Elections get underway
Parliament closed its final session on Friday, marking the beginning of the election campaign. According to a poll published on Saturday in Dnevnik, the LDS leads going into campaign season, with a predicted 40 percent of the vote. The SDS is next, with a predicted 16 percent, followed by the ZLSD with a predicted 12 percent, and the SLS+SKD and NSi each with a predicted nine percent take. Currently the smallest parties in Parliament, the Dnevnik poll predicted DeSUS will get four percent but the SNS will only get two percent.
Here is the latest news from some of the parties:
The Liberal Democrats (LDS) held a convention at Cankarjev Dom in Ljubljana last the weekend. The party's leader, Janez Drnovšek, announced that he had been convinced to run, even though he vowed not to run again when he was forced to step down as Prime Minister in April.
The news magazine Mladina threw an interesting spin on Drnovšek's reconsideration. According to a new RTV Slovenija code of ethics adopted earlier this year, only those on official candidate lists submitted by the parties will be given free air time. This means that the face of the LDS for the past ten years would not be shown on national television, and that could lead to a lower take for the party.
A highlight of the convention was an address via satellite from New York by party ideologist Slavoj Žižek. The noted cultural theorist and philosopher told the convention that the LDS must use this election to show that it is not impossible to get an absolute majority in Parliament, a task no party has ever done in the past decade of free elections.
The Liberal Democrats are running on a platform stressing, among other things, employment, education, help to small businesses and increasing access to the Internet. The party is using the slogan Slovenija gre naprej! (Slovenia is going forward!), the motto of the Slovene team at the Euro 2000 soccer championship this spring. The LDS has led the government three times over the course of the past decade.
The northeastern town of Murska Sobota hosted the sixth congress of the Social Democrats (SDS) last weekend. The party decided that they would participate in the elections even though they vowed to boycott them at their last congress, if Parliament did not pass the election law which won the 1996 referendum—and it did not.
The head of the SDS, Janez Janša, addressed the crowd and, among other things, reiterated his position on the AVNOJ controversy, saying that in 1991 the country broke with Yugoslavia entirely and so the AVNOJ declarations have no relevance to today's Slovenia. He also leveled harsh criticism at the LDS, accusing them of copying his party's platform.
The platform of the SDS focuses on social policies, a more active foreign policy, increased infrastructure and more rapid denationalization. The SDS is entering the elections allied with the New Slovenia party (NSi) and the Independent List for Maribor, a regional party.
The first SLS+SKD Slovene People's Party convention will be held in Ljubljana on Tuesday, but last weekend the party held a preparatory session in Maribor. Party Vice-President Marjan Podobnik responded to the predicted 40 percent sweep by the LDS by saying, "For the love of God, we can't let that happen!" The party is running on the slogan "On the Right Path."
The country's largest commercial television station, POP TV, announced its planned coverage of the elections this week. From 17 to 20 September, they will focus on the six parliamentary parties (LDS, ZLSD, SDS, SLS+SKD, The Slovene Nationalist Party [SNS] and DeSUS) as well as Nova Slovenia (NSi), the new party formed by Prime Minister Andrej Bajuk.
However, from 24 to 27 September, they will omit coverage of SNS and DeSUS, since they are currently the smallest parties in Parliament and have received low marks in pre-election polls. SNS leader Zmago Jelinčič has vocally opposed the plan, pointing out that the "extremely clerical" NSi will still be covered even though his party will not.
The United Greens of Slovenia (ZZS) (Zelena Slovenija, ZS) have decided that they will unite with the Zeleno Alternativo party (Green Alternative) to become the United Greens of Slovenia (ZZS), rather than allying themselves with the Democrats (DS) in the election, as they had previously announced. A congress for unification will take place in the near future. The leadership of the DS was taken aback, as a coalition agreement was already drawn up.
France vetoes EU progress report
On Thursday, the European Union Commission for International Affairs, Human Rights and Joint-Security approved a group of progress reports. Slovenia's was the only one that was not approved unanimously. The French delegate, Paul-Marie Couteaux, voted against it on mere principle.
Couteaux told Delo on Friday that "Slovenia became independent under illegitimate circumstances, and so it is my conviction that it remains part of a state called Yugoslavia. The EU cannot expand into part of a country or a region, only into a state. And to me, that state is Yugoslavia." France traditionally has strong ties with Serbia, but such a statement flies in the face of numerous international decisions and treaties. Even Slobodan Milošević has never made a claim on Slovenia...
News from around Slovenia
Stockholm Mayor Axel Wennerholm made a three-day official visit to Ljubljana this week where he met with Mayor Viktorija Potočnik. The two discussed the possibility of increased cooperation between the two capital cities, especially in the fields of public administration, urbanism, traffic, infrastructure, the environment, culture and housing policies. During the visit, Wennerholm found time to tour the city, including the Modern Gallery, and met with representatives of the University of Ljubljana.
Induction ceremonies for new soldiers were conducted this week in Maribor's main square for the first time. Public induction ceremonies have been held in Murska Sobota due to lack of space for some time. In Maribor, the army put on a sort of festival for the ceremony, with key-note speeches by Defense Minister Janez Janša and Mayor Boris Sovič. In his speech, Sovič noted that the soldiers, who will serve their mandatory tours of duty in the city, form an important part of Maribor.
The Union for Primorska organized a protest evening on Sunday in Koper. Among the 30 speakers were parliamentary deputies from the region, representatives of political parties, economists and experts from the regional university project. The group prepared a Declaration on Primorska, which, among other things, states that the AVNOJ declarations are crucial to Slovenia, and to Primorska in particular, as they represent the legal basis on which it was joined to Slovenia from Italy. So, if the declarations were to be repealed, Italy would have a claim to the territory.
The Declaration also stressed the importance of the projected university, the building of a second railroad link between Koper and Divača and expanded road connections to Koper. The group also stressed the need for a resolution to the border dispute with Croatia, particularly the need for a final demarcation of the border as it crosses the Bay of Piran.
Update on the Stability Pact
A two-day meeting of heads of parliament from member states of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe took place this week in Zagreb. The parliamentary leaders stressed that regional stability depends on democratic changes in Serbia.
President of the Slovene parliament Janez Podobnik told the assembly that the Pact cannot be seen as a burden on the donator states, but as an international investment of use to all parties. Podobnik also stressed the successes of the Slovene-founded International Trust Fund for De-mining and Victims of Mines, which recently expanded its scope to include Croatia and Kosovo and intends to also work in Albania and Macedonia, not just Bosnia.
It was also announced this week that phase one of the Stability Pact has been completed. Phase one concerned the establishment and development of programs. Phase two will involve implementation and will focus on human rights, economic and security issues. Slovenia is a donor country to Stability Pact projects, and in 2000 has given USD 5.3 million to the projects. Slovenia sponsors a working group on human rights and minorities, but its major contribution is through the De-mining Trust Fund.
Brian J Požun, 18 September 2000
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