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Podobnik was born in the small town of Cerkno in western Slovenia, in what was then the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. He studied medicine at the University of Ljubljana, where he graduated in 1984. From 1984 to 1990, he worked as a general physician in Idrija.
He entered politics during the period of democratization known as the Slovenian spring. In 1990, he joined the Slovenian People's Party and was elected as the first non-communist mayor of Idrija after World War II. In 1992, he was elected to the Slovenian National Assembly. During the coalition government between the Slovenian People's Party and the left Liberal Democracy of Slovenia, Podobnik served as speaker of the National Assembly (1996–2000). In 1997, he unsuccessfully ran for president of Slovenia, but was defeated in a runoff by the incumbent Milan Kučan.
He was reelected to the parliament in 2000, and he served as the head of the parliament group of the Slovenian People's Party from 2000 to 2004. In 2003, he was elected president of the Slovenian People's Party. In 2004, the party entered the centre-right government led by Janez Janša, and Podobnik became minister of the environment. In November 2007, Podobnik resigned as president of the Slovenian People's Party, which was defeated in the parliamentary election in September 2008.
Podobnik is a devout Roman Catholic. He is married and has one child, Rok. His brother, Marjan Podobnik, also a politician, was the president of the Slovenian People's Party from 1992 to 2000, and deputy prime minister from 1997 to 2000.
- "prof. d-r Janez Podobnik- Ljubljana, Slovenia – member – Institute for European Education". Retrieved 2020-04-13.
- "5th parliamentary term | Janez PODOBNIK | MEPs | European Parliament". www.europarl.europa.eu. Retrieved 2020-04-13.
- "Mr Janez PODOBNIK". April 13, 2020.
| Speaker of the National Assembly of Slovenia
1996 – 2000
| Minister of Environment of Slovenia
2004 – 2008
|Party political offices|
| President of the Slovenian People's Party
2003 – 2008