Yesterday’s Slovenian vote in the 2019 EU elections proved once again that Muddy Hollows is an ecosystem unto its own and that any resemblance to Europe-wide political trends is coincidental at best.
The unofficial-but-probably-final tally is as follows: SDS+SLS combo (EPP) won three seats. SD (S&D) won two, as did LMŠ (ALDE) while NSi (EPP) scooped up the remaining seat.
On the whole this looks like a bit of a resurgence for left and liberal parties. EPP parties lost a seat while S&D and ALDE parties gained a seat each while Greens/EFA lost their single seat in Slovenia. That said, a look under the hood shows a murkier picture.
First and foremost, there was no surge in Slovenia. No green surge, no populist surge, no nationalist surge, so surge of whatever . If anything, votes coalesced around the political centre, with half of the future eight-strong MEP delegation being broadly centre-left and the other half being broadly centre-right.
Amazingly, the eight are split down the middle in other ways as well: Half are women and the other half are men, with four newcomers and four repeating their terms.
It is as if the mainstream parties were keen on doing as little as humanly possible in this campaign and the voters wanted to get it over and done with as soon as possible and their respective interests intersected somewhere in the middle. This is what lack of funds on the part of political parties and lack of fucks to give on the part of the voters looks like.
Which sort of explains the turnout as well. While higher than five years ago, a 28,3 % turnout, second lowest in the EU, is still criminally low. Especially compared to that of some neighbouring countries (well done Austria!). Muddy Hollows still has a long way to go in internalising the European political process.
This includes strategising. Granted, this too may have been affected by depleted coffers, but even a perfunctory look shows that everyone who played to win in this election left quite a lot on the table.
Strategy (or the lack thereof)
First, the EPP parties. Not only have they collectively lost a seat, but the SDS+SLS combo seems to have benefited only SLS. The way their list of candidates was designed (first three spots for SDS) showed that SDS leadership thought the SLS will play only a bit role and maybe get lucky. But boy did it get lucky.
The fourth-placed Franc Bogovič MEP (SLS/EPP) netted enough preferential votes to have jumped ahead of SDS’s Patricija Šulin MEP (SDS/EPP) and deny her a repeat term in the European parliament.
as Indeed, it was the preferential votes that seem to have been the overlooked element when strategies were crafted (inasmuch they were crafted at all) seeing as they shaped and shook up the result of Social Democrats (SD/S&D) as well.
Namely, the party regained its second MEP but contrary to leadership’s wishes, Tanja Fajon MEP will not be joined in Brussels and Strasbourg by second-placed Matjaž Nemec but rather by fourth-placed Milan Brglez, courtesy of preferential votes.
This causes a bit of a conundrum. Again, might I add, as for the second time in a row, SD voters defied the party leadership in electing MEPs. in 2014, SD then-leader Igor Lukšič imposed himself on the top spot, already eyeing a cozy gig in Brussels but preferential votes pushed second-placed Tanja Fajon ahead and got her elected as SD’s single MEP for the term.
One would have thought that the party would have learned its lesson and stop putting on the EU election candidates lists people who have no business being there. But no. This year it’s preferential votes scenario all over again
Brglez, former Speaker of the Parliament and one of the architects of SMC’s landslide victory in 2014 parliamentary vote defected to SD soon after the 2018 parliamentary election after he fell out with SMC leader Miro Cerar.
Brglez’s defection menat that SD became the second-most powerful party in the minority government of Marjan Šarec as it suddenly netted 11 MPs, to LMŠ’s 13 and SMC’s 9.
SMC gets consolation prizeBut since Brglez will now have to decamp to Brussels, his seat will be filled by someone from SMC parliamentary ticket, bringing the domestic MP count for SD and SMC back to 10 each.
And since SMC (ALDE) crashed and burned yesterday, winning only 1.6 percent of the vote, rest assured that they will use whatever political leverage they have with gusto.
Speaking of ALDE parties, their inability to work together resulted in a fractured vote which in turn meant that they most likely left an additional MEP seat on the table. Or maybe even two.
Namely, the combined result for ALDE parties was almost 30%, which would have been awfully close to winning four seats. But as it is, LMŠ with its nondescript list won two seats in the European Parliament, while DeSUS, SAB and SMC didn’t make the cut.
Again, one can see just how the lack of a proper strategy can deliver sub-optimal results. Marjan Šarec’s insistence that LMŠ dictate the terms of engagement to SMC, SAB and DeSUS has cost him dearly as he will now have less clout in forcing his pick for Slovenian commissioner in the new European Commission.
Had LMŠ agreed to a joint ALDE list, a third MEP seat would almost surely have been in the offing and if the list had won four seats, liberals would have been able to run the table in EU matters in Slovenia, increasing their clout in Brussels as well.
But, as things stand, it is now SD who will try and force its Commissioner pick (whoever that may be) upon Šarec who in turn will need all the support from SMC, SAB and DeSUS to secure an ALDE commissioner.
Karma is indeed a bitch.
And finally, yesterday’s result will most likely inform the debate on the reform of the national electoral system.
As per a recent ruling of the constitutional court, the voters do not have enough of a say over who gets to represent them in the National Assembly.
Several options are being mulled to remedy that, one of them is the introduction of a preferential vote, not unlike in the EU election.
The premise is simple enough: a voter votes for a party (or a candidate list) and within that list they vote for a preferred candidate, regardless of the order on the list. If the preferred candidate gets enough preferential votes, they skip ahead and are elected directly. If not, their tally of votes is added to the cumulative tally of votes for the list and then proportionally divided among the candidates on the list, starting at the top.
All the MEPs elected yesterday were elected by using preferential votes which shows that the voters understand the system and are keen to use it.
Sadly, however, this is precisely the reason the political class will bend over backwards to avoid implementing the system.
Paying lip service to voters’ influence on their representation is one thing. Agreeing to voters having said influence is something entirely different and would require a substantial redesign of the internal party nomination processes and power structures.
And those are not about to change anytime soon.