Ljubljana By-elections

Apart from the crucial vote on the Family code (more on that tomorrow), Ljubljanchans will vote in the mayoral by-elections this Sunday. The players are known and pengovsky introduced them some time ago, so we’ll dispence with niceties this time around.


Well, there you have it… (source)

While there’s always an outside chance of an election uspet, the result of the vote seems a foregone conclusion. Zoran Janković is poised to be elected mayor for the third consecutive time which will be a bit of a tounge-in-cheek as the by-elections were called because he was elected to the parliament in the first place. But since Janković was denied the premiership even though his Positive Slovenia won the elections, Janković probably won’t hurt in the pols too much.

While some candidates raised the question of apropriateness (after all, it isn’t really customary to cherry-pick positons you run for), the main thing is that this time around it isn’t Zoki’s charm that’s working for him, but rather the fact that – save a couple – all candidates are, well, bland. It’s allways nice to read about the challengers’ platforms, but delivery is just as important. Really, work on it.

The only two candidates besides Janković which did put some back into it, were Mojca Kucler Dolinar (joint NSi/SDS candidate) and Vito Rožej (Zares). Neither really has any chances to win this time around and both recognise the fact (semi-officially, at least). In fact, Janković’s bid nothwithstanding, the candidates are mostly laying groundwork for the regular municipal elections in 2014. Either that or they’re fighting a losing battle for a reward – say a more decent job description somewhere along the road.

At any rate: It looks like Zoki will take this one home in the first round. But paralel to the mayoral by-elections, Slovenes will vote on the refrendum on the new family law. As you’ll see tomorrow, the situation in that particular cesspool is “dramatic”. 😀

 

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Zoran Janković Re-enters Local Politics And Runs For Mayor (Again)

Earlier today Zoran Janković announced his entry into the mayoral by-election race. Although pushed back until three hours until deadline, the move was widely expected and subject to much speculation ever since the leader of Positive Slovenia failed in his PM bid in mid-January. In terms of the race itself, with Jay-Z in the picture, the end result is – barring a catastrophic turn of events – almost a given, especially since some initial polling data shows he’d win as much as 70 percent of the vote. But still, there are slightly more than three weeks to election Sunday, and things can happen. The rest of the candidates will surely put up at least a decent fight and even if Janković looks poised to win from the outset, the mere fact that there are seven candidates in what for all intents and purposes is a tedious formality, shows that the Slovene politics is as lively as ever, both on the left and on the right.

Namely: the mayor is elected by popular vote and has a vast scope of powers, but being a member of the City Council is not one of them. Actually, the composition of the Ljubljana city council will remain exactly the same, no matter the result on 25 March (by-election day), meaning that Zoran Janković List (LZJ – Zoki’s candidate list, which formed the basis for Positive Slovenia) will retain the absolute majority of 25 out of 45 votes. And you can imagine the slaughterhouse that would ensue if any other candidate but Zoki won. However, this did not prevent six other candidates to join in on the fun.

Ze left

Zares party, formerly of Gregor Golobič, but until recently under new management of Pavle Gantar, put up their candidate, former MP Vito Rožej. While he has practically zero chance of winning the race, his bid shows that Zares refuses to die (to the utmost irritation of many) and that the party will try to rally whatever resources it has left on the local level to attempt re-entry into the parliament in 2013 2015 or even sooner. Some say that their tactic is suicidal and that they’d be better off skipping this one. But the truth is that Zares needs all the attention it can get, both to promote their political platform which is just enough off the prevalent neo-liberal spectre to be ignored more often than not, as well as to make their rank-and-file (what’s left of it) feel worth their while. Also, one needs to keep fighting, even if it means landing only a few soft punches at first.

Things are even more interesting with the Social Democrats. They opted not to put forward their candidate and also refused to support Janković or any other candidate. In fact, they’re sitting this one out. Which is all fine and dandy, except for the fact that they were the principal recipients of a general political whoop-ass in the parliamentary elections, being reduced to only 10 MPs (down from 29) in what was one of the biggest electoral routs this country has ever seen. And yet, they still apparently feel that all would a-ok had Jay-Z chosen not to dabble in national politics. Thus, they’re refusing to back Janković, mostly courtesy of party president and former PM Borut Pahor, although it needs to be said that precious little love is lost between Zoki and Ljubljana SD president Metka Tekavčič.

