The Slovenia Times

Florida in Slovenia



One of the greatest successes of Slovenian politics is the fact that it has not managed to establish an efficient and more importantly, rational model of local self-management in nearly three decades of Slovenian independence. In the times of the former socialist Yugoslavia, Slovenia had a total of 66 municipalities. To this day, many estimate that this was a good system of administration which enabled local interests to be realised efficiently. With the formation of an independent country, the appetites of local leaders increased. Municipalities started growing like no one's business and the state had no means of limiting their growth. In turn, governments all claimed that they would actively intervene in the system of local arrangements and that, in addition to the primary, municipal level, they would establish a secondary, regional level, which would divide Slovenia into regions, enabling a more rational administration. And this is where a quarrel started that Quentin Tarantino could easily make use of in one of his films. Slovenians cannot agree as to how far Styria reaches, where Carinthians live, whether Inner Carniolans belong to the Littoral region, who exactly the people from the Mura Region are and how White Carniola fits into this entire picture. As this clearly resembles the screenplay of a Tarantino film or, better yet, the Mission Impossible franchise, Slovenian politicians hastily dismiss the issue altogether.

And so, two million Slovenian residents still live in 212 different municipalities scattered across 6 to 14 regions - a consensus on the matter is yet to emerge. To illustrate the point, take a look at Hodoš, the smallest Slovenian municipality. It lies in the very north-eastern part of the country and has a total of 362 inhabitants, which is equivalent to the number of people that live in a tower block in Ljubljana. Hodoš has 265 qualified voters, of which 167 cast their ballots. With a total of 134 votes, the winner was Ludvik Orban, the only candidate. With a little bit of sarcasm, it could be claimed that cross-border influence from the neighbouring country can be sensed in Hodoš.

Jokes aside, to focus on the western part of the country, namely the city municipality of Koper. The latter is referred to as the Slovenian Florida and this is not just on account of its seafront location and pleasant climate, but also due to the similarly close outcome produced in the mayoral election. Just like the presidential election in Florida, in 2000, when George W Bush and Al Gore ran for president, every vote counted. The votes had to be counted six times and the notorious, longstanding mayor of Koper, Boris Popovič, collected a mere seven votes less than his challenger, which is why he then filed an appeal. At the time of writing, the decision has not yet been made public, but I believe that Koper can expect the tensions to go on for quite some time.

The fact that democracy is basically a huge hazard, or roulette, is proven by the small, health-resort municipality of Šmarješke Toplice na Dolenjskem, where the running candidates had the exact same number of votes - their fates will be determined by a draw. I am not sure whether the decision will be based on rolling a dice or some other method but, in any case, it will be an interesting new experience for the all-too-young Slovenian democracy. According to the latest data, both candidates have filed their appeals, so it is currently impossible to predict how the matter will be resolved.

This year's local elections brought a number of lessons that political parties, especially the established ones, should learn from. Ideology and big words about morals and ethics are 'out', and the winners were mostly personalities who are considered to be efficient and pragmatic in their local environments, regardless of any potential moral slips they have made. Thus, in Ljubljana, the election was won for the fifth time in a row by a mayor who spends considerable amounts of time in courtrooms, even though he has not yet been convicted res judicata. The city has blossomed under his leadership, which is something his rivals admit through gritted teeth. In Radenci, a mayor was elected who had spent several years in prison due to fraud. Among his sins is also the failure to pay child maintenance and he is currently personally bankrupt for owing several million euros. Among his creditors is also the municipality that he is about to head. Well, I understand that Slovenian democracy is still in the making, but it is hard to resist asking oneself whether the saying that voters are always right is really true?

Nevertheless, there is also a bright side to this year's local elections. The trend of declining voter turnout has finally come to an end. In Koper, the turnout was 10% higher than it was four years previously. A significant increase in the turnout of voters who made the effort to submit their votes was also recorded elsewhere. But experts say that local and national elections are not to be equated, so let's not yet make conclusions about a change to positive trend. For a more precise answer we will have to wait until mid-next year for the EU parliamentary election where, traditionally, Slovenia has one of the worst voter turnouts among all member states, barely reaching 20%.


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