27/09/2007 - Analysis - 1st round
On 20th July the spokesperson for the Slovenian Presidency, France Cukjati announced that the first round of the presidential election would take place on 21st October next. The present Head of State, 57-year-old Janez Drnovsek, who has been suffering from cancer for several years now said that he was "tired" and that he did not want to run for a second term in office.
The presidential election will be a test both for the ruling power and for the opposition just one year before the general elections planned for October 2008.
The Presidential Function
The President of the Republic is elected by direct universal suffrage for five years. His term in office is renewable once; his role is mainly an honorary one. The Head of State is the commander in chief of the armed forces, he can intervene if the National Assembly, the only Chamber in Parliament, cannot meet; he can declare a state of emergency and mobilise the army. His decisions must however be ratified by Parliament as soon as it can hold session again. The President of the Republic appoints some high-ranking civil servants as well as the ambassadors and has the right to pardon.
In Slovenia all candidates running for the presidency must be at least 18 years old and have the support of at least 10 MPs, 5,000 voters or a political party that must have received the support of 3 MPs and 3,000 voters. Every candidate is allowed to spend 0.25 euro per voter during the electoral campaign. Those who go through to the second round can spend 0.40 euro per voter. Candidates who win over 10% of the votes cast in the first round are reimbursed for a total of 0.12 euro per vote won.
Since Prime Minister Janez Jansa came to power (Democrat Party, SDS), after the general elections on 3rd October 2004, the relations between the President of the Republic and the Head of Government have been tense. "What we usually call an economic policy does not exist in Slovenia. Employees in the public sector are all under pressure. The political preferences of people have more value than their knowledge and their ability," maintains the Head of State. On several occasions, Janez Drnovsek has accused the Head of Government of using the media for his own benefit and of trying to control them.
On 30th June last the President of the Republic boycotted the 16th anniversary ceremonies of the proclamation of the sovereignty of Slovenia. The Head of State did not appreciate the fact that the organisers of the event asked the Prime Minister to deliver a speech. Normally it is the President of the Republic who traditionally hosts the ceremony. The former President of the Republic (1990-2002), Milan Kucan maintained his solidarity with the present Head of State and boycotted the ceremonies saying that he did not want to attend an event "in which the Head of State had not been invited to speak."
Over the last few years Janez Drnovsek has somewhat confused the Slovenians and this includes his closest colleagues. He left his party, the Liberal Democrat Party (LDS) and founded the Movement for Justice and Development, a non-political organisation that aims to "raise human awareness and improve the world." On his internet site the Head of State describes Prime Minister Janez Jasa as "a prince of darkness", and presents himself as "the prince of light".
The Candidates Running
To date there are 8 candidates running in the first round of the presidential election:
- Alojz Peterle, former Prime Minister (1990-1992) and present MEP announced in November 2006 that he would be running in the presidential election. On 15th June last the three parties lying to the right of the political scale – New Slovenia – Popular Christian Party (NSi) – the Democrat Party (SDS) and the Popular Party (SLS) gave him their support;
- Mitja Gaspari, former governor of the Central Bank (responsible for the introduction of the euro in Slovenia in January 2008) and former Finance Minister (1992-2000);
- Danilo Türk, professor of international law at the University of Ljubljana, former UN diplomat and former advisor to the Secretary General of the UN, Kofi Annan from 2000 to 2005. He has the support of the Social Democrat Party (SD), the Democratic Party of Pensioners (DeSUS) and several independent MPs, former members of the Liberal Democrat Party of Slovenia;
- Zmago Jelincic, MEP and member of the National Party (SNS), who announced he would be running on 25th May last;
- Matej Sedmak, aged 23, otherwise known as Peacehiker. In 2004 he left Slovenia with 200 dollars to his name and a guitar and has travelled the world for the last few years. He announced he would be running on 17th August last;
- Elena Pecaric, leader of the Association Youth Handicapped Deprivileged;
- Marjan Beranic, entrepreneur and author of a number of books;
- Joze Andrejas, owner of a restaurant in the town of Radovljica.
The leader of the Social Democrat Party Borut Pahor, the grand favourite in the polls just a few months ago finally gave up the race and chose to lead his party's list in the general elections in October 2008. The Social Democrat Party decided to support Danilo Türk. "I think I am ready. During these first months I met as many people as possible and I tried to give them the feeling that I could be link between them and the presidency," he declared. With regard to his international experience, the Social Democrat candidate says "I hope that it will help me. At the UN you learn to be very patient and you also learn that everyone is different. You always have to think about the way the other person understands you."
Just one month before the election, Alojz Peterle is the grand favourite in the polls. According to the Political Barometer undertaken by the Research Centre on Public Opinion and the Media from the Science Faculty at the University of Ljubljana, published on 21st September he is due to win 32% of the vote in the first round. Danilo Türk is forecast to win 15%, Mitja Gaspari and Zmago Jelinic, 13% each. Alojz Peterle would be the winner in the second round whoever his rival. The rightwing forces have the advantage of standing together in this election, and the left is divided, represented by two candidates, Danilo Türk and Mitja Gaspari.. Alojz Peterle also has the advantage of having started his campaign early since he was the first to have declared that he was running.
The official campaign for the first round started on 21st September and will end on 19th October at midnight. The future President will take office one week before Slovenia takes over the presidency of the European Union on 1st January 2008, a first for a country that joined the EU on 1st May 2004.
Reminder of the presidential election results on 10th November and 1st December 2002.
Participation rate: 72% in 1st round and 65.1% in the 2nd round