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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

    TUE, 17 OCT 2000 11:40:51 GMT

    Elections in Slovenia

    The Forgotten Strike Again

    The reappearance of the representatives of the "nations and nationalities" of former Yugoslavia on the candidate lists of some Slovenian parties is an irrefutable proof that, after ten years, it is still impossible for Slovenia to entirely ignore a portion of its population the existence of which has for long been passed over in silence in the newly founded country.

    AIM Ljubljana, October 12, 2000

    The proclamation of the list of candidates for the forthcoming general parliamentary elections in Slovenia scheduled for October 15, has shown that many of the parties are targeting electoral groups originating from the south of the river Kupa either by birth or by descent, i.e. coming from the parts of the once common homeland, ex- SFR Yugoslavia. And, their numbers are not small, although official statistics has ceased to show relevant figures since they pertain to the officially unrecognized minorities. It is a known fact that in the course of the vigorous development and boom of the Slovenian economy in the socialist era, many citizens from underdeveloped regions of former Yugoslavia came to Slovenia, the most advanced of the republics, seeking a better life for themselves.

    A big portion of manual labour came from Bosnia and Herzegovina, a somewhat smaller one from Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia, with Montenegrins representing a negligible portion of the "imported" workforce. Leading to the disintegration of former Yugoslavia, a notable number of Albanians from Kosovo reached Slovenia as well. It is estimated that more than 200 000 citizens originating from newly established countries once constituting Yugoslavia presently live in Slovenia.

    At least another 100 000 citizens of voting-age, direct descendants of migrant-workers, should be added to the above mentioned figure. At the outset of the nineties, with the spreading of the war in Croatia and Bosnia, many of the "aliens" transferred members of their larger families to Slovenia too. Most of these newcomers were granted Slovenian citizenship, since the original laws governing the matter (1991 and 1992) were liberal and in a spirit of European standards of human rights. It is no secret: particular (industrial) regions of Slovenia are densely populated by the "Southerners", as the vulgar, rightist term goes. Aside from Ljubljana, this applies to Jesenice, Velenje, Kocevje ...

    During Tito's Yugoslavia and prior to the disintegration of the country, many of them were ardent – aggressive, for that matter - defenders of the Yugoslav cause contrary to the prevalent mood of the Slovenians. The so called migrants found a place for themselves in the former League of Slovenian Communists, (SKS) mainly because the larger part of other political groups and parties of the time were either too nationalistic or too blind to see this particular section of the population as a relevant political partner. Prior to the proclamation of Slovenia's independence, the said category of Slovenians was politically pushed aside because of the radical standpoint it took within the SKS. This is particularly true of the blue-collar labour force of B&H Moslem provenience.

    The decomposition of the country and ensuing wars played their part; once a homogenous political group, the "alien" workforce split into a number of smaller organizations reestablished on the national principle. On the whole, the Croats lost their jobs and returned to Croatia; those of them left behind have by now melted into the majority and generally vote for the rightist-center. There were attempts to form a branch-office of the Croat Democratic Community (HDZ) in Slovenia, but the - let's say cold - reception of these ideas, was the result of the firm stand of Drnovsek's administration towards Tudjman and his mode of governing in general. As far as the Serbs are concerned, at the time they enjoyed a relatively agreeable position in Slovenia because their social matrix was largely made up of university educated professionals occupying top positions in Slovenian economy, as opposed to the manual labourers who predominately chose to return to the homeland - be it Republika Srpska (RS) or the Republic of Srpska Krajina (RSK).

    In past years, the Serbs living in Slovenia could not dream of forming political associations. This became more than obvious last year when demonstrations against the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia were staged in Ljubljana, Slovenia being among the last of the European countries, including the NATO ones, to organize them. On the other hand, they certainly lasted less and were kept under tighter police control than anywhere else, police dogs and cavalry included. The Moslems for their part, while constituting the toughest stronghold of Yugoslavianism and communism in Slovenia, were greatly disappointed both with Yugoslavia and the League of Communists. At the same time, they discovered the Moslem idea as a means for political action. This was favored by the overall political climate in Slovenia, with the Bosnians being viewed as the victims of the war in BAH, as well as the inflow of a number of refugees. Up to now, none of the Slovenian political parties showed any interest in the votes of this section of the electorate. Good political relations between Ljubljana and the Bosnian entity in B&H and the interest of the Slovenian economy for expansion on the B&H market, have favored the organizing of the citizens of Bosnian descent into the Democratic Action Party of Slovenia (SDAS).

    An exceptionally active Albanian interest-group in Slovenia is promoting political views relative not to the Slovenian political scene, but to Yugoslavia and Kosovo nd Macedonia. Formally speaking, they have the status of a cultural club (Midjeni) and have been extremely active at the time of the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. Local parties have finally realized the potential power (and percentages required for entering the Parliament) the non-Slovenian voters represent. During the previous elections, a number of these votes went to the United List of Social-Democrats (ZLSD), which is a new name for the party of reformed communists. It is perfectly clear why that portion of the electorate decided on ZLSD, in spite of the fact that the party itself did nothing to attract them - in the newly founded country, social insecurity rose to a certain extent and the workers hoped their former party comrades would protect them in their struggle for survival.

