The electoral system in Slovenia

Elections at which voters choose their representatives are a prerequisite for the democratic formation of the most important bodies of the state. The electoral system encompasses such issues as who is entitled to vote, how elections are organised, how seats are apportioned, how the right to vote is safeguarded, and so on. A summary of the electoral system as it applies to elections to the National Assembly, presidential elections and elections to the European parliament is given below.

 

1.   Elections to the Slovenian National Assembly

National Assembly elections are regulated by the Elections to the National Assembly Act. The right to vote is universal and equal, meaning that every citizen over the age of 18 is entitled to vote and to be elected regardless of their class, nationality, race, economic standing, etc. ‘Equal voting right’ relates to the active right to vote and means that every vote from every voter has the same value, that every voter has one vote only, and that no vote takes precedence over another. The sole exception to this principle is the voting right exercised by members of the Italian and Hungarian national communities: each community is represented by one deputy in the National Assembly, with the members of these communities being entitled to vote for other National Assembly deputies as well.

The electoral procedure involves standing as a candidate, voting and the counting of votes to determine the outcome of an election. The procedure starts at a specified time with the calling of an election, when the start and end of the election procedure are determined. General elections to the National Assembly are called by the president of the republic.

At general elections, all deputies are elected at the same time. A distinction is drawn between regular elections (every four years upon expiry of the term of the parliament) and early elections (when the National Assembly is dissolved during the four-year parliamentary term).

General elections are re-run if irregularities arise during the electoral process or if elections that have already been held are annulled because of electoral irregularities.

Subsequent elections are elections held when a ballot was not held in an electoral unit or at a specific polling station on the day assigned for voting.

A by-election occurs when one or more deputies have to be elected because one or more parliamentary seats become vacant during a parliamentary term (i.e. a deputy’s term has been brought to an end). However, since Slovenian legislation states that elections to the National Assembly are to be held under the proportional representation system, the established rule is that by-elections are not held. Instead, when a deputy’s term comes to an end, they are replaced by that candidate from the list of candidates who would have been elected had the outgoing deputy not been elected at the general election.

Under Slovenia’s electoral legislation, candidates can be proposed by political parties or by voters.

The country is divided into eight electoral units for elections to the National Assembly. Each unit is divided into 11 districts; accordingly, each unit returns 11 deputies. The principle enshrined in law is that one candidate is elected in each electoral district. Special electoral units have been formed to serve those areas in which the Italian and Hungarian national communities reside.

Under the National Assembly Elections Act, the election threshold is 4%. Whether a party has reached that threshold is determined by the National Electoral Commission when the seats are apportioned. Seats are apportioned to party lists that have reached that threshold. This process takes places at two levels, as follows:

  • Within an electoral unit, seats are apportioned according to the Droop quota.
  • At the national level, seats are apportioned according to the D’Hondt method.

The Constitution states that voters must be permitted to exercise a certain influence over the allocation of seats to candidates; this is ensured in part by a process whereby those candidates who received the highest number of votes as a proportion of the total number of votes in the electoral districts in which they stood are elected from the list of candidates (relative to the seats received). Voters may only opt for that candidate from the list who stood for election in their voting district.

 

2.   Presidential elections in Slovenia

The President of the Republic of Slovenia is elected at a direct, universal and secret ballot on the basis of a two-round majority voting system. The Election of the President of the Republic Act provides that the president shall be elected on the basis of a universal and equal voting right at free and direct elections in a secret ballot. The president is elected for five years and may only serve a maximum of two consecutive terms. Presidential elections are called by the president (speaker) of the National Assembly.

The right to vote in a presidential election is universal and equal, which means that it is held by everyone who has the right to vote in National Assembly elections. The principle of the universal voting right applies to the right to stand for election as well as the right to vote in elections. The Election of the President of the Republic Act sets out in detail who has the right to vote and stand for president of the republic. The right to vote and stand for president is therefore held by any citizen of Slovenia who has reached the age of 18 by the time the election is held.

Presidential candidates are put forward by National Assembly deputies, political parties and the electorate. The process of standing for president is similar to that employed when standing for election to the National Assembly. Regardless of the way in which candidates stand for office, the basic rule is that each deputy and each voter may only vote for one candidate.


