The Game’s Afoot. Again.

Parliamentary election in Slovenia will be held on 3 June. Such was the decision of President of the Republic Borut Pahor last Saturday when he, flanked by his senior advisers, signed the order on dissolution of the parliament and setting the election date. With this the game is now officially afoot. But little in the political dynamic of Muddy Hollows will change in practice as parties and politicians have been on an election footing since middle of the winter, or at the very least since Prime Minister Miro Cerar submitted his surprise resignation and lit a fire under everyone’s asses.


Projected distribution of seats by Volilna napoved poll aggregator, where one can fool around with fantasy coalitions.

While much ink had been spilt over how Slovenia is yet again facing early elections, the date Pahor chose makes this now a moot point. For while it is technically true that elections are being called because of the parliament’s inability/unwillingness to appoint a new prime minister following Cerar’s surprise resignation, election on 3 June also fall within the constitutionally mandated “no sooner than two months and no later than fifteen days before the expiry of four years from the date of the first session of the previous National Assembly” (Article 81) which for all intents and purposes makes this a regular election. Which further proves the point of just how well timed Cerar’s resignation was. Maximum effect with minimum sacrifice.

Speaking of Cerar, polls show his move is finally paying off dividends. SMC is slowly but steadily gaining support while the top three parties, SDS, SD and LMŠ led by Kamnik mayor and runner-up of presidential election Marjan Šarec are in a bit of a flux. Especially Šarec seems like he is becoming the victim of his own success as he struggles to prop up the trust people invested in him early on with anything substantial in terms of policy or platform. Additionally, as predicted, Cerar’s resignation antics took the spotlight away from Šarec and trained it back on the outgoing PM which no doubt affected the numbers, too.

Double digits

To be sure, there was no dramatic shake-up in the rankings yet but numbers suggest SMC may actually creep up into double-digit region which would be quite a feat given that the party was considered dead men walking only months ago. But as things stand, the volilna-napoved.si poll aggregator site is ranking SDS on top, hitting 20% for the first time in months, followed by LMŠ slipping below 20% with SD coming in third with just above 16% but with a downward trend. And since the results on the site are recalculated to exclude the don’t-knows, SMC actually ekes out a result just above 10%.

The single-digit area is interesting as well. Both The Left and the NSi seem to be on an upward trend (which probably is another factor in SD and LMŠ in the red) while DeSUS of foreign minister Karl Erjavec seems to be losing ground. Scoring 5.4 percent and with a downward trend month-on-month makes the four-percent parliamentary threshold seem awfully close. We will see what the next few weeks bring, though. Erjavec is nothing if not a survivor and he will surely not take his punches lying down.

Single digits

In fact, some have ascribed the recent controversy over the reward payout to the national basketball team to the savvy political skills of DeSUS leader. Namely, team members sent an open letter to PM Cerar saying they should be receiving more than just 65k euros for the entire team for winning the European Championship last year. Among others, Goran Dragić and Luka Dončić signed the letter. The public mostly took the players’ side (after all, it’s not every day Slovenia wins the Eurobasket titke). Cerar responded with a letter of his own, saying the state not only gave all that it could give but that it also provided the players with guaranteed pensions after their retirement and invested more in sports in general.

Why is this important and what could Karl Erjavec possibly have to do with it, you ask? After all, it could all be just a coincidence or players simply looking to maximise their leverage. And you could be correct. But then there’s the fact we’re six weeks away from an election. And the fact that Saša Dončić, Luka Dončić’s father and a prominent member of the team’s entourage during the championship is running for MP on a DeSUS ticket. We report, you decide 😉

JBTZ anniversary

Speaking of coincidences, there are those who see the date president Pahor chose as anything but coincidental. The Prez could have chosen any Sunday from 27 May to 15 July. In reality, a date beyond 25 June was unviable as it is already holiday season and elections are typically not held close to on inside that, mostly on account of fearing low turnout. Because who would be willing to trade in a hot beach and a cold beer for a bunch of political amateurs and malfeasants (or so the reasoning goes). Last time around things could not be helped and the vote was held on 13 July 2014. Predictably, the turnout was barely above 51 percent, a record low for parliamentary elections in Slovenia. And since the political class has a legitimacy problem as it is, nobody wants a repeat performance further degrading the standing of the parliament in the public’s eyes. If such a thing is even possible, that is. A recent poll by Valicon clocked the level of trust Slovenians have in the parliament at negative 72 percent. Which is an 8 percent improvement compared to year 2014. Go figure…

Anyway, Pahor’s options were limited. Still, there are those who believe that the reason he chose 3 June instead of 27 May has to do with a planned rally in Ljubljana on 30 May, just four days before the election. The rally will be held to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the biggest pro-democracy rally in 1988, when the Yugoslav Army arrested or tried to arrest Janez Janša, Ivan Borštner, David Tasić and Franci Zavrl, setting off the JBTZ Affair and accidentally creating a focal point for the numerous and often fractured pro-democracy forces in Slovenia. Since Janša is the only one of the quartet who is (still) active in politics there are fears this will turn out to be an unofficial pro-Janša rally just as the campaign will peak and that it will serve to refocus the narrative on Janša’s role during the nascent of democracy and gloss over his subsequent missteps and controversies.

While it is true that Borut Pahor to this day seems oddly mesmerised by the mere appearance of Janez Janša and has bent over backwards to cater to his agenda more than once, this seems a bit far fetched. Or, if true, ill thought-out. Namely, the way the votes split in Slovenia is that the victorious party is mostly decided by either (or both) voting units that cover Ljubljana. The sheer concentration of people in the capital makes them a formidable political force and in a politically polarised society it is the brute force of numbers that usually carries the day in the end. And although there is a notable pool of conservative voters in the largest Slovenian city (augmented by those living in the suburbs included in the two voting units), voters in Ljubljana are generally considered to be leaning to the liberal/left/progressive (take your pick). And while their voting discipline is often lacking, few things could get them riled up as much as a sight of a pro-Janša rally with their suburban and rural compatriots making a nuisance of themselves. So if Janša is indeed looking for a late-game bump in the polls this might just backfire. Especially is a leading party on the left side of the spectrum will have established itself by then and will be able to provide political shelter for tactical voters who would normally not vote for them but would hate to see a right wing party (specifically: SDS) win.

Significant others

And while we’re on the subject, one of the more noticeable takeaways of this month’s polls are the large percentage cumulatively scored by the also-ran parties. Outside the seven parties currently in the parliament, pollsters now detect various levels of support for as many as eight more. Admittedly, only one of those seems poised to make it to the parliament (and make it big, as this is LMŠ we’re talking about) but the rest do take away as much as 13 percent of all likely votes.

Granted, this number may fall considerably as election day approaches but it does suggest that a large number of smaller and upstart parties can dilute the disaffected votes just enough to actually strengthen establishment parties. Thirteen percent is fucking a lot of votes and if this keeps on dragging until election day (it probably won’t, but still), election gurus will be writing textbooks about it for years to come.

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    pengovsky

    Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.