    Analysis of the election posters shows that the "brand new" citizens of Slovenia are politically rather heterogeneous. Judging by the 1001 names of the candidates for Parliament, Slovenian parties are inclined to take their votes, but not to recruit parliament members from their ranks. With the exception of Jelincic's Slovenian National Party (SNS), nearly none of the other parties nominated a candidate coming from any of the former Yugoslav republics. The leading political parties on the local scene – Janez Drnovsek's Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (LDS), Janez Jansa's Social-Democrats and Franc Zagozen's Slovene People’s Party (SLS) – have not, at least judging by their surnames, nominated a single candidate with family ties extending to the "Balkans". As far as Jansa is concerned, that was to be expected, since at the time he occupied the post of the Secretary of Defense, the first to be subjected to purges within the Slovenian army were officers coming from other parts of former Yugoslavia, inspite of the fact that they left the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) and joined Slovenia's Territorial Defense (TO) ranks in time.

    Hence, the broad and expensive political campaign LDS launched a few years back under the slogan "Different but equal" is truly surprising. The newly united SLS does not reckon on the ballots of the "Southerners", as their principal electoral base - well-to-do farmers, wealthy craftsmen and small entrepreneurs - is somewhat chauvinistically disposed towards the given category of Slovenian citizens. Curiously enough, although it has done nothing for the mentioned portion of the Slovenian electorate, ZLSD somehow reckons that these votes are coming its way by tradition. ZLSD is, that much is certain, in for a big surprise.

    But, by far the most intriguing is the phenomenon of Zmago Jelincic. During the 1992 elections, he entered the Slovenian Parliament accompanied by 12 of his followers, primarily owing to a vigorous and offensive campaign aimed against everyone and everything originating from the south of former Yugoslavia. Eight years have gone by, and now Zmago is not what he used to be. Out of the fourteen non-Slovenian candidates his party has nominated for the Parliament - as many as twelve are of Serbian descent! Moreover, during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia last year, Zmago was the only Slovenian politician to condemn it. Likewise, he is presently the sole defender and promoter of the Serbian "cause" in Slovenia. Whatever caused such a change of mind? Is it a result of an incorruptible inner belief or, maybe, merely a calculation having to do with possible votes? The latter, more likely. Jansa has overtaken the votes of the nationalists and the slum proletariat long ago and the farmers have turned to the Right. So, Zmago has rightly concluded that Serbian votes might give him a chance to hustle himself into the Parliament once again.

    A number of the newly formed parties have followed Zmago's logic and included citizens from other regions of former Yugoslavia to their candidate lists. The Communist Party of Slovenia, for example, has put forward as many as four "brand-new" Slovenian citizens out of 18 possible nominees: two Bosnians and two Serbs. The truly new in spirit of the recently formed parties - the Slovenian Youth Party - has, out of the 62 available, placed 20 candidates originating from former Yugoslavian republics on their list. Most of them are young people, born and educated in Slovenia, university students or professionals with university degrees. Many of them are prominent figures in the cultural life of their communities, local sports and civil-organizations. Most of them have a need to find a place for themselves in their immediate social environment, often biased to people with the ill-famed "ic"-ending to their surnames.

    An all together separate phenomenon of the Slovenian elections is the local Party of Democratic Action (SDA) party. Although claiming not to have anything to do with Alija Izetbegovic's SDA in B&H, the party has never tried to conceal whose votes it counts on primarily - the ones coming from a particular section of the Slovenian electorate - the Bosnians. Of the 31 candidates the party has nominated, 30 of them are, at least judging by their first names, Bosnians. One is an Albanian. The Slovenian SDA has nominated candidates of Bosnian descent only in regions predominantly inhabited by non-Slovenians. Although their concentration is rather high in Ljubljana and the adjourning municipalities, SDA abstained from elections in these regions. The same holds true for Koruska (Ravne, Mezica) and the Savinja valley flow (cities of Velenje and Celje) where, in spite of the high concentration of Bosnians, the SDA of Slovenia abstained from taking part in the forthcoming elections. By comparing its list of candidates with the electoral units they are delegated from, it's obvious that the Slovenian SDA is aspiring to become a purely nationalistic party, a somewhat unacceptable precedent as far as the rather moderate Slovenian political scene is concerned. The possible victory of the Slovenian counter-part of SDA and its entrance into the National Parliament would represent a challenge for certain other national groups living in Slovenia.

    In that respect, it would not be surprising if the Slovenian political scene witnesses the appearance of the Serbian Democratic Party (SDP) of Slovenia, the corresponding Serbian Radical Party (SRS) or, for that matter, the Democratic Union of Albanians of Slovenia.

    Milan Gorjanac

    (AIM Ljubljana)