The favourite Peterle awaiting his challenger for the second round
The International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) in Ljubljana, Slovenia, regularly analyses events in the Middle East and the Balkans. On the occasion of the announced presidential election in Slovenia which is to take place on 21 October 2007 IFIMES has prepared an analysis of the current pre-election situation. The most relevant and interesting sections from the comprehensive analysis are given below.
At the forthcoming election the Republic of Slovenia will opt for its third democratically elected president since the country proclaimed its independence in 1991. Until now this function has been performed by Milan Kucan (two terms of office) and the incumbent President Janez Drnovšek.
The Speaker of the National Assembly (Parliament) of the Republic of Slovenia called the presidential election for 21 October 2007.
The candidacies must be backed by at least ten members of the parliament or a political party, in which case the support of 3 MPs and 3,000 voters is required . The candidate may also run the election independently without the support of a political party, it he/she collects the signatures of at least 5000 eligible voters.
The National Electoral Commission accepted the candidacies of seven candidates: 1. Darko Krajnc (Slovenian Youth Party-SMS), 2. Zmago Jelincic Plemeniti (Slovenian National Party-SNS), 3. Mitja Gaspari (Liberal Democracy of Slovenija-LDS), 4. Danilo Türk (Social Democrats-SD, Democratic Party of Retired People of Slovenia -DeSUS and Zares (Engl. "trully")-new political party, 5. Elena Pecaric (the Akacija (Engl. "acacia tree") Party and the support of three MPs), 6. Monika Piberl (Women's Voice of Slovenia) and 7. Lojze Peterle (New Slovenia Christian People's Party-NSi, Slovenian Democratic Party-SDS and Slovenian People's Party-SLS).
A common feature of most of the competitors is that they present themselves as independent candidates without placing stress on the support from certain political parties. In public the candidates are avoiding political polarisation which is present in the Slovenian society, trying to give an impression of the president who is going to unite the nation.
JANŠA'S SDS WITHOUT A PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
The favourite of the presidential election, especially in the first round, is Lojze Peterle, member of Nsi and incumbent Member of the European Parliament. In early 1990s Peterle was the first Prime Minister and for a short period of time the Minister of Foreign Affairs. His candidacy has been backed by Prime Minister Janša's SDS and by SLS. The fact is that SDS as the country's leading party has not presented its presidential candidate, therefore it has been "forced" to back Lojze Peterle who announced his candidacy already in December 2006. The leading SDS expressed support for Peterle since it was not able to find an appropriate candidate from among its own members. Analysts have noted that Janša's SDS, which has the main say in the present government, is gradually losing the public support according to public opinion polls. The party did not run its own candidate since it fears that the defeat at the presidential election could have negative consequences for the outcome at the next parliamentary elections in autumn 2008. Analysis have also warned that the victory of Peterle as the member of New Slovenia Christian People's Party-Nsi which has close connections with the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) could bring down the relatively thin line between the secular state and RCC. Secularisation is one of the fundamental values of the Slovenian society. The present government led by SDS has, according to the analysts' findings, challenged certain spheres of the secularism principle of the Slovenian state, having built tight relations with RCC with its attempts to introduce its teachings in the Slovenian educational system which is still a secular one. The experience in the region has shown that increased interference of religious communities in the state had devastating effects on Slovenia's neighbouring countries (Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia) Peterle is trying to present himself to the voters as the president who would be acceptable for everyone. He even received the support of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who clearly suggested in her TV message that the Slovenians should vote Peterle, as well as from the President of the European Parliament Hans-Gert Pöttering and others, which may, however, eventually harm his candidacy since Slovenian voters regard the presidential elections primarily as the state's internal political issue. Moreover, the fact that Peterle has been running as the candidate already since December 2006 which makes him the oldest candidate may weary the voters who might get the impression that he wants to become the president at any price.
Danilo Türk – THE CANDIDATE RUN BY THE MOST POPULAR PARTY
Professor of international law and former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Danilo Türk is supported by the most popular party in Slovenia SD as well as by DeSUS and Zares, the party established recently by the former political leaders of LDS. Türk lived abroad for many years and is not directly involved in Slovenia's internal political affairs, which might represent an advantage bearing in mind the fact that the country's internal political scene has polarised distinctly into the political right and left wing. Moreover, Türk has strong political connections in the world and is a renowned connoisseur of international relations and politics. Public opinion polls have shown that Peterle and Türk may enter the second round of elections.
