Preliminary statement of the WEST SUPPORT on the Parliamentary elections in Slovenia, 4/24/2022
The international observation mission of the human rights agency WEST SUPPORT INC took part in the parliamentary elections in Slovenia from 14 to 25 April 2022.
WEST SUPPORT thanks the people of the Slovenia for the amazing patience and determination they have shown during this time.
WEST SUPPORT commended the efforts of the State Election Commission (SEC), public observers, the media and voters to meet the challenges that COVID-19 has created for the Parliamentary elections. Preparations for elections are underway and the State Election Commissions (SEC) has adopted various instructions as well as other pertinent regulations. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the State Election Commissions in co-operation with other state agencies and the COVID-19 Expert Group developed specific protocols to ensure safe voting on election day. Demonstrating their commitment to the democratic process, voters were not afraid of long queues and voted in a calm and peaceful atmosphere.
West Support Observation Mission. Short-term observation mission for the Parliamentary elections was led by, former Chairman of the High Council of Justice of Ukraine Andrii Ovsiienko. On elections day, West Support observers assessed the electoral process in the State Election Commission (SEC) and 9 Polling Boards. The elections are administered by four-levels of election commissions, comprised of the State Election Commission (SEC), 8 Constituency Election Commissions (ConECs), 88 District Election Commissions and some 3,100 Polling Boards (PBs).
West Support Observation Mission has benefitted from close collaboration with other international observation missions.
This statement is preliminary; a final report will be published several months after the end of the electoral process.
The Republic of Slovenia is party to major international and regional instruments related to the holding of democratic elections. The legislation regulating the parliamentary elections is comprised primarily of the 1991 Constitution (last amended in 2021), the 2006 Elections to the National Assembly Act (elections law, last amended 2021), the 2007 Elections and Referendum Campaign Act (ERCA, last amended in 2013), the 1994 Political Parties Act (PPA, last amended in 2014), the 2013 Voting Rights Register Act (last amended in 2015), the Mass Media Act (last amended in 2021) and the 2005 Radio and Television Corporation of Slovenia Act (last amended in 2014). Legislation is complemented by regulations of the State Election Commission (SEC). The electoral legal framework has been shaped by a rich jurisprudence of the Constitutional and the Supreme Courts.
The election administration has four levels, reflecting the overall administrative structure of the country. It is comprised of the State Election Commission (SEC), 10 Constituency Election Commissions (ConECs) including two special ConECs for the election of deputies from the Hungarian and Italian national communities, 88 District Election Commissions (DECs), and around 3,100 polling boards (PBs) across the country and in 31 diplomatic representations.
Election commissions are permanent bodies composed according to a mixed judicial, political and professional model. They have a four-year mandate and each supervises electoral operations at their level. SEC is responsible for the overall conduct of elections, coordinating the work of and providing instructions to lower-level election administration, implementing voting at the diplomatic representations and declaring election results. The main role of ConECs is to review candidate lists and to determine election results in constituencies. DECs are responsible for designating polling stations, counting postal votes and determining results in the districts. The PBs conduct voting and counting on election day.
The current SEC, appointed by the National Assembly in 2020, is composed of a President, Vice President, five members and their deputies. The President and Vice President are appointed from among the Supreme Court judges, two members and two deputies from among legal experts, and the remaining members upon the proposal of political parties represented in the parliament. The SEC appoints ConECs and DECs while PBs are appointed by DECs for each election based on nominations from parliamentary parties followed by designations from local communities and administrative units.
All Slovenian citizens who are 18 years or older on election day have the right to vote, unless their suffrage rights have been revoked by an individualized court decision on the basis of lack of legal capacity. Voter registration is passive and based on the Central Population Register maintained by the Ministry of Interior (MoI). The voter register contains the voter’s constituency, district, polling station and chosen method of voting if a request to vote outside a regular polling station on election day has been declared.
There are three types of voter lists used for parliamentary elections: general voter lists, which include all citizens who are eligible to vote, voter lists of voters residing abroad (105,251 voters), and the voter lists for the Hungarian and Italian national minority communities with 5,563 and 2,771 voters respectively. Inclusion in the voter register for the Hungarian and Italian national communities is active, and once registered the voter remains on that register permanently. To be eligible, a voter must be a member of the respective community.
Citizens can review their voter registration record at any time at administrative units and diplomatic representations as well as online. Voters who were previously not included must make an individual request to the relevant selfgoverning body to enter the register.
