Slovenian elections are less than eight days away and the field is both wide open and totally closed at the same time. On one hand it is more or less apparent that Janez Janša‘s SDS and Borut Pahor‘s Social Democrats (SD) will take most of the vote, with all the other parties competing for scraps. True, those “scraps” might come in chunks of different sizes, but compared to SDS and SD they will still be just scraps. On the other hand, it is precisely those scraps which might very well decide the immediate political future of this country, so the next couple of days will be a statistic’s paradise.
But before we look at the latest polls, we must take a look at a subject which was rarely mentioned on this blog, mostly because it had – in my opinion – little or no relevance. The Patria APCs arms deal. Long story short, Slovenian Army wanted to buy tank-like eight-wheel-drive APCs and it got to pick between American owned, Austrian made and Slovenian assembled Valuk (by Sistemska Tehnika from Ravne na Koroškem, Slovenia) and Finnish owned, Finnish made and (after much pressure) Slovenian assembled Patria (by Patria Vehicles, Finland). The deal went to Patria, opposition went apeshit, citing national interest, loss of jobs and the usual bullshit and has been doing it for the past year.
At some point Finnish criminal police got interested (apparently via an unrelated case) and soon a lot of communication was going back and forth between Finland, Slovenia, Austria and some other countries. Or not. Because it transpired later that a request for information on suspicion of money laundering was made by Austrian Interpol to its Slovenian counterparts, but the Interpol section of Slovene police somehow managed to forget about the document. Convenient.
Anyways. Some ten days ago, Finnish national broadcaster YLE ran a 30-minute piece The Truth About Patria which dealt with the way Patria does business and the show ended with a statement that in order to close the deal in Slovenia, Patria had to bribe a certain “J” with 20 milion euros. “J” supposedly stood for “Janez Janša”.
Obviously shit hit the fan and Patria immediatly overshadowed every other issue of this election campaign. Right wing parties (mostly Janša’s SDS) screamed conspiracy and treason, saying that the whole thing was coordinated by Social Democrats, since the opposition frontman on the issue is Milan Cvikl (formerly of LDS, now of SD) and – watch this – because the head of the Finnish national broadcaster is a member of Finland Social Democratic party. Furthermore, according to , this was an attempt at tainting Slovenian reputation internationaly, which is unpatriotic, tantamount to high treason and leads straight to the 9th circle of hell.
The parliament convened a special session, which – after twelve hours of debate – solved nothing and predictably passed only those resolutions which suited the coalition. And while the right wing parties were fuming with rage, the pensioners’ party (DeSUS) which is also a coalition member and whose president Karel Erjavec as minister of defence signed the actual deal, more or less played stupid, repeating the mantra that Patria made a better offer and that the deal can be canceled if evidence of corruption is found.
POLLS, VICTIMS and EVIDENCE
When Janez Janša declared the war against tycoons, it failed to produce a bump in the polls for SDS. Pengovsky speculated back then that rather that creating a bump, that particular series of moves which included high profile arrests was actually aimed at preventing a dip in the polls, that – in short – rather than gaining votes it prevented losing them. Patria, however, appeared to be a whole different story. After the 30 minute show was re-run on Slovenian state television, Borut Pahor and his SD began losing votes, which was largely attributed to the fact that Janša was perceived as a victim in this case and Slovene electorate traditionally sides with the victim.
In recent history this happened in 2006, only days before municipal elections in Ljubljana, when right wing parties, very much aided by the government of Janez Janša and Laško Brewery (whose CEO Boško Šrot was at the time still good chums with Janez Janša) produced a half-baked document which was meant to implicate Zoran Janković in a number of dodgy deals and presenting him as an overall bad guy. The document’s only effect was to victimise Janković, quite possibly propelling him from a narrow victory to a landslide win of more than 63 percent and generating enough votes for his list of candidates to win an absolute majority, making his life as a mayor indefinitely easier.
Not having learned from its mistakes, the right bloc tried to pull the same trick days before the second round of presidential elections in 2007, when foreign ministry released a document that Danilo Türk was listed as a member of Yugoslav delegation to the UN as late as 1992, although Slovenia declared independence in 1991. When interpreting the document, the right bloc coveniently forgot that Slovenia was not a member of the UN until late May 1992, victimising Türk in the process and quite possibly contributing to yet another landslide victory for the opposition candidate against coalition-backed Lojze Peterle.
