No to artificial insemination...
The results of Sunday's referendum on artificial insemination were officially released on Thursday. Voter turnout was low, at 35.7 percent, or only 567,898 voters. An overwhelming 72.4 percent voted "against" alterations to the current law that would allow single women to undergo artificial insemination treatment. A mere 26.4 percent voted for the amendments.
Only one voting district, Ribnica, managed to have a turnout rate of more than 50 percent. Two districts on the coast, Piran and Koper, had the lowest rates, under 24 percent. In just two districts—Ljubljana Center and Koper Center—were the majority of votes in support of the alterations.
Some emboldened conservatives, regarding their win as a significant victory, are calling for further action. Mlada Slovenija, the youth branch of the New Slovenia (NSi) party, told the press that they see the referendum's results as a vote of no-confidence not only in Minister of Health Dušan Keber, but also in President Milan Kučan and Prime Minister Janez Drnovšek (who certain conservatives never miss a chance to criticize).
The NSi leadership is supporting Mlada Slovenija's outburst, but it is virtually impossible that Keber—or the president or prime minister—will resign.
For now, parliament cannot pass any law contradicting the results of the referendum for a full calendar year, until 17 June 2002. Such a law is permitted to enter parliamentary procedure at any time, as long as it does not take effect until after that date, which means that this controversy is far from over.
Ljubljana municipal elections
Simultaneously with the national referendum, the city of Ljubljana held its first municipal elections for its newly established 17-district internal structure. Of the 17 districts, the Liberal Democrats took 14. The Social Democrats, the United List of Social Democrats and the New Slovenia party each took one district. Voter turnout was lower than for the national referendum, at 36.03 percent.
Duty-free question to go to referendum?
The next referendum the country is likely to see could concern the issue of duty-free shops (PCP). For several years, the European Union has tried to compel Slovenia to close its PCPs on the borders with EU member States Italy and Austria, and a law was passed late last year to close them on 1 June. However, a ruling by the Constitutional Court invalidated that law and no resolution seems imminent.
The non-parliamentary Nova party is demanding that the issue be resolved by a popular referendum, and in response, Speaker of Parliament Borut Pahor this week authorized Nova to try to collect the 40,000 signatures required.
However, the time frame is slight—from 21 June to 7 July. Add to that the fact that no parliamentary party supports the referendum and that it is the middle of summer, and the chances of Nova succeeding seem slim at best.
Should Nova manage to amass the signatures, the referendum could be held as soon as this September.
Student councils established
Večer reported on Saturday that on 14 June while student protests were taking place in Ljubljana and Maribor, the government finally resolved to take action by establishing two special councils to deal with the problems affecting Slovenia's students.
The Council for Student Affairs will be headed by the Minister for Labor, Family and Social Affairs, Dr Vlado Dimovski. It is mandated to formulate a unified strategy to develop educational standards and to develop higher education in the country.
The Council for the Resolution of the Student Housing Capacity Project is to be headed by Herman Tomažič, a State Secretary at the Ministry of Education. This council is mandated with bringing to completion the project to build 4000 new student housing units which was begun in 1998. Last Thursday, it was announced that the plan has been increased to 4500 units.
The Student Organization of the University of Maribor gave a public statement responding to the new government initiative, expressing its support for the new councils but pointing out that they should have been created last year.
Reality TV hits the Balkans
Jana Prepeluh is well on her way to becoming a celebrity. The 27-year-old from Ljubljana is one of five people "starring" in the first reality-based show in the Balkans, called 60 Sati—PC Kids (60 Hours—PC Kids).
From noon on Friday until midnight Sunday (60 hours, ergo the title), five strangers will live their lives in an apartment in Sarajevo outfitted with satellite TV, exercise equipment and even a Play Station. The whole thing will be filmed by six strategically-located cameras and broadcasted live, via the internet.
After a successful 60 Sati last December featuring 60 hours in the life of a 20-year-old girl in Zagreb—more than 80,000 visited to the webcast and its star, Andreja Šipek, quickly became a national celebrity—organizers chose a regional approach for the second.
Joining Jana are three Bosnians: Slaven Momčinovič and Aleksandra Lovrić, both 22 year old art students from Sarajevo, and Rahima Fetahović-Mima, 25, a journalist from Travnik. The fifth is Lav Stipić, a 22-year-old economics student from Zagreb.
Aside from the streaming webcast, which can be found here or here, the Bosnian network OBN will carry the show every hour, and from 11 p.m. will broadcast through until the next morning's regular programming. BH Radio 1 will also air broadcasts periodically.
Maribor's Lent Festival begins next week
One of the highlights of summer began on 22 June—the Lent Festival in Maribor. This year's festival will run under the slogan V Vetru Življenja (In the Wind of Life), and will feature 3600 performers in 450 events from 33 countries.
Throughout the festival, Maribor's concert venues will be packed and its streets likewise will be full of street performers from Portugal, the UK, Argentina and numerous other countries. More than half a million are expected to visit the festival.
Among this year's highlights will be performances by DD Synthesis on 23 June, Goran Bregović and his Weddings and Funerals Band on 29 June, and Đorde Balašević on 6 July.
The festival runs through 7 July, and its official website can be found here.
Brian J Požun, 22 June 2001
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