The epic #fail of Gregor Virant dramatically changed the relative positions political parties – for the lack of a better word – occupy in this election campaign. Virant dropped way down to number three and is suddenly feeling the breath of Borut Pahor on his neck, something which seemed impossible only a week ago. Also, the state television seems to have lived up to its mission once for a change and gave us an issue-oriented debate the other day. It it were a seven-way competition, then Gregor Golobič would have won fair and square. Janez Janša was somewhat tame, being flanked by Golobič on one side and Pahor on the other, but he managed to keep his cool for most of the time and deliver his talking points, although he took plenty of flak over the emergency finance law which would save up to 300 milion euros and which his SDS rejected. Golobič and Pahor took turns at beating Janša over the head with it and especially the incumbent prime minister was on a roll, not unlike the previous two debates and Social Democrats’ bounce is more than understandable from this point of view. Thus you see that the political landscape in this country could yet be significantly altered until December 4th. But what lies before the election Sunday is nothing compared to what lies after that. And most of it has to do with Ljubljana mayor and leader of Positive Slovenia party Zoran Janković.
Which way will he go? (source: The Firm™)
One of the recurring questions of this campaign is “what will Janković do?”. This was asked before he finally decided to enter the race, this was asked when he entered the race and wasn’t decided whether to run for MP or not and this is asked now, when he in fact is standing as a candidate in two precincts in Ljubljana. In each of those cases the logical answer was “no” and in every single time Zoki answered with “yes”. It was logical for him to reject calls to enter the race. It was logical for him not to stand as candidate for MP and yet he did just that (this one was kind of expected). And now it is logical for him that upon election he starts serving as MP, at least for the first six months, but by now we know better, right?
You see, the thing is that when Janković is elected (having selected two safe precincts, there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell of him not getting elected) his mayorship is automatically terminated and a new mayor must be elected. However, Janković will not have his MP status confirmed until the inaugural session of the new parliament (expected about two weeks after the elections) and then there are additional requirement on the part of the City Council and the end result is that elections for a new mayor can be held no earlier than late February 2012. On the other hand, the law on deputies (MPs) stipulates that if an MP resigns his/her post a replacement MP is picked provided that the resignation does not happen sooner than six months after the elections (in our case May 2012).
Now, compare this with the timetable for mayoral elections and Ljubljana and combine with the fact that Zoran Janković repeatedly said that he will not be serving as a mere MP, and you got yourself a clusterfuck on your hands. That Janković wants to be nominated as prime minister is of course his stated goal. Being a mere MP is utterly unappealing to him. He wouldn’t do it for all the farms in Cuba. And he cannot simply quit being an MP. Or can he? Technically, the law does not forbid him from resigning within six months, but only says that in this case a new election is called for the parliamentary seat in question. This is to discourage parties running with people who would win huge amounts of vote , resign early on and let their political masters enter the arena. But Janković repeated time and again that sitting in the parliament just ain’t his thing (as in he’d rather lick a live toad every morning than sit in there). So resigning ASAP in case he doesn’t get the premiership in in fact a very real option.
So, what are the possible scenarios here? In fact, there are two and both are bound to create a lot of hoopla as neither have ever been tried and some might even argue that they violate the spirit (although the follow the letter) of the law. Under Scenario one Janković resigns immediately after the elections and prior to the first session of the parliament. That way he does indeed force repeated elections for his parliamentary seat, but the upside is that he gets to keep the mayorship. The mechanics of this are rather complicated but the bottom line is that according to one set of legislation his MP status is acquired immediately upon official results are announced, but under another set of rules he only starts executing his MP role once the parliament is sworn is (which is when his mayorship gets terminated). Thus giving him a 14-day-window where he could technically resign and remain mayor of the capital.
But under (much more likely) Scenario two Janković is confirmed as MP, his mayorship is terminated and – failing to become the Prime Minister – he runs for mayor yet again. Should he get re-elected as mayor, his MP status would be terminated ex lege, meaning that a replacement MP would be named. Namely, the law specifies that new elections for his seat are called if an MP resigns within six months of getting elected. If, however, the MP would be elected to another function and entered a conflict of interest, he doesn’t resign but gets terminated as MP instead. And a mayor/MP conflict of interest was established only recently after Zares party of Gregor Golobič almost bent backwards to pass a law establishing it and thus removing a huge anomaly of the Slovene political system.
At any rate, Zoran Janković has a couple of options available to him should he lose out on the PM bid. But if his going national made a lot of people twitch, any of the above will make them go positively ga-ga. If nothing else, Zoki will be accused of cherry-picking offices and that never looked good. He better choose wisely.