The Tale Of Two Prime Ministers

It was the best of times it was the worst of times. It was the age of Light it was the age of Darkness. Depending on whether you were Janez Janša or Alenka Bratušek yesterday. Namely, the two former PMs have seen their political outlook clear and muddle respectively less than 24 hours apart. Or so it seems.

Hand. Over. (source)

After a retrial was declared in the Patria Case, the newly assigned judge ruled the statute of limitations expired in this case as the alleged crime took place in between August and September 2005, before the Penal Code was changed to allow for a two-year extension in cases where the constitutional court ordered a retrial. There was some speculation that the extension will be granted especially since the new proviso was generally used retroactively, but mostly for post-WWII summary trials, thus paving a way for true acquittal of those innocent people who somehow were in the way of the Communist regime.

Interestingly enough, this was exactly the spin Janša – more precisely, his stellar lawyer Franci Matoz – wanted to make by arguing that he’d like the extension to be granted in order to clear his name in front of a judge rather than simply through a legal proviso. However, you’ll be excused for thinking that the way things unfolded was good enough both for Matoz and for his client. Because, no matter how you look at it, Janša, as well as his co-accused Ivan Črnkovič and Tone Krkovič, as well as Walter Wolf, who fled to Canada, are once again innocent. That the first three will probably sue the state for wrongful incarceration (numbers around half a mil per person are being circulated) is almost a given.

What is not a given is any kind of reset to the way things were before. While sporadic shouts of how this government lacks legitimacy are almost unavoidable, it seems to have dawned on Ivan’s legal squad at least that any scenario involving a rerun of elections is impossible. Not practically impossible, not virtually impossible, simply – impossible. Not in the least because the public have, for all the deficiency and occasional amateurism of this government, come to appreciate the sense of political stability and even dullness of day-to-day politics. Not that there aren’t screw-ups, boat-rockers or a certain amount of mischief in general, it’s just that none of it seems to be cataclysmic.

Not to be discounted is the fact that the Party burned a huge amount of resources defending its Glorious Leader tooth-and-nail. This has had noticeable effect on the ability of the party to form policy and/or take positions on issues not directly connected with the main strategic objective.  Also, a number of high-profile individuals turned out to be lacklustre in the cause at hand and have as a result fallen out of grace of the party leader(ship).  And although this strengthened the party on the inside, it also reduced its reach beyond the immediate rank-and-file. Which might also explain why the SDS, while closely trailing the SMC in the opinion polls, did not get any sort of  lasting bump in the opinion polls. Which also helps explain the overall resignation regarding possible political dividends of the whole affair.

So, while Janez Janša is now scott-free, he and his party are now, optimistically speaking, back to square one, while the political landscape has changed quite a bit. Just how well they can adapt to the new reality and hit the ground running will decide whether theirs will be a slow but sure path to oblivion or whether they will be able to reinvent themselves and form a new and viable political platform. The party proper, however, has also managed to put off the question of a post-Janša future. The operative word here being “put off”, and not avoided. Because sooner or later this will become an issue.

But for the time being, Janša still has a party to run. Afterall, he at least has a party. Unlike his successor in the PM seat Alenka Bratušek who is literally seeing her Alenka Bratušek Alliance disintegrate before her eyes.

Namely, Jani Möderndorfer, head of the party’s parliamentary group is looking for a new political home. He quit the party and the group yesterday and is rumoured to be on the verge of switching to Miro Cerar’s SMC. All of which pengovsky predicted as early as July. And while the media are focusing on the dire political straits the former PM found herself in, the real story here is the new balance of the Force within the coalition.

You see, when Bojan Dobovšek quit the SMC parliamentary group and went independent, the SD, most junior of the coalition partners, went orgasmic at the prospect of actually starting to matter in terms of securing a parliamentary majority of 46 votes (at that moment SMC had 35 votes, DeSUS 10 and SD 6). Theirs was a short-lived happiness, however, as DeSUS poached Peter Vilfan from ZaAB in late July, thus once again making itself the sole indispensible coalition partner. Should Möderndorfer really sign up for the SMC, Miro Cerar’s party would be back to 36 votes and the coalition as a whole would have a vote more than it began the term with.

