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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    SAT, 12 DEC 1998 21:06:05 GMT

    Defeat of the Rightists

    In the just ended local elections in Slovenia, the block of the rightist parties has suffered a serious defeat

    AIM Ljubljana, 26 November, 1998

    It is already possible to discern the results of the second local elections in Slovenia after the Republic became independent in 1991. On Sunday 22 November, local elections took place in 190 municipalities in which one and a half million voters in 3,620 voting stations elected mayors, that is, presidents of municipalities and municipal councillors. For the posts of mayors there had been 740 candidates. The turnout (in view of Slovenian circumstances) was comparatively low, since hardly 53 per cent of the electorate exercised their franchise. Somewhat higher percentage of voters who appeared at the voting stations was registered only in the maritime region and a few minor municipalities.

    The results of the elections are partly within limits of the expected, although there were certain surprises. All things considered, estimates of analysts proved to have been true that the former "bearers of district insignia" stood the best chance to win; this refers especially to minor municipalities. The other, to a certain extent quite unexpected result of the latest local elections is the relative failure of the rightist parties, popularly called the parties of the "spring alliance", which claimed to be the successors of the "Slovenian spring", the movement which had led to the change of power in 1990. To be perfectly honest one should admit that comparison of results of the latest elections with the previous ones in 1994 is difficult so that commentators of Slovenian media are very careful in passing judgment about them; the reason is simple - in 1994, the voters were electing 147, and now 190 mayors due to division of large municipalities into smaller ones. Besides, it is not possible to disregard whether certain parties have won power in a small village or a part of big city.

    Data show that the voters (according even to the initial results) chose the Liberal Democratic Party (LDS) of Janez Drnovsek with almost 23 per cent of the votes. Ranking second with 16.1 per cent is the Social Democratic Party (SDS) of Janez Jansa, independent candidates came out the third (12.5 per cent), the fourth was the leftist United List of candidates of Borut Pahor (12 per cent for successors of former communists), the fifth are Christian Democrats of Lojze Peterle (11.3 per cent), the sixth are the Slovenian Populist Party (SLS-10.2 per cent) of Podobnik brothers, the seventh is the Democratic Party of Pensioners (5.5 per cent), the eighth is the Slovenian Party of Zmago Jelincic (2.2 per cent), the ninth are the Democrats of Slovenia (1.6 per cent), et cetera.

    A comparison with the order of the most successful parties in 1994 elections shows that radical changes have occurred. Winners of the then local elections were Peterle's Christian Democrats (18.4 per cent of the votes), Drnovsek's Liberal Democracy ranked second (LDS-17.2 per cent), the third was Jansa's SDS (13.9 per cent), the fourth ZLSD (13.3 per cent), Podobnik and his SLS (12.7 per cent of the votes) were the fifth, and the sixth was DeSUS with 4 per cent of the votes. Therefore, the Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (LDS) gained the most, and Christian Democrats of Lojze Peterle lost the most, since from the first they dropped down to the fifth position.

    If anyone cared to rank the defeated - although almost all parties are bragging that they have "won" - the first would certainly be the Christian Democrats with 7.1 per cent less votes. They would be followed by the Populist Party with a slightly smaller decline in comparison with 1994, because they have won 2.5 per cent less votes, while the third would the United List which has lost 1.2 per cent of its former voters. For the Populists of Marjan Podobnik it is especially painful that this party has considerably "grown" due to which such a fiasco in the local elections for the leadership of this party is quite a shock. On the side of the "victors" with about 5.1 per cent more votes than before is the Liberal Democracy of Slovenia; Drnovsek's party is followed by Jansa's Social Democrats with 2.2 per cent more and democratic pensioners with 1.5 per cent of the votes more than in previous elections.

    Simple addition and subtraction show that the "spring block", or the rightist part of the Slovenian political spectre - lost about seven to eight per cent of the voters, and that with about 45 per cent of the former share in local authorities it dropped down to 37 per cent, while the other side gained about 4 per cent and together with the votes of independent candidates registered an increase of 41 per cent on the local level.

    There are a few reasons for the poor success of the right wing on Slovenian political scene: Slovenian Populist Party (Podobnik) was finally punished for the scandals which have been shaking this party and amusing the opponents for two years already; at first media exploited the discovery that this party which has most of its voters in villages, had illegally used the money allocated for - development of villages! Stories about foul dealings linked to financing of the election campaign (through middlemen and fictitious bank accounts), and in the end data on blackmail of large enterprises, for example the big construction company SCT which was offered approval for its privatisation on condition that it "assisted" the Populist Party with about 200 thousand German marks.

    Christian Democrats have paid the price for quite a different reason; Peterle's party is living for years now in peaceful coexistence with much more aggressive Jansa's Social Democrats, so that the membership slowly but surely started going over to the latter party. This is partly the clue to Jansa's success who increased his popularity at the expense of his naive political allies.

    All this raises certain new questions connected to the recent decision of the Constitutional Court of Slovenia according to which the Slovenian parliament must abide by the will of the voters most of whom in 1996 backed the idea on introduction of majority election system in Slovenia. Jansa's SDS insisted on it the most hoping that by uniting the rightist block it could defeat the left. Jansa's forecast relied on the data on the great (but individual) success of the rightist parties. At that time the Populists were right behind the Liberals, Jansa's SDS ranked the third and Christian Democrats fared better than the United List. Since the former majority system tended to be extremely rewarding for the successful but equally unfavourable for the unsuccessful, and it simply wiped out small parties, Jansa was sure he would win. The situation changed in the meantime; indeed, Jansa's party slightly gained in strength, but its coalition partners weakened. Since powerful coalitions always have advantage in a majority system, it is not difficult to conclude that in the future Jansa's manoeuvre - introduction of the majority system - would bring the greatest benefit to his bitterest enemy - Janez Drnovsek. Therefore, it is no miracle that the best known ideologist of Liberal Democrats, Slavoj Zizek, a few months back already turned over a new leaf and from a fanatical opponent of the majority system suddenly became a promoter of the initially Jansa's idea. If the present trend continues, Jansa could soon become the president of the party which is very strong, but thanks to the new election system, foredoomed to remain in the opposition.

    Igor Mekina

    (AIM Ljubljana)