The moral of the story being that in order to discredit your political opponent in Slovenia you need rock solid evidence. And in the case of Patria, no evidence is forthcoming. The opposition claims that evidence exists, but so far failed to produce them. Which is odd, to say the least. On the other hand, the prime minister pre-emptively said that if there is any shred of evidence, it is surely faked, which is not exactly what one would call a strong denial. But it was enough for SDS to start gaining votes as it was Janez Janša who was being victimised this time around.
But hey, you can alway count on the current coalition to shoot itself in the foot (on a side note, this is generaly true of the left bloc, but we’ll get there). Just as he was beggining to see his ratings surge, Janez Janša went on an anti-media rampage yet again. He blasted most Slovene media for blowing the Patria story way out of proportion. He called the Finnish 30-minute programme one-sided and demaned that Finnish public broadcaster YLE runs another programme, in which Slovene government would present its side of the story. And when YLE refused, he called his Finnish counterpart Matti Vanhanen and asked him to “put his house in order”, so to speak. Vanhanen replied saying that he will not deal with the media. At all.
Not that it stopped there. The Eternal Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel sent two diplomatic notes to Finland, first asking asking the state of Finland to disclose which evidence supposedly implicate Slovenian prime minister since its broadcaster had the balls to implicate him in the first place and second, reiterating its demands, and “reminding” the Finnish government that is owns both its public broadcaster as well as Patria Enterprises and that it should act appropriately. Foreign ministry of Finland more or less replied that in their view the appropriate course of action is to leave the media and the investigators alone to do their business independently and without pressures being brought to bear.
L’ETAT, C’EST MOI
And so the focus has now (perhaps temporarily) shifted from producing evidence to Janša and his SDS going nuts and (in the words of a beatuiful Slovenian proverb) destroying with their arses what they built with their hands. But let us not forget that so far no actual evidence is forhtcoming as yet and although one can conclude quite a lot from the fac that Janša’s name somehow made its way in every arms scandal in this country to date, the case is far from closed.
But. Reactions of Janez Janša, Dimitrij Rupel et al. – even if we allow for the fact that they are somewhat exaggerated due to the campaing, clearly show how they perceive the concepts of power, state and ownership. Apparently, the Republic of Slovenia will sue YLE for implicating Janez Janša in the scandal. That is: the state as an istitution will sue a public broadcaster of another state because an individual who happens to hold a temporary job of a PM, was named in a bribery scandal. Apparently in the heads of the SDS the person and his/her office are one and the same – and this goes for any country in the world. If you are a prime minister, you are the country, and if you are the country, you also own everything that is of the country. L’etat, c’est moi.
MEANWHILE IN THEIR BATCAVE…
Things are not quiet on the left front, however… After Borut Pahor froze in the first duel with Janez Janša and positively crashed and burned (amid rivers of sweat) on the second one where all the party leaders were present, the left bloc had a lot of thinking to do. The official story is that Pahor came down with a kidney inflamation, but there are alternative theories as well, one of them linking the state of his kindeys to apparently large quantities of energy drinks he claimed to ingest, quite another that he just fucked up and came way too dressed for the occasion and started cooking under the hot studio lights.
In any case, the left bloc failed to deliever the final push. Pahor had the means but lacked the zest, proving that he is very good in scripted enviroments, but not so good when it comes to improvisations. On the other hand, Gregor Golobič proved very adept in precisely those circumstances, but there is only so much one can do with a base of seven percent of votes in the polls, not to mention the fact that he and his ZARES party still carry a lot of baggage from previous terms, when they were one with Liberal Democrats (LDS). Katarina Kresal, the current president of LDS, however, can be very very effective, but since she just lack mileage in Slovenian politics and has yet to prove herself.
And so it dawned on the left bloc that they may not win the elections afterall. Which sent shivers down their spines, naturally, and they began to explore alternative options once again. One of the alternative options seems to be picking a new name as their candidate for prime minister, and in that respect one name keeps popping up: Mayor of Ljubljana Zoran Janković.
It was initially thought that this particular piece of information was placed in circulation by SDS because they a) wanted to drive a wedge between ZARES and LDS on one side and SD and their ambitions leader on the other, or b) they go rabid at the sight of Zoran Janković, who – as a PM – would probably be their worst nighmare.
However, in the last week, Zoki – when asked about it by yours trully – publicly said that he cannot give an answer to that, because a) no one asked him about it and b) can not in all honesty tell how he would decide if someone asked him to take the job. This was a bombshell, especially because Janković always maintained that he will not run in this elections. However, fair’s fair and The Sherrif of Ljubljana specifically said that he will not run in this election in any way, shape or form. This, however, does not mean that he is not willing to take on the premiership some time after the elections.