The story does not end there, however. The side-effect of Möderndorfer’s jumping ship is the fact that ZaAB is now down to two MPs, one short for making the cut to claim parliamentary group privileges such as hiring staff and advisors as well as securing seats in parliamentary committees. In effect, this means the end of ZaAB as a parliamentary party. And while Bratušek was lamenting the lack of fidelity and loyalty in politics (at which point Zoran Janković probably went all Top Gun), she was presented with a much more immediate problem: how to regroup in the parliament and keep at least some of the resources available.

She immediately tried to form an independents’ parliamentary group, consisting of herself, the remaining ZaAB member Mirjam Bon Klanjšček and SMC renegade Dobovšek, but apparently that won’t fly due to a quirk in parliamentary Rules and Procedures which require that non-aligned MPs not be members of any political party. And Alenka Bratušek quitting Alenka Bratušek Alliance is, well, humiliating. What she could do, however, is call a congress of what is left of her party, move to disband it and notify the president of the parliament that her party is no more. Has ceased to be. Is expired and gone to meet its Maker. Is a stiff. Bereft of life, rests in peace and pushing up daisies. Kicked the bucket and has shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible. That it has fuckin’ snuffed it and that hers is an ex-party.

But that, too, could soon become an academic debate as DeSUS apparently set its sights on Bon Klajnšček as well and should the pensioners’ party poach her, Bratušek’s only chance of seeing the inside of the parliamentary group would be to join an already existing one. For example, the Social Democrats, who have a bit of a tradition for co-opting former MPs who lost their parties. And should this really happen, one could claim that ZaAB had indeed joined Cerar’s coalition. Albeit posthumously.



At Some Point, Hanging In There Makes You Look An Even Bigger Loser

Pengovsky showed some time ago that chances of early elections being called in Slovenia are about two to the power of 2079460347 against. Nearly everyone is competing in who will issue a more urgent call for early elections, but when a push comes to a shove, everybody’s got some other business to attend to. Like running the country. Keeping the parliamentary seat. Pointing fingers. Or even crowd-sourcing. Anything but calling the damn elections.

(source, of course)

Exibit A

Prime Minister Borut Pahor was on the telly yesterday Tuesday evening, where he said, for example, that he came to the conclusion that his resignation would only push the country deeper into political crisis rather than bring about early elections, so he chose to continue as PM. He also said that a new round of discussion on pension reforms is to take place, despite the fact that he and his government received an epic beating in a referendum on pension reform a month ago.

He is also about to take over as acting minister for Public Administration instead of Irma Pavlinič Krebs who resigned her post and will be formally relieved next week and he is already facing unrest in the public sector unions. As if that wasn’t enough, the PM recently trekked half-way around the world to India to find a buyer for the limping national airline Adria Airways, is dealing with the Greek financial crisis and has recently confabulated with opposition leader Janez Janša on how the political future of this country. A tall order by any standard, but when compared to the PM’s low ratings and mounting credibility issues, it become obvious that the PM’s ego issuing checks his body can’t possibly cash.

Anything to stave off the elections, apparently.

Exibit B

Of all the voices calling for early elections, those in Janez Janša‘s SDS are among the most vocal. Indeed, there are also at least two sort-of-grass-roots campaigns probably aimed at expanding the breath and appeal of the largest opposition party. One group, calling themselves Active Citizens Group headed by sociologist Matej Makarovič (who among other things was the first president of SDS youth organisation) is positioning itself as a think-tank for the political right and is citing the do’s and the dont’s for SDS and sister parties in order to win elections. Another group, headed by SDS Ljubljana city councilman Žiga Turk is (was?) collecting online signatures to call early elections. To date they collected some 19,000 signatures which – although not a smallish number – is way below anything that could make members of this group gurgle with excitement.

