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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

    FRI, 05 MAY 2000 01:22:24 GMT

    Slovenia and Elections

    Prime Minister or Football?

    That early elections are already a sure thing is indicated by the fact that deputies of the left side of the political spectre in Slovenian parliament are interested more in football games than speeches of the not destined prime minister and candidate of the rightists, Dr Andrej Bajuk. The final decision on early elections and the new candidate for prime minister will be decided by two votes. Both belong to the female part of the deputies.

    AIM Ljubljana 27 April, 2000

    "Andrej Bajuk has cold-bloodedly voted for the military junta which killed 30 thousand people", lamented from the parliamentary platform Zmago Jelincic, leader of the Slovenian National Party (SNS), before voting about the new candidate for prime minister Andrej Bajuk; immediately after that the chairman turned off the microphone on Jelincic because he was "insulting". In any case, Jelincic had already managed to denigrate the candidate of the right; he declared about Bajuk that he was the "son of a collaborationist, an associate of the occupiers, who ran away from Slovenia", a man who had lived abroad for more than half a century and therefore "is not familiar with the circumstances in Slovenia, and besides a man who had changed the Slovenian variant of his name "Andrej" into Argentinian "Andres"... and so on.

    It was not just Jelincic who stirred up the mentioned arguments. An avalanche of similar allegations piled on top of Bajuk’s head and those of his supporters during just two days of the parliamentary debate. The result of the voting was as expected – 44 votes in favour of Andrej Bajuk and 33 against. To be perfectly honest, the least was said about Bajuk’s platform during the debate. Deputies of the parties of the left cut into pieces Bajuk’s intention to radically amend the law on schooling currently in force (by introducing the so far banned religion into state schools) while the rightists defended him with the arguments that the former, “communist” Slovenian governments have been so incompetent that Slovenia’s progress was slowed down.

    That the whole “show” in the parliament was arranged as a start of the informally initiated election campaign as well as that the problem of differences and faults (or advantages) of the platforms ranks very low in importance was clear at the end of the second day. That is when Bajuk’s wife and daughter finally managed to get into the building of the parliament and bring coffee, sandwiches and water to the slightly forgotten candidate for prime minister. This did not prevent Bajuk’s press representative to confirm that Bajuk would despite everything still be a candidate for prime minister when the next day came. And then the final blow followed – a big portion of the deputies, as expected, just before the crucial vote, went to watch the football match between Manchester United and Real from Madrid.

    That is how it turned out in the total (against Bajuk) that it was in favour of the left. The same thing happened again a few days after that, when the second attempt of right parties to “squeeze through” their candidate and majority election law also failed. That this is a political race of practically equals is also testified by the fact that the leftists (“left” parties) have not succeeded to force passing of a special “declaration” on as urgent as possible early elections by means of which they wished to demonstrate their superiority. The initiative was signed by 44 deputies, which was again by two too little to confirm the will of the majority and “prove superiority of the left part of the parliament”. Now it is clear who failed to do what they were expected: two female deputies – Polonca Dobrajc (formally in Jelincic’s SNS, but actually independent) and Eda Okretic (also just formally in the party of pensioners – DeSUS). It is evident that these two votes control the situation. Polonca Dobrajc and Eda Okretic supported in the last vote the demand of the rightists that a third vote be cast concerning Bajuk’s candidacy. However, analysts say that it is not at all likely that these two “seceded” (from their parent parties) and decisive female votes would go in favour of the candidate of the right parties because both Polonca Dobrajc and Eda Okretic advocate early elections, which is the choice of the left and a nightmare for the right.

    Be what may, Andrej Bajuk is still in the game and remains the only candidate for Drnovsek’s successor, although after two consecutive unsuccessful attempts of the vote of confidence in the parliament it is quite certain that Bajuk will not become the prime minister of Slovenia, although in the third attempt of the vote all he needs is simple majority of votes and not absolute. The stand of president of the state Milan Kucan who has so far refrained from the right to nominate his candidate, did not help the rightists in any way. Kucan believes that Ljubljana is faced with serious challenges primarily because of the process of joining EU and NATO which requires an “expert and reliable” government. And since the parties of the right do not have a sufficient number of voters to form such a government, Kucan also sees the solution in early elections. Therefore if by 8 May this year the parliament fails to elect a new or ratify the former prime minister, president of the Republic Milan Kucan will dissolve the parliament and the elections will (most probably) be scheduled to take place on 18 June.

    The just published results of polls show that the rightists had made a big mistake when they caused and deepened the crisis of the government of Janez Drnovsek. Although Jansa, Peterle and Podobnik brothers pushed him out of the cabinet, Drnovsek still enjoys unexpectedly high confidence of the public. It is known that Drnovsek’s cabinet, popularly called “the second government”, immediately after its establishment in 1997 got comparatively high support of the public, although its popularity dropped below 50 per cent by summer 1998 already. The situation is just the opposite now. Popularity of Drnovsek’s administration went up after the visit of American President Clinton, when it reached the record 70 per cent of the votes of pollees. Paradoxically, later information about Drnovsek’s serious illness intensified the sympathy of the public. The latest public opinion polls indicate that 70 per cent of the pollees still see Drnovsek as a successful prime minister, although a much smaller percentage (about 45 per cent) describe his government in the same terms.

    The results of polls in reference to party affiliation are also interesting: 90 per cent of the chosen sample from Drnovsek’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDS) declared that their leader was a successful prime minister; this opinion is shared by about 66 per cent of members of the related United List of Social Democrats (ZLSD) – the reformed communists.

    Supporters of the Populist Party of Podobnik brothers are divided, although as many as 40 per cent of them agree that Drnovsek was a “successful” prime minister. To make the irony even greater, a part of the competition is also inclined towards Drnovsek. The polls showed that even in the opposition Social Democratic Party of Janez Jansa about 37.5 per cent of the members express inclination towards Janez Drnovsek and mark him as a good prime minister.

    When all things are considered, it becomes clear that the rightists headed by Jansa and Peterle have made a bad marketing trick when they were overthrowing Drnovsek’s government and causing the crisis in the state; the status of the left and Drnovsek’s LDS have never been better, which is a relatively good starting position for the forthcoming elections. This could change in case the present opposition (Jansa-Peterle-Podobnik) came to power and managed to change the disposition of the public and the election system. And this is hardly probable. Not only because in the few days before and after the holidays (after Easter Slovenia celebrates 27 April, the day of resistance to fascism, and then comes 1 May) it is impossible to change election rules, but also due to the fact that the change of election rules would not be convenient for LDS without which there is no two-thirds majority in the parliament needed for the change of the election system.

    Certain analyses (allegedly recently done in LDS itself) show that Drnovsek’s party – if it wishes to keep the same number of seats in the new “majority system” as in the current, “proportional system”) would have to win at least 15 per cent more votes than before. The tactics is simple: obstruction of the initiatives of the rightists and waiting for the moment when on 8 May Milan Kucan will proclaim that “time is up”, is the best strategy for the future. The rightists can succeed only in case they finds the two “renegades” in time (practically yesterday). And of course, to keep its deputies in the seats in the parliament, far from TV cameras which carry such interesting football games.

    Igor Mekina

    (AIM Ljubljana)