By: Peter Truden
After the government decided at a meeting of the government’s Committee on the Economy that it does not oppose the Levica (the Left) party’s idea to call a consultative referendum on changes to the Personal Income Tax Act, the Left changed its mind. Namely, the far-left party does not believe that it would be right for people to decide whether or not they want higher net wages on the same day as the parliamentary elections will be held. The Left fears that if that were the case, the entire election campaign would be dominated by the question of why the leftists are against higher net salaries for employees.
After the Left party’s initiative for a consultative referendum on the Personal Income Tax Act did not meet with any opposition from the government, the party began to consider withdrawing the referendum initiative.
According to the coordinator of the Left, Luka Mesec, the parliamentary elections on the 24th of April 2022 should be a “plebiscite on whether Slovenia will remain a democratic country, or whether we will allow Janez Janša and his clique to establish a personal feudal estate.” And if the consultative referendum on the Personal Income Tax Act, which envisages higher net salaries for employees, and which the Left, as well as the rest of the Constitutional Arch Coalition (meaning, the other left-wing parties of the current opposition), oppose, was to be held on the same day, that could damage their agenda.
According to the reports of the national media outlet, RTV Slovenia, the Left fears that a consultative referendum on the proposed changes to the Personal Income Tax Act, which they have opposed so far, due to concerns about the state treasury and the alleged deficit, would put them in a bad light ahead of the parliamentary elections. Namely, it is difficult to justify why you oppose the law that would do a lot of good for the people and why you instead want more money to be left to the state instead of given to the people. They have now found themselves in a situation where the Left has to overturn its own argument about caring for the public purse because they are willing to insist on the referendum being held, just not at the same time as the parliamentary elections, which would result in an additional 4.5 million euros of costs, that the taxpayers would have to pay.
“They proposed a referendum and then got scared of their own idea. This is the type of bravery that only the Left party is capable of,” Prime Minister Janez Janša commented on the Left changing its mind on Twitter. The Slovenian Prime Minister pointed out that, as far as the Social Democrats Party (SDS) is concerned, “the referendum could also be held a week before the election. Provided that Luka Mesec and company pay the 4.5 million euros in expenses and explain to people why they had to go to the polls twice.”
“The Left does not want the wage relief to be the topic of the election campaign, so what would you like to discuss in the campaign if it is not the well-being of our people?” economist Dr Matej Lahovnik wondered on Twitter. Janša apparently managed to do the same exact manoeuvre as Viktor Orbán in Hungary. He managed to squeeze the Left into a position where they themselves are willing to give up the referendum they demanded. As long as it was a matter of gaining political points, they had no problems with the referendum, but when the possibility arose that the results of the referendum could actually jeopardise the election results, they were very quickly prepared to sacrifice the referendum. The Left is rightly afraid of what it would look like if, on the one hand, they had to defend the claims that Janša is the worst thing that could happen to Slovenia until the election, and on the other hand, also defend the claim that Janša is in the wrong because he is trying to ensure that Slovenian taxpayers can get higher net salaries. This level of cognitive dissonance is too severe, even for the Left party.