Altough both groups try to present themselves as grass-roots movements, they are anything but. Both of them boast former ministers as leading members, some of whom are speculated to return to the cabinet if and when Janez Janša wins elections. But apart from a slight transparency issue this is not really important.

What is more than obvious is the fact that – just as the ruling coalition – the opposition has a general credibility problem which it is trying to rectify by generating “civil society” clamour for a change at the helm of the country. Namely – if all were well and good in this world, the opposition would win the next elections without breaking a sweat, especially with as unpopular a government as we have now. However, the polls show that Janez Janša’s overall strategic objective of winning 50+ percent of seats in the parliament will remain wishful thing. Which is why he needs a credibility boost. Ad-hoc civil society support groups are one way of doing it.

A more effective way of gaining some credibility is by presenting a viable election platform. Which is exactly what the SDS did yesterday. Or did they? Well, not really. What they presented, was actually a draft platform, a patchwork of ideas some of which sound more plausible than others. Just a teaser: on one hand, the SDS would (predictably) lower taxes dramatically while increasing infrastructure investments on the other but it would also put a ceiling in public debt to 45% of GDP (currently, Slovenia’s public debt is at 38% percent of GDP).

That this platform is a work in progress is also shown by the fact that SDS is crowdsourcing ideas on a dedicated website. This is not the first time they resorted to this trick. In fact, even while still in power, Janša’s government launched a site that sought people’s views on the future of Slovenia. Little came out of it. Ditto for a similar site launched by the incumbent government. And, just to further make the point, Ljubljana branch of SDS made the same move, releasing draft platform six months before elections and crowdsourced input with limited success.

Six months ago Janez Janša announced the need for the Second Republic. Just as the notion was starting to fade, he announced a draft election platform. Neither is anything to write home about, so it is safe to assume that both were primarily aimed at creating buzz rather than substance, although yesterday’s document offers several concrete although self-conflicting measures.

Point being that SDS made precious little progress in terms of preparing for elections. Given that their motion to change the constitution which the parliament is debating right now actually decreases rather than increases chances of early elections, the conclusion is that Janez Janša is in fact in no hurry to get to election day.

Exibit C

Two MPs for Zares quit their party group yesterday and switched to independents. Vili Trofenik and Alojz Posedel were the odd men out almost from the very start, not in the least because they often departed from the party line, most notably on the question of mayor/MP conflict. This brings Zares’ MPs down to seven, making them a slightly less of a force to be reckoned with, although they are still the third most powerful party in the parliament.

Bleeding votes is never a good thing, regardless of how Gregor Golobič tries to play down the move by both MPs. But in all honesty, the switch was at least suspected if not outright expected, not just because Golobič is back in the parliament, making a nuisance of himself to everyone who had it fairly easy, both within Zares as well as in other parties (case in point being Golobič’s entry into the Twitter-sphere, where he immediately made waves).

It mostly has to do with the expected lifespan of this parliament. Posedel and Trofenik have no interest to see it come to a premature end as their chances of getting re-elected are (save a political miracle) practically zero. So parting of ways was imminent.


We are nowhere near elections. Even if the PM ties a confidence vote to the budget rebalancing act in September and loses, elections are possible in beginning of December at the earliest. And it seems that the more necessary the confidence vote is, the less probable it is becoming. Until yesterday, the minority government of Borut Pahor had merely thirty-three votes in the parliament (SD and LDS). It could more or less count on two out of three votes of the independent MPs. Now, that count is up to four. This means the count now goes up to thirty-seven, making it nine short of an absolute majority. Adding two votes of minority MPs, this can be further extended to 39 and with that PM Pahor suddenly has enough wiggle room to make it all the way home, since both opposition SLS and SNS (five votes each) have declared their opposition to early elections. In addition DeSUS of Karl Erjavec also has zero interest in early elections, which means the primer minister is in the position to shop for votes on any given vote.

The only problem is that this is no time to play political games and spend energy on political survival. In this situation, hanging in there makes you an even bigger loser.

