Ivo Sanader vs. Borut Pahor

Well, sort of, anyway… The following happened more or less by accident yesterday on The Firm™, as pengovsky way lampooning resignation of Croatian PM Ivo Sanader as well some serious “leakage” from Slovene government. More on that in the following days, but suffice it to say, that Thursday’s session of the government was – apparently inadvertently – streamed live over the net, revealing some heavy discord between PM Borut Pahor, minister of public administration Irma Pavlinič Krebs and interior minister Katarina Kresal.

Audio is taken directly from Firm’s archives, while pengovsky spent most of the afternoon putting together the slideshow. Songs include To ni političen song by Vlado Kreslin and Parni Valjak and Maček v žaklju by Let 3. Both songs are Croatian covers of Slovenian songs and are therefore most fitting for the occasion. There’s also a little bit of Požar by Marko Brecelj at the end. For those of you who don’t understand Slovene and/or Croatian, a lot will be lost in translation, unfortunately. But you can still look at the pictures 🙂

Croatian PM Sanader Resigns

In a surprise move Croatian PM Ivo Sanader resigned yesterday, both as PM as well as president of the ruling HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union). News of his resignation started building up yesterday late in the morning and by noon it was certain that he is going to quit. He officially announced his resignation at 1400hrs, saying that he had played his part and that it was time someone else took over. There was a lot of speculation about Sanader running for Croatian president, but he denied the rumours, saying outright that he will not run for any office whatsoever. He will be, however, named honorary president of HDZ after its charter will be amended to that effect.

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Ivo Sanader (source)

Despite everything he said, he did not actually explain why he is leaving politics, save that his “job is done. My political life ends now“. This naturally sparked furious guessing as to what exactly prompted him to resign (it seems that no one believes his claim that it took him a while to get there). Speculation spanned from corruption scandals which lately hit too close to Sanader for comfort, Croatian cooperation (or the lack of it) with the Hague Tribunal, dire economic situation in the country, or the stalemate in EU accession negotiations, which was prompted by Slovenia blocking the process due to border dispute. The last one seems plausible, as Sanader himself said that “he cannot deny that it played a part”.

However, there are other slightly more subtle signs pointing to what probably happened. A massive reshuffle took place at the senior level of HDZ, with a lot of new party vice-presidents being named. Furthermore, he proposed that minister for European integration and his second in command Jadranka Kosor take over both the government and the party. This seems to suggest that the initial drive for his resignation came from within the party rather than directly from outside influences.

Basically, we’re talking about a party putch.

It sounds reasonable to think that all of the above reasons played a role, but it seems that the breakdown of EU negotiations was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Namely – with the prospect of Croatian EU membership gone, all other problems suddenly seem much more bleak. It wasn’t that their economy wasn’t down the toilet for some time, but the almost-clinched membership in the Union created a hope (albeit probably a false one) that they will somehow be able to deal with it. The same of course goes for cooperation with the Hague as well as the border dispute with Slovenia – neither would have mattered a pair of fetid dingo’s kindeys if Croatia were an EU member.

But as things stand now, Croatia is faced with a south-bound economy and extremely poor projections for this year’s summer season, rampant corruption which can reach very high in the political and economic strata, an angry war-crimes tribunal and the prospect of joining Iceland and Hungary in the “broke countries club”. Which makes a lot of people wonder if Sanader didn’t just bail out and skedaddled, leaving to others to clean up his mess. This is also very plausible, but experience teaches that power is not easily relinquished. Doubly so in the Balkans. In other words, most politicians have to be carried out of their offices. Ivo Sanader is no exception. His troubles began some time ago, but he managed to control them, first by fast-tracking his country towards EU, and then by taking a hard line against Slovenia in the border dispute. But as Ljubljana obstinately refused to cave in, Sanader’s house of cards began falling appart and the situation in Croatia was suddently revealed for what it really is.

Thus, pengovsky thinks that Sanader just ran out of options and was forced to resign by his own people. The fact that will be made honorary chairman of the party only reinforces the feeling, as such “honours” are usually bestowed upon those whom you want to keep under control, without them doing any serious damage. But removing Sanader of course does not mean that things will improve by themselves. If anything, Croatian EU bid is now definitely stalled and barring a major breakthrough (such as Croatia ratifying the 2001 Drnovšek-Račan treaty on border) this train is not going anywhere anytime soon. They may even have to wait for Serbia.

Balkan Tricks Like At Home, Only Worse

Common sense dictates that revisiting European elections and their result is a complete waste of perfectly good blogging space. Had all things been equal, that would be so, However, in the words of Mr. Spock, things are not equal. But more on that in a minute.

