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Semi-Presidentialism in Europe$

Robert Elgie

Print publication date: 1999

Print ISBN-13: 9780198293866

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198293860.001.0001

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Slovenia

Slovenia

Chapter:
(p.232) 12 Slovenia
Source:
Semi-Presidentialism in Europe
Author(s):

Miro Cerar

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/0198293860.003.0012

Abstract and Keywords

In Slovenia the power of the state is divided along classical lines into a legislature, an executive and a judiciary: legislative power is exercised by the parliament, comprising a National Assembly, which is the general representative house, and a National Council, which is a body representing various interests and has very limited powers; executive power is divided between the president and the government; judicial power is exercised by the ordinary courts and the Constitutional Court, which rules on the conformity of legal enactments with the constitution and the law and decides constitutional complaints and certain other matters. It is generally accepted that Slovenia has a parliamentary system in which the focus of political decision–making lies with the parliament and the government. As in most other Central and East European countries in transition, in Slovenia the formal powers of parliament remain very strong, but, unlike the pure parliamentarism that certain countries opted for, the Slovene arrangements belong more to a group that could be characterized as parliamentarism with a directly (popularly) elected (or semi‐presidential) president. The role of the president is relatively small, and is to act as the head of state, whose function or powers are mainly of a representative, initiative, and protocol nature. After an introduction discussing whether Slovenia has a parliamentary or semi‐presidential system, this chapter focuses on the actual nature and features of the position and role of the president in the context of the constitutional and political system of the Republic of Slovenia, in six further sections: National Independence and Establishment of the First President of the Republic, Parliament and Government; Historical Factors and the Events Surrounding the Formation of the Regime; The Constitutional Powers of the President, Prime Minister, and Parliament; The Nature of the Parliamentary Majority and the Relationship Between the President and the Majority; and Conclusion.

Keywords:   Constitution, Constitutional Powers, executive, government, judiciary, legislature, parliament, Parliamentary Majority, parliamentary system, political system, president, semi‐presidentialism, Slovenia

Does Slovenia Have a Parliamentary or a Semi‐Presidential System?

In Slovenia the power of the state is divided along classical lines into a legislature, an executive, and a judiciary.1 Legislative power is exercised by the parliament, comprising a National Assembly, which is the general representative house, and a National Council, which is a body representing various interests and has very limited powers.2 Executive power is divided between the president and the government. Judicial power is exercised by the ordinary courts and the Constitutional Court, which rules on the conformity of legal enactments with the constitution and the law and decides constitutional complaints and certain other matters.3

In Slovenia it is generally accepted, both in professional and political circles as well as among the general public, that Slovenia has a parliamentary system in which the focus of political decision‐making lies with the parliament and the government. As in other Central and East European countries in transition (with certain exceptions, notably Russia), in Slovenia the formal powers of parliament remain very strong, for the legislators proved to be more reluctant to curb their own powers vis‐à‐vis the powers of the executive branch (Zielonka 1994: 90). But, unlike the pure parliamentarism which certain countries opted for (Albania, Belarus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, and Slovakia), the Slovene arrangements belong more to a group which could be characterized as ‘parliamentarism with a directly elected president’ (ibid.), also including countries such as Bulgaria, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Ukraine, although the role of the directly elected president in Slovenia is relatively small. This applies mainly to the president's de jure powers because, as in Bulgaria for example, his power in practice may be greater than it appears on paper (Bugarič 1997: 138).

In Slovenia the president of the republic is the head of state, whose (p.233) function or powers are mainly of a representative, initiative, and protocol nature. Yet because it has a popularly elected fixed‐term president, Slovenia can be classified as a semi‐presidential regime following the definition in Chapter 1, although this is obviously only a formal definition. And, as Elgie himself points out in Chapter 1, various definitions of semi‐presidentialism exist, none of which alone can accurately reflect the characteristics of an individual regime. Hence, in the rest of this chapter I will focus less on questions of appropriate classification—although I will give this some attention—than on the actual nature and features of the position and role of the president in the context of the constitutional and political system of the Republic of Slovenia.

National Independence and the Establishment of the First President of the Republic, Parliament, and Government

Slovenia only became an independent state in 19914 and in the same year adopted a new constitution which laid the foundations for an entirely new political system and a remodelling of the state institutions. Therefore, the working of the new institutions of power, such as the president, the government, and the National Assembly, can only be judged over a relatively brief period of time—the first government was formed with the adoption of the constitution, while the first National Assembly and president of the republic were not elected until December 1992. Previously, an entirely different system had applied in Slovenia, based on the assembly system of power and the political monopoly of the Communist Party. Legislative power in Slovenia then fell within the jurisdiction of an assembly, and executive power was in the hands of an executive council and the collective presidency of the Slovene Federal Republic. In practice, though, all branches of power were essentially guided by Communist Party policy (although it must be said that one‐party dictatorship in the latter decades of socialist Yugoslavia and in Slovenia was considerably more benign than in other East European communist countries). Moreover, in the most important matters the Slovene authorities were subordinate to the federal Yugoslav authorities (the federal assembly, the federal executive council, the president, and later the presidency of Yugoslavia).

Slovenia is now in the initial period of establishing its new (p.234) institutional structure, and so the legal framework and the rules of the political game which are now taking shape between the president, the parliament, and the government will probably be quite decisive in determining the future workings of and relationships between these actors. The five‐year term of office of the first president of the Republic of Slovenia expired in December 1997, the National Assembly was elected for a second time at the end of 1996, and so far there have been three governments. As far as the president is concerned, his constitutional powers under normal circumstances have indeed proved to be relatively weak and are primarily, but not exclusively, of a representative and protocol nature. But at the same time the incumbent president, Milan Kučan, has succeeded over the past five years on an informal level in preserving and expanding his political influence (in areas such as political life, economics, and the media), as well as his relatively high level of popularity among the Slovene public. One of the factors that has contributed to this situation is that because of his weak constitutional powers the president does not bear any direct responsibility for most of the more important political decisions and, hence, there is that much less opportunity to criticize his actions. The electorate's critical attitude towards the political institutions, which is generally very strong during times of transition, for specific and objective reasons, is mainly targeted at the government and the parliament, and especially at the political parties.

An international comparison of trust in institutions carried out in 1995 revealed that the citizens of Central and East European countries have, in general, a significantly lower level of trust in their institutions than the populations of West European countries (quoted by Toš 1996: 649–50). And this is especially true of trust in the political institutions. Nevertheless, in Slovenia trust in the government, parliament, and the president is, on average, markedly higher than in the other countries in this group,5 although there was a steady decline in trust in the political institutions in Slovenia from 1991 to 1996. This negative trend is particularly strong with regard to the political parties, and also the National Assembly and the government, but less so as far as the president is concerned.6 Despite a fall in trust in the president of the republic over the past six years, he still commands the highest level of trust among all the political and state institutions.

The National Assembly is clearly the strongest political player in Slovenia, something which proceeds directly from its constitutional position and powers, and is probably also a reflection of the genuine enthusiasm for the new parliamentary democracy, in which the representative (p.235) body of the people was supposed to be the most important regulatory force (Zajc 1997: 14). As will become clear, there is also an element here of a hangover from the previous assembly system. It could even be said that Slovenia's current parliamentary model presupposes a weak government and in the delimitation of policy‐making powers this tends to favour the National Assembly, which attempts to be the supreme regulator of the state in an operational sense as well (ibid. 13–14 and 22–3). As solid as this argument may be, there is nevertheless also a tendency in Slovenia towards a strengthening of the executive branch of power at the expense of the legislature, which in individual matters the government is able to achieve primarily with the support of its coalition in parliament. Additionally, the National Assembly may pass a vote of no confidence in the prime minister—a mechanism which the Slovene constitution adopted from the German constitutional arrangements—but only if it simultaneously elects a new prime minister by absolute majority. In general, this mechanism of constructive vote of no confidence prevents a government crisis as such and helps to reinforce the position of the government.

