Oh, boy… Contrary to what pengovsky predicted two months ago, Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković on Wednesday did in fact agree to run for president of Positive Slovenia, throwing a huge wrench in what was already a barely functional political environment. A shitstorm of epic proportions ensued which unmasked a huge rift within the party and threatened, well, omnishambles. These were temporarily put off by what for all intents and purposes was a below-the-belt move by party executive committee to postpone the congress until shortly before parliamentary elections. Which amounts to an in-party mutiny and drives a wedge between Zoran Janković and the party he founded in 2011 led to victory in parliamentary elections only seven weeks later.
Zoran Janković vs. Alenka Bratušek (not an actual representation of roles ;))
Janković went all in on Wednesday and said he will stand in party elections, thus going head-to-head against Bratušek who confirmed her running some time ago. He also rejected speculations he would back down at the very last moment and went on to state that he sees no reason why junior coalition parties would quit the coalition if he were to return to the helm of PS. Well, maybe he didn’t, but Lukšič, Virant and Erjavec sure as hell did. But more on that in a moment.
PM Bratušek was on an official visit to Serbia on Wednesday and refused to comment on Janković move, but come Thursday, she was all like Cary Elwes in Robin Hood: Men in Tights and published a written statement saying that time for play is over and told him to bring it on, saying she will quit as PM if she loses party elections (Google translate here).
The stage was set for a showdown of epic proportions. Janković’s move was either motivated by one of those Tom Cruise moments or by the notion that he has little left to lose and decided that if he has to go, he will take the party with him. The former would go against him being suicidal, especially since he did hint at a possible “third option” a couple of weeks ago, namely, his retirement some time soon. He wasn’t really serious about it, but the mere mentioning of it suggest that he did take it into consideration.
Additionally, he apparently calculated the junior coalition parties have attached themselves to enough gravy-trains to continue in a Janković-led coalition rather than to quit their respective honey-pots, regardless of their insistence in Spring that Positive Slovenija is only acceptable as a coalition partner sans Janković. Furthermore, he figured (not entirely unreasonably, it must be said) that most of PS senior figures are somehow indebted to him politically. Lastly, he figured that he could easly sway the vote in the party Congress his way. Well, turns out he was right only on the last count.
immediately after his announcement on Wednesday all three junior coalition parties said that Janković as PS president means gave over for the ruling coalition which – by extension – meant early elections within a matter of months. The only coalition party that could reap some sort of benefits from this scenario are the Social Democrats which have seen a steady streak of top ranks in public opinion polls. Thus, even if DL and DeSUS would back down on their demands, the SD would almost certainly call it quits. Which why all three junior parties were watching each other, which would flinch first. With the congress only 17 days away on Wednesday, a proper flip-flop on the issue would be hard to execute.
OT: since a fallen government would most probably result in The Troika descending from Brussels-am-Berlin, the election result would matter about as much as a pair of fetid dingo’s kidneys, but I’m sure few people even considered that.
So, this was miscalculation numero uno, not unlike the one Janković made in 2011, when he was negotiating a coalition on his own and wouldn’t cave in to personal vanities of other party leaders. It was this clash of egos that ultimately cost him his premiership and that nearly caused a total political breakdown today. Namely, his running for party president also flew in the face of those who threw him under the bus in late July. He was challenging them as much as he was challenging PM Bratušek and somehow thought his move alone would sway those still on the fence to his side. But again, since Bratušek upped the ante a day later and told him in no uncertain terms that she will only play this game is she heads both the party and the government, a lot of people suddenly stood to lose quite a lot if the government would indeed fall. Not to mention the prospect of yet another election or that of a Brussels intervention. Janković was forcing them into a battle no-one really wanted to fight. Miscalculation numero dos.
And yet, if the battle were to be fought, Janković would probably win hands-down. In this, he was correct. It goes beyond saying that the one thing Alenka Bratušek lacks is charisma. She is a technocrat. A bean-counter, if you want to be unkind to her. If she were pitted against Jay-Z on open stage, she might as well throw in the towel (which reportedly she thought of doing immediately after Zoki’s announcement). For Janković on stage is a sight to see. Regardless of whether one likes him or hates him, one has to admit that he can work the crowd. Especially if the crowd wants to be worked. And congress delegates aren’t exactly a hostile bunch. No-one expected the PS congress to be like the 14th congress of the Yugoslav communists, when the Party fell apart.
This, apparently was a fact recognised by PS ExCom which on Thursday afternoon decided to pull the rug from under Zoran Janković entirely and postpone the congress until some time before elections. Since there is no definitive date for those, the congress is as good as canceled.
But as things stand now, Zoran Janković chipped off yet another piece of what little authority Alenka Bratušek has in Slovene politics. To an extent, one can understand him. He was increasingly sidelined by his own party and no doubt saw it as going beyond the terms of his mutually agreed “freezing of party leadership”. Not the sort of person to take being left out of the loop lightly, he tried to engineer a spectacular come-back.
That he was wrong to do so, can be gauged by the simplest of methods: several prominent SDS members were supporting his bid, saying that a party leadership should be contested in an open manner. Which is all fine and well, but SDS is approving of developments in other parties only when it suits them and they too saw Janković returning to head the PS as a short-cut to early elections which they would probably win.
With these developments, the separation of Zoran Janković and Alenka Bratušek is complete and the upside for her is that no one in their right mind can now claim that hers is a puppet government controlled by Zoran Janković. In fact, it was all a bit like Admiral Roebuck versus M in Tomorrow Never Dies (at 4:10). And although the pundits say she missed her chance to establish herself as a political leader, she has only now opened the possibility to do so.
Namely, both JZ and AB remain candidates when the congress finally convenes, but by then Slovenia will either be under a Troika administration or will have fixed its finances enough to start breathing again which would give Alenka Bratušek a leg to stand on politically. Curiously enough, in all this conundrum the only support (if you can call it that) she got was from the European Commission which said that now is not the time to experiment politically. Translation: they need an operative government to work with/dictate terms to.
As for Positive Slovenia, things do not bode well. The ripple effect will no doubt be felt down the party ranks and some serious work will have to be done to repair the rift in the coming months. If that is at all possible. The very fact that congress was postponed means that party senior figures have not (yet?) won the hearts and minds of rank-and-file members. Some time in the future, there will be hell to pay. It isn’t entirely clear who will pick up the tab, but it should be noted that the mutiny on the Bounty was eventually put down.