Democracy: An Attempt At Definition

Winston, among other things, provided some good quotes on democracy, like “it’s a bad system, but the best we’ve discovered so far”

Again, our resident translator is responsible for some (self)reflection on my part. Yesterday, I promised to post

Pengovsky’s First (And Only) Law on Democracy:

In a democracy, noone is requrired to believe anything or anybody

Naturally, there is also an Addendum to Pengovsky’s Law:

The said goes for the above law as well

Obviously this statement is entirely unscientific, especially since the statement invokes itself for confirmaton (sort of a continous loop), which is exactly something you would expect from a political scientist like myself. 😀

Freedom (liberty, if you will) seems to be at the centre of modern liberal democracies (liberal democracy being a sub-system with a set of values prevalent in Euro-American types of democracy, not necesarily a country with liberal democratic government). There are two main types of freedom: freedom from (say, being harmed) and freedom to (say, speak freely)

On another level, freedoms are excercised against two players: The State (government) and other private individuals. Both are tricky. Due to the ancient right of limiting one’s freedom with another man’s freedom, an instutition must be empowered to judge where individuals’ freedoms collide and whose freedoms take precedence, and even enforce its rulling if necesary. Thus the modern State came about. And since even the state’s powers must be curbed, the division of power between judicial, legislative and legislative branch was eventually developed (but more on that some other time).

Freedoms in different planes

But at the core of every system, even a democratic one, is a set of beliefs. In this case, a belief that rights and freedoms can be excercised, regardless of everything. But what I like about a concept of a democracy is the fact that you don’t have to believe. You can choose to. Thus you are free from compulsory believing and are at the same time free to believe.

Democracy, 17 years after defloration

The first Slovene government had 27 ministers. Today there are fourteen. (source)

On Sunday, April 8th Slovenia “celebrated” 17th anniversary of the first democratic elections in it’s modern history. Thankfully there was no real celebration – but you can put that down to the fact that most people celebrated Easter anyhow.

The elections were “general” – meaning that voters chose both the members of the Parliament as well as members of the Presidency. At the time Slovenia had a radically different political system in place. The Parliament (officially: The Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia) was a three chamber body which consisted of the Chamber of Municipalities, Chamber of Work(ers) and Societal-Political Chamber (the translation is a bit awkward, I know). The latter was deemed the most important, although the three chambers were equal in power.

There were numerous parties running in the elections, some were trully exoctic, such as Party of Beer Lovers, Society of Mushroom Pickers and even a gay club. As everyone expected, the oppositon DEMOS coalition won, but it got only 54 percent of the vote in stark contrast with other countries where socialism collapsed and where the opposition basically wiped out the rulling Communist party. Even more – on a party by party count, the League of Communists got the most votes. Surprises did not stop there, though.

An agreement was reached within DEMOS, the party wchih got the most votes within the coalition would name the Prime Minister and everyone thought the victory of Slovene Democratic Union was a foregone conclusion. Everyone but the voters, that its, who gave the most votes within the DEMOS coalition to Christian-Democratic Party, thus making a little known geographer Lojze Peterle the president of the first Slovene democraticly elected government (which at the time went by the name of Executive Council)

At the time Slovenia had a collective presidency, which consisted of the President and of four members, each of whom was equally empowered to run the presidency in case of President’s absence. The main contenders for the President of the Presidency were Milan Kučan, who had just resigned as the President of the League of Communists and the late Jože Pučnik, the leader of DEMOS.

Kučan won after the second round of elections, delivering a major overall blow to the opposition, which based it’s campaign mostly on anti-communism.

Thus the political field was divided between left- and right-wing options. It is generally agreed that the voters (knowingly or otherwise) balanced the field by giving actual power to the right-wing opposition, but accepting the positive role of the League of Communists, which had brought about changes in the constitution just a year before, enabling a relatively smooth transition from a single-party to a multi-party system, and – most of all – the voters recognized the fact that the “old structures” were willing to relinquish the power, thus being radically different from the likes of Ceausescu

In 1990 the Organisation of Socialist Youth, which was the main force of change within the socialist system, got a handsome amount of votes. This party was then renamed to Liberal Democrats and went on to become Slovenia’s most powerful party for more than a decade, from 1992 to 2004.

The Assembly, the Executive Council and the Presidency were primarily charged with holding a referendum on independece, declaring and sustaining the independence (an armed conflict was always considered a likely option), securing international recognition and passing a new constitiution, which established a proper parlimamentary democracy.