LDS is nowhere to be seen, but even so it is clear that the left if in a state of flux and one should not forget that virtually anything can happen.

Ze right

On the other hand (literally) things are much more “heh heh”. SDS of Janez Janša were their usual secretive self about their plans for these by-elections, but in the end they chose to not to lose yet again. Or, at the very least, not to do it on their own. Which is why they supported Mojca Kucler Dolinar of Christian Democratic Nova Slovenija (NSi) who ran against Janković in the 2010 local elections as well. Funny thing is, however, that the initial nudge for Kucler Dolinar to hop on the bandwagon apparently did not come from her own NSi, but rather from the SDS. Which is a bit weird and suggest at least some level of horse-trading. It could be (and this is pure speculation) that Kucler Dolinar agreed to take one for the team with a reward waiting down the road. After all, this is a right-wing government we have here and NSi is a coalition member.

On the other hand, the SLS of Radovan Žerjav went solo with their candidate Matjaž Glavan. Funnily enough, when asked about the reasons for solo venture, Glavan said that “SLS is a moderate centrist party”, thus implying that NSi and SDS are neither moderate not centrist. Apparently, there’s also some level of resentment, as Ljubljana SLS leadership apparently was not consulted on Kucler Dolinar bid and was – it seems – taken for granted to have been on board with NSi and SDS. Rather arrognat of them, n’est-ce pas?

Ze rest

Three other candidates remaining candidates are from the “Usual Suspects” category. While Miha Jazbinšek of the Green party is a veteran of Slovene politics, he too is in it mostly for the exposure, while Jože Drnovšek and Jožef Jarh can safely be put under “wtf”. For example, Drnovšek got an incredible 212 votes in the last local elections.

Now what?

So, does this constitute Janković’s retreat from national politics? Yes and no. On one hand there is the high-brow “go back to where you came from” moment, emanated by most of the players in the parliamentary arena, which always saw Janković as somehow inferior to them. However, this may well prove to be his saving grace, as he has long maintained that he doesn’t feel comfortable in legislature. Also, being the nominal leader of the opposition is not as glamorous as it sounds, as one can do very little save bitch about everything. Also, it needs to be said that with Zoki out of Ljubljana, things rapidly began to disintegrate and dissent was spreading fast within the usually rock-solid ranks of Janković’s councilmen. So, coming back could also mean tying a few loose ends. From Janković’s viewpoint this a win-win combination, with the added bonus of him being dislodged from the parliamentary cesspool and being able to wait while Janša breaks his back over handling the crisis and then step back into the ring with an I-told-you-so attitude and – this is the fun part – again coming back to haunt Janez Janša, just as he thought he had gotten rid of Janković once and for all.

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Spaces of Freedom (Prostori svobode). Come!

Today at 1600 hrs on Kongresni trg in Ljubljana. Pengovsky co-signed and is co-hosting, so you could pretend to be mildly worried by the fact that the level of public discourse is sinking below anything resembling civility, that disqualification and name-calling has long since become the norm and that one tends to get a labelled just for expressing one’s views. If you believe that one should enjoy the freedom of simply being able to say who he or she is, what does he or she stand for and what they believe in, then Spaces of Freedom is your thing. Come! Failing anything else, good tunes are promised. Oh, and dress warmly! 😀


Jay-Z And 99 Problems

For the umpteenth time, Slovene media is rife with speculation whether Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković will enter the electoral race and run against Janez Janša for the position of Prime Minister. More than one media outlet quoted “reliable sources” saying that mayor Janković is being pressed by behind-the-scenes power brokers to go head-to-head against Janša in what is being described as a last-ditch attempt to prevent the victory of SDS and its leader. Those same outlets go on to report that Janković is still considering his move and is having pollsters survey the terrain before making a final call on the issue. The general interpretation is that if Janković were to run for PM, he’d unite the parties of the political left just enough to present a viable alternative to Janša who at this time looks poised to win the elections and that – the argument goes – is the political left’s last, best chance of survival. There’s only one problem – it’s all bollocks.


