National Assembly passes legislation redrawing electoral districts

Ljubljana – The National Assembly passed in a 45:28 vote on Tuesday legislation that redraws the boundaries of multiple electoral districts in compliance with a 2018 Constitutional Court decision.

The amendments on the act governing electoral district come after the Constitutional Court found that the differences in sizes of electoral districts had become so wide over the years the “one voter, one vote” system was effectively undermined.

It gave the National Assembly two years to change legislation, but stopped short of saying exactly how that should be done.

Two possible pathways emerged in talks sponsored by President Borut Pahor, the one passed today and a rival motion that would have abolished electoral districts altogether in favour of ranked-choice voting at the level of electoral units.

While the option endorsed today required just a regular majority, the second proposal would require a two-thirds majority and consecutive attempts by mostly smaller parties failed.

The confirmed option had originally been promoted by the SDS and DeSUS while the latter was still in the coalition. Eventually, the remaining coalition partners, the SMC and NSi, endorsed it as a a compromise.

Advocates of the abolition of districts had argued that ranked voting would give voters more say in who exactly gets elected since the current system gives individual parties significant clout.

But opponents argued it would favour candidates from more urban areas while disadvantaging smaller constituencies.

At present the difference in the number of voters between the smallest and largest district is 1:3.7; under the amendments, which change the size of 15 of Slovenia’s 88 districts, the maximum difference will be 1:2.7, according to SDS deputy Branko Grims.

The legislation was confirmed with the votes of the four parties that had backed the proposal. The opposition voted unanimously against or abstained, warning that the solution does not sufficiently address the Constitutional Court’s concerns.

Some also complained the solution, authored by the Public Administration Ministry, had not been checked with experts or the affected local communities, and that it was tailored to the SDS.

One opposition MP said the law would probably be tested by the Constitutional Court again.

Public Administration Minister Boštjan Koritnik said he was pleased with the solution “after two years of stagnation and failed attempts” and noted that the new borders had been drawn with maximum political support.

“Those who doubt the solution – I am not among them – may submit the bill to the Constitutional Court once again. I’m aware of that and am not afraid of it,” he said.

President Pahor, who had been warning for months about the dangers of Slovenia heading to the polls without the legislation being amended, said the amendments came as a relief and would make it “much easier to take decisions concerning elections”.

While he personally supported the abolition of districts, he said he believed the arguments of the authors that the changes comply with the demands of the Constitutional Court.

Nevertheless, he does not want the solution to preclude potential future attempts at changing electoral law with a view to giving voters more say about who gets elected.

Everyone grasped the importance of changing the law, which makes this “a success for all of politics, regardless of whether an individual party ultimately agrees with the changes or not,” said Pahor.

MPs also overwhelmingly endorsed amendments to the general election act that simplify the way the two MPs representing the Italian and Hungarian minorities are elected.

The current system of reverse ranked voting will be replaced by a first-past-the-post majoritarian system.