In this initial phase of the establishing of democracy, i.e. since 1992, there have been no extraordinary circumstances or situations in Slovenia which would permit and require the use of the extraordinary powers of the president (such as the issuing of decrees with the binding force and effect of statute), or which would require the replacement of any of the holders of senior political office (the president of the republic, the president of the National Assembly, or the prime minister). But in the circumstances that followed the parliamentary elections in November 1996 when there was a stalemate in the 90‐member National Assembly (the deputies were split 45 : 45 over the forming of a government coalition) and it was not possible to form a government for several months, the role of the president was highlighted as he had the power to propose the first candidate for prime minister. And the president's chosen candidate was elected to office by the National Assembly at the second attempt.7 But as we will see, this is the only real ‘power’ of the president as regards the forming of a new government.

The president has no significant formal role in the legislative process or the policy‐making process, all of which is within the jurisdiction of the National Assembly and the government. For the time being this ‘limited’ role of the president is not causing any concern among the general public or among experts, demonstrating that in this respect the constitutional concept has so far proven to be a generally acceptable solution. Yet at the same time, because of its weak political powers the (p.236) office of president has become, to a certain extent, less interesting to the political parties, which direct most of their energy at elections into obtaining seats in parliament and potentially in government. But, of course, no serious political party in Slovenia renounces in advance its aspirations to occupy the position of president, because his informal influence can be great.

Historical Factors and the Events Surrounding the Formation of the Regime

Historical Factors and Influences on the Birth and Development of the Republic

Throughout its history Slovenia was never an independent political state before 1991. Nevertheless, as a part of wider state entities it did develop its own representative institutions. The various ups and downs notwithstanding, it is fair to say that by the beginning of the twentieth century Slovenia already enjoyed a rich tradition of representative systems and democratic experience, and that fluctuations in its political development matched the general progress of representative systems elsewhere in Europe (Vilfan 1995: 22).

Slovenia's first state president was elected in 1992. In the time when Slovenia was a province under the Austro‐Hungarian Crown (until the end of the First World War), during the Slovenes' subsequent incorporation in the State of Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs and later the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (both in 1918), and then during communist Yugoslavia after the Second World War, there was no opportunity to establish the institution of a head of a sovereign (i.e. independent) Slovene state. Throughout this period Slovenia was mainly governed from distant centres of power, where although it had representatives it had no real opportunity to exert any decisive political influence.

In a sense the origin of the head of a Slovene state dates back to the collective executive committee of the Liberation Front, founded in 1941 as the executive arm of the Slovene National Liberation Committee, which was the organization set up to lead the struggle against the German and Italian occupiers (see Ribičič 1996a: 137). In communist Yugoslavia, of which Slovenia became a federal unit after the Second World War, Slovenia acquired its first ‘head of state’, the presidium of the people's assembly of Slovenia, which, along the lines of the Soviet model, was not merely a collective ‘head of state’ but also acted as the (p.237) leader of the people's assembly, and in periods between sessions of the assembly was the body responsible for supervising the work of the government. Naturally, all these Slovene organs of power were subordinated to the federal Yugoslav organs. The presidium comprised a president, one or two deputy presidents, and no more than twenty other members.

In 1957 the presidium was abolished in Slovenia, but it was not replaced with an individual ‘head of state’ as happened at the federal level. After 1963 the role of the head of the Slovene federal unit was gradually taken over by the presidency of the assembly of the Republic of Slovenia, established in accordance with the standing orders of the assembly. But it was not until 1974 that Slovenia acquired a ‘head of state’, in the form of the collective presidency of the Socialist Republic of Slovenia, which represented the Slovene republic (then still a federal unit of socialist Yugoslavia) and had significant powers in the areas of defence and international relations as well as certain other important political issues.

Gradual constitutional development led in 1989 to the abolition of automatic membership of the presidency of the republic (previously, two seats were reserved in this eight‐member presidency for senior Party officials) and the number of members was reduced to four plus the so‐called president of the presidency; furthermore, direct elections were introduced for the president and members of the presidency (ibid. 138–40). Direct elections to the presidency came about chiefly due to the strong public pressure and the efforts of the civil society, within which numerous intellectuals and other opponents had already formed a fairly strong political opposition to the ruling Communist Party by the end of the 1980s.

The transition to the current system with an individual president acting as head of state was part of the process of gaining independence and the associated democratization of Slovenia. This marked a radical break with the previous system, in which the ‘head of state’ was a collective body having a fundamentally different function. Moreover, up until 1989 the collective presidency had no democratic legitimacy. The most important difference is obviously that the current president of the republic is the head of an independent and internationally recognized state, while the previous Slovene presidencies and other ‘state’ organs were subordinated to the federal Yugoslav authorities, and of course in a political sense to the Communist Party.

And clearly this transition to a political system with a president of the republic did not mark a direct break with the monarchist tradition of (p.238) which the country was once part (under Austria and then Yugoslavia). This had come much earlier, at the time when the first Yugoslav republic was formed after the First World War.

The Constitutional Debate—A Semi‐Presidential or a Parliamentary System?

In the constitutional debates a basic dilemma facing all the Central and East European countries in transition from communism to Western‐type democracy was the choice between a parliamentary and a semi‐presidential model of state power (see Marko 1991: 45–50; Trócsányi 1995: 19–21; Kaučič, 1992: 737). In Slovenia, too, this question was a feature of the initial phase of the debate on the new constitution. The working draft of the constitution, drawn up by a group of experts working under a constitutional commission, offered two alternatives for political debate. Under a semi‐presidential model, the popularly elected president of the republic was to have, among his powers, a decisive influence on the formation of the government, since he would appoint the prime minister and, at the prime minister's proposal, the other ministers. Under the parliamentary model, the prime minister was to be elected by the National Assembly, while the president would have only a limited representative and protocol role (see Jambrek 1992: 316–24). Even in this initial phase of the constitutional debate a consensus was soon reached on the greater suitability for Slovenia of the parliamentary model,8 which was substantiated primarily by the danger that during the transition, and subsequently, an individual holding the office of a strong president could be too strong a counterweight to the other organs of state or even prevail over them. Particularly from the point of view of supervising the government, the parliamentary system was judged more democratic than a (semi‐)presidential system (Krivic 1990: 1186), although this was a contemporary view that, even in theory, is generally open to dispute. Nevertheless, certain characteristics of a semi‐presidential regime as defined in Chapter 1 were built into Slovenia's constitutional system.

The Direct Election of the President and the First Presidential Term

In the constitutional debate the position prevailed that the president of the republic should be directly elected. This somewhat contradictory solution (a popularly elected president with weak powers), which Elster, for instance, even claims ‘goes against the grain of constitutional thinking’ (p.239) (1993: 197), was chiefly a result of public pressure. In the initial phase of the transition, i.e. in the late 1980s and at the start of the 1990s, there was a clearly expressed desire among the public to elect the president of the republic by direct ballot.9 But at the time the voters probably expected that a popularly elected president would have a stronger political influence and a more relevant role. It was only in subsequent years that the public became aware of the actual constitutional position of the president. At the beginning of the transition people were generally poorly informed as to the powers of the then still collective presidency, and of the powers of the assembly and its executive council. Even when the first election was held for the president of the republic under the new constitution, the majority of voters were not fully aware of the constitutionally defined powers of the president. This relatively widespread ignorance of the function of the various institutions at the time was mostly a result of the complicated formal structure of authority under the previous communist regime, when there had been a significant degree of public apathy towards politics in general, and the failure to provide organized and intensive public information on the new constitutional institutions through the media.