The polling stations were open from 8:00 to 19:00, exit polls will be announced shortly after closing.
After analyzing the procedure for registration of citizens, it was established that there are no cases of non-admission of persons to polling stations and voting.
Citizens of at least 18 years of age, except those, declared incapable by an individualized court decision, may stand for office. A candidate may only run on a list of candidates in the constituency where she/he has permanent residence. Political parties are registered by the MoI based on the declarations of no less than 200 citizens.
Candidates can be nominated by political parties or groups of voters. A political party may nominate a list of candidates in every constituency if the lists are endorsed by at least three MPs, or in one constituency if the list is nominated by party members who have resident status in the constituency according to party rules and endorsed by at least fifty voters with permanent residence in the constituency. Two or more political parties can also submit a joint list of candidates. Voters can nominate a list of candidates in one constituency if the list is endorsed by at least 1,000 voters with permanent residence in the constituency. A voter may support only one list.
The number of candidates on a list may not be higher than the number of deputies to be elected in the constituency. The nominating party must designate in which district each candidate on the list is running, with one candidate per district. There is no minimum number of candidates required on a candidate list. If there are fewer than 11 candidates on the list, one or more candidates can run in two different districts in the constituency. If there is only one candidate on a list, this candidate can run in all the districts of the constituency. In a list of more than three candidates, either gender must be represented with at least 35 per cent of the total number of candidates on the list. Failure to fulfil this condition leads to the rejection of the entire list.
During the parliamentary elections, all lists complied with the norm, and a corresponding percentage of voter equality was maintained the representation of each sex on candidate lists from 35 to 40 per cent, and introduce a zipper system for the first half of each electoral list.
Party and Campaign Finance
Party and campaign finance is regulated by the PPA and ERCA. Political parties are entitled to an annual support from the state based on votes received in the last parliamentary elections. In addition, funding can be supplemented by donations from natural persons, membership fees, loans, funds from local budgets and income from property Both parties and candidates may not receive contributions from legal entities or from foreign sources. However, the law does not prohibit parties to own companies, which may receive financial resources from abroad.
Election campaigns can be financed from public and private sources, including loans. The expenditure ceiling is calculated on the basis of 0.40 EUR per eligible voter in each electoral unit contested. A citizen can donate up to approximately 19,700 EUR to each contestant; cash donations are allowed up to 50 EUR. In addition, the law provides for in-kind contributions. Parties may donate from their account an amount not exceeding the campaign expenditure ceiling.
The ERCA envisions partial reimbursement of campaign expenditures from public funds. Every campaign organizer whose list obtained mandates for deputies is entitled to 0.33 EUR per obtained vote but not exceeding their total expenditures. Every campaign organizer whose list received at least two per cent of votes countrywide or six per cent of votes in a constituency can receive 0.17 EUR per vote cast in its favour.
The legislation does not regulate and there is no effective oversight of expenses related to third party campaigning and campaigning on social networks. The Court of Audit (CoA) has informed that online expenses may be subject to oversight only if a contestant, at its own will, includes them in their financial reports. Moreover, pre-campaign period activities of political parties aimed at selfpromotion or promotion of contestants does not fall under the election campaign oversight and is subject only to the regular party activities reports. However, either ex-officio or upon complaint of the citizen or any other party, the Court of Audit (CoA) may request a contestant/political party to reflect related expenses in the financial reports, if the Court of Audit (CoA) obtains proofs of such activities. The Court of Audit (CoA) informed the that campaign finance legislation would further benefit from revision with the aim to address, among others, the above-mentioned shortcomings.
The legislation provides for financial sanctions for various types of campaign finance irregularities, such as unlawful financing, untimely or failure to submit reports, as well as for false reporting. However, there is no threshold for permissible irregularities and financial sanctions are applied even for minor financial irregularities. Exceeding the limit on expenditures can result in limiting or revoking the partial reimbursement of funds or the reduction or suspension of public funding.
Two political parties were analyzed and researched: the Slovenian Democratic Party and the Freedom Movement. As a result, no party violated the established funding requirements, no excess funding from foreign organizations was detected. The political parties did not take part in any funding scandal.
