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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, 04 AUG 2000 14:24:11 GMT

    Slovenia and the Elections

    Majority Model Rejected

    The dilemma about and decision on the type of electoral system to be chosen is extremely important for Slovenia also because of lessons it has learned after the disintegration of former SFRY.

    AIM Ljubljana, July 25, 2000

    "Coalition Slovenia no longer exists! There is only the Government of Andrej Bajuk", complained to the gathered reporters Janez Jansa, current Defence Minister and President of the Social-Democratic Party of Slovenia (SDS).

    The disappointment came after the decision of the coalition partner - the Slovenian Popular Party (SLS) of brothers' Podobnik, to support constitutional amendments needed for the new proportionate electorate system to become legal. On that same occasion, SDS Vice-President stated that his party would not sign the announced agreement on the cooperation of parties within the Government. That is why the SDS officials called the day when its coalition partner SLS decided to support the constitutional changes - "black Thursday".

    The latest events did not come as a surprise: analysts say that everything corroborates the forecasts according to which, after all complications, slogans and political traumas, the majority electoral system will not be adopted in Slovenia. Experts remind that this system was greatly to blame for the deepening and provoking of conflicts between members of different nations in the newly-independent Republics of former Yugoslavia. In other words, the majority of Slovenian political parties will have, perhaps a last minute chance to muster up enough wisdom not to repeat the mistake of their neighbours.

    What is this all about? All started back in 1996, with belligerent criticism of Janez Jansa, leader of the then opposition, against the proportionate electoral system which was practised in Slovenia. The initiative was launched for the collection of a sufficient number of signatures for holding a referendum which, according to the letter of the law and public proclamations, was intended to be "advisory" and non-binding. Signatures were collected and a referendum held. That was the real chance to see how would it look like to have "the majority of those who turned out at the elections" decide. After that some experts claimed that the referendum had failed, while others were convinced that it had confirmed the majority electoral system. The result? Four years of opposing legal and political debates.

    It so happened, that inadequate information and preparedness of the electorate produced a situation in which a very small number of voters, who were willing to turn out at the polls, decided an essential issue. The majority of this minority decided that Jansa's proposal was the best - the majority electorate system. It was the "will of the people" to which the populist leader of the opposition (despite irrefutable mathematical proof) referred at the height of debates on whether the majority system was chosen, or, perhaps, the proportionate one remained in force. Finally, all this might have not been so complicated had not the Constitutional Court of Slovenia brought a controversial decision whereby the referendum was declared final and binding. (The mentioned decision was interpreted as a result of political sympathies of individual judges for Janez Jansa - which is best seen today, when quite a number of those constitutional judges have taken ministerial positions in the new, Bajuk-Jansa Cabinet.)

    In troubles and discussions regarding the Constitutional Court's decision of decisive importance was the strained analogy with the Bavarian legal order. In short, the Constitutional Court of Slovenia ordered Parliament to change the electoral system within one year. The decision was supported by Podobnik's SLS which wanted to underline its commitment to the respect of legality. Soon after, because of its quarrel over the electoral system, that same SLS even left the coalition with the Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (Janez Drnovsek's LDS), joined forces with the Christian-Democrats (SKD of Lojze Peterle) and helped the fall of the previous and already established (right-wing) Government. However, it was precisely that new Government of Andrej Bajuk that marked the end of dreams on the change of the electoral system.

    For one electoral system to be annulled and the other adopted the proposer has to secure two thirds of followers in Parliament. That means that the Right needed several votes from Drnovsek's LDS, which was perhaps possible while LDS was in power; from the moment it became the opposition, no compromise was possible. That's why it was only the question of time when will Jansa's great plan fall through like a house of cards. This, in turn, prompted Populists (Brother Podobnik's SLS) to change the course and offer the correction of the existing proportionate system to the Left. In all fairness, such a manoeuvre was the only realistic one, especially when it is known that the next elections will be held in few months time. And not only that - if the Parliament had failed in adopting the majority electoral system, then the Constitutional amendments would have been the only chance left for Parliament to abide by the Court's ruling.

    The dilemma about and decision on the type of electoral system to be chosen is extremely important for Slovenia, also because of lessons it has learned after the disintegration of former SFRY. For, exactly on the territory of former SFRY the majority system showed that it could sometimes have bad, even disastrous consequences. In contrast to the proportionate system (which gives a relatively precise ratio of all political options in a society and Parliament), the majority system creates conditions in which one political option can outvote another. The bad side of the proportionate system is that it encourages the formation of unstable coalitions in power, although in certain states such a system - a system of consensus-based democracy - is actually necessary.

    Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands and even Austria, are states with successfully implemented proportionate electorate system. That is not the case with the British "Westminster model", since political or ethnic "minorities" would stand no chance of ever becoming a "majority" and have to decide on things essential for their survival. And that opens space for conflicts, secession and wars. Such a scenario is, perhaps, not probable in the nationally homogenous Slovenia, although the majority system would surely lead to the revival of traditional divisions into "clerical" and "liberal" blocs.

    What are the practical consequences of the majority electoral system is best shown on the "Yugoslav" example. The mentioned electoral system is applied in Serbia, Croatia and Macedonia since 1990 - a model which the politicians have forced upon their nationals in their wish to ensure the fullest possible control. Only Slovenia and Bosnia&Herzegovina have chosen a combination of majority and proportionate system, while Montenegro opted for a pure proportionate system. The results are well known. The maximisation of the power of the majority parties (SPS in Serbia, HDZ in Croatia) and obliteration of small parties. According to Vladimir Goati, who studied the effects of the mentioned systems, the elimination of the political competition was the intended goal of those in favour of the majority electoral model.

    The data illustrate best how unrealistic was the maximisation of the parliamentary power of individual parties - with only 46.8 percent votes in the first electoral round Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia won as much as 77.6 percent of delegate places; in Croatia, Tudjman's HDZ secured 67.7 percent of delegates in the then Parliamentary Social-Political Council with only 42.2 percent votes. The disrespect of the democratic principle of equal representation of political options is also shown by the "index of proportionality", i.e. "equity index". In an ideal example, that index is 100. In Serbia that index is very low - at first elections it was just above 67 and in Croatia 76. That is much below an average index of proportionality which amounts to 86 (in majority) and 94 (in proportionate system) in West-European countries. The consequence of this is that in the Serbian and Croatian Assembly the majority has no problem with accepting the decisions contrary to the interests of ethnic and political minorities. At the same time, the bicameral parliamentary system has been abolished. The result? Boycott of elections and population censuses, establishment of parallel institutions and finally, the war in Croatia and Kosovo.

    Until now, in Slovenia the "proportionality index" amounted to 80 percent, and in key years (1990), to as much as 90. There is no doubt that this contributed to a relatively successful economic and political development in recent years of Slovenian independence. And then, Jansa's idea on the majority electoral model, whereby he could, as he hoped, finally neutralise the left on the political scene, threatened to destroy all that. In past months fierce political debates were conducted and it was finally agreed that the ruling elite in Slovenia would not take the same road as their former brothers further to the South.

    Svetlana Vasovic

    (AIM Ljubljana)