At the time when the new constitution was being drawn up, it is fair to say that the institution of president of the republic was, to a great extent, adapted to suit the then president of the presidency and now president of the Republic of Slovenia, Milan Kučan, who had previously been the leader of the League of Communists of Slovenia for several years. For his highly successful reformist leadership of the League of Communists in the 1980s, Kučan won enormous respect among the people of Slovenia, particularly during the time when the Slovene League of Communists was fighting against the centralist and hegemonic tendencies of the pro‐Serbian Yugoslav League of Communists. Kučan's popularity meant that the parliamentary parties, most of which were against his election as president of the republic (either because of his communist past or for reasons stemming from various rivalries),10 were fully aware that he would indeed win a direct ballot. But in the face of undeniable public support for direct presidential elections, the parliamentary parties were unable to get their proposal for parliament to elect the president into the constitution. Had they been able to do so then Kučan would almost certainly not have been elected. Given this situation, the parliamentary parties sought to reduce the influence of ‘president‐to‐be’ Kučan by opting for relatively minor presidential powers. Predictions that Kučan would win proved to be wholly accurate. At the election in December 1992 he won a large majority of the votes (p.240) (63.8 per cent) at the first round, beating the other seven candidates who had been put forward by the leading political parties, and thus becoming the first president of Slovenia. In 1997 he was re‐elected winning 55.54 per cent of the vote at the first ballot.11 In 1992 Kučan's election was also partly due to his fairly moderate political stance and modest public manner, since the Slovene public generally are quite dismissive and distrustful of charismatic leaders (Markič 1992: 752; Tomc 1993: 152), especially if they represent an extreme political line. This was another reason why in the constitutional debate a consensus was quickly achieved in favour of establishing a parliamentary system and rejecting the kind of semi‐presidential system which certain experts would have fashioned along the lines of the French model. This moderate mentality prevailing among the citizens of Slovenia also clearly distinguishes this country from some of the other former Yugoslav republics, such as Serbia and Croatia, where ‘heroic’ leaders were retained or subsequently emerged (Markič 1992: 752).

The office of president is thus not encumbered with important political powers and consequently the president's representative role is strengthened. In addition to carrying out obligations of state protocol, initiative, and representation, the president also attends numerous events at the micro level and in so doing establishes an identification between the people and the state (Lukšič 1993: 23). And this function of the president is very important in terms of consolidating the stability of the political system; through ‘minor politics the president ensures the conditions for major politics’, while not having any great decision‐making powers when it comes to major politics (ibid.).

Elements of the Assembly System

One of the major factors influencing the new constitutional set‐up governing the president and the other branches of power was the legacy of the previous system. Over a period of decades in communist Yugoslavia an assembly system had been established. This was a system of unity of powers in which the position of the executive was essentially more subordinated to the assembly, as the supreme political and legislative organ, than is characteristic in a parliamentary or (semi‐)presidential system. An example of the legacy of the assembly mentality is the fact that under the constitution ministers are appointed and dismissed by the National Assembly at the proposal of the prime minister, which is very different from the approach taken in almost all other parliamentary systems. Also, particular elements of the assembly system are present in (p.241) some of the laws and in the provisions of the National Assembly's standing orders, which tend to place the government in a position that is highly subordinate in formal terms to the National Assembly (Grad 1995: 461 and 466–7).

In the past this assemblyism had gradually become ingrained in the mentality of the Slovenes, and still today is evident in a distinct mistrust of individuals bearing strong political authority. Not only does the president have weak powers and, as mentioned, the prime minister is restricted in his selection of ministers, but the president of the National Assembly also has relatively small powers as far as the running of the National Assembly is concerned. In Slovenia there is a strong desire for important political matters to be decided collectively. Even if they do have a certain charisma, individuals can only establish themselves as strong leaders within a particular political party, with the support of its members and followers. And at the level of state institutions this charisma is lost, which forces the most visible state officials to act with moderation and caution in public. We can presume that this, too, is a reflection of the collectivist political nature of the Slovenes, which can only be fundamentally changed by exceptional or crisis situations.

These, then, are some of the basic assumptions on which the current position and role of the Slovene president are founded, assumptions which reflect historical development and the events that directly influenced the formation of the new constitutional system in Slovenia. Only the future development of the president of the republic as a constitutional institution will reveal whether the semi‐presidential elements will gradually lead to strong presidencies—within the framework of the system as it exists, of course—or whether the role of the president will remain largely symbolic and marginal compared to that of the parliament and the government.

The Constitutional Powers of the President, Prime Minister, and Parliament

The basic function of the president is to represent the Republic of Slovenia and to act as the supreme commander of the defence forces, as well as to carry out certain other tasks (mainly of a protocol nature) which the president performs in accordance with the constitution.

The office of president is incompatible with any other public office or employment. Since, under the constitution, Slovenia does not have a vice‐president, in the event of the president being permanently (p.242) incapacitated, or in the event of his death, resignation, or termination of office for any other reason, the duties of the president of the republic are taken over by the president of the National Assembly until the election of a new president of the republic. In this case the vote to elect a new president must be called within 15 days of the termination of office of the former president. The constitution does not determine who stands in for the president of the republic if the president of the National Assembly is unable to do so.

In Slovenia the parliament has less of an influence on the position of the president than is typical in most other parliamentary systems, while the president has comparatively little opportunity to influence the position and workings of parliament (Grad 1995: 464). Moreover, the role of the president in the formation of the government is significantly less important in the Slovene system than in most other parliamentary systems (ibid. 462).

The Election of the President of the Republic

The president is elected at a direct, general election conducted by secret ballot. This popular election gives the president an important integrative role in the country (Rupnik, Cijan, and Grafenauer 1994: 193). A presidential election is called by the president of the National Assembly. Presidential candidates may be proposed by any of the following: (1) a group of at least ten deputies of the National Assembly; (2) a political party backed by the signatures of at least three deputies or 3,000 voters; (3) at least 5,000 voters. Each deputy or voter may only give their signature in support of a candidacy once. The law provides that no one may simultaneously stand as candidate for president and for member of the National Assembly or National Council.

The candidate with a majority of valid votes cast is elected president. The president is elected for a term of five years and may serve no more than two consecutive terms. Only Slovene citizens may be elected president. Unlike most other systems, the constitution sets no special age restrictions on presidential candidates. Under constitutional and legal rules therefore in Slovenia each citizen who has attained the age of 18 years and whose legal capacity has not been withdrawn is eligible to vote for and to stand for election as president.12

The Powers of the President in the Procedure to Elect the Government

In Slovenia, along the lines of the German model, after parliamentary elections have been held the president proposes to the National (p.243) Assembly a candidate for prime minister, but unlike the German system the president plays no role in the appointment of ministers. Before proposing a candidate for prime minister, the president must hold consultations with the leaders of the parliamentary groups, but is not bound by their opinions and proposals. If the prime ministerial candidate does not obtain the required support in the National Assembly, which is an absolute majority of the votes, the president may propose another candidate, or the same candidate again, within 14 days and after holding renewed consultations. However, in this ‘second round’ candidates may also be proposed by the parliamentary groups themselves or any group of at least ten deputies. If several candidates are proposed within the 14‐day period, each is voted on separately, with the candidate proposed by the president being voted on first and then, if that candidate is not elected, the other candidates are voted on in the order in which they were proposed.

If no candidate is elected the president must dissolve the National Assembly and call fresh parliamentary elections unless within 48 hours the National Assembly resolves to conduct a further vote for the office of prime minister, when an ordinary majority of the votes will suffice (in this case a minority government may be formed). At this ballot a vote is held in respect of the individual candidates in the order of the number of votes they received in previous ballots, and then new candidates are put to the vote, with any candidate put forward by the president again having precedence. If no candidate manages to secure the required majority of votes at this ballot the president dissolves the National Assembly and calls new elections.

Besides this case, the constitution envisages only one other circumstance in which the National Assembly may be dissolved, which is when the government fails to carry a vote of confidence. The prime minister may require a vote by the National Assembly on a motion of confidence in the government. If this vote of confidence is not carried by a majority of all elected deputies, the National Assembly must, within 30 days, either elect a new prime minister or express its confidence in the incumbent prime minister in a fresh vote, otherwise the president dissolves the National Assembly and calls new elections. The constitution envisages no other possibility for a dissolution of the National Assembly, which means that constitutionally the National Assembly is unable to dissolve itself. The president may not make an independent decision on whether or not to dissolve the National Assembly but must do so in both cases outlined above.

