Slovenian Elections: The Janković Upset

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.

a) Documents

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.

The aftermath

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…

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.

22 thoughts on “Slovenian Elections: The Janković Upset”

  1. Well, as the saying goes : Fortune favours the brave. And JJ has probably been beating his head against the table non stop since last night, only to pause and dish out some sour grapes during his concession speech, apparently.

    But like I said in another post on a certain social network : congrats to Zoki, but now the real work starts. Only time will tell if he’s up to the task and whether his coalition can make things work in this uncertain climate.

  2. DeSUS in opposition – and for the first time in a very long while – that will be interesting. Presumably a no brainer given the travails of the former coalition, but interesting, given that earlier surge the pensioners party had the polls.

  3. Leaving Desus out of coalition would be the real victory. After all, with Croatian issues pretty much settled it would not be such a problem getting along with SLS.

  4. What is the outcome of the elections 2011?
    Let’s compare the results 2011 with 2008:

    Stranka 2008 2011
    StrankaSD 29 10
    LZJ-PS 28
    SDS 28 26
    Zares 9

    LDS 5

    DL -GV 8
    Desus 7 6
    SLS 5 6
    SNS 5
    Nsi 4
    Manjšini 2 2

    The results are very similar: SD in 2008 became LZJ-PS in 2011 …
    1. Looking at this and knowing how intelligent JJ is, I had a dream: JJ figured out that in these elections there is no possibility to get his planed 50+. The world crisis is still on, there is no need to take over the responsibility in such a difficult time, it’s easier to continue the story of Kučan’s Clan and simply wait that ZJ and his coalition brakes apart. The last possible red hero will be out of race. JJ waited for so long but he can wait some more years and get his 50+ or even more.
    2. Looking at the results you can see that in districts where ZJ won the race the turnout was about 6 percent points higher as in districts where JJ won. This could mean that there was no flow of voters between JJ and ZJ, JJ voters only reacted on his problems with his real estate (in this case it is for them apparently obviously that his fingers were in marmalade) and his family (yes, JJ has also a family, in his case the brother is the black sheep) and didn’t vote.

  5. Pengovsky, very good assesment. A few reflections from my side to add:

    a) disappearance of Zares and LDS: both were unable to deal with problems (=scandals and leadership, plus some other items), rightly punished. Would not worry about liberal option not being represented, this two parties were not really liberal.

    b) NSi: basically got in because of the family law debate. If it wasn’t for that, they would have been sitting out.

    c) I bet on a coalition of PS-SD-LGV-SLS, with Desus out. I’m hopeful that Jankovic will talk to the unions beyond the usual suspects i.s. Semolic. Unions also need to adapt to reality, perhaps Jankovic will picture the necessary changes better

    d) Jansa is the bih loser, by a wide margin – and this time he will have difficulties blaming others (no Patria this time), because it was essentialy his behaviour in the last days that sunk the party. I would not be surprised of a challenge to his leadership.

    On the long run, if Jankovic does a decent job, I bet on him taking over SD and leading the left. In terms of substance they’re close, in terms of voters obviously, in terms of people they will be – Pahor is, next to Jansa, another big loser that has been sitting on his throne for a long time. However, if Jankovic fails, then next elections will be even more interesting.

  6. Sehr geehrter Herr (oder vielleicht Genosse, wenn Sie so bevorzugen) Pengovsky,

    Vor mehr als 20 Jahren hat ein serbischer Politiker (sein Name war Mihajlo Švabić oder was???) gesagt: “Wenn die Slowenen nicht mit uns und Milošević sind, sollen sie ab sofort nach Graz oder Philadelphia verschwinden!”. Und gestern ist es geschehen. Viele Leute haben wieder Švabić erkennen und jetzt ist es kristallklar (nicht nur mir sondern auch vielen ausgebildeten jungen Leuten), dass dieses Land keine Zukunft mehr hat! Vielleicht ist Phily momentan nicht leicht erreichbar aber zusätzlich zu Graz gibt es noch so viele andere Möglichkeiten… Und wenn die Verfassung schon da verantwortungslos und unklugerweise wählen erlaubt, dann erlaubt der EU Vertrag auch frei die günstigste und die rationellste unter 27 (bald schon 28) Steuerverwaltungen wählen, oder vielleicht nicht?

