Last week of the campaign
Slovenia's third general election since independence will take place on Sunday. About 1.6 million are eligible to vote. The electoral commission will have more than 24,000 people working on the election and it has set up more than 3500 polling stations around the country. The official results will be announced on 24 October, and the new parliament may be called as soon as 4 November.
All signs seem to indicate that Janez Drnovšek and his Liberal Democrats (LDS) will return to power. Drnovšek had been Prime Minister from 1992 until April 2000, when his coalition collapsed after the withdrawal of the Slovene People's Party (SLS+SKD).
The LDS is predicted to take the lion's share of the vote, but not an absolute majority. A coalition government is likely be necessary. The LDS has refused to comment on any plans, but the most likely post-election coalition would be one made up of the LDS and the ZLSD, perhaps together with one or more of the smaller parties.
Given the huge percentage the LDS expects to win, the chaos caused by the last elections, in 1996, will be repeated. In 1996, the liberal bloc led by the LDS and the conservative bloc led by the SKD each won half of the seats in the State Assembly, making the formation of a government impossible for more than three months.
SMS joins the big leagues
Slovene politics loves a good scandal, and the Slovene Youth Party (SMS) officially joined the major parties this week with its first scandal. A letter indicting the party's leaders was sent by e-mail to Slovene political parties and the press this week. The letter was merely signed "Representatives of Critical Youth."
The letter accuses the leadership of the SMS of being opportunistic and driven by purely personal motives. It also accuses them of misusing funds and their positions when they were leaders of the Student Organization of the Universities of Ljubljana and Maribor. The scandal seems minor, but is the first for the SMS.
In response, the SMS released a statement simply saying that the party refuses to participate in a non-constructive dialogue with people who will not make their names known.
The scandal comes hot on the heels of the publication last Saturday of the first public opinion poll that predicts the SMS will win enough votes to gain at least one seat in parliament. The SMS was established in July. By mid-September it had between 1000 and 2000 members. The latest figures show a membership of up to 6000. The party's oldest member is 83 years old, but the average membership age is 29. Of the candidates they are running in the present election, the oldest is 42, and the youngest is only 19.
Relations with Yugoslavia after ten years?
Prime Minister Andrej Bajuk spoke with new Yugoslav President Vojislav Koštunica this week. Bajuk congratulated Koštunica and offered Slovenia's support to the new democratic forces throughout Yugoslavia. The two discussed unresolved issues connected to the succession of the former Yugoslavia, as well as the possibility of establishing diplomatic relations between their countries after a break of almost ten years.
Bajuk named State Secretary Mitja Drobnič of the Foreign Ministry his special envoy to Yugoslavia. Drobnič will be in Belgrade this weekend to meet the new Yugoslav leadership in person.
Foreign Minister Lojze Peterle and Žarko Korac of the Democratic Opposition of Serbia met this week at Mokrice to discuss relations between the two countries. Since Slovenia declared independence in 1991, there have been no diplomatic relations between the two countries.
In both the Bajuk-Koštunica as well as the Peterle-Korac talks, economic issues were also on the agenda. Renewing economic ties would prove worthwhile for both countries. About USD 120 million worth of trade is done annually even without formal relations, as the BBC reported.
Slovenia warmly greeted the news that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan invited Yugoslavia to apply for membership in the international organization. For the past ten years, Belgrade has been trying to claim the seat of the former Yugoslavia, while Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Macedonia have all insisted that the current Yugoslavia is not the sole legal successor of the former.
The eagerly awaited Law on the Global Protection of the Slovene Minority in Italy appeared in the Italian Senate this week. The formal debate is scheduled to begin next Tuesday. Both of the prominent Slovene minority organizations had been invited to attend. The bill was passed on 12 July by the lower house of parliament, and this is the final step before it becomes law.
This week, Klagenfurt (Celovec), the capital of the Austrian province of Carinthia, old Slovene Koroška, celebrated the 80th anniversary of the plebiscite which united the province to Austria. None of the Slovene minority's organizations were invited to participate in the celebrations which were attended by provincial Governor Jörg Haider and Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel.
Slovene party leaders had varying reactions. Zmago Jelinčič of the Nationalist party was quoted as saying, "they stole [Koroška], but we'll get it back yet." Prime Minister Andrej Bajuk commented that the referendum decision was unfortunate, since if Slovenia had the territory, there might not be as many problems with Austria. Borut Pahor, leader of the ZLSD, was quoted, "I'm only angry that all of the shops are closed on 10 October. The rest does not interest me."
Success on Mount Everest
Last weekend, Slovene Davo Karničar became the first person to ski down Mount Everest. It took Karničar and his team one month to reach the mountain's summit, but only about five hours to ski down the 8850 metres to the bottom. The attempt was his second, after having lost two fingers on his last try.
The descent was simulcast on the Internet via cameras along the path and one attached to his helmet. You can find more information at the official website.
Karničar, a member of the Yugoslav national team from 1975 to 1982, has skied down an impressive list of peaks. Aside from Slovenia's tallest mountain, Mount Triglav, he has also conquered the Matterhorn, Mont Blanc and Annapurna in the Himalayas.
Brian J Požun, 16 October 2000
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