Candidacy for president of the republic requires the written consent of the candidate, and they may withdraw this consent in a written declaration. A proposal for candidacy, which must contain the elements prescribed, is submitted directly to the National Electoral Commission no later than 25 days prior to the election. The National Electoral Commission draws up a list of candidates for president of the republic on the basis of those candidacies it has approved; this list contains the names of the candidates and those of their nominators. The order of the candidates is determined by the drawing of lots. The National Electoral Commission must publish these lists no later than 15 days prior to the election.

The ballot paper is different to the ballot papers for National Assembly elections, and contains the names and surnames of the candidates in the order in which they appear on the list of candidates, along with instructions on how to cast a vote. The ballot paper is also completed in a slightly different way. The voter may vote for only one candidate; they do so by circling the number that appears before the name and surname of the candidate for which they are voting. The outcome of the election is established by the National Electoral Commission. The candidate who receives a majority of the valid votes cast is elected president of the republic. If no candidate secures a majority of the valid votes cast, a run-off between the two candidates who secured the most votes is held. This means that Slovenian presidential elections can involve a second round of voting in which there are only two candidates.

After the outcome of the election is established, the National Electoral Commission compiles a report on the outcome; it then submits it to the speaker of the National Assembly and publishes it in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia. This officially concludes the procedure for electing the president of the republic.

 

3.   Election of Slovenian members of the European Parliament

It is Slovenia’s right and duty, as a Member State of the European Union, to participate in the work of all EU bodies. However, participation in the work of the European Parliament is different from participation in those other bodies, as the European Parliament is the only EU body formed on the basis of direct elections. The European Parliament is therefore elected by voters in EU Member States.

Eight MEPs are directly elected from Slovenia for a five-year term in a secret ballot on the basis of a universal and equal right to vote.

All citizens of Slovenia with the right to vote in National Assembly elections (the right to vote and the right to stand for office) have the right to vote in European Parliament elections; this means that the right to vote is held by a citizen of Slovenia who has reached the age of 18 on the day of the election. Citizens of European Union Member States with permanent residence in Slovenia also have the right to vote in European Parliament elections. Slovenian citizens and citizens of EU Member States have exactly the same right to vote in European Parliament elections and exactly the same right to stand for election.

Candidates may be proposed by political parties and by voters. The list of candidates may only contain as many candidates as are elected to the European Parliament from Slovenia. Both sexes must have at least 40% representation on the list of candidates. The candidacy procedure takes place in its entirety before the National Electoral Commission. In European Parliament elections, Slovenia is counted as a single electoral unit. The electoral system is a proportional ‘preferential vote’ system. This means that seats are not apportioned according to the order of precedence of the candidates on the candidate list; instead, the candidates who received the highest number of preferential votes are elected from an individual list. Preferential votes for individual candidates are taken into account if the number of preferential votes for an individual candidate exceeds the quota, which is calculated by dividing the total number of votes given to a list by twice the number of candidates on the list. If this rule fails to elect as many candidates as the number of seats belonging to an individual list, the candidates are elected to the remainder of the seats on this list in accordance with the order of precedence of the candidates on the list of candidates. The National Assembly confirms the election of MEPs.

 

4.   Elections to the National Council

National Councillors are elected in indirect elections held within interest groups or local communities by voting bodies (i.e. via electors).

The right to vote and be elected as a member of the National Council is therefore held by a citizen of Slovenia who has reached the age of 18 on the day of the election and whose capacity to contract has not been removed. Members of the National Council are not elected on the basis of a universal voting right but on that of a ‘special’ voting right, as determined by the law for each interest group, i.e. their membership of an individual interest group or local community.

Under the relative majority principle, a seat is gained by the candidate with the highest number of votes. If two or more candidates receive the same number of votes, the election is decided by the drawing of lots.

The following have the right to vote for and be elected as members of the National Council:

  • representatives of employers, employees, farmers, tradespersons, independent professions and non-commercial activities (‘functional interests’), i.e. persons engaged in an appropriate activity or employed in Slovenia. Foreign nationals engaged in an appropriate activity or employed in Slovenia may elect members of the National Council from these interest groups under the same conditions as apply to citizens of Slovenia; however, they do not have the right to stand for election to the National Council;
  • representatives of local interests with permanent residence in a voting unit;
  • eighteen members of the National Council (representatives of functional interests), who are elected by electors’ election committees. Representatives of the electorate (electors) are elected by local interest groups in accordance with their rules.

The 22 members of the National Council, who are representatives of local interests, are elected by local communities. A maximum of 22 voting units, each covering one or more local communities, may be formed for the election of representatives of local interests. 

Members of the National Council are elected for a term of five years.