After the National Assembly and the government have been formed following elections the president maintains a certain cooperation with (p.244) them, but no longer has any powers that would enable him to intervene directly in their operations. The only exception is the situation where the National Assembly is unable to convene owing to a state of emergency or war. In such exceptional circumstances the president may, at the proposal of the government, issue decrees with the force of statute.

The Powers of the President in a State of Emergency or War

The National Assembly decides on the declaration of a state of emergency or a state of war, and on urgent measures in such situations, at the proposal of the government. The National Assembly also decides on the use of the defence forces. If, however, the National Assembly is unable to convene, the president is empowered by the constitution to proclaim a state of emergency or a state of war at the proposal of the government, and to decree the introduction of urgent measures and the use of the armed forces. In a state of emergency or war, the president may, at the proposal of the government, issue decrees relating to defence with the binding force of statute, decide on the use of the Slovene army, on the introduction of work and material duties, and on a general mobilization during a state of emergency. The president must submit any such decision to the National Assembly for confirmation as soon as it is able to convene.

By issuing decrees with the binding force of law in a state of emergency the president may also, as an exception, restrict certain human rights and fundamental freedoms, except for some of these rights which protect the most important human values.13 However, extraordinary measures based on such decrees may not cause inequality based only on certain personal characteristics of an individual. From this it is clear that a presidential decree with the force of statute may have not only statutory power but also constitutional power, since it may temporarily restrict or cancel certain constitutionally determined basic rights.

While the president must submit a decree with the force of statute to the National Assembly for confirmation as soon as it convenes, the constitution does not determine what happens in the case where the National Assembly does not confirm a presidential decree of this nature. In such a case, not only does the decree cease to be valid but some writers claim that if the decree is not ratified the president may be charged by the National Assembly before the Constitutional Court with a violation of the constitution (see Kaučič 1995: 267). The right of the president to issue decrees with the force of statute is therefore only an (p.245) extraordinary and temporary power which cannot be taken to permit autocratic or arbitrary behaviour of any sort.

The Role of the President in the Legislative Process and the Opportunity for the President to Influence the Work of the National Assembly

In the legislative process the president's only power is to promulgate laws. The president has no formal right of statutory initiative, nor does he have the possibility to directly participate in the legislative procedure. He is not able to submit a veto in respect of laws or any other enactments and may not demand a legislative referendum. The only influence the president may have on the legislative process and other parliamentary procedures is through his opinions and suggestions, which are not binding on the National Assembly (see Ribarič 1996: 80–1). Additionally, the president may demand that an extraordinary session of the National Assembly be called, which gives him the opportunity to put his opinions and suggestions directly to parliament.14

The president must promulgate a law within eight days of its enactment. In Slovene constitutional theory he cannot refuse to do so because the promulgation of laws is a constitutional duty of the president. If the president were to refuse to promulgate a law, theorists have proposed that this duty of his should be taken over by the president of the National Assembly, who signs laws in any case, and who stands in for the president when he is unable to carry out his official duties (Kaučič 1995: 264).

Unlike certain other parliamentary systems, the Slovene constitution does not permit the president to issue acts for the implementation of laws (such as decrees), let alone acts having the nature or force of a law, other than, as explained earlier, in the exceptional circumstances of a state of war or a state of emergency, and then only at the proposal of the government.

The standing orders of the National Assembly contain provisions ensuring that the president is kept informed of everything happening in the National Assembly (he is notified of sessions taking place and of the receipt of material relating to matters on the Assembly's order of business). If the president conveys his opinion on a particular matter to the National Assembly without being requested to do so, the president of the National Assembly must forward that opinion to all deputies and to the relevant working body, but the opinion does not bind any of the deputies to anything. The president also has the right to explain his (p.246) opinions and positions on specific matters directly at a session of the National Assembly. And under the constitution the National Assembly may require the president to express an opinion on a particular matter. In practice such formal communication between the president and the National Assembly has been minimal. The president has so far not exercised the right to give a presentation of his opinion in person to the National Assembly, while the National Assembly has only twice called upon the president to provide an opinion (see Ribarič 1996: 81).

Charges Against the President, the Prime Minister, or Ministers Before the Constitutional Court

Like the prime minister and the ministers, the president does not enjoy immunity and so may be criminally liable for his actions under generally valid regulations. In addition, the constitution separately regulates the so‐called ‘impeachment’ of the president. If, in the course of carrying out his duties of office, the president acts in a manner contrary to the constitution or commits a serious breach of the law, he may be charged before the Constitutional Court upon the proposal of the National Assembly. The Constitutional Court either upholds the charge or acquits the accused president. With a two‐thirds majority of the votes of all nine judges, the Constitutional Court may also decide to dismiss the president from office. After the Constitutional Court has received a resolution from the National Assembly on an impeachment of the president, it may decide that the president must temporarily cease to hold office until it rules on the charge.

Impeachment hearings against the president are held in public and the president himself is invited. If the president resigns during the proceedings or if his term of office ends, the Constitutional Court terminates the proceedings. However, even in this situation the Constitutional Court must continue the proceedings if specifically requested to do so by the National Assembly or by the president himself.

The National Assembly may also bring charges against the prime minister or other ministers before the Constitutional Court if it believes that they have violated the constitution or broken the law in the course of carrying out their duties of office. The Constitutional Court deals with a charge of this nature in the same way as it does an impeachment of the president. If a proposal is submitted to charge the prime minister, the president must, at the request of the National Assembly, give his opinion on it, and the prime minister must give an opinion on a proposal to charge any individual minister.

(p.247) Parliamentary Inquiry into the Actions of the President and Other Holders of Public Office

As far as the accountability of the president is concerned, and also that of the prime minister and other ministers, it should be added that in accordance with the constitution and the law, they, like every other holder of political office (such as deputies of the National Assembly or members of the National Council), may be subject to a parliamentary inquiry to determine their political responsibility. A parliamentary inquiry is held in respect of matters which do not involve a direct violation of the constitution or the law, and hence they do not fall within the jurisdiction of the ordinary courts or within the framework of an impeachment, but do involve actions on the part of public officials which are inappropriate and damaging, politically or otherwise (Ribarič 1995: 277–85).

Other Powers of the President

The president is also responsible for numerous other matters which do not have any major direct political impact. Other duties of the president are:

  1. to call elections to the National Assembly and to call the first session of a new National Assembly;

  2. to accredit and revoke the accreditation of Slovene ambassadors and envoys and to accept the credentials of foreign diplomatic representatives;

  3. to publish ratification documents;

  4. to grant pardons;

  5. to confer decorations and honorary titles;

  6. in the procedure to ratify an international treaty, to propose to the Constitutional Court that it express an opinion on the treaty's conformity with the constitution;

  7. to propose to the National Assembly the election of Constitutional Court judges and five (of the 11) members of the Judicial Council;

  8. to appoint public officials where so determined by law (currently the relevant laws provide that the president only proposes to the National Assembly the appointment of the Human Rights Ombudsman, nine members of the Court of Auditors, and six members of the Bank of Slovenia Council plus its governor).

It should be noted that the constitution does not prescribe the countersignature of the prime minister or individual ministers to acts passed (p.248) by the president, which reflects the constitutionally restricted powers of the president (Kaučič 1995: 272). So far this has not caused any problems in practice or any theoretical reconsideration, although the idea of countersignature in principle would not be incompatible with the general concept of the Slovene constitution (Ribarič 1997: 47).

