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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

    WED, 17 MAY 2000 22:46:28 GMT

    Decisive Women's Votes

    During the election of Andrej Bajuk, new Prime Minister designate of the Slovenian Government, two votes have tipped the scales; both belong to the women's delegate lobby.

    AIM Ljubljana, May 9, 2000

    After the no-confidence vote to the Government of the acting Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek and proposal of the Slovenian parties of the right for Andrej Bajuk to become the new Prime Minister designate, the political events took an unexpected turn. It seemed that after first two unsuccessful votes, Bajuk's days were numbered and that President of the Republic, Milan Kucan, will have to call early elections on May 8, on the proportional representation system - unacceptable for the parties of the right. And then came a sudden turnabout - after the third vote Andrej Bajuk was unexpectedly elected new Prime Minister designate of the Slovenian Government. After eight years of rule of the Party of the Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (LDS) and its coalition partners, this was the largest political earthquake that shook Slovenia since it won its independence.

    Andrej Bajuk was born in 1943 in Ljubljana. In early 1945 his family emigrated from the country. They spent some three years in refugee camps in Austria after which they went to Argentina where they settled in Mendosa. Bajuk got his first degree in Mendosa and won his master's degree in economy at the University of Chicago and his second master's and doctor's degree at Berkley University in California. He returned to Argentina where he worked as University professor. After that he worked for about a year for the World Bank in Washington. His next employment was with the Inter-American Development Bank. From September 1994 he was stationed in Paris where he served as a representative of that Bank for Europe. He is married and has three children. At the time when Jansa's sympathisers proposed him for Janez Drnovsek's successor at the helm of the Slovenian Government, he was staying in a hotel to be granted permanent residence and given a flat in Ljubljana only several weeks later.

    The Trojan Horse

    This time the election of a new Prime Minister designate was by no means easy. An avalanche of criticism that fell on the practically unknown Bajuk and his followers in only two days of parliamentary debate was impressive. The result of the previous two voting rounds was as expected - some 44 delegates voted for Andrej Bajuk, while all others were either against or abstained. That was not enough for a valid decision which requires the delegate majority of 46 votes. During debate about the new candidate, Bajuk's programme was lest discussed; delegates of the left parties dissected Bajuk's intention to radically change the existing Law on Education (by introducing the until not forbidden catechism in state schools), while the right parties defended him using the arguments that the -"communist" - Slovenian Governments to date were so incompetent that they slowed down Slovenia's development...

    Only at the end of the second day it became clear that all this parliamentary circus was organised as a start of the informally launched pre-election campaign, as well as that the problems regarding differences and shortcomings (i.e. advantages) of various programmes were least important. Bajuk's wife and daughter managed to get into the Parliament bringing coffee, sandwiches and water to the somewhat neglected candidate for Prime Minister of the Slovenian Government! This did not stop Bajuk's press attaché from confirming that despite everything Bajuk will remain a candidate for Prime Minister "even tomorrow". And then the final blow came - as it was expected, on the night of the decisive voting a large number of delegates left Parliament in order to watch a match Manchester United-Real Madrid.

    It already seemed that the final score was in favour of the left (and against Bajuk). A similar thing happened just a few days later when, the second attempt of the parties of the right to push through at the last moment their Prime Minister designate and the majority electoral law, failed. That the mentioned political score was more than tight is attested by the information that the Left (i.e. the left parties) did not succeed in pushing through the adoption of a special declaration on the most urgent possible early elections, whereby they wanted to demonstrate their supremacy.

    Some 44 delegates signed this initiative, i.e. again not enough for confirming the will of the majority and prove the supremacy of the left wing of parliament. At the time when the last vote was organised, commentators were already certain that the two futile attempts have sealed Bajuk's fate and that Jansa's and Right's favourite did not stand a theoretical chance of winning the support in Parliament whereby Janez Drnovsek and the possibility of early elections would be brought back into the game.

    And that is when the unexpected turnabout happened - in the third round Andrej Bajuk was elected new Prime Minister designate of the Slovenian Government with 46 votes (and 44 votes against). Two turncoat delegates whose votes have traditionally gone to the left, came to his rescue.

    Offended and vindictive

    It is known who the two delegates were. Two lady delegates have deserted - Polonca Dobrajc, SNS President Zmago Jelincic's former party colleague and better half, who parted company with him in every respect although is still formally a member of Jelincic's party and is practically independent. The second is Eda Okretic, who is also only formally a member of the Pensioners' Party - DeSUS. Even before the decisive duel in Parliament, it became obvious that the mentioned two votes were controlling the situation. That nothing will be as expected could be guessed even during the penultimate vote when Polonca Dobrajc and Eda Okretic supported the request of the Right to organise a third vote. Premonitions proved true and Bajuk got through.

    Now he has to form a government whose members he has to propose within 14 days. After that Bajuk should interview the people he has elected for ministers and they have to be verified by Parliament. According to some interpretations, the whole frame-up with Bajuk was intended to help him find and propose ministers and after all candidates would be rejected, which happened to Drnovsek over a month ago, when he tried to salvage his power by proposing a so called technical government. If such a scenario would be applied, Bajuk, as Jansa's variant, would be most definitely ridiculed and Drnovsek back in the game, with all that goes with it. But, all in good time.

    For the time being, the main topic of rumours is whether Andrej Bajuk, an Argentinean Slovene, will succeed or not. Even if he does and forms a cabinet, a hard task of reaching a compromise with the Left awaits him, especially as concerns the changes of the electoral system. Parties of the Right are still in favour of the majority electoral system, although after Drnovsek has been undermined, it seems very unlikely that at this moment a similar agreement can be reached with the Left. That is why the leaders of the new Christian-Popular Party (Peterle's SKD plus brothers Podobnik's SLS) have already announced that a slight change of course in the form of a combined electoral system could be expected. In the meantime Slovenia has found itself in an awkward situation. It currently has two Prime Ministers - Drnovsek who is acting Prime Minister and Bajuk who still has to be verified as such. It has one departing Government and it practically doesn't have any other. Undoubtedly, a rather hot and hard political summer is ahead of Slovenia.

    Igor Mekina

    (AIM Ljubljana)