In the past few days Slovene opposition parties, spearheaded by Slovene People’s Party (SLS) led by Radovan Žerjav were becoming ever more adamant in demanding a referendum on the Pahor Kosor agreement. They aimed to call a consecutive referendum (i.e.: after the parliament would have ratified the agreement), making its results binding. Pengovsky already noted that in order to call a consecutive referendum, SLS would have to get support of at least 30 MPs, which means that it must get Janez Janša’s SDS on board, as that party alone has 28 MPs. But although Janez Janša has been making noises of agreement, has so far not confirmed that his party would chip in its 28 signatures for a referendum bid. Probably thinking that he can have the cake and eat it, Janša is counting on SLS collecting 40.000 voters’ signatures without him and his party appearing to disregard the country’s interests. Slightly unexpectedly, however, yesterday the government of Borut Pahor struck back.
Debate on yesterday’s Odmevi programme on RTVSLO (source)
In all honesty, “struck back” might be overstating it a bit. Rather than a proper Chuck-Norris-style-roundhouse-kick in the head, the government delivered more of a half-botched pussy-punch, the sort one aims at his enemy’s plexus, but which invariably lands on their upper thigh. Or something like that. Namely, in what was apparently a Monday all-nighter, coalition parties decided to call a consultative referendum on Pahor Kosor deal. Which would be all fine and dandy, hadn’t there been one slight detail – while consecutive referendum is legally binding, a consultative referendum (as the name implies) is not.
Had all things been equal, this would have been a sound decision – get the voters’ opinion, possibly obey it, but keep the door open if a sudden opportunity to capitalise on the deal arises. However, things are not equal. Opposition was screaming for a referendum as it was and by calling it themselves, coalition members gave the impression of buckling under pressure. The reality is that the referendum move takes the wind out of opposition sails. Especially after some polls showed that a majority of votes are actually in favour of the referendum (rebuking Janša’s earlier threats about the referendum result being a foregone conclusion). However, by closing one flank, the government opened up on another and immediately drew fire on why did it sign the deal in the first place if it felt it would have to ask the people about it.
Things were not helped by the fact that the draft of the referendum question is incomprehensible to say the least. Recapping basic points of the deal, it does its best to confuse anyone who is not familiar with specific stipulations of the agreement. It is now emerging that the actual question will probably be a lot simpler, but the damage had been done. And to top it all, PM Pahor complicated everything even further, by saying that he’d been willing to withdraw the referendum bid if the opposition would withdraw its bid. So, no matter how you look at it, a lot of people will have a lot of ‘splainin’ to do…
Not that everything is ticking like clockwork on the opposition side. Pengovsky’s suspicions that Janša’s SDS has not completely rejected the Pahor Kosor deal grew even stronger yesterday after watching a debate on state television, where president of SLS Radovan Žerjav went into full attack mode, while SDS’ Zvonko Černač (the Big Kahuna himself was curiously missing) somewhat unexpectedly harshly criticised the government for splitting the people into proponents and critics of the agreement, rather than striving to reach a consensus on the issue. On the other hand his criticism of the specific stipulations was much more muted. SDS’ main objection yesterday read more like “why weren’t we part of the deal” than anything else.
Which could imply that the largest opposition party is reconsidering its position on the issue, at least for the time being.