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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

    FRI, 12 JAN 1996 19:20:12 GMT

    How Slovenia started off in 1966?

    TIME FOR POLLS AND SALES

    AIM Ljubljana, January 7, 1996

    The days just before the New Year's in Slovenia have become, traditionally, in the past ten years, the time for public opinion polls. Business results are summarized, all possible data are published, men and women of the year are chosen, and so are sportsmen of the year, politicians of the year. After that, in the first working days after the New Year's, comes something which brings joy to ordinary people and fear to politicians - the time for sales. Along with them, in the past few days, people have become concerned for the destiny of a well-known alpinist, conquerer of Mount Everest and most of the mountain tops in the world above eight thousand meters, Stane Belak-Srauf, who has disappeared somewhere above Mojstrana, together with his protegee Jasna Bratanic, alpinist from Celje. Two weeks have already passed since they have disappeared, so that the last trace of hope that they will be found is rapidly melting into thin air.

    Business results of the economy are more than good, judging by the data published by the state statistic office. Social product is by about 5 per cent higher that a year ago, industrial manufacturing has gone up by 4.8 per cent, inflation amounts to 8 per cent, retail prices have risen also by 8 per cent, the number of the unemployed is lower by almost 15 thousand which amounts to about 7 per cent of the active population, salaries are by about 5 per cent higher and they are approaching the wished for one thousand German marks (net), foreign currency reserves amount to 3.9 billion American dollars.

    That is why the fact that two top positions on the list of the men of the year are reserved for the President of the Republic Milan Kucan and Prime Minister Dr Janez Drnovsek should not come as a surprise. All the others on the list of twenty names are far below these two and the skier Jure Kosir.

    Apart from choosing the man of the year in Slovenia, public opinion polls sought the answer to the question who was the man of the year in the world. Unambiguously and by far superior in the poll was the American President Bill Clinton. Why? The Slovenes answered: because of the peace agreement in Dayton. Obviously, peace still ranks high among the values - in polls of the Sunday issue of Ljubljana daily Delo, 58 per cent of the pollees wish personal and family happiness the most, and social security ranks the second. Far below these two answers is the wish for wealth (only 7.9 per cent). About 51 per cent of the pollees think that last year was "just about average", while 36 per cent of them were completely satisfied, which means that 87 per cent of the pollees are not dissatisfied with life. There are 8.8 per cent of those who are dissatisfied, which is approximately comparable with the number of the unemployed and those with the lowest income in Slovenia.

    Among the pollees, 57 per cent wish for continued economic growth, and 55 per cent wish for peace and order. It is interesting that the percentage of those who believe that joining the European Union is something to be wished for is decreasing, with only one fifth of the pollees having chosen this answer from the list of wishes for this year.

    Since 1996 is an election year, the inevitable question was which political party the pollee would vote for at this moment. The Liberal Democratic Party of Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek won the largest number of answers, Kocijancic's Associated list of Social Democrats ranked the second, and Peterle's Christian Democrats, that is three coalition parties which at present have the majority in the parliament and the government. After results of this poll were published, demands of the opposition for early elections suddenly died down, because the relation of political forces remained the same as in the previous elections, and Peterle's flirtation with Jansa's Social Democrats and Podobnik's Nationalists was also interrupted. Drnovsek's statement must have contributed to this, since he said that he understood the natural need of the opposition to constantly criticize the Government and look for its weaknesses, but that he started to reconsider whether to keep in the Government coalition a party which behaved as an opposition party, although it held key repressive and economic portfolios in the Government.

    Drnovsek also rejected the demand of the opposition for early elections, first, because leaders of opposition parties had presented no argument or explanation which would justify such a proposal, and second, because early elections were a remedy for a crisis which did not exist, either in the economic or in the political sphere.

    The load that the Slovenes and Slovenia have carried from the old in to the new year obviously is not too bad. The trend of normalization of the system will continue, progress is slow but constant, with no unexpected ups and downs, which is an ideal for every macro-economist, and life is quite normal. But, since life consists of numerous small things, and this is an election year, "a war of everybody against everybody else" is expected to take place on the political scene. However, should there be no new scandals and should the European Union be kept at the same distance as now or if this distance is shortened, which depends on Rome as the guardian of EU from Slovenia, which would in fact be the safest from Rome in the EU, the coalition headed by the present Prime Minister will certain remain in power. But, another 300 days are left until the elections and each day carries its own secrets.

    ZORAN ODIC, AIM