coalition cabinet was nearly defeated in no-confidence votes twice and the Social Democrats threatened to dissolve the coalition on two occasions, the KP was defeated soundly at the polls in May of 2012, losing fourteen seats to drop to sixteen, their lowest seat total since 1980, and the first time out of government since 1984. Turk resigned as leader the next day and was replaced as Staatsminister by Borut Pahor, the first Social Democrat to run Carniola since the 1980s.
The KP elected Gregor Golobič as party president and Parliamentary Leader in July of 2012.