The Relationship Between the National Assembly and the Government

The relationship between the National Assembly and the government is one that is basically quite typical of a parliamentary system, although there are certain exceptions which call to mind the assembly system. The National Assembly elects the prime minister and appoints the ministers, and also directs the work of the government, primarily through legislation. The constitution stipulates that the government is independent and the individual ministers are independent within the scope of their particular portfolios, and that the government and ministers are accountable to the National Assembly. The prime minister is responsible for the unity, direction, and administrative programme of the government and for coordinating the work of the various ministers. The ministers are collectively responsible for the work of the government and each minister is separately responsible for the work of his own ministry.

As the organ of executive power and the highest body of state administration, the government determines, directs, and coordinates national policy in accordance with the constitution, the laws, and other general acts of the National Assembly. To this end the government issues various executive regulations and other acts, and adopts political, economic, financial, and other measures which are important for the country's development. The government proposes to the National Assembly the adoption of laws, the national budget, national programmes, and other general acts which lay down the principles of long‐term policy in individual areas. In carrying out its functions, the government is independent, but obviously within the constitutional and statutory framework and within the scope of the national budget, and the policy principles and long‐term orientations of the National Assembly. On matters concerning the directing of national policy, the implementation of laws and other regulations passed by the National Assembly, and the overall administrative functioning of the state, the government is accountable to the National Assembly.

The primary powers of the National Assembly are: (p.249)

  1. to enact and proclaim amendments to the constitution;

  2. to adopt laws, the national budget, and the final account of the national budget;

  3. to ratify international treaties;

  4. to adopt its own standing orders;

  5. to adopt national programmes, declarations, resolutions, recommendations, positions, and decisions;

  6. to commission a parliamentary inquiry;

  7. to call a referendum (constitutional, legislative, or consultative);

  8. to vote on a motion of confidence or no confidence in the government;

  9. to decide on the lodging of impeachment charges against the president, the prime minister, or any other minister before the Constitutional Court;

  10. to decide on the immunity of deputies, judges, and Constitutional Court judges;

  11. to decide on the declaration of a state of war or a state of emergency;

  12. to decide on the use of the defence forces.

In addition, the National Assembly has the power to elect, appoint, and dismiss the prime minister, other ministers, the president and deputy president of the National Assembly and other officials in the National Assembly, members of permanent delegations of the National Assembly to international organizations, judges, Constitutional Court judges, five members of the Judicial Council, the governor of the central bank, the members of the Court of Auditors, and other holders of public office as determined by statute.

The National Assembly is able to supervise the work of the government and establish its responsibility chiefly through its working bodies, parliamentary questions, interpellations (where after a parliamentary question and debate the deputies may require a vote on a motion of no confidence in the government or an individual minister), a constructive vote of no confidence, or by lodging impeachment charges against the prime minister or an individual minister before the Constitutional Court. The government, for its part, is able to influence the work of the National Assembly primarily through its position as a proposer of laws and other acts. The prime minister may also require the National Assembly to vote on a motion of confidence in the government. Such a vote may be tied to the passage of a particular law or some other (p.250) decision in the National Assembly. And if the decision is not adopted in the National Assembly, in other words if the Assembly fails to express its confidence in the government, then the National Assembly must, within 30 days, elect a new prime minister or express its confidence in the incumbent prime minister in a fresh vote, otherwise the president, as explained earlier, must dissolve the National Assembly and call new elections.

Jurisdictional Disputes Between the President, the National Assembly, and the Government

The constitution determines that disputes over jurisdiction between the National Assembly, the president, and the government are decided by the Constitutional Court. In accordance with the law, the Constitutional Court begins proceedings at the instigation of any of the three which believes that one of the others has encroached upon or assumed matters within their own competence. The Constitutional Court delivers a ruling to determine which of the three is competent, and may abrogate or set aside any regulation found in its deliberation to be unconstitutional or unlawful.

The Nature of the Parliamentary Majority and the Relationship Between the President and the Majority

The Influence of the President on the Formation of the Government

In general terms the strength of the president depends of course on the relative strengths or weaknesses of the competing branches of power. Where parliaments are highly fragmented, the governing coalitions unstable, and the courts inexperienced, even a president with weak powers can have a decisive influence (Holmes 1993/4: 36). Despite the fact that the political situation in Slovenia is not yet sufficiently consolidated, no situation has yet emerged in practice which would directly and transparently give the president a dominant political influence.

Deputies of the National Assembly are elected under a proportional system, which means that immediately after a general election intensive negotiations proceed on the formation of a government coalition.15 The participation of the president in these negotiations takes the form of consultation with the representatives of the parliamentary groups, more (p.251) than once if necessary, in order to determine which candidate for the post of prime minister has the greatest possibility of attracting majority support in the National Assembly. As mentioned earlier, the president does formally enjoy the right to propose a prime ministerial candidate independently, but is obviously restricted in this by the distribution of power within the National Assembly.

If a clear and solid coalition emerges among the parliamentary parties after an election, then the president will generally propose the candidate from this coalition as prime minister. In no way can consultations with the president override the deciding role of parliament (Ribarič 1992b: 692), but in circumstances where several coalition options emerge the president's role in proposing a candidate may be much more important. This, however, only applies to cases such as that which followed the 1996 general elections, when, with the 90‐member National Assembly symmetrically polarized (45:45), the defection of a single member of parliament from one group of parties to another meant that the candidate proposed by the president was elected. Under different circumstances, where the process of negotiation and election of a prime minister may involve a larger ‘redistribution’ of party votes, after a first unsuccessful round of voting a candidate representing another option opposing the president's choice may be proposed by an individual parliamentary group or an ad hoc group of at least ten deputies.

It should be said that ever since the first democratic elections in 1990 no clear, typical way of forming coalitions has established itself. The new and modernized parties have formed quite diverse coalitions—from the Demos coalition based on principles, to the so‐called ‘small coalition’ at the end of the term of the first democratically elected Slovene Assembly (in 1992), to the ‘grand coalition’ of three quite different parties in the National Assembly's first term (1992–6), and the current ‘pragmatic coalition’ of the Liberal Democratic Party and the Slovene People's Party (see Zajc 1997: 15). Such development would suggest that with the current proportional electoral system the political scene in Slovenia at least for the next few years will remain rather unpredictable and, hence, each governing coalition in parliament will largely be a result of the prevailing balance of forces between the parliamentary parties. Nevertheless, over the long term we can expect that this situation will gradually calm down and lead to two or three stronger political blocs emerging, with a greater transparency developing in the relations between them. This will indirectly be helped by party discipline, which is increasing all the time, and especially among the parliamentary parties.

(p.252) If the success of the parliamentary system depends on conditions or factors such as: (a) relatively disciplined parties, (b) a level of party loyalty, (c) the capacity of parties to work together, and (d) the absence or isolation of anti‐system parties (Linz 1994: 62), then in general it can be said of Slovenia that it already meets the last condition, and that it is gradually moving towards fulfilment of the first two conditions, while it is still some way from meeting the condition under point (c).

The President and the Parliamentary Coalition

In view of the electoral system and the dynamics of party life in Slovenia, it is inevitable that after elections the National Assembly will be composed of several parties, among which major compromises will be required in order for a government coalition to be formed.16 If the president is a member or an adherent of any of the parliamentary parties, this does not generally mean he has majority support in parliament because with the current proportional electoral system it is highly unlikely that any single party could gain a predominant position in the National Assembly. An individual party can only be a relative winner of the elections. Of course, it is possible for the governing coalition to be so closely related, politically and otherwise, that at presidential elections it proposes a joint candidate, or that its fundamental principles coincide with the views of the incumbent president, without it having had a direct influence on his election.

In formal terms any alliance or opposition between the governing coalition and the president is only of minor relevance, i.e. only within the scope of their limited influence on each other and the limited powers of the president (e.g. concerning appointments and elections). Nevertheless, despite the limited powers of the president such alliances should not be underestimated, for if the president and the government coalition are tuned into the same frequency then they can exert an extremely powerful influence on public opinion, which this ‘symbiosis’ can more easily guide towards support for the policies of the government, thus improving the coalition's chances of remaining in power. And of course the support of the coalition significantly boosts the president's chances of re‐election.

