Ljubljana Elections of 2010 (Part Two: The City Council)

For Part One click here

If the mayoral race in Ljubljana seems all but decided (although, as they say on the other side of the pond, it ain’t over till the fat lady sings), the elections for 45 seats in the Ljubljana city council are a different matter. In the landslide of 2006 Zoran “Zoki” Janković not only won 63% of the vote, but his List of Zoran Janković won 45% of the vote which (due to vote losses on account of parties and list which got the votes but didn’t make the cut) translated into an absolute majority of 23 out of 45 votes. This completely rearranged the political landscape in Ljubljana, where the mayor was usually held hostage by the power struggle within the uneasy coalition between liberal democrats (LDS) and Social democrats (SD). In 2006 the voters overwhelmingly send political parties packing and put the reins exclusively into Janković’s hands who used the powers thus vested in him to the fullest of his abilities.


Who’ll be sitting where? Ljubljana City Council (photo: The Firm™)

First he rammed through changes to Council Rules and Procedures, making the work of the city council a bit quicker and (for the most part) also more effective. And then he managed (contrary to pengovsky’s expectations) to keep members oh his list – most of them accomplished individuals, many of whom did not expect to get elected in the first place – to toe the line, be present in sufficient numbers at every vote (there was only one slip in four years) and vote according to mayor’s wishes. Janković basically ran a very tight ship and if things got too slow for his liking he was liable to bend rules of procedures a bit, just to get things going. All of the above made the rest of the political groups in the city council go mad with rage. Well, some more than others, but those who were regularly foaming at the mouth were mostly Borut Pahor‘s SD and Janez Janša‘s SDS, aided by Green Party’s very own Miha “Jazby” Jazbinšek.

Truth be told, there were quite a lot of votes where for one reason or another Janković secured more than just the slim majority of the votes. Some measures were passed even without a vote against, a fact Zoki never fails to mention when he is accused of autocratic tendencies. And to an extent he is right. There’s also the fact that his majority was a direct result of a popular vote and for better or for worse you don’t fuck with that. And to be honest, despite all their rage, the rest of the political groups in the city council understood that. They just found it hard to swallow.

Playing hardball

But playing hardball can cost you down the road. And Janković played a lot of hardball. He didn’t compromise because he didn’t have to. He also had a couple of very public fallouts with a couple of prominent city politicos, most notably with Dimitrij Kovačič of SDS (who was removed from front party lines by the new SDS Ljubljana leadership) and with Metka Tekavčič of Ljubljana SD, who now runs against him in the race for mayor (without much success for now). The spat between her and Janković is especially interesting as they had a more or less cordial relationship for the most of the term, but some time around March this year something happened and they were publicly spewing fire and sulphur at each other, to the point of Janković saying weeks ago of Tekavčič that “she would do better to shut up as she’s been in city politics for 15 years and has precious little to show for“. Playing hardball indeed.

Anyways, it seemed that all remaining political groups in the city council just sort of gritted their teeth, hoping that the term would end as soon as possible and were counting on the fact that there is no way Janković can get an absolute majority in the council for the second time, even though he is virtually unbeatable in the race for mayor. Were they right? Yes and no.

Polls and horse-trading

The Ninamedia/POP TV poll pengovsky quoted on Sunday does indeed show that the List of Zoran Janković (his 45 candidates for city council) register some 23% support, which only half as much as they got on election day four years ago. Slightly more surprising is the 19% support Social Democrats sport. It is not exactly clear where this came from. But what’s even more surprising is that all the other parties (including Janez Janša’s SDS) get only single-digit percentages.

So, what does all of this mean for the political future of everyone involved? First and foremost, this is far from over. While it is not uncommon for a party like SD to have a “proper” percentage of support and having its candidate for mayor fare miserably, it is unclear why the voters seem to have singled out Social Democrats as the party of choice. Hopefully, there’ll be another poll soon and we’ll see if this was just a fluke. Percentages scored by Jankovič’s list are much more interesting. Zoki said time and again that he will not engage in any horse-trading after elections even if he has to form a coalition government (a prospect he dreads) and should the voters deny him an absolute majority it will be interesting to see if and how he goes about that. Despite his claims it would be hard to imagine him throwing it all away just because he doesn’t like who SD (or any other coalition partner) would have put forward for a manager of this-or-that city service.

Lest we forget

Virtually all players on the Ljubljana political scene made it plain obvious that their prime goal is not defeating Janković but reining him in by means of making sure he doesn’t win an absolute majority again. Janković recognises this and is pushing the message of “Zoran Janković and his List” more aggressively. Whether or nor he will succeed remains to be seen, but before people start passing judgements, a couple of things should be remembered:

1) 27% of those likely to vote are still undecided. Granted, not all of them will go to the same camp, but they could tip the balance heavily one way or the other.

2) Voter turnout and vote dispersal are crucial. In urban municipalities a straight proportional voting system is used and if the turnout is low or a lot of votes get lost(i.e.: go to candidates who don’t make the cut), then a couple of thousands votes one way or the other can mean a big difference for the bigger players.

3) Right wing parties register unusually low scores. Despite the fact that Janez Janša while prime minister did everything in his power to alienate voters in Ljubljana, SDS, NSi and SLS should under normal circumstances fare much better.

4) On that same token, there’s no apparent reason why (in addition to Janković’s List) it should be only Social Democrats which get a substantial support on the left wing without Zares, LDS and DeSUS joining in on the fun. This too will in all likelihood play out a bit differently.

and 5) Four years ago no poll registered even the remote possibility of Janković’s List grabbing an absolute majority. A couple of polls near the end of the campaign put his list on top, but none predicted the whoopass which was election day on 22 October 2006.

Projections

None, at this time. The way things stand, this could go either way. The campaign to date has been about as lacklustre as a sex-life of a catatonic and is poised to pick up in the ten remaining days. We’ll just have to wait and see how this particular election cookie crumbles

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pengovsky

Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.

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