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Constitutional Court Shows Cojones

As Slovenia watches in awe the incredible amount of stupid that is being produced live during the third and final reading of the Family Code and with the more open minded part of the population hoping for a ground-breaking vote finally recognising that everyone deserves a family, pengovsky brings to your attention yet another ground-breaking vote which was taken on Thursday last and made public on Monday. In what was probably the gutsiest in-your-face move in recent years, the Constitutional Court defeated the informal across-the-aisle agreement that was struck in the parliament and established a new municipality of Ankaran.

Ankaran (photo by Darinka Mladenović)

A little bit of background, if you will: Ankaran is a town that was until Monday a part of the Municipality of Koper where the industrious (and I mean that in the broadest sense of the word) Boris Popović is the mayor. For some time now townsfolk of Ankaran felt neglected by Koper administration. Whether or not that indeed was the case is more or less irrelevant, fact of the matter is that they felt that way. Moreover, there was a long-running dispute over how monies paid by the Port of Koper for degradation of environment were distributed between Koper proper and Ankaran. It all ammounted to a definitive “yes” vote when a referendum on Ankaran becoming an independent municipality was held. At the same time in another part of the country, a referendum was held on whether the town of Mirna (until then part of Municipality of Trebnje) should also become a municipality unto itself. This was to prove to be crucial to the fate of Ankaran.

Now, there are several conditions an area must meet in order to be eligible for municipality status in Slovenia. These are not very strict conditions which is probably the reason this country now boasts as much as 212 municipalities with as many mayors and municipal administrations, thousands of council members and so on. One of the conditions is, of course, the will of the people. Both Mirna and Ankaran fulfilled all the necessary conditions and the parliamentary act of establishing both municipalities was thought to be a mere formality. Wrong. While a vote on establishing the municipality of Mirna was a no brainer, MPs flat out rejected establishment of Ankaran. And did it several times. It became apparent that enough people both on local and state level were interested in Ankaran remaining within municipality of Koper, that they denied the people of Ankaran what was due according to the law.

Enter the Constitutional Court. In fact, the court was engaged even before, because it suspended 2010 local elections in Trebnje and Koper pending results of local referendums. But when Ankaran was denied, the Court was petitioned and ruled that Ankaran should have been granted municipality status. It also instructed the parliament to make this happen toute-de-suite. This, however, did not happen. Or rather, it almost did. The parliament passed the law which was then vetoed by the National Council (the ill-conceived second-chamber-wannabe) and then all of a sudden the parliament did not approve the law in the second vote. If things were fishy in the first place (the first attempt to create Ankaran municipality was defeated in the committee stage of the process), by now they outright stunk, especially since MPs opposing Ankaran came from both sides of the aisle. And when those same MPs proposed a special law allowing local elections in Koper municipality with Ankaran still included, it was plainly obvious that there was a tacit agreement (pengovsky won’t use the word conspiracy but feel free to think it) to keep Koper intact.

Petitioners from Ankaran again filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court which then took an almost unprecedented step of allowing the elections in Koper to go ahead, but in an area excluding the town of Ankaran, thus en passant creating the municipality. Mayor Popović and MPs which kept Ankaran a part of Koper went apeshit. In particular, Luka Juri of ruling Social Democrats (who, incidentally, is also a Koper city councilman) almost had a fit and started babbling about how the court abused its powers and how a constitutional amendment should be passed to circumvent the court’s decision.

Truth be told, the court did push an envelope a little. It’s decisions are usually limited to recognising possible unconstitutional provisions and/or to instruct the parliament on how the legislation should look like. Rarely did the court take it upon itself to pro-actively decree a new reality on the ground. But in this case the court was faced with a situation where a) it’s own instructions to the parliament on the issue at hand were blatantly ignored (separation of powers); b) the parliament ignored that Ankaran fulfilled any and all legal criteria for becoming a municipality (legality of decisions) and c) the parliament, when faced with exactly the same situation vis-a-vis Mirna municipality, voted to establish the latter without as much as blinking an eye (equality before the law). Bottom line, the Constitutional Court found that the Parliament acted unconstitutionally regarding the court’s own decisions and did the only thing possible to amend this: it acted pro-actively and created the municipality of Ankaran, with first local elections to be held there in 2014. Much to the delight of some and anger of others.

