STA, 11 December 2019 - Election legislation, provinces and climate change ranked prominently as the country's top four officials met for an end-of-year reception in Ljubljana on Wednesday. Coming out of the meeting, President Borut Pahor said changes to election legislation should be ready for parliamentary procedure at the start of 2020.
Pahor said the leaders of deputy groups in parliament who support the proposed abolishing of electoral districts and introduction of a preferential vote would be urged to iron out the proposal in January so that the necessary signatures of support could be collected.
Changing the electoral legislation in line with a Constitutional Court decision is strategically speaking a key political issue in Slovenia, Pahor said after the meeting with Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, Speaker Dejan Židan and National Council President Alojz Kovšca.
The president had launched the debate on possible legislative changes after the Constitutional Court declared the size of electoral districts for general election unconstitutional at the end of last year.
Predsednik Republike Slovenije Borut Pahor v Predsedniški palači gosti tradicionalno srečanje štirih predsednikov, države, vlade, državnega zbora in državnega sveta. pic.twitter.com/oK7vPk8eIt— Borut Pahor (@BorutPahor) December 11, 2019
After seven rounds of talks with representatives of parliamentary parties and two meetings with deputy group heads, Pahor believes the proposal to abolish electoral districts and introduce a preferential vote is ready to be made into a bill.
In order to be passed in parliament, it will need to be backed by at least 60 MPs in the 90-member legislature. "If and when 60 or more MP signatures are collected, the proposal will be filed to parliament."
However, Pahor believes that a step further should also be taken to close the debate on the proposal to change the borders of the electoral districts as an alternative to the first solution.
The top officials agreed today that the deputy group heads who want to finish this debate should meet with the public administration minister in January, so that both proposals could be on MPs' table at the beginning of next year.
PM Šarec said he was in favour of scrapping electoral districts and introducing the preferential vote in order to give voters more say on who was to sit in parliament.
Speaker Židan expressed hope that the parties who had publicly supported this solution would also contribute signatures.
He also pointed to Tuesday's debate hosted by the Women Parliamentarians Club, where participants agreed that legislative solutions should be aimed at increasing gender-balanced representation in parliament.
National Council President Kovšca said the Constitutional Court had also found the National Council act unconstitutional in the part mentioning the possibility of appeal to election to the upper chamber. He said changes to the act had already been filed to parliament and expressed hope MPs would discuss it in January.
Turning to provinces, Pahor said that a task force of the National Council had done an excellent job in preparing guidelines for legislative changes.
The top officials agreed today that the finance minister should get involved in the drawing up of a bill on the financing of provinces in the next two months.
Kovšca said that in the first phase more than 50 experts had formed the proposal on the setting up of provinces. They covered the territorial aspect, and made a list of tasks to be transferred from the state and municipalities to provinces, he noted.
In the first phase of a public debate, local communities will be asked to give their remarks, while the government will review the financial aspect, he said.
When this phase is completed, the work of the National Council will be over and the proposal will be sent to the National Assembly.
Šarec said the government supported the idea of provinces but that their tasks would need to be defined and their seats picked as well. "Provinces must serve a purpose, implement tasks, and citizens must benefit from the arrangement," he said.
This was the first time that the top officials also discussed climate policy at their annual meeting. They agreed that special attention must be paid to three documents related to the climate and energy policy of the country which will be discussed in the public and the National Assembly next year.
There must be plenty of opportunity for a broad political and social debate, they agreed.
Šarec said a big problem was the sixth generator of the Šoštanj Thermal Power Plant (TEŠ), "which gives us 25% of electricity". "Until we close TEŠ 6, it will be difficult to talk about a greener environmental policy," he said.
Pahor agreed that TEŠ would need to be shut down sooner than planned, but he stressed this would not be possible overnight. However, preparations for its closure should be sped up, he said, adding that alternative energy sources needed to be introduced.
Šarec and Židan agreed it should first be acknowledged that climate change is a reality, and then Slovenia should not only set ambitious goals but also start implementing them.