In general, the head of state can play the role of adviser or arbiter by bringing party leaders together and facilitating the flow of information among them (see Linz 1994: 47). In Slovenia this is only possible if the president enjoys the respect and confidence of the political parties and (p.253) their leaders, because his meagre constitutional powers give the president very little opportunity to force this role on the parties. Given the satisfactory mechanisms for constituting parliament and the relationship between parliament and government that exists in Slovenia, the absence of the president or his minimal presence in the role of mediator or adviser to the parliamentary parties would not, as a rule, have any significant impact on the functioning of the system. But in a state of emergency the situation would be quite different; not only does the president enjoy greater formal powers in such circumstances but the fact that the president is directly elected by the people would take on a much greater significance. This could also be an important factor in the case where the president, under normal circumstances, were to use his publicly expressed views to increase the pressure on the political parties in parliament. But it is difficult to predict what kind of importance Slovene public opinion, which is quite strongly polarized along party or ideological lines, would attach to the president in such case because so far the president has avoided making any public statements that would increase the pressure on a specific political party to decide in a particular way.

Party Affiliation of the President

As a representative of the state, the president must operate on a level which is above party politics, which means, among other things, that he does not favour or discriminate against any party, but it does not mean that he has no personal stance on social and political values or that he does not express them in public (Ribarič 1996: 93). Moreover, the Slovene constitution does not prohibit the president from having formal party membership while in office.

When he began his term as president, a position for which he stood merely on the basis of popular backing and not party support, Milan Kučan suspended his party membership. Formally he has remained a member of the Renewed Party of Communists but during his period in office he has withdrawn from membership and from any activities in the administrative bodies of the party, thus symbolically and partly also in fact demonstrating that he wishes to be the president of all Slovenes. Nevertheless, such manoeuvres by individual presidents cannot realistically disguise their political allegiance or orientation, which in any case is apparent from their work. But this move by Kučan was in line with developments in most of the post‐communist countries, where (p.254) presidents are not tied to a particular party. In Bulgaria, Romania, and Lithuania the presidents are even legally obliged to relinquish party membership before taking office (Zielonka 1994: 98).

And so during the previous four‐year term of the National Assembly and the first year of its current term, a period covering the five‐year term of office of the incumbent president, Milan Kučan, it could be said that a cohabitation has existed between the president and the prime minister, and at the same time between the president and the governing coalition in parliament. But of course this cohabitation, because of the sharp separation of powers between the president, on the one hand, and the parliament and government, on the other, as well as the weak powers of the president, has had hardly any relevant effect on policy‐making.

The President and the Continuity of State Authority

Whereas the National Assembly has a four‐year term, the president of the republic serves a term of five years, which is intended to secure continuity of state authority. The course of time, early elections to the National Assembly, or the president ceasing to hold office before his term has expired could lead to parliamentary and presidential elections being held simultaneously, but the chances are fairly small.

The continuity of state authority embodied in the president during parliamentary elections, and during the time immediately following elections before the National Assembly is constituted, is important and contains the potential for real power on the part of the president to act as a temporary substitute for the National Assembly in a state of emergency.

Conclusion

With the aid of Duverger's formal classification of semi‐presidential systems we can conclude that Slovenia does not have a French‐style all‐powerful presidency, nor a balanced presidency and government, as in Finland or Portugal, for example, but rather a figurehead presidency (see Duverger 1980: 167–77). Presidencies in this category are characterized according to Duverger by the fact that the presidents are directly elected pursuant to the constitution, but the state's political practice is parliamentary, which means that the power of the president is relatively small.

Shugart proposes five basic types of constitutional system: pure presidential, (p.255) premier‐presidential, president‐parliamentary, parliamentary with president, and pure parliamentary (see Shugart 1993: 30–1). Under this classification, the Slovene arrangements would have to be described as ‘parliamentary with president’. Slovenia has a parliamentary system in which the president is directly elected (unlike a pure parliamentary system where the president is elected by parliament) but has a weak position because he has no power to decide independently on the composition of the government or to dissolve parliament, and furthermore has no power to decide independently on the adoption or implementation of laws (ibid. 31). By comparison with the constitutionally prescribed powers of the president in other former communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the powers of the Slovene president are among the weakest (see Lucky 1993/4: 81–94).

Elster (1993: 196) argues that the power of a president in general depends upon his capacity (i.e. his constitutional powers) to do the following: (1) conduct national defence and foreign policy; (2) call a state of emergency or introduce martial law; (3) call a referendum; (4) exercise legislative initiative; (5) exercise legislative veto; (6) appoint the government; (7) remove the government; (8) appoint and remove individual ministers; (9) dissolve parliament; (10) appoint state officials without the countersignature of parliament. Looking at Elster's criteria and the full range of possible powers enjoyed by presidents throughout the world (see Shugart and Carey 1992: 148–58), we see that the Slovene president does not have most of these powers (of Elster's criteria the Slovene president only has, to a limited extent, the powers under points 1, 2, and 9). This merely confirms the formal classification of his position and underlines the assertion that the Slovene system can only be designated semi‐presidential in a formal sense, because as far as the distribution of political powers is concerned Slovenia's system can only be described as parliamentary.

In conclusion, we can summarize that, while the role of the Slovene president is weak in the formal sense, this does not prevent a particular individual as president from having a strong political influence on the other branches of power and on the public through his informal activities. But because the institution of a state president in Slovenia is still in its very early stages, it is difficult to give any reliable appraisal yet of all the more important aspects. So far the constitutional position and role of the president have not given rise to any serious concern among the public, and so we cannot really expect any changes at least over the next few years, regarding the constitutional regulation of the institution of president of the republic. But of course it is only future presidents (p.256) and developments in the Slovene political arena that will really demonstrate the frameworks within which the president can act and establish himself as a political player.

Notes

(1.) The Slovene constitutional system is based on the principle of the separation of powers, although as far as the relationship between parliament and the government is concerned, it is more of a power‐sharing arrangement which is characteristic of parliamentary systems (see Sartori 1997: 101). Moreover, the position and activities of the president are to a great extent separated from parliament and the government.

(2.) The National Council is a corporative body comprising 40 representatives of local interests and the interests of employers, employees, farmers, small business people, independent professionals, and non‐profit‐making organizations. Unlike the National Assembly which is directly elected on the principle of one person one vote, the National Council is indirectly elected, with each area of interest electing its own representative. The powers of the National Council relate almost exclusively to participation in the legislative process, although the Council has no power to make final decisions. In individual legislative debates the National Council may only transmit its opinion to the National Assembly; and following the adoption of a law it may lodge a so‐called suspensory veto or require the calling of a legislative referendum. The National Council has no special relationship with the president, and indeed only has a very limited relationship with the government, which must submit to the National Council any material or information which is important for the work of the Council. In addition, representatives of the government may be invited to take part in sessions of the National Council, where they present the positions of the government.

(3.) For a description of the basic characteristics of these branches of power, and the relationship between them in the Republic of Slovenia, see Grad, Kaučič, Ribičič, and Kristan 1996: 91–239; Rupnik, Cijan, and Grafenauer 1994: 117–228, 243–59, and 293–308; Grad 1992: 137–49; Ribičič 1992: 173–83; Ribarič 1992a: 184–8; and Krivic 1992: 189–201.

(4.) Slovenia declared independence on 25 June 1991, when it adopted a Basic Constitutional Charter on the Independence and Sovereignty of the Republic of Slovenia. This was followed by a ten‐day war in which the army of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia failed to prevent Slovenia from leaving the federation. Even before the end of 1991 the rest of the world was gradually beginning to recognize Slovene independence, a process which continued with increasing intensity through 1992, before culminating in acceptance into the United Nations on 22 May 1992.