The question now is whether the court will have the same kind of cojones when it will be asked by the government to deny the referendum on the new Family Code, which will most certainly be called if the code survives the vote later today.

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Early Elections Just Got Canceled

As of yesterday, there’s no doubt what so ever that Slovene Democratic Party of Janez Janša has absolutely no interest to actually call early elections, despite making a lot of hoopla about it.

The Constitution (source)

Amid an atmosphere of growing popular discontent with this nation’s elected representatives, a dog-eat-dog climate and a government which increasingly has to deal with its own problems, calls for early elections are getting ever louder. In fact, the only party which is directly opposing the early elections are (how predictable) Zmago Jelinčič‘s nationalists for whom the elections are always a gamble, although Jelinčič made the cut every time. True, if one were to disregard party affiliation one would quite possibly find that few MPs are keen on cutting their term, but since most of them adhere to party discipline, they seem to be supporting early elections. On surface, at least. Truth be told, next to Jelinčič, the ruling Social Democrats still have to make up their mind, but as long as Borut Pahor stubbornly continues as prime minister, they can more or less successfully dodge the question.

However, even if the SD were to make up their mind and take the plunge, it would amount to very little. You see, under current constitution, early elections are next to impossible. Not completely impossible, but close. To call early elections now, PM Borut Pahor would have to resign, the President would have to nominate a new PM and then a majority of MPs would have to be disciplined enough to vote down this person who would have to be willing to take a dive on an open parliamentary stage. The whole procedure would take a month and a half or so which means that extraordinary discipline of an absolute majority of MPs would have to be maintained for six weeks, not to mention that what was just described is in fact an abuse of democratic procedure.

To circumvent that, ideas were floated to change the constitution and make it easier for the parliament to be dissolved and thus bring about early elections. Pengovsky already wrote about President Danilo Türk threading on thin ice on this issue. There’s also Zares of Gregor Golobič, which floated ideas about amending this part of the constitution as early as January this year and expanded on them later on. Not that theirs is a perfect solution. If pengovsky understood correctly, Zares wants the president – upon resignation of a sitting MP – to be able to either appoint a new candidate for MP or dissolve the parliament and call early elections. This idea has one major problem: if the PM and his government atr elected by the parliament (which is the case now), they can only tender their resignations to the parliament. If Zares really wanted to bring the President into the picture, they would have to revamp the entire system of separation of powers. Which is probably a good idea, but would probably require much more careful consideration. Taking powers on one end and putting them on another end of the systems checks-and-balances can have unpredictably massive effects.

But if Zares’ proposal is something to consider and work on because it may yield beneficial results, the proposal which the SDS of Janez Janša submitted to the parliament today on Monday is a piece of bullshit deluxe. What SDS did was propose an amendment to Article 81 of the Constitution, basically saying that an absolute majority of MPs (46, to be exact) can vote to dissolve the parliament and thus hold elections within two-months-time.

What sounds lovely at first glance, is in reality a huge piece of political crap. If a majority of MPs were able to dissolve the parliament, they’d be doing it all the time, Every time the government would consider that its ratings allow, it would be able to call early elections with little or no warning whatsoever, get re-elected and win another four year term, long before the first one would end. It would also equip the ruling party with an unfair advantage as it would be able to control the election schedule rather than the situation which we have now, when everything is more or less clear in advance. Furthermore, empowering 46 MPs with a power do dissolve the institution which represents the sovereign of this country (the people), goes against every political and legal theory. If election laws need 2/3 majority to be confirmed and if the government constitution needs a double 2/3 majority to be changed, it is simply not logical for such a strong and far reaching instrument to be invoked by only an absolute majority.

