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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

    MON, 02 OCT 2000 20:01:28 GMT

    Slovenia and the Elections

    Child (Ab)Use

    Heated discussion on the limits of the allowed media propaganda of political parties marked the start of electoral campaign in Slovenia.

    AIM Ljubljana, September 17, 2000

    September 15, marked the official beginning of thirty-day long political campaign for general parliamentary elections which are scheduled for October 15. Parties which decide to run in the elections have a couple of days left to submit their applications, although the pre-election competition has already started at full speed, at least when the major parties are concerned. Smaller parties were for quite a while in two minds whether to join because the start of the campaign unfortunately coincided with the opening of the Olympic Games. Clearly, all attention of potential voters was turned to Sidney, while Ljubljana and politics were pushed to the background.

    The Slovenian register of political parties lists 35 parties. Many of them exist only on paper or are quite insignificant. In all fairness, most of the public has never heard of parties such as "Anti-Communist League of Slovenia" (AKL), "Civil Initiative for Slovenia" (CIS), "Homeland Party of Stajerska" (DSS), "Party of Equal Homelands" (SED), or "Communist Party of Slovenia (KPS). Eight of (mostly) parliamentary parties are getting ready for a serious competition, since only the largest can expect to be successful after the recent constitutional amendments have raised the limit for entering Parliament to 4 percent of the total national electorate or to over 30 percent of votes won in one electoral unit.

    Spots and E-Vans

    It is clear only now how the tactics of various candidates differ; Janez Drnovsek's Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (LDS) used the most sophisticated means when it announced its plan to "push" its campaign from the first to the last day with all available means. In addition to posters (which shows Drnovsek in the company of actress Milena Zupancic), spots and propaganda material, LDS also sent two "E-vans" to the ground. These vans are equipped with computers and connected to Internet so that citizens from all towns of Slovenia can get in touch with this party's leadership. Naturally, their questions are answered on the spot.

    "Luna" Agency, as well as the French expert Jacques Sequela, who once worked for Mitterand (his the author of the slogan "Silent Power") and other famous politicians, take care of the party's image. LDS has started the campaign with the (mentioned) poster showing a number of LDS politicians, with Drnovsek in the centre and a printed slogan "Slovenia is Going Froward" taken from the title of a song of Slovenian football fans composed by rock musicians Predin-Kreslin-Lovsin (Zoran, Vlado and Pero) for the past World Football Championship.

    The United List of Social-Democrats (Borut Pahor) chose a slogan "New Energy" and added several well known public personalities to its list of candidates. Aware that he is a leader of a party which is reproached for being a successors of (reformed) communists, Borut Pahor is trying to avoid the usual propaganda means (rallies, speaker's platforms and microphones) and much rather embarks on unconventional activities - collects voluntary contributions for socially deprived children by frying pan-cakes at the Ljubljana main square (better said in the park) and by similar actions.

    Franc Zagozen's SLS-SKD (merged former Popular Party of the Podobnik brothers and Christian-Democratic Party of Lojze Peterle), which is currently in power and in Andrej Bajuk's Government, started the battle with a slogan "Proudly for Slovenia". It has left larger posters and spots for the period after September 22. The graffiti authors are its greatest problem, because next to a huge portrait of the party chief Zagozen alluding to his name they write "Zavozen" (which means rotten) or "Zafuran" (meaning failed).

    For the time being, Janez Jansa's Social-Democrats are using the old slogan "Time has Come for Slovenia" and on posters promise a pie in the sky to their potential voters. The until recent coalition partners in Janez Drnovsek's Government, the Pensioners' Party (DeSuS) will not dedicate much attention to posters in its campaign, but rather to personal contacts with voters.