(5.) Among the Central and East European countries, trust in the government is highest in Slovenia (43 per cent) and the Czech Republic (43 per cent), followed by Bulgaria (36 per cent), Croatia (36 per cent), Slovakia (30 per cent), Romania (p.257) (26 per cent), Poland (21 per cent), Hungary (18 per cent), Belarus (15 per cent), and Ukraine (15 per cent)—average 28 per cent. Trust in parliament is highest in Croatia (30 per cent), followed by Slovenia (27 per cent), Bulgaria (26 per cent), Slovakia (25 per cent), Romania (25 per cent), Poland (24 per cent), the Czech Republic (23 per cent), Hungary (22 per cent), Belarus (13 per cent), and Ukraine (11 per cent)—average 22 per cent. The highest level of trust in the president is in Slovenia (58 per cent), followed by Croatia (51 per cent), Romania (48 per cent), Belarus (38 per cent), Bulgaria (38 per cent), Hungary (37 per cent), the Czech Republic (36 per cent), Ukraine (31 per cent), Poland (29 per cent), and Slovakia (26 per cent)—average 39 per cent (Toš 1996: 649–50).

(6.) From 1991 to 1996, trust in political parties in Slovenia fell from 12 per cent to just 4 per cent, while trust in the National Assembly over the same period fell from 27 per cent to 11 per cent, trust in the government from 43 per cent to 29 per cent, and trust in the president from 68 per cent to 40 per cent (see Toš 1996: 651–4).

(7.) The parliamentary elections in 1996 were followed by a government crisis which lasted several months. The so‐called parties of the Slovene Spring (the Slovene People's Party, the Social Democratic Party of Slovenia, and the Slovene Christian Democrats) together had 45 deputies, exactly the same as the remainder of parliament, which supported Janez Drnovšek, the prime ministerial candidate of the Liberal Democratic Party, which had the largest number of seats. President Milan Kučan decided to propose Drnovšek to the National Assembly, and because he was not elected at the first ballot, Kučan proposed him again in the second vote, since the alternative was the candidate of the right‐wing coalition of the ‘spring parties’, who was far less acceptable for the left‐leaning Kučan. However, just before the second vote one of the deputies in the right‐wing group, a Christian Democrat, declared that he was prepared to cast his vote for Drnovšek in order to prevent the perpetuation of the government crisis. This meant that when it came to the vote the president's chosen candidate was elected prime minister by the narrowest of margins, and after subsequent negotiations the strongest party of the right, the Slovene People's Party, joined the Liberal Democratic Party in government.

(8.) For a presentation of this model in the context of the draft of the new Slovene constitution, see Cerar 1991: 130–3.

(9.) In an opinion poll carried out in 1989 some 86.7 per cent of respondents were in favour of a directly elected president, 4.4 per cent believed the president should be elected by the assembly of the Slovene republic, 4.1 per cent were in favour of the municipal assemblies electing the president, and 4.8 per cent were undecided (Slovensko javno mnenje 1989). A 1990 opinion poll revealed 82.3 per cent in favour of the direct election of the president, 7.8 per cent were in favour of the president being elected by the assembly with a two‐thirds majority, 4.5 per cent thought the assembly should elect the president with an ordinary majority, and 5.4 per cent were undecided. In the same poll 30.8 per cent of respondents believed it sufficient for a presidential candidate merely to be an adult, 29.8 per cent thought a candidate ought to be older than 30, 33.2 per (p.258) cent thought a candidate ought to be older than 40, and 6.6 per cent were undecided. Regarding the possible powers of the president, it is interesting to note that as many as 71.3 per cent of respondents thought that the president should call sessions of the government, and 69.9 per cent believed that the president should even preside over sessions of the government (Stališča Slovencev ob novi ustavi 1992). Thus, the constitutional system eventually arrived at departs from public opinion chiefly in that there is no minimum age stipulation for a presidential candidate (a candidate need only be at least 18 years old) and the president was granted no powers to influence the work of the government. However, it is highly likely that at this time the respondents did not clearly differentiate between the institutions of president and government in a parliamentary or semi‐presidential system.

(10.) At the time of the presidential elections in 1992 public opinion polls showed that even those parties whose voters had mostly supported the candidacy of Milan Kučan put forward their own candidates to oppose him (see Ribičič 1996b: 288).

(11.) On 23 Nov. 1997 the incumbent president, Milan Kučan, received 55.54 per cent of the total vote and, thus, won the presidential election at the first round. Other candidates were unsuccessful: Janez Podobnik (Slovene People's Party) received 18.39 per cent of the vote, Jozef Bernik (joint candidate of the Social Democratic Party and the Slovene Christian Democrats) 9.50 per cent, Marjan Cerar (independent) 7.04 per cent, Marjan Poljsak (independent) 3.21 per cent, Anton Persak (Democratic Party) 2.70 per cent, and Franc Miklavcic (Slovene Christian Socialists) 0.55 per cent.

(12.) By comparison, a presidential candidate in the US, Austria, and Portugal must be at least 35, in Germany, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Macedonia at least 40, and in Italy as much as 50 years old.

(13.) Under the constitution there is no circumstance in which it is permitted to temporarily cancel or restrict the rights guaranteed under the following articles: Article 17 (the inviolability of human life); Article 18 (the prohibition against torture); Article 21 (the protection of human personality and dignity in legal proceedings); Article 27 (the presumption of innocence); Article 28 (the principle of legality in the criminal law);Article 29 (legal guarantees in criminal proceedings); and Article 41 (freedom of conscience).

(14.) An extraordinary session may be convened outside the period of the regular sittings of the National Assembly or during the period of the regular sittings in the absence of the conditions for convening an ordinary session. Extraordinary sessions are not only convened because of extraordinary circumstances but also in cases involving ordinary legislative or other procedures needing to be dealt with urgently. If the president of the National Assembly does not call an extraordinary session when requested to do so by the president, then the president may call the session himself.

(15.) Parliamentary seats are allocated in accordance with a proportional system with certain corrective elements. Special features of this system are: (1) voting takes place on individual candidates in constituencies; (2) a threshold of three seats (3.33 per cent) is set for entry into the National Assembly. This second corrective (p.259) element is a direct component of the majority system. For more on elections to the National Assembly, see Grad 1996: 119–20.

(16.) At the 1992 elections eight parties gained seats in the National Assembly, and seven parties at the 1996 elections. In 1992 the distribution of seats was as follows: Liberal Democratic Party (22), Slovene Christian Democrats (15), Associated List (14), Slovene National Party (12), Slovene People's Party (10), Democratic Party (6), Greens of Slovenia (5), Social Democratic Party of Slovenia (4). And at the 1996 elections the distribution of seats was: Liberal Democratic Party (25), Slovene People's Party (19), Social Democratic Party (16), Associated List of Social Democrats (9), Slovene Christian Democrats (10), Democratic Party of Pensioners of Slovenia (5), Slovene National Party (4). Two seats in the 90‐member National Assembly are permanently reserved for representatives of the Hungarian and Italian ethnic communities.

Notes:

(1.) The Slovene constitutional system is based on the principle of the separation of powers, although as far as the relationship between parliament and the government is concerned, it is more of a power‐sharing arrangement which is characteristic of parliamentary systems (see Sartori 1997: 101). Moreover, the position and activities of the president are to a great extent separated from parliament and the government.

(2.) The National Council is a corporative body comprising 40 representatives of local interests and the interests of employers, employees, farmers, small business people, independent professionals, and non‐profit‐making organizations. Unlike the National Assembly which is directly elected on the principle of one person one vote, the National Council is indirectly elected, with each area of interest electing its own representative. The powers of the National Council relate almost exclusively to participation in the legislative process, although the Council has no power to make final decisions. In individual legislative debates the National Council may only transmit its opinion to the National Assembly; and following the adoption of a law it may lodge a so‐called suspensory veto or require the calling of a legislative referendum. The National Council has no special relationship with the president, and indeed only has a very limited relationship with the government, which must submit to the National Council any material or information which is important for the work of the Council. In addition, representatives of the government may be invited to take part in sessions of the National Council, where they present the positions of the government.

