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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

    SUN, 26 MAR 2000 01:14:49 GMT

    Slovenia and Elections

    Drnovsek's Government in a Crisis

    The announcement of the Slovenian Populist Party that immediately after forming of a new (rightist) party it would step out of the ruling coalition marked the beginning of the election campaign

    AIM Ljubljana, 15 March, 2000

    Slovenia is rushing headlong towards a crisis of its government every day, the final collapse is expected to take place in mid April when three parties (all three of them to the right from the centre) at their joint convention will inaugurate a new, united rightist party. This ended the several-month long uncertainty - Marjan Podobnik, president of Slovenian Populists, at a meeting with the leader of Christian Democrats (SKD) Lojze Peterle and leader of Social Democrats (SDS) Janez Jansa, signed special minutes which oblige him, in case they establish a joint party, to withdraw all his ministers from the government of Janez Drnovsek.

    The said decision was exceptionally quickly confirmed by the main board of SLS which was taken aback by the unexpected decision of its leader who had for months evaded the union Jansa has been insisting on. The convention when SLS, SKD and SDS are expected to unite, should take place on 14 and 15 April, before the Catholic holiday Palm Sunday. The convention has the meaning of clinical death for Drnovsek’s government which is formed by Podobnik’s Populists (SLS), Drnovsek’s Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (LDS) and Party of Pensioners (DESUS). After departure of the ministers, members of SLS, the government will not have the support of the majority any more, which means that prime minister Janez Drnovsek will have to seek salvation in a minority government.

    That the elections are approaching is also clear from the increasing number of scandals which implicate leading persons on the political scene; the latest one erupted about ten days ago when an Audi A6 car worth about 100 thousand German marks, given to Marjan Podobnik, president of SLS, to use for business purposes, disappeared from in front of a skyscraper in a suburb of Ljubljana. Speculations appeared immediately in newspapers that Marjan Podobnik, politician who brags about his decent family life (he recently got a child), had spent the night with a certain lady from his surroundings. There was no guessing about the identity of the lady - her photos were also published. Accompanied by Marjan, of course. Podobnik reacted instinctively - he found motives for the stolen car in politics, and accused the people from Kucan’s office for the organisation of the "conspiracy". An angry denial of the president of the Republic followed, and it just further strained the relations between the partners in power.

    The public is, therefore, left to rack its brain about two problems - first, nobody knows exactly what happens the next day after the cabinet is dissolved; the Constitution prescribes that in this case the prime minister shall ask for a new mandate from the president of the Republic. This is something the current prime minister does not wish to experience even in his worst nightmare. It is well known that Drnovsek and Kucan have for a log time been rivals in the struggle for supremacy in the left wing of Slovenian politics, although their political stands are quite similar. This means that if he happens to be forced to ask Kucan for a new mandate, Drnovsek will have to promise something in return, especially because the head of the government is concerning certain issues more pragmatic than the president of the Republic; for example, contrary to Kucan, Drnovsek has been quite lenient when appetites of the Church are concerned, as well as redefining of the near past and the political system in general, courting the rightists in this way.

    The question whether Drnovsek’s nightmare will come true is not the worst dilemma that is awaiting Slovenia soon; the split of the ruling coalition will most probably result in further complication of organisation of parliamentary elections which should be scheduled in autumn this year. Which is another problem. Jan’s and Peterle’s eagerness to draw Podobnik’s Populist in under the same umbrella is understandable when one knows that Slovenia’s Constitutional Court decided that next elections would be organised according to the majority not the proportional election system which was in force so far. By doing this the court confirmed aspirations of Jansa’s Social Democrats whose strategy is to wipe out the competition of minor parties and reduce the struggle for power to one opponent alone - the left itself. Numerous lawyers, even certain members of the Constitutional Court assessed adoption of the majority election system as "scandalous", since the proposal of Social Democrats at the referendum had not won the necessary (absolute) majority as prescribed by the Law on referendum and people’s initiative.

    To make things even more curious, Slovenian Constitutional Court explained the positive outcome of the initiative of Jansa’s Social Democrats by comparison with a similar example from Bavaria where absolute majority of the voters is not necessary for passing a proposal. In other words, Slovenian Constitutional Court acted as if Bavarian and not Slovenian Constitution were in force in Slovenia. That is why supporters of left parties accuse the Constitutional Court of bias and fraud. Finally, the referendum on models of the election system was carried out more than sloppily - many voters had not even voted at the referendum on the election system (held in 1996) thanks to persuasion of experts and politicians in the media that the referendum had an "advisory" and not a "legislative" role. That is why the turnout of the voters was insufficient, but Jansa’s Social Democrats succeeded with the help of judges of the Constitutional Courts who are inclined towards the right to have the results recognised anyway.

    Therefore, for more than two years already debates are going on whether the controversial decision of the Court should be implemented; doubts and dilemmas about it are especially great among the leftists. LDS and reformed communists demand that the elections be held according to the currently election system, as well as to amend the Constitution. Moreover, a part of the left supports the idea that all changes of the election rules should be obstructed in order to have the elections organised according to the old system. Should Jansa’s SDS out of protest decide to refuse to take part in such elections - it would do nothing but good, the mentioned political circles claim. On the other hand there are those who remind that such developments would cause enormous political shocks, so that it is necessary to act "legalistically" despite the controversial decision of the Constitutional Court…

    Prime minister himself is responsible for the surprise and shift in the whole story; because of the approaching parliamentary elections he decided to take things in his hands and inclined towards Jansa, to general abhorrence of supporters of the left. Janez Drnovsek publicly and unambiguously spoke in favour of implementation of the decision of the Constitutional Court and having the elections according to the majority system. However, there is a catch here - LDS agrees to implementation of the new law but only if the law on electoral districts is passed. Experts believe that this would be the only way to avoid changing of limits of electoral districts.

    It is already clear that early elections will not have an impact only on internal, but also on foreign policy; Slovenian parliament is just considering a few packages of laws from the so-called "European" legislature and it is hardly probable that after departure of SLS from the ruling coalition, the parliament would be capable of carrying out the promises given to the Commission of EU. And this means that the split of the government will cause a delay in the process of rapprochement of Slovenia with the European Union.

    Broadly speaking, the early dissolution of the coalition of LDS, SLS, DESUS, will be useful for the opposition, but not for official Ljubljana, for which it will be just the beginning of worries. Although experts say that the a compromising solution is always welcome even if the coalition falls apart in April; it is clear that Janez Drnovsek, Milan Kucan and other politicians oriented towards the centre and the left of the centre do not wish to spend next four years in power with a torrent of opposition accusations on unconstitutional elections. It is also certain that for Janez Jansa and his supporters eager for power another four years spent in the opposition would be a much worse punishment than any, even "rotten" compromise with the ever pragmatic Janez Drnovsek. The season of compromise and political shifts has just begun.

    Igor Mekina

    (AIM Ljubljana)