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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Slovenia's 2008 Parliamentary Election

by Manuel Alvarez-Rivera, Puerto Rico

Voters in Slovenia, which held a presidential election last year, return to the polls on Sunday to choose members of the lower house of Parliament, the 90-seat National Assembly. Slovenia's National Electoral Commission has 2008 parliamentary election results in Slovene as well as English. In addition, a summary of nationwide results is available at the bottom of this posting, under Update.

This posting deals exclusively with the upcoming parliamentary election; Slovenia's 2007 presidential election has an overview of developments prior to 2008 in the former Yugoslav republic.

Save for two mandates set aside for Italian and Hungarian ethnic minorities, National Assembly seats are filled at the nationwide level by the largest average method of proportional representation (the d'Hondt rule) among parties polling at least four percent of the national vote. Voters may choose a party list or an individual candidate, and a complex procedure provides for the subsequent allocation of seats among eight multi-member constituencies (each comprising eleven seats, which are initially allocated by the Droop quota) and 88 single-member districts; nonetheless, due to the proportional nature of Slovenia's electoral system, some single-member districts end up with more than one deputy, while others get none.

The two deputies representing the Italian and Hungarian minorities are chosen by simple majority preferential vote (the Borda count method); however, voters belonging to either minority group may also take part in the election for the remaining 88 seats.

Slovenia has a Western European-style multi-party system, and coalition governments have ruled the country since the attainment of independence in 1991. Since the 2004 parliamentary election, a center-right coalition government headed by Prime Minister Janez Janša of the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), in alliance with the Democratic Pensioners' Party of Slovenia (DeSUS), the Slovenian People’s Party (SLS) and New Slovenia (NSi) has held office.

Opinion polls indicate SDS is likely to remain Slovenia's largest party, narrowly ahead of the left-wing, opposition Social Democrats (SD), led by Borut Pahor. The Social Democrats had finished in third place in the 2004 election, well behind SDS and the left-of-center Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (LDS), which ruled the country almost uninterruptedly from 1992 to 2004. However, LDS suffered a damaging split in 2007, when several of its deputies left the party to establish Zares (For Real). In addition, a number of leading LDS figures jumped ship to join SD, which appears poised to emerge as the main left-of-center party, well ahead of Zares and a much-diminished LDS. Although the Social Democrats were originally a post-Communist party, they favor the sale of state-owned enterprises, albeit in a more limited fashion and at a slower pace than SDS.

Meanwhile, the nationalist Slovenian National Party (SNS), which stands to the right of the government, expects to build upon its strong showing in last year's presidential election. However, SNS could lose support to Lipa, a breakaway populist party established by earlier this year by three former SNS deputies.

Although inflation has been at times the highest in the Euro zone - Slovenia adopted the Euro as its currency in 2007 - the country's economy has otherwise performed well under Janša's tenure, registering solid growth, the lowest unemployment rate since independence and - according to government statistics (but not those of the EU or the IMF) - a budget surplus. However, the election campaign has been dominated since the beginning of this month by allegations that Finnish weapons manufacturer Patria bribed Janša to secure a contract to supply armored personnel carriers to the Slovenian army in 2006. Janša has denied any wrongdoing, but Finnish investigators are probing the allegations, which were originally reported by Finland's state broadcaster YLE.

The scandal has soured relations between Slovenia and Finland (which owns a majority stake in Patria), but it does not appear to have had an impact on the election race back in Slovenia, at least according to the last polls published a week before the event (polls may not be released during the last week of campaigning). However, SDS is unlikely to secure an overall majority, and some polls suggest that two of Janša's allies, SLS and NSi may fall below the four percent threshold and lose all their seats in the National Assembly, which would further complicate the premier's re-election prospects. At least six parties - SDS, SD, Zares, DeSUS, LDS and SNS - are expected to win parliamentary representation in Sunday's vote, and it remains unclear what kind of government would emerge should the center-right parties lose their overall majority.


With all voting sites tallied, the results of the September 21, 2008 parliamentary election in Slovenia stand as follows:

Social Democrats (SD) - 316,783 votes (30.5%), 29 seats
Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) - 304,181 votes (29.3%), 28 seats
For Real (Zares) - 97,554 votes (9.4%), 9 seats
Democratic Party of Slovenian Pensioners (DeSUS) - 77,612 votes (7.5%), 7 seats
Slovenian National Party (SNS) - 56,601 votes (5.5%), 5 seats
Slovenian People's Party (SLS) & Youth Party of Slovenia (SMS) - 54,328 votes (5.2%), 5 seats
Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (LDS) - 53,975 votes (5.2%), 5 seats
New Slovenia - Christian People's Party (NSi) - 33,805 votes (3.3%), no seats
Lipa - 18,925 votes (1.8%), no seats
Others - 24,705 votes (2.4%), no seats
National Communities - 2 seats

The election had a 62.3% voter turnout rate, slightly up from 60.6% in 2004.