Top court strikes out petition to assess two left parties

Ljubljana – The Constitutional Court has struck out a petition to examine whether the Left and the Social Democrats (SD) may be functioning in contravention of the constitution and whether their programmes may be unconstitutional, deeming it to be totally without merit.

The petition was brought by Vili Kovačič, an activist best known for unsuccessfully bidding to defeat the government law on the Koper-Divača rail project in two referenda in 2017 and 2018, although his successful challenge of the first referendum result prompted the then Prime Minister Miro Cerar to resign shortly before the 2018 election.

Kovačič challenged the Left’s programme of 2017 for advocating transferring the ownership of companies to the state and local communities. He reproached the SD for being successors to “the criminal Communists’ League” and accused it of “glorifying totalitarianism”, asserting the party never distanced itself from the crimes of the former Communist regime.

The court held that based on the petitioner’s allegations of the two parties’ actions it was not possible to infer the parties failed to distance themselves from the ideology of the former totalitarian regime in a way that their alleged advocacy and actions would pose any threat to the values under article 63 of the constitution pertaining to respect for human dignity under article 1.

Article 63 sets down that “any incitement to national, racial, religious, or other discrimination, and the inflaming of national, racial, religious, or other hatred and intolerance are unconstitutional”, and that “any incitement to violence and war is unconstitutional”.

The court concluded that the two parties’ actions “clearly do not constitute constitutionally unacceptable mode of operation that would entail the use of force or threats”.

The court also held that any advocacy by the Left of a different socio-economic order, including an ideology based on social ownership of means of production and employee management, would not constitute unconstitutional conduct.

The court in addition dismissed Kovačič’s argument that the Left should be banned under the case law of the German Constitutional Court. The latter found that the National Democratic Party advocates a concept aimed at abolishing the existing free democratic basic order and replacing it with an authoritarian national rule and does not respect human dignity, which conditions the Slovenian court are not met in the case of the Left.

Potential use of symbols of the Communist system at the SD’s party events and potential expression of sympathy for persons from the former system would not constitute incitement to national, racial, religious or other inequality, nor incitement to national, racial, religious or other hatred, nor incitement to war and violence, the court said.

The court carried the decision by six votes to three; judges Klemen Jaklič, Rok Svetlič and Marko Šorli voted against with Jaklič and Svetlič giving their dissenting opinions.

The two opposition parties welcomed the decision suggesting the ruling coalition Democrats (SDS) were behind the constitutional petition.

Luka Mesec, the leader of the Left, said Kovačič was a “gentleman close to the SDS, which sought to attain the ban on the Left and the SD at the Constitutional Court”.

He called the case “abuse of law with the intention of excluding counter-candidates from the election race and political life in general”, asserting that the SDS was afraid it would lose power in the 24 April election.

SD leader Tanja Fajon said the court’s decision had been expected, describing the petition as “the ruling structure’s blatant hassling of its opponents, its political rivals”, and “a waste of the judiciary’s time”.

She said her party stood for progressive ideas and social fairness, expressing the hope that they would now be able “to truly focus in the coming weeks on the challenges ahead”, adding they should not “lose energy for low political blows” applied by those in power.

The parties had hoped the court would cast aside the petition before the election campaign, which starts tomorrow, in order to dispel any doubt as to the legitimacy of the election result.