Just as pengovsky was about to declare the European election campaign in Muddy Hollows boring as fuck, the final TV debate provided drama, fireworks and overall joy at something finally happening.
Because if there ever was a more boring campaign in Slovenia, pengovsky must have slept through it. Because for the most part these past few weeks have been a goddamn snoozefest of biblical proportions.
Until yesterday, we learned very little about candidates’ platforms, even less about how they intend to go about enacting them should their party groups end up forming the next European Commission.
The debates were few and far between, public opinion polls even more so and for a while it seemed to be going full Al Pacino.
But then came yesterday with the debate on public television which turned out to be orders of magnitude more interesting than Monday’s debate on privately owned POP TV. And given that it’s usually POP who can make a show out of just about anything, that’s no small feat.
The main takeaway is that women are by far the more capable candidates. Even LMŠ’s greenhorn Irena Joveva, who at times in these past few weeks looked more like a slow-moving train wreck than the Spitzenkandidatin of a senior coalition party, managed to clobber together a decent performance and didn’t make too many gaffes.
Then there was the ball-busting administered to nationalist leader Zmago Jelinčič by SAB’s very own Angelika Mlinar.
Mlinar, a sitting MEP, is a bit of an outlier here and her entering the race was probably the smartest thing anyone has done in the Slovenian political cespool for a very long time.
You see, Angelika Mlinar is not an MEP for a Slovenian political party but rather for Austrian liberal Neos. She is, however, a member of Slovenian minority in Austrian Carinthia, speaks fluent Slovenian and is something of a heavyweight in ALDE, the European liberal party group.
Taking full advantage of European rules allowing for cross-border and expat candidacies, Mlinar and SAB pulled off the most imaginative political stunt on the Sunny Side of the Alps in the last twenty years and have netted the junior coalition party a highly credible and hard-hitting candidate, few parties could match.
And Mlinar, while her re-election is by no means secure, seems to be relishing at the role. Especially when she takes on the nationalists and populists.
The whole Strache video which has brought down the Austrian government of Sebastian Kurz was like a godsend for Mlinar who used it repeatedly as an example of money-grabbing, treacherousness and ineptitude of the far right in the European parliament (see also Le Pen, Marine).
And when the ageing nationalist leader Jelinčič, who tries to hide that strong women turn him on by bullying them, walked straight into her trap by saying that he couldn’t possibly be corrupt and incompetent, as he isn’t even an MEP, she replied coldly with “and than god for that.”. Ouch.
Nor was Mlinar the only woman having a good debate night.
Romana Tomc, an MEP for SDS/EPP undid a lot of damage their lead candidate and Viktor Orban’s second-biggest Slovenian fan Milan Zver did on Monday night and she gave it as good as she got it.
In Monday’s debate on POP TV Zver fumbled on two key questions, saying first that Slovenia got screwed in the arbitration decision in the matter of border between Slovenia and Croatia (which is patently false) and then mumbled something about a need for a bilateral solution (which is exactly what Croatia is clamouring for all these years).
Moreover, Zver did such a piss-poor job of defending his party’s hugging of Hungarian wannabe autocrat Viktor Orban that everyone ended up looking worse for it.
Tomc, however, is cut from different cloth. Perceived as one of the few remaining moderates in the Party, she could get away with a couple lurches toward the far right (notably, repeatedly trying to find democratic tradition in the fact that Strache resigned of his own accord) but she knew full well when to back off.
And when fellow MEP Tanja Fajon (SD/S&D) confronted her with a fake-news image peddled by Nova24TV, an Orban-funded SDS propaganda outlet (think Fox News with North Korean dedication), Tomc didn’t even fight it and simply apologised to Fajon who as a result was unable to pursue the matter further.
This enabled Tomc to revert to her own talking points and even land a counter puch or two. For example, early on when the host was asking everyone about corruption and used Strache and Marine Le Pen as examples, Tanja Fajon fired a broadside in Tomc’s general direction and added that she and her party are strongly against clientelism and corruption. To which Tomc simply added, ever so gendly, that the only Slovenian MEP ever to get caught with his hands in the cookie jar (and even serve time for it) was… Zoran Thaler of SD.
And while Fajon herself was no slouch when it came to performance yesterday, it has to be said she didn’t stand out as much in the field as she did on Monday when she easily dominated the debate.
That said, her task was to move from offence to defence, protecting the two MEP seats SD is projected to win (up from a single seat it holds in this term) with the second name on the ballot being Matjaž Nemec, former deputy speaker of the national assembly and a senior SD hand.
The thing is that both Nemec and Fajon are believed to be in play for a potential party leadership bid and if they both end up in Brussels, we should be seeing some interesting dynamic within the party once the dust settles post-election.
Which leaves us with Ljudmila Novak of centre-right (reliable, stable, deserves an honourable mention) and Violeta Tomić of hard-left Levica (and co-lead candidate of The European Left) who, on general, fared much better than on Monday in the POP TV debate where she couldn’t resist repeating the 30+ years old EU cucumber myth.
Yesterday Tomić delivered an effective message and took potshots at Zmago Jelinčič, who – while struggling to respond to Tomić’s jibes – at one point even indirectly admitted to having worked as an informant for the Yugoslav secret police UDBA. Awkward.
At any rate, it was a ladies’ night through and through. As it should be. Slovenia is one of only three EU member states who have achieved complete parity on the ballot, with 50 percent of women candidates.
Exactly who will get the nod, however, remains to be seen. The latest projection by pollster Valicon Group puts the most likely outcome as three seats for SDS, two for SD and one for NSi, Levica and DeSUS but warns that things are fluid at the bottom of the ladder and a couple of hundred votes either way could mean a world of difference
That said, if your Slovenian it at least passable, you can listen to Valicon’s Andraž Zorko and pengovsky, in the estimable company of Nataša Briški and Antiša Korljan, debate the end of the EU elex campaign and other shit Slovenian political cesspool provides, in a new podcast called LD;GD over at Metina lista.
Oh, and lastly: Go vote, dammit!