Zoran Janković thinking long and hard (source: The Firm™)

Well, not the fact that Janković is being coaxed into announcing the PM bid – that is more or less true. What is ultimately flawed is the logic behind it. At the moment, the political left in Slovenia is in tatters, more or less. The general and specific animosity that has built up between leaders on the left as well as between rank-and-file party members of leftist parties all but precludes any sort of meaningful cooperation between them. There’s simply too much bad blood. If Zoran Janković were to enter the race, he’d have to mend the fences on the left first. One of the many cases in point being the Facebook status of SD‘s secretary general (and by extent the party’s top operative) Uroš Jauševec which said “The dice has been cast… Jay-Z [Janković] is entering the race… to destroy the left”. The digital Slovenia of course went ape-shit within minutes and all of a sudden it seemed as if the industrious mayor of Ljubljana did indeed make the call. Only, he didn’t.

Jay-Z

Janković is, of course, under media siege these days. Journos are following him around, looking for subtle hints and indirect signs that would point one way or the other. Or, to be more precise, they’re operating under the assumption he will enter the race and are hoping to break the story first. But Janković doesn’t do subtle. He readily admits that he is considering running for PM but that he hasn’t come to a decision yet. Even more, he said time and again that he will let all media outlets know at the same time. Which means a press conference (if he chooses to run) or a statement to the press (if he chooses not to). It’s no use chasing the man around town and trying to pick up hints.

In all honesty, the case for Janković entering the parliamentary election race is flimsy at best. OK, so perhaps Janković is the last, best hope to prevent the end of the world which – as those who urge Janković to run – would ensue if Janez Janša came to power once again. Janša’s economic policies left a lot to be desired when he was in power and those which are described in his party’s draft programme are no better (in a nutshell: lowering taxes, curbing public spending and increasing productivity at the same time. It doesn’t compute). If his track record is anything to go by, Janša in power again means a lot of meddling with the media and generally implementing pre-modern concepts of the Homeland. But does that warrant throwing everything the left has… eeer… left into the battle (and that’s not much to being with)? No.

(Ninety-)Nine problems

Janković’s political position is more than cosy. He enjoys an undisputed majority in the Ljubjana City Council and more often than not does what ever the fuck he pleases. This also enables him to pick his own team, something he would most likely want to do if he were to win national elections. Problem is, there’s no such luxury on the national level. If Jay-Z were to run, however, he’d have a plethora of problems to solve. Maybe not exactly ninety-nine problems that the well-known rapper sang about, but still.

First of all, he’d have to have leaders of the left kiss and make up. With seven weeks and counting till elections, the prospect SD, LDS and Zares playing in concert is minute. Furthermore, he has almost no organisational network on the ground. With elections this close, there is no way Janković can mount an effective operation without the support of left-wing parties which – as shown above – are more or less at each other’s throats.

Two, SD, LDS and Zares actually have to want Janković to enter the race. As things stand now, this is not the case. While positions of LDS and Zares are not entirely known (both parties seem on the fence on the issue, with LDS being in marginally better relations with the industrious mayor), SD is going positively bananas over the prospect of Janković going national. Apart from Jauševec’s Facebook status, there are attempts to implicate Janković’s sons into some shady business dealings and by extension smear Janković himself. It seems a no brainer that the leak came from the parliamentary committee investigating real-estate business in Ljubljana (but mostly targeting mayor Janković). But although this is an SDS-run comittee, chaired by Alenka Jeraj MP, the leak most likely came from the left side. The political right would have probably sat on that info until Janković entered the game for real and slammed him with it then. This brings us to problem number…

Three. It is in Janez Janša’s interest that Janković enter the race. The presumptive PM said as much in a recent interview for the Christian radio Ognjišče. And he’s right. Mayor Janković is a pain in the ass for any government. Being ridiculously popular in Ljubljana, he seems practically invincible and is making virtually every political party in the city look like fools (SD and SDS chief among them). If, however, he were to enter the national arena and lose to Janša (which in this case means scoring an unimpressive result that would put him on a par with or even below every other party), his aura of awesome would be very much shaken, possibly to the point of him losing some cool in Ljubljana as well. Which is why the PM presumptive would love nothing more than to beat the shit out of the biggest political problem he had during his 2004-2008 term.

