In what was described as a shock win by the Beeb, Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković won yesteday’s early elections in Slovenia. His fledling party Positive Slovenia won 28.5 percent of the vote, narrowly beating Janez Janša and his SDS, which won 26.3 pecent. The turnout was around 65 percent.
The presumptive PM (photo by yours truly)
The upset was only hinted at on the last day of the campaign by the very last result of a tracking poll conducted by Mladina weekly, which did in fact note a slight downward trend for SDS. Every other poll missed by a mile. It wasn’t that Janković’s support surged all that much, but rather that Janša bled just enough votes to push Janković over the top. As it seems that the last few days were crucial, it can be said with a degree of certainty that Janša hurt himself too much by a) fumbling the question of his real estate, b) avoiding the last debate on state television and c) acting as if the election result is a foregone conclusion.
Janša couldn’t help himself. In what was essentially “game over” for Janković, he went on the offensive and pressed Janković (and by extention Pahor and Virant) to disclose their financial and real estate documentation. Borut Pahor and Gregor Virant obliged promptly, Janković – who was already under media pressure on this – dragged his feet, but did produce (almost) complete documentation, challenging Janša to do the same. The SDS leader – unexpectedly – came under fire himself due to somewhat misterious ways of his real estate deals and took much longer than expected to hand over his papers. And even after he did so, it turned out the package is incomplete (he published the complete documentation on his Facebook page early on the last day of the campaign).
More importantly, his party blamed a broken-down scanner for the delay in producing the papers which instantly brought about unpleasant memories of the Archivegate. Voters’ memory is indeed short, but some people seem to remember.
b) Debate avoidance
Both Janša and Pahor canceled their appearance on the last debate on RTVSLO (state television) opting to appear on cable-only Info TV instead. While Pahor’s motives are unclear, it was more than obvious that Janša did not want to face Janković for the third time in a week and in a setting, where he would have to share time with “lesser” candidates. It was a snub both to his fellow candidates as well as to the viewers, who had to settle for Patrick Vlačič (SD) and Zvonko Černač (SDS) instead. While Vlačič was his usual acceptable self, Černač perfomed poorly, being unable to go beyond buzzwords and the general SDS mantra. It was not a good conclusion to the otherwise professionally conducted SDS campaign.
c) Foregone conclusion
Pahor and Janša on Info TV was meant to generate the appearance of the outgoing and the incoming prime minister having a civil chat on the pressing issues, possibly undoing the damage Janša suffered during a mano-a-mano with Janković on the said TV station. This, however, was Janša’s crucial mistake. His demeanor throughout the campaign was one of calmness and composure. Janša was already meeting with labour unions, EU ambassadors and was receiving support from fellow right-wing party leaders throughout Europe (including ill-concieved support from the jailed Julia Timošenko of Ukraine and Victor Orban of Hungary). In the end, it might have done more harm than good, probably convicing some of those who would have otherwise voted for him to support other parties. Either because it seemed game, set and match for Janša, or because the whole thing spilled over into arrogance.
Janković won, Janša lost. But winners (in their own particular way) also include DeSUS (the pensioners’ party) of Karl Erjavec, who seem to be disaster-proof, regardless of the clowning demeanor of the party president and Christian Democratic Nova Slovenija of Ljudmila Novak, which scored the unprecedented success of being the first party in history of Slovenia to make it back into the parliament. There is certain logic to it, as it is against the general order of things not to have the Catholics in the parliament in a country which is nominally 57% Roman Catholic.
The same logic applies to the apparent losers of this elections, both liberal parties, LDS of Katarina Kresal and Zares of Gregor Golobič. Neither of them made it above the 4% treshold. Zares scored a disastrous 0.65 % of the vote, while LDS fared only marginally better with 1.46 %. This, however, will not stand in the long run and I fully expect the liberal/social-liberal option to make it back into the parliament. But we’ll cover that in one of the upcoming posts.
One party no-one will particularly miss are the nationalists of Zmago Jelinčič. Scoring only 1.80 % of the vote they’re down and out. We’ll see if that’s for good, though.
Also, technically Borut Pahor’s Social Democrats must be counted in the ‘losers’ column, since they’re down to 10 seats from previous 28. But given the criminally low ratings Pahor’s government was getting in its last year, the fact that the SD came in third does soften the blow quite a bit.
What happens next?
Obviously, Janković will have to go about forming a coalition government. We already noted the seat-divison for the top three parties. Citizens’ List led by Gregor Virant came in fourth with 8 seats, DeSUS gor six seats, ditto for SLS of Radovan Žerjav, while NSi of Ljudmila Novak got the minimum possible four seats. Two seats are, of course, reserved for MPs representing Italian and Hungarian minotiries.
The PM-presumtive (that be Jay-Z) said time and again that he will not form a coalition with Janez Janša no matter what (as in: he’d rather gnaw his arm off than have to work with the man who snubbed him in every way possible during his 2004-2008 rule). And even though he reportedly initiated talks with SDS as well, that can be – for the time being – regarded more of a good-will gesture than real negotiations. Which leaves Zoki with a couple of options to go by: First (and least likely) is to try to isolate Janša and invite just about everyone and his brother to form a coalition, including the NSi. But since the latter went head-to-head with the new leader of Slovenia on a couple of occasions, including but not limited to Tito Street (where the NSi won the case in the Constitutional Court), odds are NSi will sit this one out.
This leaves Janković (PS) with SD, SLS, DeSUS and Virant’s List (LGV) to choose from. Social Democrats are almost necessary as coalition partners as they bring in ten votes. Additionally, If the PM-presumptive wants to achieve at least some sort of across the isle consensus on reforms, he will have to include at least one of the pro-welfare-reform parties, either Virant’s List of the SLS (both centre-right). If he includes both of them, he already enjoys a comfortable majority of 52 votes (54 if minorities are counted in) in a 90 seat parliament. The other possibility is a Jankovic-Pahor-Virant-Erjavec coalition (again, 52 votes) or a slightly less comfortable PS-SD-DeSUS-SLS combo with 50 votes.
But given DeSUS’ anti-reform stance, the PS-SD-LGV-SLS seems most probable. This would also probably mean (in addition to Janković at the helm) Borut Pahor as foreign minister (a field where Zoki is noticeably lacking both in skills and personnel), Gregor Virant as either minister of justice or of the interior (possibly both, as there is talk of reducing the number of porfolios) and Radovan Žerjav as agriculture or transportation minister (portfolios which SLS usually wants to control).
The State Electoral Commission will declare the final official results no later than 16 December, which means that the new parliament will convene for the first time on or around 24 December. After that the President of the Republic Danilo Türk will start consultations with parliamentary groups upon which he will make his nomination for the post of prime minister. While the consultations are a mere formality, they help to establish a clear picture of whether the PM presumptive can secure a necessary majority in the parliament.
And if all goes smoothly, Zoran Janković, a self-made-man of humble origins, born to a Slovene mother and a Serbian father in a backward village in Serbia, who moved to his maternal country at the age of 11 and continues to be mocked on account of his mixed roots to this very day, will be sworn in as the eight Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia.
The irony of course is not lost on Janša… If only he hadn’t had Janković removed as CEO of Mercator retail chain in 2005…