However, Danilo Türk's second position may be jeopardised by the former Governor of the Bank of Slovenia and Minister of Finance Mitja Gaspari, whose candidacy is run by LDS which is still recovering from the defeat at the last parliamentary elections. Gaspari decided to run for the election after Janša's government rejected to support the extension of his term of office as the Governor of the Bank of Slovenia. This made him popular in the Slovenian public, where he is regarded as one of the creators of Slovenian monetary stability and the main initiator of the introduction of the Euro currency. According to the analysts' estimates Gaspari is another of Janša's "products", as is the present Mayor of Ljubljana Zoran Jankovic, who became very popular after being dismissed from the position of the president of the management board in the leading Slovenian corporation "Mercator" and won the election for the mayor of Ljubljana already in the first round.
Presidential candidate Zmago Jelincic Plemeniti (SNS) is using the campaign for personal promotion and in order to prepare his party for the next parliamentary elections which are to be held in autumn 2008.
ELENA PECARIC – THE ONLY FRESH IDEA IN THE CURRENT ELECTION CAMPAIGN
Elena Pecaric is the presidential candidate suffering from severe disability. She is using the election campaign to fight discrimination and to focus public attention on this group of people in the Slovenian society. Her candidacy represents the only fresh approach in this year's presidential election race.
In general, there is nothing distinctive or interesting in the current election campaign. The leading candidates are: Peterle, Türk and Gaspari.
In Slovenia the president has merely a symbolic role with very limited constitutional mandates. Nevertheless, the president's influence depends on his/her authority and on the power of the supporting political option. Once more Slovenians have shown that they are not interested in revolutionary changes but rather decide for a gradual (evolutionary) development. Slovenia's first President Milan Kucan enjoyed strong reputation at home, in the region and in the world and was looked up to as an example by many presidents. During the last years of his term of office, the incumbent President Janez Drnovšek "devaluated" the function and the reputation of the President of the Republic, occasionally even putting under question the constitutionality of some of his decisions and acts. The new President will obviously have to make a lot of efforts in order to re-establish the tainted reputation in the Slovenian society.
NATIONAL MINORITIES AND ELECTIONS
In Slovenia the status of autochthonous national minority is held by the Hungarians and the Italians. At the meeting of the Croatian and Slovenian Ministers of Foreign Affairs Picula and Rupel at the Trakošcan castle near Varaždin in 2002, Croatia for the first time publicly raised the issue of recognising the Croatian national minority in Slovenia, after Slovenia occasionally brought up the question of restitution of Slovenians in the Croatian constitution. A similar proposal was presented during the visit of the then Serbian Vice Minister for Diaspora Aleksandar Cotric to Slovenia in 2005, who launched, in co-operation with the Federation of Serbian Associations in Slovenia, an initiative to recognise the status of national minority to Serbs living in Slovenia.
Analysts are of the opinion that the Slovenian government is not interested in resolving the status of the Serbian, Croatian and other minorities in Slovenia. However, the issue may soon become an item on the agenda, since Slovenia would like to build a strong (leading) position in the West Balkans, which is also one of the priorities of Slovenia's EU Presidency which starts on 1 January 2008. The present arrangement however obviously makes it hardly probable that the representatives of national minorities would opt for the presidential candidate proposed by the leading coalition.
The IFIMES International Institute is of the opinion that the forthcoming presidential election in Slovenia will confirm that the country continues to pave its way to stability and sustainability. There will be a lot of uncertainty about the second round of election, although Peterle and Türk seem to have most chances. Analysts have estimated that Peterle has no "reserve" voters for the second round, but mainly relies on the voters from the first round who belong to the traditional political right wing and right centre. Nevertheless, the support he received from the leading coalition which is losing its reputation may reduce his chances of winning the race. Another important aspect of the current presidential election is that the elected President will propose the future mandatary. The parliamentary elections are scheduled for next year and the mandatary may be the person who obtains the parliamentary majority and not only the one who wins the elections, which makes the present presidential election all the more important.
Ljubljana, 09 October 2007
International Institute form Middle-East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) – Ljubljana
Zijad Becirovic, M.Sc.