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(source)

Usually, European elections are frowned upon as being only tangentially connected to Slovenian politics (or to politics of any EU member, for that matter), and material evidence seems to support that theory: five years ago, Nova Slovenia (NSi) won despite its marginal standing in parliamentary elections. Results of June 5 elections seem to corroborate this, as NSi got one MEP despite being axed from the national parliament in 2008 elections. Furthermore, both in 2004 and 2009 the turnout was appalingly low, only 28 percent. But if need be, European election can be a bloodbath, which is something Gregor Golobič and his Zares can tell you a lot about.

But first thing’s first – let’s look at the results. Opposition SDS won 26.65 percent of the vote, ruling Social Democrats got 18.45 percent, while Nova Slovenija (NSi) got only slightly less, 16.53 percent. LDS came in fourth with 11.5 percent, while Zares was the last of the parties to get an MEP, with 9.77 percent of the vote. However, in terms of numer of MEP seats won, differences between parties become much less apparent. Both SDS and SD won two seats, while NSI, LDS and Zares won one seat each.

So, the question is, who the hell won? The general media consesus seems to be that SDS scored an overwhelming victory. Given the fact that they beat the largest coalition party and their rivals in public opinion polls by more than eight percent, this certainly seems to be the case. The fact that SD got only 18 percent of the vote (as opposed to getting almost 30 in parliamentary elections nine months ago) only reiterates the feeling.

However…

By that same standard, one could say that the real winner is LDS, which nearly doubled its result from parliamentary elections, when they barely made it past the 4 percent threshold. Furthermore, Gregor Golobič and Zares should be dancing the Mipos Dance of Joy, as they repeated their result from September 2008, despite the copious amounts of flak they were taking due to Golobič’s stumble in the Ultra business. Nine percent after a concentrated media barrage which came from all sides is not to be underestimated. Even less so for LDS, which – not unlike NSi – seemingly made huge gains.

And finally, by the above standard, NSi should be thanking whatever god they believe in, because they were literally brought back from the dead. 16 percent of the vote after they were already down and out.

And it is this last interpretation which casts a shadow of the doubt on the entire approach. How can NSi, which was in turmoil for the better part of the last nine months make a real comeback? And while we’re on that, how can in be that a media lynch of Gregor Golobič has zero (and I mean zilch) effect on his party?

Probably because most of the turnout was by die-hard supporters of their respective parties. Given the low turnout and the capacity of SDS and (partly) NSi to galavinse their base, good results of both parties suddenly don’t seem all that surprising. Namely, a lot of NSi and SDS voters are almost like the Pony Express (neither rain, nor sleet, not snow…), whereas left-wing voters are notoriously undisciplined. But that only goes so far in explaining what really happened. I mean, no-one is forcing right-wing voters to go vote at gunpoint, no matter how appealing that mental image might be :mrgreen:

To answer this second question, let’s take a look at the bigger picture: Combined, the left bloc won almost 40 percent of the vote, whereas the right bloc got 43 percent of the vote, counting only parties which won MEP seets. If, however, we included all the parliamentary parties and kept NSi, for the sake of the argument, both blocs got 46 percent of the vote (keeping the nationalists as a separate category).

Things get even more muddy if we look at number of MEP seats won. By this measure, it was actually the left bloc which won, winning four out of seven seats, whereas the right bloc won the remaining three. Point being that overall relations between left and right have not changed a lot. What has changed, were relations between parties. If election results are to be taken for granted, then we have witnessed a redistribution of votes between parties of the same bloc, rather than pure left-right crossovers.

So, who won? If anything, it was a tie. It would be hard to make an argument that everybody lost, however. With 28 percent turnout, results are hardly representative. By any realistic measure, NSi got a disproportionate percentage of the votes and it would be safe to say that this goes for most of the other parties. With 72 percent of the electorate you can hardly say that the results represent anything but a disenchantment with politics in general as well as reflect a certain cynicism regarding European Union.

But in a final twist of irony, European elections in Slovenia are not yet over. Well… Not in Slovenia exactly. More like in Argentina. Where a lot of ex-pat Slovenians live, none of which apparently got empty ballots to vote by mail. And although Argentina is generally regarded as prime hunting ground for NSi, the vote there could decide whether Romana Jordan Cizelj or Zofija Mazej Kukovič will be the second MEP for Janša’s SDS, while neither NSi nor SDS have a chance of getting an additional MEP, and thus shake up the overall balance of power. Nevertheless, the State Electoral Commission decided that voters in Argentina will be able to vote and sent them. And how come voters in Argentina didn’t get their empty ballots? Simple. Argentinian post never delivered them. The same Balkan tricks, just like at home. Only worse :mrgreen:…