SDS of course know all of the above. They did the math and they know that they have neither legal grounds nor political support to pull off a stunt like that. However, being masters of procedure that they are, they’ve effectively hijacked the procedure for changing the constitution and have in effect blocked any attempts to indeed change it. Namely: their motion takes precedence and it means that the procedure constitutional will have to go full circle, probably all the way from debate in the constitutional committee to the plenum vote. Given that we are just about to enter the summer break, the SDS have thus ensured that this procedure will last well into the autumn, possibly winter. By then regular elections would be practically around the corner, Zares’ motion (even if it entered the parliamentary procedure) doesn’t stand a chance of even being debated on, much less surviving a vote.

Thus the largest opposition party made sure that nothing will change and that early elections will definitely not be held. Which is precisely what they wanted. Despite the fact that prominent SDS members are running rather naive sounding on-line petitions, early elections are bad for the party, since it has no election platform and seems to be convinced that the more beating PM Pahor receives, the easier SDS and Janez Janša will reach their goal of 50+ (percent of votes in the new parliament).

The proposed amendments to the constitution by the SDS are therefore nothing but a stalling manoeuvre aimed at prolonging the life of this parliament for as long as politically possible.

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Family Code: Let’s Party Like It’s 1975

On Tuesday evening the parliament completed the second (crucial) reading of the new Family Code which – among other things – was meant to allow same-sex weddings and child adoptions. Pengovsky covered the issue at some lenght including the compromise solution proposed by the govenrment which watered down some of the more controversial points of the new legislation.

The bizzare vote (screenshot by @kricac, source)

As both readers of this blog know, the new code was far from unequivocally supported. Indeed, the split did not occur along the left-right fault but rather along the division between traditionalists and progressives, where the former seem to be enjoying an advantage in numbers or at the very least in audiability. To put it blunty, the political right opposes the new  legislation vigorously and with gusto, while the left is divided between progressives who try to argue their case and traditionalists who support the law with noticeable lacklustre and would be just happy if the whole thing never happened.

It was partly because of this that the government sort of backed down on same-sex marriage and adoptions. Under the compromise solution gay and lesbian couples would not be able to enter wedlock but a partnership with the same legal consequences as marriage (including inheritance, which is a noticeable difference from the current law passed by previous government of Janez Janša). Furthermore, same-sex couples would only be allowed to adopt a child if one of the partners would be the child’s biological parent.

Compromise? Think again…

Hadn’t it been for the lukewarmness on the left, compromise would be utterly unnecessary as the right-wing opposition is fighting tooth and nail to defeat the code utterly and completely. Their cause is defended by a supposed grass-roots campaign headed by former SLS member Aleš Primc, who years ago led the campaign to ban medical fertilization of single women and succeeded (a refefrendum was called and the ‘no’ campaign won). Primc, following the shiny example of the NRA is using every possible means to draw attention and present himself as the ultimate defender of life, ‘natural laws’ and all things Slovene, to the extent of recently demanding that evolution and creationism be taught in schools side by side as ‘competing theories on the origin of maniknd’.

So, what we are dealing with here is in fact not a policy disagreement, but an ideological question of – broadly speaking – permissive libertarianism versus staunch religious reactionarism. The two are obviously mutually exclusive, so it is no wonder that Primc rejected the compromise solution as a trick, allowing for same sex marriage and adoption some time later on. And, to an extent, he’s probably correct. The thing is that he and the political parties behind him (SLS, SDS and NSi) will be satisfied with nothing else than a complete withdrawal of the new Family Code and then some, if possible.

Welcome to the twilight zone

The ‘then some’ moment occured, of course. Not just with the aforementioned attempt to introduce creationism to schools. That was, pengovsky suspects, just a target of opportunity. What happened on Tuesday evening when the parliament was voting on ammendments to the Code was much more bizzare.

In what was probably a momentary loss of attentiveness  by the coalition, the parliament adopted an amendment by Janez Janša’s SDS stipulating that all unmarried couples, save those who already have a child, should register their union with the proper authorities if they want to claim benefits stemming from such a union.