    Und da liegt ein Problem. Heute Vormittag habe ich ein Profil auf einem Stellensuchenportal erstellt und nach nur ein Paar Stunden habe ich viele sehr interessante Angeboten erhalten. Jetzt muss ich mich nur noch entscheiden, wohin eigentlich ohne Rückkehr zu emigrieren oder besser gefragt, welche Gemeinschaft die guten Unternehmen anzieht und deshalb wirklich meine Steuerbeiträge verdient. Und da brauche ich Hilfe. Eine engere Auswahlliste ist schon bereit, aber alle Kontaktpersonen sind sehr nett und alle erwähnte Örter wirklich gefallen mir. Deshalb bitte ich Ihnen um mir zu entscheiden zu helfen und sich ein Paar Sekunden für eine sehr kurze (nur eine Frage) Umfrage zu nehmen:
    Bitte auch für ein “Retweet” und Weiterleitung der Addresse, wenn möglich, vielleicht könnten Sie auch Zuhörerinnen und Zuhörer Ihres Radios darüber fragen.

    Vielen Dank für Ihre Mithilfe. Warum müsste man hier perspektivlos faulen, zahlreiche Öffentlichdienstsparasiten mit unverdienten Renten dick machen und die kommunistische Idylle stören, wenn das Problem so einfach und so günstig für die beiden Seiten lösbar ist!

    PS. Entschuldigung für die Sprache. Stimmt, am allermeisten sind für die angebotenen Stellen gute Englischkenntnisse genug, aber man muss ja auch die Sprache meiner neuen Nachbarn erfrischen, obwohl sie (noch) nicht vollkommen ist.

    Mit freundlichen Grüßen, PF

  7. Lieber Prinz der Finsternis,

    so wird das nix. Man muss auch im deutschsprachigen Ausland Deutsch beherrschen, um einen Traumjob ohne serbische Präsenz zu ergattern. Arbeitssuchende mit ungenügenden Kenntnissen haben die mehr als notwendig …

  8. @Marko: Good points all the way until the end. I don’t see Janković taking over SD. Regardless of the fact that Janković is making no secret of his left-wing orientation, he is not an ideological politician. Traditional parties like people who come to the top from within ranks. People who earn the top spot. Janković just isn’t “one of them”, if you catch my meaning.

    @alcessa: And this is just the beginning. What happens now is a clash between his “head on” politics and the more traditional kind. I have a hunch it will be painfull on both sides.

    @Sean Hanley: It’s still early days and I wouldn’t count DeSUS out just yet. It would have been a better coalition without them, that’s for sure. But – ironically – a period in the opposition would probably do them a lot of good. In terms of popularity, that is. Rough times ahead…

    @Jacob: Agree, of course 🙂

    @Dr. Arf: True, but hard work is Zoki’s trademark. The challenge here will be to rein in the plethora of special interest that funded this election campaign, stem the aspirations of the prospective coalition partners and actually get stuff done. We’ll see. Zoki has been known to make the seemingly impossible happen, but this isn’t just a whole new ballgame. It’s not even just a different league. This is a whole different sport…

  9. Yeah, it will be painful, I agree.
    I remember a German radio report on elections in Slovenia (years ago), where most of the interviewees said they had enough of Jansa’s “authoritativeness” (aka arrogance) and Slovenia needed something else, more pragmatism, more feeling etc. Things we might have got with Pahor, but they weren’t really given or executed in a useful way, mostly.

    So, do people now want a more direct, hands and head on approach? (I do personally but will accept it in politics only, if it serves a purpose and doesn’t include discrimination) I don’t think so. “Contrast voting” seems very dangerous to me. Jay-Z may have many useful personal and political traits (I wouldn’t know), but he may not be able/allowed to use them sensibly, successfully or to anyone’s benefit.

  10. As undisclosed sources close to Janković affirm, the list of ministers is already more or less complete. Slight modifications are still possible, depending on coalition talks, but the core will definitely not change significantly:

    economy: Mencinger
    foreign affairs: Borat
    education: Jure
    finance: Bavčar, if reconciliation fails, then Hilda or Bine
    defence: Brkać (a.k.a. Stanovnik)
    health care: Jaklič, M.Sc.
    environment: Klemen Šešok
    social matters: Kahel
    agriculture: Smrkolj, Verlič, Žerjav or someone else from SLS
    Cypriot Slovenes: Damjan
    interior: Barbara Žgajnar Tavš
    justice: chief of the former Police Station Postojna
    reforms: Semolič
    public administration: Posedi
    transport: Zidar
    culture: Danijela
    PR office: Karba

  11. An update: Kos is dismissed from Greco, meaning only one thing: the ministry of interior is his. Žgajner Tavš will have to wait for a year when the position of an ombuds(wo)man becomes vacant. Oh, forgot about the anticorruption commission. Although supervised by Praprotnik, Klemenčič is not reliable enough (the NPU case), so someone will replace him soon. Most likely Thaler

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