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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Golob’s coalition wants to change the legislation with the help of NSi MPs, Janez Janša: This is an attack on democracy

By: Moja Dolenjska

The ruling coalition wants to implement changes to the electoral legislation, for which they need 60 votes from MPs in the National Assembly. They do not have these votes, so they have been courting MPs from New Slovenia (NSi) for some time. And it seems that they are falling for it, even though they would just disappear from the political space.

What the proposed abolition of electoral districts (and the introduction of preferential voting) would mean has now been published by Janez Janša. He wrote that it would ease the campaign for small and instant parties, while also catastrophically increasing the centralisation of the state and further reducing the development potential and voter turnout in rural areas.

Janez Janša explained:

In the proposed electoral system without 88 districts and with 8 electoral units, the elected MPs of all parties would be practically completely concentrated in the capital and some regional centres within three mandates. In Ljubljana, Maribor, Celje, Koper, Nova Gorica, Kranj, Murska Sobota, and Novo Mesto. Thus, where the voter base density is higher and the possibility of media promotion to a larger number of voters is greater. In this system, MPs elected in rural areas would gradually become just an exception. A distinguished candidate from Mozirje would find it difficult to gather more preferential votes than a colleague on the same list in the 5th electoral unit, who is at least relatively well-known in Celje. The same applies to a candidate from Ljutomer compared to a candidate from Murska Sobota in the 8th electoral unit. And to a candidate from Cerknica or Kamnik compared to a candidate from Ljubljana or Kranj. Koroška, Notranjska, Prlekija, Posavje, Zasavje, Slovenske Gorice, Kras, Zgornja Savinjska dolina, Bela Krajina, Ribniško-Kočevska, and other smaller regions or subregions would, within two to three mandates, be left without the possibility of electing their representatives to the National Assembly, regardless of the list on which they would run. A similar, although smaller, negative effect of the abolition of electoral districts would also occur if the number of electoral units were increased to 22. In addition to the extremely harmful state centralisation, which is already one of the central developmental problems of the country, we would also create some regional ones. A larger part of the country, which is already demographically and developmentally treated as second-class, would lag even further behind.

Why, then, do even those who in 2000 brutally trampled on the popular will and the Constitutional Court’s decision on a majority electoral system, based on merely an inadequate advisory referendum, loudly cry out about the need for direct voter influence on the election of an MP?