In retrospect, the mandate was fulfilled on all counts. The fact that it was all achieved in little more than two years is frankly astonishing, but at the time noone had the time to stop and think about it, because events were literally overtaking one another. This famous chapter of Slovene history started unfolding after DEMOS dissolved due to internal bickering (as their primary goal – independence – was achieved), Lojze Peterle was replaced by Janez Drnovšek as PM, a new Constitution was passed and another general elections were held, this time to the office of The President of the Republic, and to the National Assembly and the National Council. I covered the relations between the three in more detail here.

From today’s perspective, those were the glory days, when men were real men, women were real women, history was in abundance and the air had a smell of good, glorious and important things. In short: Slovenia’s democratic defloration ended with a multiple orgasm. Was that really as good as it gets?

It WAS the Junkies!

For those of you who have missed it: a follow-up on this post

It’s the same scenario all over again…

The Po-lice have concluded that it was two junkies who stole the two laptops belonging to the Movement for Justice and development. Even more, they apparently already recovered both laptops.

Convenient, isn’t it? I’d almost believe it if I hadn’t seen that particular scenario unravel five years ago – different target, different cirumstances, but the same M.O.

The Prez has already retorted. Just a quick translation of two most important paragraphs of his latest blog entry:

Bad people can never find their inner peace. They’re alway driven by wanting more for themselves. They toss and turn but can never achieve fulfilment and inner peace. They cannot achieve that not by means of position nor money. They’re alway worried, restless, affraid of losing what they’ve got. Worries, fear, anger, jelaousy, greed and vanity create negative energy, which is the opposite of good energy, as bad is the opposite of good
Poor bad guys are so afraid of losing their positions, power and glory. They are so attached to them. Their fear of losing these things makes them vunerable. They are petty as material beings, but they neither know or understand anything else. And that which they don’t understand begins beyond their awarenes, it begins where all good beings. And that is where peace begins, peace which they will never know.
Dear bad guys! Your mud will turn to gold. Once things become bad enough, changes occur. And you’ve made things bad enough.

(complete post here, only in Slovene)

The Prez has signed the post with his full name Janez Drnovšek for the very first time. Until now he signed his posts merely by Janez D. The different signature seems to imply that the President is much more serious about it this time around.

And on a related issue: According to Dnevnik daily, an unauthorised entry by PM’s advisor compromised SOVA’s safe house in Ljubljana. While SOVA denies the claim, the paper goes on to say that as a result an entire network of operatives was cut loose, fearing their cover was blown.

So much for national security… Any chance we can rent Dick Cheney for 10 days? I promise we’d give him back… Oh shit… I forgot… He had his advisor blow the cover of a CIA agent for political purposes… Oops 😳

I wonder if Janša and Cheney are sharing notes…

The Constant Gardeners

One of the peculiar things about Slovenes (apart from wearing copate) is the urge to have their own speck of land. Most of us would like to have a speck of land somewhere in Croatia, prefferably close to sea, but during the off-season Slovenes (and Ljubljanchans are no exception) tend to have their own garden – prefferably in the middle of an urban area.

Be it just a reflex (the fact is that most Ljubljanchans have peasant/farmer ancestry), a need to be somewhat self-sufficient, or just trying to make ends meet… the habit has grown waaaay out of proportion in the last decade or so. Those, who will join me for the hike around Ljubljana on Liberation day, will have the unique opportunity to see just how many of these small gardens (vrtički) are there around Ljubljana. In fact there are so many, that people who own them, are commonly called vrtičkarji, or The Gardeners… (Sounds like The Klingons 😀 )

The Mayor has recently decided to put a stop to it (for which I applaud him loudly). Being as gentle as a T-34 tank on a bad day, he issued “a request” that The Gardeners tear down all the shacks they illegally errected during the years. Now these shacks are a curious thing… They usually start as nothing more than a storage facility for tools and some fertilizer, but pretty soon – seemingly out of nowhere – they start sporting electricity, tap water, an occasional refridgerator, a porch and a grill. They become a home away from home… And as a rule they look ugly… Really ugly.

Thus Zoki “requested” (meaning: ordered) that owners tear them down – otherwise he’ll do it for them and send them the bill. Some have heeded his calls without further a-do, others have done so reluctantly, whereas still others flipped him the bird.

And when I say “tore down”, I don’t mean “disassemble and take the material to the junk yard”… No, sir. For this is Slovenia! Nay, this is Ljubljana! Who the fuck is this mayor character to tell us what to do?!? OK, we’ll do it, but we’ll send a message! Like Vinetou we’ll send smoke signals to Zoki saying that he can go stick his head in the lavatory for this….

Ljubljana burning

We send message to big white warrior: you burn our huts, we burn your hut

Those of you who are somewhat familiar with medevial Slovene history know of peasant rebellions… And of course you know of last week’s City Hall Brawl… The problem is that the last time around the protesters were armed with walking canes, whereas The Gardeners, when they stage a protest, will be armed with stick and shovels.