With almost 100% of the vote counted the Arbitration Agreement between Slovenia and Croatia was approved with 51,49 percent in favour. The turnout was slightly over 42 percent, which – although much lower than anticipated – is still among the highest on Slovenian referenda.
PM Borut Pahor following a tight referendum victory (photo: Marko Miščević/Jutarnji list)
The result is good news for Slovenia as it paves the way for solving the Slovenia – Croatia border dispute in a manner acceptable to both sides. This defuses a potentially very dangerous situation which has only recently (and temporarily) improved with PMs Borut Pahor and Jadranka Kosor seizing the initiative and hammering out a deal which received a lacklustre performance on both sides of the border. And yet, this is the first time in nineteen years an agreement was reached, which is an achievement in its own right.
This is even better news for Prime Minister Borut Pahor who won a huge political victory over opposition leader Janez Janša. Politically speaking, there was a lot riding on this one and Janša, hell, the entire right wing lost. True, they lost by the smallest of margin. But given the unpopularity of Pahor’s government (most of the electorate would not touch it with a ten-foot pole), winning this referendum should be like a walk in the park for Janša. But SDS leader failed to make this a referendum on Pahor’s government, or – even better – Pahor succeeded in separating the issue from the general unpopularity of his government, which makes today’s victory at the polls even more .
Responses from the losing side were predictable enough. That “only 21% voted yes“. That “the country remains split“. That “traitors won”. That “everybody lost”. And – perversely – that “now it the time to start working together”. It all came from the same side which proposed that Slovenia demand territory south of Savudrija and that approving the agreement is akin to losing Klagenfurt (Celovec) in 1920 (for the record – Slovenia didn’t “lose” Celovec then. It didn’t get it in the first place). On the other hand, responses from the winning side didn’t excel either, but their statements were definitely more muted in excitement.
Prime minister Pahor is halfway there to winning a gamble of galactic proportions. He succeeded where PMs Peterle, Drnovšek, Bajuk, Rop and Janša had failed. This alone gets him a spot in the history books. But if the arbitration court decides (as is expected to) favourably both to Slovenia and Croatia, then he should probably be promoted from a politician to a statesman. I know some of you are diving for your barf bags after reading the last sentence, but today’s vote really is that big.
However, Pahor is not yet there. Slovenia and Croatia must now set up the court as well as prepare memoranda detailing their respective cases and real work had only begun. Hic Rhodos, hic salta.