Law on Mayor/MP Conflict of Interest Finally Passed. But There’s a Catch…

Well, hip hip hooray, bravo and jolly good. In what was the seventh attempt since 1993 the parliament last night finally passed a law establishing a conflict of interests between holding an office of mayor and MP at the same time. Thus a grave anomally of Slovene political system is fixed, since local and state matters are separated.

Luka Juri of Social Democrats. He too, should ask himself one question… (source)

As both readers of this blog know, Slovenia boasts an impressive two hundred and eleven municipalities. Within muninicipal jurisdiction one can find services such as primary health care, kindergartens, elementary schools, some waterway maintenance, parts of the road network, public transport, drinking water and seweage services, to name but a few. All of this is administered by two hundred and eleven mayors, municipal (or city) councils and administations, each passing its own acts and decisions. Among those two hundred and ten mayors, twenty-six enjoy a special privelege. Besides holding mayoral office they are also members of the parliament, serving as elected representatives of the entire nation.

So, you gotta ask yourself one question…

According to the constitution, each and every MP is a representative of entire nation. On the other hand, mayors are representatives of their respective municipalities and voters/residents. A conflict of interest in this case stands out like a sore thumb. Example. A zoning act is needed to allow for building of a new rail road network. But a particular municipality, through which the rail road would pass, wants to have an extension of its road system on that very spot. So, how does our illustrious mayor vote? Does he cast a vote for a much needed rail road which the country badly needs or does he vote against, because voters in his municipality want yet another road? And, ultimately, why should a mayor be in a position to hold the entire country hostage to his municipalitiy’s particular interest. You can also look from the other side. 210 mayors, all competing for various forms of state funding. But only 26 of them have direct access to the decision-making process which distributes the monies. Fair? I don’t think so.

Be that as it may, the new law now solves all that. No more wearing two hats at once, drawing from two different straws and whathaveyou. It’s time for them to ask themselves one question. What will it be, sir? Mayor or a Member of the Parliament?… Not so fast. First of all, the law will be used for the first time for 2012 parliamentary elections. So, no one will be forced to leave office on account of this law. Which is fair enough. You can’t change the rules in the middle of the game. However, the parliament is not the only game in town.

Problems ahead

Municipal elections follow parliamentary elections with a two-year offset. We just had one, fairly recently. Which means that those twenty-six double-hatted representatives of the people have a good three years of their term left. And since the game is not changing only on national but on local level as well since mayors/MPs can choose which of the two positions they will serve. Thus one could argue that the new law should be implemented only in 2014, when the current term of municipal authorities ends. This makes pengovsky far from happy, but is bound to happen. Too many people stand to loose too much to let it just slide.

Sadly, it doesn’t end there. The new law applies to MPs who additionally serve as mayors or deputy mayors. And therein lies the rub. Deputy mayors are in fact municipal councilmen picked by the mayor to serve as his aides. However, they retain their councilman status and – most importantly – their vote (the mayor does not have a vote in municipal council although he/she presides over council sessions).

So, the law creates a situation where one city councilman who happens to be deputy mayor can not run for MP whereas his non-deputy colleague, who otherwise has exactly the same range of powers, can freely not only run but get elected to serve in the parliament, where he can still enter a potential conflict of interest.

And now for the ultimate fuck-up

Municipalities are overseen by the government. But only the parliament has the power to establish or dissolve a municipality. Therefore it entirely possible that a city councilman who serves as an MP (a situation which is allowed by this law) gets to vote on the future of his municipality. And although the right-wing SDS and SLS stand to lose the most with this new law, the most clear case in point is actually an MP of ruling Social Democrats Luka Juri. Although not alone in this enterprise he is bending over backwards to prevent establishing the municipality of Ankaran, now part of the City of Koper, despite a decision by the Constitutional Court that all conditions for establishing the municipality have been met. He is in a clear conflict of interests but even under the new law he gets to keep his double position.

Don’t get me wrong. This law was long overdue and – again – hip hip horray, bravo and jolly good to the parliamentary majority (spearheaded by Franci Kek of Zares) for passing it. But this was only a step in the right direction, but as this will inevitably end up with the Constitutional Court, we’re not there yet…

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