    A phenomenon in itself is the smallest parliamentary party: Zmago Jelincic's SNS (the Slovenian National Party). Adroit Jelincic changed his profession many times since early nineties. He was a ballet dancer, a passionate collector of arms and old coins, after which he embarked upon a political career as an ardent nationalist and enemy of all foreigners, especially the "Southerners". In 1996 he radically changed his rhetoric and became a critic of the Catholic Church opposing its growing appetites at the moment when it was again in full swing. After that he became a critic of the West because of its politics towards Yugoslavia (he publicly condemned the last year's bombing) and became a fervent advocate of interests of former Yugoslavia. Naturally, in Slovenia. In other words, Jelincic fundamentally changed not only his politics, but also his electoral grassroots. He is hoping to succeed and win enough votes to get into Parliament.

    Back in the Saddle

    In the last couple of years the electoral rules have not changed for any of the parties. The electoral campaign is limited to the propaganda in the media and on posters and to organisation of pre-electoral rallies. Costs of the campaign cannot exceed 60 pfenings per voter, while the Accounting Court controls the actually spent amounts through special gyro accounts. A month after the elections, parties have to hand over to the Court all bills and the list of donations. All donations which exceed three average Slovenian salaries, credits and loans, even deferred payments, have to be documented.

    Everything that concerns the propaganda style is, more or less, left to those ordering advertisements since they are a private matter of each individual party. Communes have a duty to provide free of charge poster places to all parties equally, while under the law all parties have the right to equal treatment on the public TV (Television of Slovenia). The law still doesn't allow electoral campaigning for any party in the premises of religious communities. However, fines are still symbolic: DM 200 for political rallies without permission or destruction of posters, and DM 15,000 for a party which fails to open a special campaign account. Compared to DM 900 thousand which will be (according to official estimates) spent on advertising, fines are not rigorous, so that it seems that breaking rules can even be profitable.

    Fortunately, the Slovenian courts apply special rules during the campaign. Anyone who during electoral campaign violates the personal integrity of his opponent, is subject to a summary proceedings of a regular court which has three days to decide whether the accusation is grounded. Against the decision of the first-instance court appeal can be filed within 48 hours and the higher court has four days to adopt a final and binding judgement.

    It seemed that all rules were clear until this year's political campaign raised some new issues. For example, RTV Slovenia refused to broadcast a spot of Jansa's Social-Democratic Party (SDS) made by Pan Agency because it showed children. According to Iztok Lipovsak, chief of Marketing of RTV Slovenia, the use of children in a pre-election spot represents a gross violation of the recently adopted Work Code of RTV Slovenia. The mentioned rules have been accepted as standards on the basis of international conventions to which Slovenia is a party, and which specify that it is prohibited to engage children below 14 years of age for political propaganda. To this SDS replied that the same conventions were in force back in 1996 when no one minded seeing children in the advertisements of LDS, United List of Social-Democrats, and others.

    It would be interesting to see the rating of individual parties three weeks before the elections; public opinion surveys give different answers to this. According to some, almost 40 percent of citizens would give Drnovsek's LDS their vote. The recently published estimates which Centre for the Research of Public Opinion and Mass Communications after extensive research conducted on a large sample of pollees, are much more realistic. According to this survey (which Bajuk's Government refused to finance - probably guessing its results), at this moment 21.8 percent of voters would vote for LDS, 9 percent SDS, 8.5 percent for the United List of Social-Democrats, 6.9 percent for DeSuS, 6.1 percent for the new SLS (Zagozen) and 5.2 percent of pollees for the Prime Minister's party "Nova Slovenija!" (New Slovenia) of Andrej Bajuk.

    For the time being, the left is in the lead, although the good "rating" of the Prime Minister's party is rather surprising, same as the failure of the merged SLS which is suffering the consequences of its recent uniting and disintegration of former Christian-Democrats. In eight regions Drnovsek's LDS has registered certain advantage (in surveys) and as regards the competence of its men. It is interesting that the current ministers from Bajuk's Cabinet have not managed to reach the level of confidence in any of their fields of competence, which the voters have placed in people from Drnovsek's former team.

    Igor Mekina

    (AIM Ljubljana)