(3.) For a description of the basic characteristics of these branches of power, and the relationship between them in the Republic of Slovenia, see Grad, Kaučič, Ribičič, and Kristan 1996: 91–239; Rupnik, Cijan, and Grafenauer 1994: 117–228, 243–59, and 293–308; Grad 1992: 137–49; Ribičič 1992: 173–83; Ribarič 1992a: 184–8; and Krivic 1992: 189–201.

(4.) Slovenia declared independence on 25 June 1991, when it adopted a Basic Constitutional Charter on the Independence and Sovereignty of the Republic of Slovenia. This was followed by a ten‐day war in which the army of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia failed to prevent Slovenia from leaving the federation. Even before the end of 1991 the rest of the world was gradually beginning to recognize Slovene independence, a process which continued with increasing intensity through 1992, before culminating in acceptance into the United Nations on 22 May 1992.

(5.) Among the Central and East European countries, trust in the government is highest in Slovenia (43 per cent) and the Czech Republic (43 per cent), followed by Bulgaria (36 per cent), Croatia (36 per cent), Slovakia (30 per cent), Romania (p.257) (26 per cent), Poland (21 per cent), Hungary (18 per cent), Belarus (15 per cent), and Ukraine (15 per cent)—average 28 per cent. Trust in parliament is highest in Croatia (30 per cent), followed by Slovenia (27 per cent), Bulgaria (26 per cent), Slovakia (25 per cent), Romania (25 per cent), Poland (24 per cent), the Czech Republic (23 per cent), Hungary (22 per cent), Belarus (13 per cent), and Ukraine (11 per cent)—average 22 per cent. The highest level of trust in the president is in Slovenia (58 per cent), followed by Croatia (51 per cent), Romania (48 per cent), Belarus (38 per cent), Bulgaria (38 per cent), Hungary (37 per cent), the Czech Republic (36 per cent), Ukraine (31 per cent), Poland (29 per cent), and Slovakia (26 per cent)—average 39 per cent (Toš 1996: 649–50).

(6.) From 1991 to 1996, trust in political parties in Slovenia fell from 12 per cent to just 4 per cent, while trust in the National Assembly over the same period fell from 27 per cent to 11 per cent, trust in the government from 43 per cent to 29 per cent, and trust in the president from 68 per cent to 40 per cent (see Toš 1996: 651–4).

(7.) The parliamentary elections in 1996 were followed by a government crisis which lasted several months. The so‐called parties of the Slovene Spring (the Slovene People's Party, the Social Democratic Party of Slovenia, and the Slovene Christian Democrats) together had 45 deputies, exactly the same as the remainder of parliament, which supported Janez Drnovšek, the prime ministerial candidate of the Liberal Democratic Party, which had the largest number of seats. President Milan Kučan decided to propose Drnovšek to the National Assembly, and because he was not elected at the first ballot, Kučan proposed him again in the second vote, since the alternative was the candidate of the right‐wing coalition of the ‘spring parties’, who was far less acceptable for the left‐leaning Kučan. However, just before the second vote one of the deputies in the right‐wing group, a Christian Democrat, declared that he was prepared to cast his vote for Drnovšek in order to prevent the perpetuation of the government crisis. This meant that when it came to the vote the president's chosen candidate was elected prime minister by the narrowest of margins, and after subsequent negotiations the strongest party of the right, the Slovene People's Party, joined the Liberal Democratic Party in government.

(8.) For a presentation of this model in the context of the draft of the new Slovene constitution, see Cerar 1991: 130–3.

(9.) In an opinion poll carried out in 1989 some 86.7 per cent of respondents were in favour of a directly elected president, 4.4 per cent believed the president should be elected by the assembly of the Slovene republic, 4.1 per cent were in favour of the municipal assemblies electing the president, and 4.8 per cent were undecided (Slovensko javno mnenje 1989). A 1990 opinion poll revealed 82.3 per cent in favour of the direct election of the president, 7.8 per cent were in favour of the president being elected by the assembly with a two‐thirds majority, 4.5 per cent thought the assembly should elect the president with an ordinary majority, and 5.4 per cent were undecided. In the same poll 30.8 per cent of respondents believed it sufficient for a presidential candidate merely to be an adult, 29.8 per cent thought a candidate ought to be older than 30, 33.2 per (p.258) cent thought a candidate ought to be older than 40, and 6.6 per cent were undecided. Regarding the possible powers of the president, it is interesting to note that as many as 71.3 per cent of respondents thought that the president should call sessions of the government, and 69.9 per cent believed that the president should even preside over sessions of the government (Stališča Slovencev ob novi ustavi 1992). Thus, the constitutional system eventually arrived at departs from public opinion chiefly in that there is no minimum age stipulation for a presidential candidate (a candidate need only be at least 18 years old) and the president was granted no powers to influence the work of the government. However, it is highly likely that at this time the respondents did not clearly differentiate between the institutions of president and government in a parliamentary or semi‐presidential system.

(10.) At the time of the presidential elections in 1992 public opinion polls showed that even those parties whose voters had mostly supported the candidacy of Milan Kučan put forward their own candidates to oppose him (see Ribičič 1996b: 288).

(11.) On 23 Nov. 1997 the incumbent president, Milan Kučan, received 55.54 per cent of the total vote and, thus, won the presidential election at the first round. Other candidates were unsuccessful: Janez Podobnik (Slovene People's Party) received 18.39 per cent of the vote, Jozef Bernik (joint candidate of the Social Democratic Party and the Slovene Christian Democrats) 9.50 per cent, Marjan Cerar (independent) 7.04 per cent, Marjan Poljsak (independent) 3.21 per cent, Anton Persak (Democratic Party) 2.70 per cent, and Franc Miklavcic (Slovene Christian Socialists) 0.55 per cent.

(12.) By comparison, a presidential candidate in the US, Austria, and Portugal must be at least 35, in Germany, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Macedonia at least 40, and in Italy as much as 50 years old.

(13.) Under the constitution there is no circumstance in which it is permitted to temporarily cancel or restrict the rights guaranteed under the following articles: Article 17 (the inviolability of human life); Article 18 (the prohibition against torture); Article 21 (the protection of human personality and dignity in legal proceedings); Article 27 (the presumption of innocence); Article 28 (the principle of legality in the criminal law);Article 29 (legal guarantees in criminal proceedings); and Article 41 (freedom of conscience).

(14.) An extraordinary session may be convened outside the period of the regular sittings of the National Assembly or during the period of the regular sittings in the absence of the conditions for convening an ordinary session. Extraordinary sessions are not only convened because of extraordinary circumstances but also in cases involving ordinary legislative or other procedures needing to be dealt with urgently. If the president of the National Assembly does not call an extraordinary session when requested to do so by the president, then the president may call the session himself.

(15.) Parliamentary seats are allocated in accordance with a proportional system with certain corrective elements. Special features of this system are: (1) voting takes place on individual candidates in constituencies; (2) a threshold of three seats (3.33 per cent) is set for entry into the National Assembly. This second corrective (p.259) element is a direct component of the majority system. For more on elections to the National Assembly, see Grad 1996: 119–20.

(16.) At the 1992 elections eight parties gained seats in the National Assembly, and seven parties at the 1996 elections. In 1992 the distribution of seats was as follows: Liberal Democratic Party (22), Slovene Christian Democrats (15), Associated List (14), Slovene National Party (12), Slovene People's Party (10), Democratic Party (6), Greens of Slovenia (5), Social Democratic Party of Slovenia (4). And at the 1996 elections the distribution of seats was: Liberal Democratic Party (25), Slovene People's Party (19), Social Democratic Party (16), Associated List of Social Democrats (9), Slovene Christian Democrats (10), Democratic Party of Pensioners of Slovenia (5), Slovene National Party (4). Two seats in the 90‐member National Assembly are permanently reserved for representatives of the Hungarian and Italian ethnic communities.