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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, 03 JUN 2000 01:28:03 GMT

    Slovenia Divided

    Crisis at Its Height

    The state is shaken by the worst parliamentary crisis since it won independence in 1991.

    AIM Ljubljana, 30 May, 2000

    Not even the latest attempt of the rightists in the parliament to take over executive power after eight years of primacy of left oriented governments succeeded. Exactly half, or more precisely 45 deputies voted in favour of the cabinet - the list of ministers proposed by Argentinian Slovene Andrej Bajuk - while the other 45 deputies voted against it.

    This time voting in the parliament ended in an unexpected, even bizarre way: everything ended with catches in the procedure which envenomed the already strained relations between the left and the right pole in the parliament. The voting committee consisting of five deputies (three from the right and two from the left), while counting the ballots (it was a secret ballot) ran across two of them which had not been filled out as defined by the parliamentary rules of procedure. Above the instruction that "in order to vote on the list of candidates for ministers it is necessary to circle the word FOR or AGAINST", on one of the ballots FOR was crossed out and AGAINST circled, and on another FOR was crossed out and circled, but AGAINST was also circled. A discussion started on what that might mean. After this discussion the parliamentary committee concluded that both deputies had voted against the list of candidates. The committee relied on the general principle which is valid in determination of the will of the voters, and this principle gives advantage to the marking which is in accordance with the rules of procedure; in the specific, first case, it means that if someone circles AGAINST and draws a square around FOR - it is considered that he/she has voted against it.

    It was a bigger problem to interpret the other ballot. The committee was divided - three deputies of the right claimed that the ballot was invalid because of different marking (circled AGAINST, but also circled and crossed out FOR). The other two members of the committee believed that this was not true. Their interpretation was that the deputy had made a mistake and immediately corrected it. They also announced that in case the chairman of the assembly (Janez Podobnik) proclaimed this ballot invalid (which would mean that the result of the vote would be 45 in favour, 44 against and one invalid, and Bajuk's government would be elected) they would demand that the public be informed. They refused to sign the minutes on the vote.

    Finally, their arguments prevailed - they convinced the others that the objectionable deputy, if his/her gesture had not been the result of a mistake but sabotage, intended to confuse the parliament, would repeat the sabotage in a new vote, in case of which the mentioned two deputies in the committee would not complain in counting the votes. Chairman of the assembly who is a member of the new rightist party SKD-SLS-Slovenian Populists and who is the elder brother of Podobnik, agreed that the vote be repeated and the results of the first vote have not been published at all. The rightists were convinced that the result would be the same when Bajuk was nominated candidate for prime minister – 46 votes in his favour (although they control only 44 votes of their deputies). They relied on the vote of Polonca Dobrajc (formally from Jelincic’s SNS, but in fact independent) and Eda Okretic (also just formally in the party of pensioners – DeSUS) who had during the latest vote supported the demand of the right to vote on Bajuk’s candidacy for the third time and probably (at least one of these two ladies) enabled Bajuk’s candidacy to come through.

    In any case, there was a new vote and the result is known: 45 to 45. It doesn’t hurt to say that of all the ballots only one with AGAINST circled on it was crumpled on purpose. This was publicly done by Polonca Dobrajc wishing to make her will known before and after the vote in order to avoid all subsequent speculations with her name. It seems that Polonca Dobrajc, who had most probably played the decisive role in the choice of Bajuk to be the candidate for prime minister and his concept of “technical government”, later realised that she had made a mistake when Bajuk offered his list of ministers (the most radical rightists at the head of the so-called state-building ministries – defence, internal affairs, education) and changed her mind.

    In any case, the shock of the right was complete. The second round of voting took place and Bajuk’s government did not win confidence. There were also the first mutual accusations between Jansa (SDS) and Zagozen (SLS). Jansa claimed that the first vote should not have been rejected, least of all repeated. The additional reason for such interpretation was that the committee which had counted the votes had not been authorised to reach the decision on repeated vote. The late reaction of Jansa’s party seems quite frivolous because the deputies of his SDS had in an orderly manner voted in the repeated vote. This is not the end of the story; discontent of the right grew and it did not take long before an idea occurred to them – it was decided that an appeal against the decision of the parliament would be lodged with no less than the Supreme Court of Slovenia because of wrong publication of the result of the voting. Jansa and his supporters are inclined to claim that with 45 votes in its favour, Bajuk’s government had already been elected and that the second round of voting (despite the fact that deputies of SDS had taken part in it) was completely unnecessary. At this point, three “co-players” left him, candidates for ministers in Bajuk’s cabinet – two judges of the constitutional court and writer Rudi Seligo, who withdrew their candidacy. Tone Jerovsek, candidate for minister of internal affairs, declared that “Slovenia is more Balkanic than the Balkan”.

    The expert and political public is divided; certain lawyers, like Matevz Krivic, claim that the decision of the parliament on repeated voting was quite logical. Krivic thinks that this case is not in the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, because only the parliament has the right to make decisions about the rules of procedure on voting. “Once the parliament repeated a vote because it believed to be irregular, the case is dismissed. There is no turning back. It is possible only to change something in the future”, Krivic says. In the meantime, the Supreme Court decided to give priority to the appeal of the right, it made a couple of other legal and formal complaints which Bajuk’s team managed to respond to in time, until midnight 29 May (names of prosecutors and similar), although the court still has not declared whether it is in its jurisdiction to make decisions about this matter.

    It was not necessary to wait long for a counter-attack of the left. Secretary of Drnovsek’s LDS declared that the voting should not have been repeated, because it was clear after the first round already “that both controversial ballots were against Bajuk’s government”. After all, were not his words confirmed by the results of the second vote, he wondered. At the same time Golobic announced a counter-appeal – Drnovsek’s government lost support also by secret ballot (contrary to the rules of procedure), so LDS now considers (similar to the arguments of Janez Jansa) that the vote in which Drnovsek’s cabinet lost confidence was not at all valid!

    And while new political haggling and manoeuvres continue, there is no doubt that with the division of the parliament and the public “into two equal parts” Slovenia has entered the deepest parliamentary crisis since it had become independent in 1991. Instead to wage an exhausting “internal war”, the parliament should have ratified 72 “European” laws, but the crisis has done its bit and only 12 have been prepared. That is why serious warning are arriving from the European Union – the head of the negotiating group for Slovenia and commissioner for extension of the Union – that the process of Slovenia’s joining the Union might be interrupted.

    Igor Mekina

    (AIM Ljubljana)