  1. In 1996, SDS collected nearly 50,000 signatures for a two-round majority system, under which 88 MPs of the National Assembly would be elected directly. Not in an advisory but in a legislative referendum. Voters have absolute power in this system in deciding who will represent them in parliament. Each MP needs an absolute majority, more than 50% of valid votes cast in the first or possible second round, to be elected. In the referendum, the majority system received voter support, but the LDS+SD majority in the National Assembly did not want to adopt it. After complaints, the Constitutional Court decided that the National Assembly must enact a majority electoral system. But the constitutional majority of the National Assembly MPs (including the decisive 30 votes of the united SLS – SKD) circumvented the implementation of the referendum result and the Constitutional Court’s decision by amending the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia, into which they hastily wrote the existing, partially distorted proportional electoral system in just a few days. Today, we are threatened by the possibility that New Slovenia, a party that emerged from a principled opposition to this strategic political mistake by SLS – SKD (because of which the party fell from 30 to 7 MPs within 2 months), might repeat a similar mistake and vote for the abolition of electoral districts.
  2. Today, representatives and supporters of the transitional left and parties, which in 2000, with the help of a massive propaganda campaign by regime media, brutally crushed the popular will and the Constitutional Court’s decision, claim that voters must be given decisive influence on the election of an MP. This should be ensured by a relative preferential vote within the existing distorted proportional system and the abolition of electoral districts. They propose the abolition of 88 electoral districts and the introduction of a preferential (priority) vote, which a voter could give to one of the 11 candidates on the same-named list in each of the 8 electoral units. This system partly really, partly nominally, allows voters a wider choice. Because the voter can choose not only between multiple lists but also between multiple candidates on the same-named list; nominally, because even an above-average number of preferential votes for one candidate does not enable election if the candidate’s list does not achieve the 4% parliamentary threshold. This system does not give the voter decisive influence on the choice of an MP. This is only possible in a (two-round) majority system.
  3. Representatives of the Social Democrats claimed after the end of their government term from 2009 to 2011 that one of the greatest successes of their coalition government during this period was the introduction of the incompatibility of the mayor’s and MP’s functions. Most of the public supported this solution, and after its implementation, no one seriously publicly assessed its effects, although they are obvious. Incidentally, I must mention that at that time, SDS proposed a commonsense solution, whereby the incompatibility would apply to mayors of municipalities with more than 5,000 inhabitants, but not to smaller rural municipalities where mayors are often not professionals. However, a radical solution was adopted, the consequences of which are indisputable today. We got a worsened situation in less developed rural municipalities, a drop in voter turnout in northeastern Slovenia, where such municipalities are the most, and the loss of SLS from the National Assembly. There are also other significant reasons for this last consequence, but today even laymen understand that if the possibility of candidacy for a multitude of popular mayors of small municipalities on the SLS list had been possible, this party would always have had MPs in the National Assembly. Would we have had the 3-time recycled governments of new faces from the transitional left in power in that case? I strongly doubt it. The obvious political consequences of the introduction of the incompatibility of the MP function with the function of the mayor of a small rural municipality confirm the words of the Social Democrat representatives about a successful move. Indeed, it was a strategically important measure to increase developmental disparities and simultaneously consolidate the dominance of the transitional left in the country.
  4. The transitional left, with a few exceptions, does not advocate the abolition of electoral districts because they so earnestly want greater voter influence on the election of an MP (in that case, they would certainly support a majority or, in the case of some political concerns and doubts, a combined electoral system), but because they want to tailor the active electoral body even more to their measure. The effects of the proposed abolition of electoral districts are long-term and predictable and mostly negative:
  5. Elected MPs of all parties would practically completely concentrate in the capital and some regional centres within three mandates. In addition to the extremely harmful state centralisation, which is already one of the central developmental problems of the country, we would also create some regional ones. A larger part of the country, which is already demographically and developmentally treated as second-class, would lag even further behind.
  6. The ultimate strategic political consequence would be an even more drastic disparity between voter turnout in Ljubljana and some other centres and the countryside. Why would, for example, a voter in Slovenske Gorice, Brkini, Kočevje, Zagorje, Mežica, Kobarid, etc., even go to the polls if it is clear to him in advance that candidates from this area or the entire subregion have no chance of being elected? The already shocking difference in voter turnout between, for example, the 3rd (mostly Ljubljana) electoral unit and northeastern Slovenia (7th and 8th electoral units), which ranges from 10% to 20%, would increase to a ratio of 1:2. It would increase gradually. When we would first vote under a system without electoral districts, some of the existing MPs from the countryside and smaller towns, due to their current broader parliamentary recognition, could still get enough preferences, but their number would significantly decrease already at the next elections and within three mandates, they would be just an exception. The trend of realisation among rural voters that it is not worth going to the polls would be similar. You judge for yourself who seeks their benefits in such consequences and what catastrophic (non)developmental effects such a state would bring to most of the Slovenia’s population.
  7. Where are the solutions if we really want to eliminate the existing distortion of the electoral system (voters today vote for a candidate in the district, but the vote goes first to the list and only then to the one they circle) and increase the direct influence of voters on the election of MPs?
  8. The most complete solution is certainly a two-round majority electoral system, which was recognised as the best by far by the people in a legislative referendum. But we know that the transitional left will never agree to it, as the majority electoral system ensures a stable government and at the same time requires cooperation and connection of similar parties. The transitional left is evidently incapable of this in practice, although it very much likes to address accusations of exclusivity to others. Therefore, the majority electoral system – which would consequently enable Slovenia normalcy, more even development, completion of the transition, introduction of meritocracy, rule of law, and greater justice, and at least 3% higher economic growth – is unfortunately not politically realistic today.
  9. A step forward would also be a combined electoral system, under which 44 MPs would be elected based on the proportional principle and 44 by majority principle. In this way, we would still ensure at least partial equal representation of all parts of Slovenia in the legislative body and satisfy the principled advocates of the proportional system. We are prepared to seriously discuss this solution if there is a will at least among part of the transitional left. However, due to the described negative consequences, the SDS will not agree to the proposed abolition of electoral districts. We do not agree to the division of Slovenia into first- and second-class regions. For us, Slovenia is not just the centre and a few regional centres. We will always fight for every piece of our homeland and for equal treatment of every voter and every taxpayer.
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