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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    WED, 28 SEP 1994 18:16:25 GMT

    Hot Political Autumn

    IN COMES SKOLC, OUT GOES PETERLE

    Slovenia's new Speaker of Parliament is young, 34 year old Jozef Skolc(SKOLC), former president of the youth organization and somewhat later of the Liberal Party, the man who became, after the Party's association with the Democrats, Socialists and members of the Green Party and after Dr. Janez Drnovsek came at the helm of the Party, one of its most prominent officials. When Herman Rigelnik, the candidate of the united Liberal Democratic Party left the office of Parliament Speaker, the party nominated for thiss office Jozef Skloc and Dimitrije Rupel. Prior to the voting, Rupel suddenly withdrew his nomination leaving Skloc the only candidate of the LDS. His opponent was Janez Podobnik from the oppositional People's Party.

    Although Podobnik did not win a sufficient number of votes, they were nevertheless decisive since Skloc not to have the required majority in two voting rounds. He won only in the third attempt. And while the Liberals celebrated his victory, Lojze Peterle, the minister of foreign affairs and Vice-Premier suddenly resigned. The act as such could seriously shake up the ruling coalition made up of Janez Drnovsek's Liberal Democrats, Peterle's Christian Democrats and Kocijancic's United List of Social Democrats. --------------------------------------------------------------------

    Even before the season of summer vacations began a subdued parliamentarian crisis began shaking the Slovenian Parliament, which only gained in momentum with the first autumn days, namely with the departure of Herman Rigelnik, Speaker of Parliament. Twelfe days after Rigelnik's resignation, the deputies finally succeeded in electing a new, Speaker, certainly the most youngest to date, 34 year-old Jozef Skolc. Skolc is a former youth official who was at the head of the Slovenian Youth Organization from 1988 to 1992. In that period he was the initiator of campaigns such as the one for abolishing the Youth Day celebrations, as well as contestant against the attempts of the Party to keep the youth organization under its umbrella and contributor, in more ways than one, to the democratization of political life in Slovenia.

    The ultra rightist opposition under the leadership of Janez Jansa,otherwise Skolc's former collegue from the youth organization,denies his role in the democratization process,reproaching him for his alleged communist past and alleged opposition to Slovenia becoming an independent state. According to them, Skolc's once Yugoslav orientation was a very grave sin. Lojze Peterle's views were much the same and the main reason why immediately after Skloc's election for Speaker he resigned from the office of minister of foreign affairs and Vice-Premier. All this has naturally only deepened the governmental and parliamentary crisis.

    The resignation of the hitherto Speaker of Parliament, Herman Rigelnik came as a great surprise to everyone. Evidently, Prime Minister Drnovsek was the only one who knew of Rigelnik's intention beforehand and was not especially upset about it. Although it could be concluded from Rigelnik official statement that he was leaving for personal reasons, rumours were that as of late he and Dernovsek were not at all getting along well. Therefore his departure was not something Dernovsek would lose tears over. It was also not particularly strange that the Liberal Democrats had two candidates ready to take his place only a day after his resignation. The first was Dimitrije Rupel, the first minister of foreign affairs of independent Slovenia, and the second one somewhat younger but nevertheless already a well known politician and deputy, Jozef Skolc.

    The fact that Rupel withdrew from the race immediately prior to the procedure in the LDS for electing a single candidate was the more surprising as it came at a time Rupel enjoyed broad popular support. Rupel explained his decision by indicating that he did not wish to further complicate by his nomination the already complex situation in the Party and the Slovenian political scene in general. The nomination, in his opinion, would not attain the expected effects. Thereby, Skolc remained the only candidate of the ruling party.

    A smack on the face of the smug Liberal Democrat

    In addition to Joze Skolc, who ran for the office of speaker of Parliament as early as 1990, Janez Podobnik, the older brother of Marjan Podobnik, head of the Slovenian People's Party was the counter-candidate from the ranks of the opposition. Secret parliamentary elections ensued and none of the candidates received the required majority. Skloc although considerable ahead of Podobnik did still not get a sufficient number of votes.