Exactly who will be greeting pengovsky at this year’s prime minister’s reception for the media will – it seems – depend in large part on Karel Erjavec of DeSUS (Democratic party of Pensioners), which is largely expected to perform rather well Sunday next. Some pollsters even expect them to take third place, beating ZARES and LDS. Even if that does not happen, the distribution of votes will most likely make it impossible either for Janša or Pahor to form a coalition without DeSUS, thus putting Karel Erjavec in the role of a kingmaker and probably winning him the office of defence minister yet again (if you’re interested why a president of a pensioners’ party wants to run defence and not – say – social affair: Erjavec went on the record saying that he’d prefer one of the easier jobs in the government).
HOW DOES IT ALL PLAY OUT
Due to provisions of elections legislation, today is the final day when public opinion polls can be published (meaning that I’ll take down the election badge as well) and the general consensus is that Janša’s SDS will be the relative winner in a week’s time, beating Borut Pahor’s Social Democrats by a couple of percentage points (one poll, however, predicts a 10-percent gap). A lot will depend on the turnout, which is predicted around 60 percent and which is the Achile’s heel of the left bloc. Namely, its voters are notoriously udisciplined and it takes a huge nudge to get the vote out, whereas voters of the right bloc are much more disciplined. Naturally, this is on average. Pengovsky, for example will vote every time, even if they called a referedum on the height of grass on the new Ljubljana Stadium.
Anyhoo. The mandate for forming of the government will probably go to the relative winner. As of late there are some ideas that if the left is capable of forming the government, then president Türk should give the mandate directly to Borut Pahor, skipping Janez Janša, but pengovsky thinks that would be an out-and-out bad idea. Apparently would-be PM Pahor shares the sentiment.
So, provided that SDS wins the elections by a small margin, there are number of possible combinations, including the possibility that a member of the left bloc breaks ranks and goes to bed with Janez Janša. To be brutally honest, any member of the trio SD-ZARES-LDS is very much capable of doing that, especially if one takes into account the results that same move had for DeSUS four years ago (it went from insignificant to kingmaker-apparent). But making such a move would have massive reprecussion for the leadership of the party that did it. Borut Pahor (SD) would probably we taken out of his office legs first, because the party really expected to win and he will be facing a lot of disenchanted members as it were. Shacking up with their political arch-enemy will not make them happy. Gregor Golobič is pragmatic enough to entertain such thoughts, but his problems lie in the fact that if he teamed up with Janez Janša, he would probably alienate powerful supporters of the left bloc, most notably Zoran Janković and possibly Milan Kučan – not to mention his very fervent base. It’s not as if Golobič is taking orders from anyone, but the cost/benefit analysis would most likely show that forming a coalition with Janša would not be a good idea. Leaving only Katarina Kresal and LDS. Throughout the campaign she was most artedntly opposed to making such a move so going to bed with JJ would cost her whatever credibility she managed to acquire within a year since she entered top-level politics.
So, provided that none of the trio join Janša in ruling the country, it becomes clear that if Janša wins, he will have to repeat the current coalition and add Zmago Jelinčič‘s nationalists to the roster. Polls predict that NSi of finance minister Andrej Bajuk might not even make it past the 4% threshold (pengovsky still thinks they’ll make it, though), but whatever the constellation of this particular scenario, it is clear that DeSUS would be the second largest coalition partner, making it infinitely more powerful than it is today (which, by the way is terrible news for Slovenian politics as such. How can a cleveage party get so much influence!?)
This would be a very troubled coalition from the start. Even when he was the most junior coalition partner, DeSUS did not really to the line and Karel Erjavec frequently left PM Janša out in the cold, knowing that Janša needs his votes. Add Zmago Jelinčič’s nationalists to the equation and you have a political zoo on your hands. Jelinčič and his bunch of unrully would-be lone rangers are the most erractic force (forcette, rahter) in Slovenian political field. SNS started out as a proper skin-head, blood-and-honour, Ausländer-raus, white-supremacist party, but less than ten years later Jelinčič ran on an anti-NATO, pro-Serb platform, as elections were held during NATO’s Kosovo campaign. He also had a pro-partisan and anti-Croatian agendas and got into the parliament every time sine 1992. Having him as a coalition member is like parking a truckload of sodium in a swimming pool. They are bound to react violently.
So if Janez Janša wins the second term, his government will be very weak and given the not-so-brigh economic future we are facing, combined with unpredictable coalition members and the opposition for once doing its job, this particular government is very likely to collapse by 2010.
By which time Zoran Janković will have finished his term as Mayor of Ljubljana.
Catch my drift?
Next week: What could go wrong on election day, who will get the nod of approval by Zoran Janković how the voting system works and many other goodies.