Y’all already know all about how the PM nomination of Zoran Janković fell through and how it wasn’t clear until the results came in whether he had the necessary 46 votes. Since both the right- and left-wing parties both nominally hold 44 votes, with the two minorities MPs in between, Zoran Janković had to secure at least two votes from the other side, sparking a frantic search for “rats” in the ranks of right-wing parties. A drastic measure was taken with those MPs being instructed not pick up ballots at all. In the end, some of those MPs (presumably party leaders) picked up their ballots to ensure a quorum, but the move caused much controversy and prompted calls for a change in constitution where the PM nominee would be voted on by a public vote rather than a secret ballot. Which is utter nonsense. Oddly enough, this is also one of the constitutional changes that the SDS of Janez Janša floated yesterday. And even more oddly, DLGV of Gregor Virant did not echo the sentiment, although it was Virant himself floated the idea. Then again, it shouldn’t really be a surprise. It really is a fucking bad idea.
Political Science 101
Broadly speaking, the concept of division of power differentiates between legislative, executive and judicial branches. These are independent from one another and interact via a more or less complex system of checks and balances which is suppose to ensure that no branch prevails against the other two in the long term.
One of the mechanisms to ensure this is the way representatives of these branches are selected. Members of the parliament, that is to say, the legislative branch is selected in a secret ballot. It should be therefore obvious that the executive branch should be selected in a similar manner. And as things stand now, it is. Members of the parliament vote on a candidate for prime minister in a secret ballot. Understandably, this goes for the Constitutional Court (the third factor in this balance of power) as well. Its members are voted on by the parliament in a secret ballot. It’s the way it should be. And there’s a reason for it.
You see, this is not just about coalitions, votes and majorities. It has to do with sovereignty. In Slovenia (as in any other republic), the people are the sovereign. Additionally, the people are also the sole bearer of power. This power is then executed either directly or via elections, where it is transferred to the three branches of power. The parliament is the bearer of this delegated sovereignty, the government is the one to execute the sovereignty, with the constitutional court mostly acting as the arbiter between the two. It is therefore necessary for the three branches of power to be selected by the same (or at least similar) method, i.e. a secret ballot.
But why secret? Usually, the MPs votes are public and their voting record speaks volumes on their adherence to party platforms, pre-election promises and special-interest influence. In short: public votes on legislation are a matter of transparency and accountability. But the same thing that works in favour of the democratic process when passing legislation is concerned, works decidedly against it when establishing the branches of power is concerned. When voting for specific candidates running for specific offices, open ballot is subject to control, pressure being brought to bear and all other forms of perversion of decision-making process including implicit and explicit threats and even bribery.
True, many if not all of these can be used in a secret ballot, but in the end no-one really knows how any given person voted, the only thing clear is the end result. Which is why today we still can not say for certain which four MPs did not vote for Janković on that fateful Wednesday even though they were expected to. The only thing we know is that at least four more people should have voted for Jay-Z were he to become the PM, but didn’t. We’ll never know just who exactly went rogue. And that’s the way it should be. That, ladies and gentlemen is the most basic of democratic standards. Take that away and we’re half-way to shot-gun elections.