The media landscape in Slovenia is pluralistic. Television is the main source of information, with a large portion of viewers watching it online. The Slovenian media landscape includes a range of public and private television and radio stations, print media outlets and online media. Television remains the main source of political information, with the public broadcaster, RTV Slovenia42 and private broadcasters Kanal A, POP TV, TV3 and Planet TV, as well as the most popular print media Delo, Dnevnik, and Večer dominating the market in terms of audience.43 Magazines such as Mladina, Reporter, Demokracija and Skandal24 are also sources of political information. With Internet penetration standing at 84 per cent, the relevance of social networks and online media as a source of news continues to grow. Majority of West Support interviewees stated that television channels with national coverage promote policies of the government and self-censorship persists in both public and private media, limiting media pluralism.
Several West Support interlocutors expressed concerns that media pluralism has been negatively affected by growing political influence over the media.50 While West Support interlocutors noted a lack of regulations regarding the conflict of interest as one of the contributing factors, foreign investments in Slovenian media outlets with major audiences are considered as the main reason of concern. In particular, West Support interlocutors criticised financial support by foreign companies to some Slovenian media outlets due to its potential influence on the electoral campaign.
The law provides that the Agency for Communication Networks and Services (AKOS) is the media regulator but the Agency has no specific competences during the election campaign period.53 The Ministry of Culture Inspectorate responsible for Culture and Media, is supervising the implementation of provisions regarding the media coverage of the election campaign, however the Inspectorate does not conduct systematic monitoring of media campaign coverage and mostly acts on the basis of complaints. Coverage of the elections in broadcast media is mainly regulated by the ERCA and the Radio and Television Corporation of Slovenia Act. The legislation obliges broadcasters to ensure balanced and impartial coverage and provide contestant with equal treatment in terms of airtime and political advertisements. The public broadcaster provides parties and candidates with free airtime during the campaign period based on their results in last parliamentary and European Parliament elections. Non parliamentary parties receive equal free airtime amounting to a total of one-third of the total time allotted for all political parties and candidates participating in the elections.
Complaints and appeals
The mechanism of election dispute resolution is mainly regulated by the election law and there are different avenues for lodging election related complaints. Complaints related to candidate nomination and registration can be filed with the Constituency Election Commissions (ConECs) by candidates or representatives of candidate lists up to the deadline for candidate nomination. The Constituency Election Commissions (ConECs) decision can be further appealed at the Supreme Court. The deadline for filing complaints and appeals as well as for issuing decisions is 48 hours. The SEC can ex officio annul or modify the Constituency Election Commissions (ConECs) decision on candidate nomination if it determines that the decision contains irregularities or was taken in breach of the law.
A constitutional complaint can be brought before the Constitutional Court against an individual act that caused a violation of human rights or fundamental freedoms, with serious consequences for the complainant, after all other legal remedies have been exhausted. The deadline for filing such a complaint is 60 days after the issuance of the act; the Constitutional Court is not bound by a deadline for rendering a decision.
Conclusions and recommendation
Despite the difficulties, the Parliamentary elections was marked by broad political participation, a peaceful election campaign and an average voter turnout.
These recommendations, as contained throughout the text, are offered with a view to further enhance the conduct of elections in Slovenia and to support efforts to bring them fully in line with commitments and other international obligations and standards for democratic elections. These recommendations should be read in conjunction with past West Support recommendations that remain to be addressed. West Support stands ready to assist the authorities of Slovenia to further improve the electoral process and to address the recommendations contained in this and previous reports.
The West Support part noted stakeholders confidence in the electoral legislation and in the professionalism and impartiality of the election administration in organizing the elections. Nevertheless, there have been significant amendments to election legislation and interlocutors noted that several aspects of the electoral process, including conduct of the campaign, transparency of campaign finance, media coverage of the elections, and the media environment could benefit from further assessment. On this basis, the West Support recommends the deployment of an Election Assessment Mission for the upcoming parliamentary elections.
The work of the West Support mission has also been affected by COVID-19 prevention measures. The mission adapted its approach to enable observation activities while maintaining its core principles of independence, impartiality, and fact-based reporting. The mission could not access the process fully because of travel restrictions and therefore conducted dozens of meetings remotely. As the mission was not able to fully observe the campaign and referendum preparations directly, it is not able to provide a thorough assessment of all aspects of the process.
West Support assessment of the electoral process is based on the Republic of Slovenia legal framework and on the international standards for democratic elections. West Support conducts its observation missions in accordance with the 2005 Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation and the Code of Conduct for International Election Observers.