Recently, Slovenian media widely reported of a rift in Positive Slovenia (PS), the senior coalition party. Both print and electronic media were awash with reports of sparks flying between PM Alenka Bratušek and Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković during a party huddle some three weeks ago.
WIZJGTD – What Is Zoran Janković Going To Do? (source: The Firm ™)
According to Delo (Slovenian only), Janković, unhappy with being sidelined within the party, went head to head with Bratušek over how much extra money city of Ljubljana would get in the budget balancing act (which has since been passed). However, Bratušek apparently told him that “how much” actually means “if any”. Apparently this precipitated and angryish exchange and forced a roll-call in the party council where a large majority sided with the PM.
The allegations of party in-fighting were dismissed publicly and interpreted only as a “spirited debate”, but it did not escape pengovsky’s attention that Renata Brunskole MP, who actively courted Janković to enter the national race in 2011 and even split from SD to facilitate this, basically hung Janković out to dry. She told the media mayors often have different views of state budget thus in effect withdrawing her support for Janković. Not totally unexpected, by the way, since she apparently doesn’t blink twice when switching allegiances suits her immediate political needs. But still, something Janković will not forget easily.
After allegations of a party rift came to light, Janković sought to play down the whole thing, claiming he supported the budget rebalancing act all along and that he believes Alenka Bratušek is an excellent PM. Conspicuously, he said nothing about her as party president, only saying that we will decide on whether he’ll run for party chieftain some time until autumn.
Thus the question which causes many a talking head to predict yet another installment of the “hot political autumn” (the classic and probably most abused idiom in Slovene political lingo) therefore is, whether Jay-Z is going to run for president of Positive Slovenia during their September huddle.
There are two options, obviously, one more likely than the other. Option One: Janković runs for head of PS, Bratušek as per her earlier stated intentions does not put up a fight, Zoki gets elected head of the party (again), all hell breaks loose within the coalition, early elections are called, cue the Apocalypse.
Now, this scenario has a slight problem: it is way too straightforward. If current ratings are anything to go by, the only two parties which might be interested in (yet another) early elections are Social Democrats of Igor Lukšič and SDS of Janez Janša. The latter perhaps even more so since they are in opposition with Ivan basically hiding under a rock somewhere, save occasional sightings on Party meets and via Twitter. Janša’s political star is fading fast courtesy of the anti-graft report, a gift, by the way, that keeps on giving.
On the other hand, early elections might look appealing to Lukšič (his party secretary-general tweeted as much), since they do offer a chance to mitigate the 2011 ass-whooping the voters served to Borut Pahor and come out on top. With SD being the only coalition party that has both adequate reach and ground network, that may even be doable, especially if they manage to pin all the unpopular things of the Bratušek administration to the PS.
But Lukšič might face an unexpected problem: his party. Specifically, party heavyweights who have too much vested interest in this government continuing, or – at the very least – not having yet another government come in and running the danger of shaking things up. This includes (but is not limited to) the faction(s) supporting the massive headache that is the TEŠ6 power plant in Šoštanj. If too many key SD people became too cosy, early elections might prove to be a bridge too far for Lukšič.
But even so, calling early elections is not exactly a walk in the park. Even if SD quits the coalition due to Janković comeback, PM Bratušek might try to continue with a minority government. Namely, despite Karl Erjavec of DeSUS and Gregor Virant of DL professing their intention to vacate the coalition immediately if Zoki gets back in the game, they both stand to lose plenty. And while DeSUS can still be counted on making it above the 4% threshold on election day, DL is all but finished and the further away the election day is, the better.
But this is the less likely scenario. Apart from Janković’s insistence that he never really quit as party president (but merely “freezing” his position, pending a party vote), the only thing that goes in favour of Zoki’s mounting a leadership bid is former president Milan Kučan saying in a recent interview that he ought not to.
That’s right. Some days ago Kučan, commonly seen as Janković’s mentor, gave an interview to a TV station in his native Prekmurje region saying “if Janković can not lead his party due to corruption charges – and it is my belief he can not – then the same goes for a president of any other party, regardless of the support within the party ranks” (full video here, in Slovenian).
Now, Kučan obviously drew a parallel between charges against Janković and Janša, both implicated in reports by the anti-graft commission. Not only did Kučan say Janković shouldn’t lead the PS anymore (thus implicitly supporting PM Bratušek), he also drew a parallel between JJ and Jay-Z, something the latter has tried very hard to dismiss ever since the reports were published.
The pundits went into a frenzy, interpreting this as Kučan throwing Janković under a bus, the final nail in Janković’s political coffin and so on ad nauseam. However, Zoran Janković didn’t get where he is today by taking orders from other people. In fact, while he has always maintained he has deep respect for Kučan, he has defied him politically before. Apparently, Kučan advised him against running for mayor in 2006, but Janković did and won in a landslide. Similarly, the former president apparently privately advised Janković not to go national in 2011 election, but Janković did, again winning in a landslide, but ultimately failing to clinch the PM job. After Janković announced his bid amid much media furuore, Kučan supported him, but noted that he did so for “different reasons”.
Anyways, point being that Kučan lost control of Janković years ago – if he had any in the first place, that is. Also, history shows Janković reacts badly when being told what to do and is liable to do exactly the opposite, just to prove his point. But again, the probability of anything like this happening is, for the moment at least, fairly small.
At this junction, a word of caution is necessary: With Janković, any decision he might or might not take is of academic value at best until a week or so before deadline. As a politician, he often acts instictively, making any sort of rational analysis of his actions useless. During the years, he has toned down this approach significantly, especially after the government-forming debacle in late 2011, but as he often says, he’s too old to change.
In pengovsky’s opinion, Janković will (cue Option Two) not run for president of Positive Slovenia. Even more, there is a high level of probability he will not run for a third term as mayor of Ljubljana, either. For some time now, Janković has been dropping hints about “a new mayor and a new team” every now and then. And while he only recently initiated a massive push to upgrade Ljubljana’s ailing infrastructure with a price tag north of 200 million euro, there is a certain lukewarmness in Jankovič’s demeanor.
While this could all be put down to pre-summer exhaustion, it should be noted that municipal elections are slightly more than a year away and that while all other parties in Ljubljana have thusfar failed to produce a strong challenger to Janković, his armor has been more than just slightly dented in the past two years. And, as we have seen time and again, to win an election, you needn’t be the best candidate. You just need to make the fewest mistakes.
2014 is also the year of European elections and it is unlikely the electorate would look kindly upon a political player that would bring them yet another trek to the polling stations, despite the fact that Janković at the helm of PS would probably mean a boost in public-opinion polls for PS which as things stand now, continually scores only high single digits. Despite being instinctive about politics (or precisely because of that), Janković is not suicidal.
In pengovsky’s view this computes into Jay-Z not running for head of the party, while his running for a third term as the mayor of Slovenian capital should not be taken for granted. Sparks were flying, but the lights didn’t go out.