    Namely, the coalition partner of the LDS and the United List of Social Democrats, whose deputies voted unanimously for Skolc, are Peterle's Christian Democrats. The deputies of that Party decided to abstain from voting since they did not wish to support Skolc.In addition they publicly stated that the Liberal Democrats either did not succeed in taking part or else did not wish to actively participate in the negotiations on the candidate for the new leader of Parliament. It is completely clear that the office of Speaker belonged to the Liberal Democrats, since that was the agreement achieved immediately after the elections. On the other hand they did not exert sufficient efforts to find a candidate that would be acceptable at least to the majority if not to everyone.

    The public in Slovenia considered this to be more Drnovsek's than Skloc's defeat, convinced that Drnovsek as the chairman of the Party and ruling coalition did not succeed in providing an adequate candidate within the parties of the ruling coalition.

    Solo performance of the LDS and resignation of L. Peterle

    In the renewed nomination procedure, Jozef Skloc appeared as the only candidate of the Liberal Democrats, and only in the third attempt was he elected the number one man of the Slovenian Parliament with a close majority. Only a few hours later, the Christian Democrats called an extraordinary press conference and informed the journalists about the resignation of their chairman Lojze Peterle from the office of foreign minister and Vice-Premier. His statement regarding the resignation indicated that is was the result of Skolc election for Speaker. Peterle, much like Jansa, reproached Skloc for his communist past,an absurd accusation, since precisely Skloc as the president of the then youth organization, which initiated all the democratization processes, was together with his collegues among the most ardent opponents of the League of Communists.

    In an interview given to the journal "Republika" right after his election to the new post, Skloc pointed out that he did not feel responsible for Peterle's resignation. "Mr. Peterle had the opportunity to announce his resignation in advance. If he had done that, perhaps I would feel responsible, but since he did not, it would seem that the events that took place in Parliament were to his advantage. I expect that a solution will be found in the Christian Democratic Party for overriding these problems, " Skloc said.

    What will the Christian Democrats do?

    As of late more and more is heard of the possibility of the Christian Democrats leaving the ruling coalition.Namely it is still unknown whether Peterle's sudden decision was a solo act or only an announcement of the resignations of other ministers too, members of the Christian Democrats and thereby, an announcement of the withdrawing of this Party from the ruling coalition. Something the Christian Democrats will decide in the days to come.

    They have at their disposal the offer to join the so called "Slovenian Spring" parties, namely former Demos, in the so called rightist coalition with which they would jointly run for the local, i.e., communal elections. Up to now Peterle had no intention of going along with Jansa and other ultra nationalist, or even in some aspects, fascist parties.However, it is quite possible that in spite of Peterle's resignation his collegues would remain in the coalition. As always, everything is negotiable.

    When considering the possible options, two statements were given which should not be forgotten.One is Skolc's, in which he pointed to the possibility that Peterle was perhaps only looking for a reason to resign. He would certainly not have done it on his own, because he really enjoyed being minister of foreign affairs, since the man just loved travelling. At the time when Slovenia entered a stage of extremely sensitive relations with neighbouring Croatia and Italy, the Minister travelled for months on end, officially visiting numerous exotic countries, something he was indirectly, although publicly, reprimanded by Prime Minister Drnovsek himself.The second statement, which should be taken into consideration is precisely Drnovsek's reaction to Peterle's resignation. Namely, Drnovsek said that Peterle's decision will in no way distrub the normal functioning of the Government.

    Meaning, that with or without Peterle the show will go on. The only question now is who will take Peterle's place. Many see Dimitrije Rupel in that role. And finally, why not? And another thing. Why and under what conditions did Rupel withdraw his nomination for Speaker of Parliament? Most probably because something better was promised to him. It would not be surprising if that was precisely the post of foreign minister...

    We will just have to wait a few days and see what will happen.

    Tanja Hrovatin i Janja Klasinc,AIM