Committee okays electoral bill implementing Constitutional Court ruling

Ljubljana – The parliamentary Home Affairs Committee endorsed on Thursday a bill redrawing electoral districts in line with a 2018 Constitutional Court decision. MPs of the coalition Democrats (SDS), New Slovenia (NSi), Modern Centre Party (SMC) and opposition Pensioners’ Party (DeSUS) have backed the proposal.

The MPs hailed the bill as a political compromise. Meanwhile, the MPs of the opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), Left, Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) and National Party (SNS) have voted against the proposal, warning that it would not remedy unconstitutionality.

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.

A couple of proposals emerged as a possible solution to this – a bill to abolish electoral districts and introduce a preference vote and a bill to redraw the boundaries of some electoral districts.

After two attempts to pass the former failed to get sufficient majority, the SDS, SMC and DeSUS MPs put forward the second bill.

The proposal would introduce changes in 15 electoral districts – Litija, Grosuplje, Ribnica, Ivančna Gorica, Žalec II, Novo mesto I, Trebnje, Sevnica, Litija, Trbovlje, Hrastnik, Slovenska Bistrica, Maribor I, Maribor III and Pesnica.

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 1:3.7, whereas the ratio would be changed to 1:2.7 if the bill is passed.

Speaking on behalf of the submitting parties, MP Branko Grims of the SDS said that the latter ratio would be in line with the court’s ruling.

However, the parliamentary legal service disagrees to a certain extent, noting that there has been a shortage of relevant analyses on allowable maximum ratio variations. The Venice Commission recommends that the gaps between district sizes should not go beyond 15%, the legal service pointed out.

This pertains to the majority voting system and not to the proportional representation system, which is present in Slovenia and allows for greater variations, replied Grims.

The NSi initially backed the first proposed solution, however since both attempts failed, the party now believes consensus on a different solution should be sought and could be reached through the second bill, said MP Andrej Černigoj of the NSi. The party is yet to decide on whether to support the bill to redraw the districts though.

The SMC has certain reservations about the bill but believes the proposal is a political compromise, said MP Gregor Perič, adding that the worst option would be not to pass anything.

MP Robert Polnar said that DeSUS deemed the proposal’s ratio between electoral district sizes acceptable.

Meanwhile, the opposition is critical of the bill with Rudi Medved of the LMŠ describing it as not expert-based but tailored to the needs of the ruling SDS.

The Left agreed, whereas the SDS rejected this criticism.

The SAB and SNS meanwhile pointed out that the first solution, which would introduce a preference vote, would be a change for the better.

The committee also okayed today an amendment to the parliament election act that would simplify the electoral system in the case of minority MPs. The bill, proposed by minority MPs, would replace the borda count by the single-round majority voting system.