For the uninitiated: Ever since 1976 civil union was instituted (the linked Wikipedia article is wrong, btw) married and unmarried heterosexual  couples in Slovenia enjoy the same benefits, mostly in terms of inheritance, social security, child care and so on. It does not matter if the couple is married or has formalised the union in some other way, if at all. The amendment overturns more than thirty-five years of established practice which was since followed by many a country all across Europe and is recognised by a plethora of other Slovene legislation.

Now, some people know of or have experienced situations where a compulsory registration of a civil union would solve or even prevent many problems such as impostors claiming to have been long-time partners of a deceased family member or similar. However, what it at stake here is the inherent right of an individual to live the way he or she chooses without being disenfranchised vis-a-vis the state. Or – if you want to look at it the other way – the state has no business prescribing the preferred form of a union between two individuals.

The amendment is a very telling representation of just how deeply ideological this debate is. On one hand we have a drive to expand the definition of a family and with it the circle of those who would benefit from that, regardless of the way, shape or form of the union, regardless of whether the union produced an offspring (biologically or otherwise) and – most importantly – regardless of the sex of people entering such union.

On the other hand we have a drive to curb the existing scope of the acceptable: an exclusively heterosexual union where the partners will be left alone and eligible for benefits only if they produce an offspring, otherwise they have to declare their union to the state. This in fact shouldn’t come as a surprise, since this is exactly what the government of Janez Janša did to homosexual couples, forcing them to “register” their union with the authorities but refusing to allow marriage. And this is the crux of it all. The right wing’s inherent drive is to reinstitute marriage of a man and a woman as the only allowed form of a union between two individuals. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see how the Roman Catholic church is itching to chip in the “before God, until death do you part” as a compulsory part of a marriage ceremony.

Hold on to your hats

Luckily not all is lost. Tuesday’s fiasco seems to have happened more or less by mistake. At the very least, this is what president of the Parliament Pavle Gantar claimed in his tweet (protected, unfortunately) this morning when he said that DeSUS MPs got a bit disoriented for a moment and voted in favour of the amendment instead of against.

Parliamentary rules and procedures allow for amendments originally introduced in the second reading to be re-amended in the third (and final) reading and apparently this is what is going to happen. Mind you, things will probably not go smoothly. First of all, the Liberal Democrats of Katarina Kresal, the most ardent supporters of the new Family Code are saying that they will not support the compromise solution, but demand that the original version of the Code be passed.

While one can understand the sentiment, this will probably not be possible, because it would mean scrapping the whole second reading and most likely make the traditionalists on the left very nervous, perhaps to the point of withdrawing their support of the new legislation. And secondly, even when (and if) the Code is passed, this does not mean the end of the road. What will most likely happen is yet another referendum bid.

One tractor referendum (click if you don’t get it)

Aleš Primc said time and again that he will go all the way in trying to defeat the Code. SLS said about as much the other day when they hinted at the possibility of calling a referendum on the issue. And with this the Constitutional Court once again steps onto the stage front and centre. The coalition will most likely argue that having a referendum on human rights of minorities (in this case gays and lesbians) is unconstitutional as their rights are not subject to popular vote but inherently exist. Furthermore, the new Code does not limit existing rights to any group of citizens, but only increases the scope of population eligible for existing rights (or introduces new rights, whichever you please).

On the other hand, the right wing – with Primc as the probable primary plaintiff – will most likely argue that the the people have the right to decide what kind of a society they want to live in and that – if anything – this is exactly the issue one can and indeed must have a referendum on the issue.

The thing is that no one knows for sure what the court will decide. On one hand it seems logical that there can not be a referendum on human rights, especially rights of an defined minority within the society. However, things are not that simple. Recently, the court made it a principle to deny only those referendums which could result in a continuation of an unconstitutional state. Hence, a pre-existing and established unconstitutional situation must exist for the court to deny a referendum on a law addressing the issue. Which is sadly not the case here. This is not to say that a referendum on Family Code will be granted, but that the coalition faces yet another uphill battle and that the court’s decision – no matter the outcome – will be a landmark one, defining the issue of “acceptable” family for years or even decades to come.


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