Bill redrawing electoral districts tabled

Ljubljana – Two coalition parties and the Pensioners’ Party (DeSUS) have tabled a bill that would redraw some electoral districts in line with a 2018 Constitutional Court decision, after a rival opposition-sponsored bill that would have abolished districts altogether failed to garner the required two-thirds majority in the National Assembly last week.

The wording of the bill, tabled by the ruling Democrats (SDS), six out of the eight deputies of the Modern Centre Party (SMC) and four out of the five deputies of DeSUS, the party which last week formally exited the coalition, includes a proposal drawn up by the Public Administration Ministry.

In a landmark ruling in December 2018, the Constitutional Court gave parliament two years to ensure compliance of electoral law with the Constitution after determining that some district sizes were so disproportionate that the equality of all voters was no longer guaranteed.

Two ways of tackling this issue quickly emerged: one where electoral districts would be abolished altogether in favour of electoral unit voting with preference votes, and a second where the boundaries of some electoral districts would be redrawn.

The first option was always seen as more difficult given that it required a two-thirds majority, whereas the second option requires a simple majority.

The SDS is in favour of the redrawing of electoral districts and together with DeSUS they successfully blocked last week’s attempt at the abolition of districts, the second after the first failed in March.

With the two failed attempts, it is expected that the coalition New Slovenia (NSi), which is in favour of the abolition of districts, could now back this bill as well.

Under the court’s decision, the new system ought to have been in place by today. In recent months President Borut Pahor, who initially spearheaded the effort to build a consensus around the legislative changes, has indicated any elections before the law is changed might be considered unconstitutional and illegitimate.

Under the latest proposal, electoral districts are changed in line with the court ruling so as to reduce the differences in size of districts in terms of the number of residents.

The geographical features as well as common cultural and other features of electoral districts should also be taken into account.

The proposal in no way changes the first three electoral units (Kranj, Postojna and Ljubljana-Centre), while in the remaining five units, 15 districts would change.

Slovenia has a total of eight electoral units with eleven districts each for a total of 88 districts, with one MP elected from each district. The remaining two MPs are representatives of the Italian and Hungarian minorities.

Under the current legislation, the ratio between the smallest electoral district (Hrastnik with 9,214 residents) and the largest (Grosuplje with 40,813 residents) is larger than four.

Under the proposed changes, Celje I would be the largest district with 36,150 residents and Ilirska Bistrica the smallest with 13,370 residents, for a ratio of 1:2.7.

This was also a topic at today’s meeting of Prime Minister Janša, President Pahor, parliamentary Speaker Igor Zorčič and National Council President Alojz Kovšca.

Speaking to the press, Pahor again pointed to the risk of non-implementation of the court decision, and called for changes to be passed in order to avoid the unconstitutionality of a possible early election.

Zorčič said that it was up to MPs to invest effort in passing the changes to the borders of electoral districts, assessing this would not be easy even though a smaller majority was required.

According to him, there is concern that some MPs are already calculating possible outcomes in the case of changes to electoral districts and that they would vote accordingly.

Janša, the president of the SDS, believes that a sufficient majority will soon be created in parliament for the bill to be passed. Adjusting the sizes of electoral districts is an elegant solution to fulfil the top court’s decision, he added.