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Monday, November 28, 2022

New threats to parliamentary democracy

By: Dr Andreja Valič Zver

A few years ago, notorious political scientist John Keane clearly predicted the decline of parliamentary democracy and the rise of new alternative systems in his book The Life and Death of Democracy. Foretelling the death of democracy is nothing new. Hybrid systems are supposed to be more successful in providing public goods. So, it is in leftist theory.

But it is also followed by a practice that prompts a series of questions. For example, who gave the “street people” and various NGOs the legitimacy to speak and act on behalf of the entire people? In what elections did they receive the majority and thus the right to rule? This is a key question when we compare parliamentary and the so-called participatory democracy, as Keane and the new alternatives call it. It is difficult to agree with them that in this case it is not an expression of their own particular interests or even worse, the interests of mafia backgrounds. That is why it is necessary to name things with the right words and constantly expose their “modus vivendi”.

At the same time, it is worth remembering that in the last century we experienced totalitarian and authoritarian regimes that caused global cataclysms. Is the era of catastrophes returning to the European and world scene? Are the war in Ukraine and China’s military harassment of Taiwan ominous portents of global geostrategic shifts in the 21st century? I am afraid the answer is yes. It seems as if the democratic world is not sensitive enough and Putin, Xi Jinping, Kim Jong-un and their role models and imitators repeatedly put it before violently executed facts.

Democracy is a vulnerable and complex system that requires a lot of attention and energy. It is like a flower that needs to be watered. But many are looking for easier solutions, shortcuts, such as Putin, who created a unique undemocratic system. He also has many admirers here…

At last year’s SDS congress, I drew attention to, among other things, the question of whether all political actors in Slovenia follow the constitutional and state system – that is, whether they are committed to parliamentary democracy and the social-market economy. As you readers probably remember, at that time the programme of Levica party “Socialism of the 21st Century” was in the foreground. This electoral programme, which was almost a copy of the official program of Levica party, sparked public reflection on the essential issues of the Slovenian political moment. In fact, it is strange that this discussion did not take place in the last few years, when this “anti-party” managed to get into the Slovenian parliament, which is a kind of paradox from the point of view of their programme, because they are against parliamentary democracy. With their radical speech and behaviour, they constantly drew attention to themselves and were strongly seen and heard with the help of the dominant media. However, their programme, which is in conflict with the state regulation of Slovenia, was overlooked. The civil initiative on this topic was unfortunately rejected by the Constitutional Court with incomprehensible arguments. In practice, this means that, for example, the system of socialist self-management gained legitimacy even in the new constitutional arrangement. Understand who can.

Only last year’s symbolic burning of parliament chairs made many people think: what if they are serious about their anti-democracy on the extreme left? The platform of the extreme left, which, as we have seen, is very violent, could even lead to a renewal of civil war.

Instead of silence and the “absolution” for illegal protests granted by the Minister of the Interior, the threatening violence that we have witnessed in recent years should be unanimously rejected by everyone: from state authorities and politicians – from left to right – to the media and all the Slovenian democratic public. Last but not least: the old patterns of community living, discarded in the dustbin of history, should not have any support in any structure of society and the state. The constitution also says so. Democracy should be a sustainable matter, not merely an intermediate phase between two totalitarianisms. We cannot ask an individual to be a democrat. It is a matter of one’s culture. But the community has opted for parliamentary democracy, and no one has the right to destroy democracy and the state system.

But it is not that easy here. In our country, the “anti-modernist” Levica party has considerable support in the state bureaucracy, trade unions or financial centres of dubious reputation. It has an influence on the media, especially the most powerful ones, who see it (in addition to SD party) as the most suitable actor for possible retrograde processes. That is why it is persistent, incomparably more so than anywhere in the post-communist world. We all know: it has money, “properly” trained personnel, and media support.

I have been warning for a long time that – given the support in the public – it is not impossible that sooner or later Levica party will become an integral part of the ruling coalition and will thus have the opportunity to implement its programme. And so, it happened after the election. Therefore, Slovenia is not a problem in itself, but it is also on an international scale! The first victim, of course, is its credibility.

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