A few takeaways on yesterday’s archive referendum results. The turnout was a dismal 11.68 percent, with 67.32% against and 32.68% in favor of the new archive law. Since the quorum of 20% of all eligible voters against the law was not reached, the law stands as passed by the parliament.
Now, the response of the petitioning party (that be Janez Janša‘s SDS) was pathetically predictable: that at least they won “a moral victory“. That the “forces of UDBa are still at work”. That the people don’t appreciate the referendum as they should (clearly a case of pot calling the kettle black).
On the other hand, the government hailed “a referendum victory” with minister Uroš Grilc adding that Slovenia finally has a modern archive legislation. Incidentally, the last law to have survived voters’ scrutiny (albeit under the old rules) was 2005 referendum on the law on state radio and television RTVSLO. And that law, too, fell under the purview of Ministry of culture. Just so you know 😉
Now, while the bit about a modern piece of legislation might very well be true, everything else is pure bullshit-meter-breaking material. This is not a victory for the government. It is, at best, a defeat avoided. The feeling of “victory” is relative only to the ginormous foot the Party had just inserted in its own mouth. Namely, the SDS supported changes to the referendum legislation, instituting the “quorum against” which now worked heavily against them.
Bonus points in the fuckwit category go for Milan Zver MEP who tweeted that two-thirds of Slovenians slapped the government in the face (this by extension meaning that only people who cast their vote on Sunday are true Slovenians). That the turnout on a referendum they campaigned heavily for is comparable to the 2008 fiasco with referendums on regions only adds insult to injury. As does the fact that back then Janez Janša claimed victory as well.
Dve tretjini Slovencev dalo še eno nazaupnico levi vladi! Oni pa slavijo že s tretjinsko podporo na eferendumu! Stvar samopodibe pač!
— Milan Zver (@MilanZver) June 8, 2014
But the biggest loser here are the people. Not because the law is now enacted (that, at least, is good) but because the SDS continues, even with the “new and improved” referendum restrictions, to abuse what is left of this crucial institute of direct democracy. This was the pattern for the better part of the past two decades and due to no small fault of the Party the word “referendum” is now tarnished beyond repair.
Under the new rules it is almost impossible for a group of concerned citizens or an NGO to challenge a piece of legislation unless they have access to a well-developed political party network which (by definition) makes them more of an astroturf group rather than a grass-roots movement. With continued abuse, the “almost impossible” will without a doubt become simply “impossible”, as ignoring referendum votes will become not only acceptable, but indeed desirable. The ultimate goal of making voters indifferent to public matters is thus well within reach. Case in point being the general approval the people met with the new referendum rules.
Citizens’ oversight is a scarce commodity as it is. Abuse of referendum legislation, such as witnessed Sunday last, only depletes it further. Pretty soon, there will be none left.