Four, the polls. Public opinion polls do in fact put Janković on the map, but he is way behind Janez Janša, while his (presumptive) candidate list gets between one and nine precent (yes, it’s a huge margin, but remember, it’s still early in the game). But to have any kind of fighting chance of winning the nomination, Jay-Z and his candidate list would have to be scoring at least in the low 20s. They’re nowhere near that number which means that there’s a shitload of work to be done. And even if all of the above is achieved (uniting the left, establishing the network and closing the gap in the polls), Janković would still only be where Janez Janša and his SDS already are today.

Five. The electoral system is a major factor in the final result of the national elections. Eight voting units, each with eleven voting precincts and a combination of Hare quota and Droop quota can really take it out on a man. Unlike local elections, where (especially in Ljubljana) every party runs with one candidate list and then wins a proportional number of seats in the local council, national elections require a party to submit a different list for every voting unit and have candidates from the list run in different precincts. In fact it is even a bit more complicated than that, but the bottom line is that Zoran Janković can not head every list in every unit. And finally, the distribution of votes is almost as important as the actual result and while generally fair, the system can play a role, especially if there is no clear-cut victor.

Six. While not willing to rule out running for PM, Janković has categorically ruled out serving as Member of Parliament. Now, technically it is not necessary for a PM nominee to be elected as MP first, but this usually is the case, because it is considered as a kind of commitment by a party leader (or a politician in general) to his voters. If he were to run on a ticket, Janković would most likely get elected as MP. But in order to clinch a nomination for Prime Minister, his candidate list would have to win enough seats in the parliament to form a coalition (it is extremely unlikely that he’d win an absolute majority, like he did in Ljubljana elections in 2006 and 2010). Failing that, Janković could become stuck in the parliament, because being elected as MP would mean he’d have to relinquish his mayorship, due to the recently (and finally!) passed law on conflict of interests which prohibits mayors servning as MPs and vice-versa. To circumvent that, Jay-Z could choose not to run for MP and lead his candidate list from the “outside” so to speak, but then the question of commitment would immediately be raised: if he really wants to be the prime minister, why doesn’t he have the balls to face his opponents in an open contest?

Seven. If by some weird coincidence Jay-Z actually beats the odds and wins on 4 December, you can be sure that the furious Janša-led opposition will first cry foul and then work damn hard to blame Janković for just about everything that’s ever been wrong wrong in this country. And trust me, what hasn’t already, will go wrong very soon, because of…

Eight. This country is close to economic collapse. I’m not necessarily talking Greek scenario here, but fact of the matter is that there’s no more money left. The ministry of finance stopped all non-essential spending as early as the end of September, which basically means we’re running on empty. With both the US and the EU entering into the second part of the double-dip recession (via Nouriel Roubini), things don’t look good for the forseeable future. In fact, latest prognoses put recovery as late as 2016. And that’s by those same economists which said that things should be back to normal in late 2009, so you can understand how bad things really are.

Nine. Is it really worth it? With the economic and financial onslaught looming and the prospect of having to pass reform legislation which was once already thwarted, no government is likely to make it to the end of its regular term in the next couple of years. In fact, as the good doctor noted, Janez Janša worked long and hard to derail the reform attempts by the outgoing government and he should be able to reap what he sowed. Angry labour unions, disillusioned supporters, nervous money-men and wailing CEOs should be his to deal with for the next couple of years. Zoran Janković is quick to point out that he is ready to serve his country, but the truth is this country can take a couple of years of Janez Janša as PM. Sure, it will be messy, but the only way out of this mess is if the SDS leader gets a strong serving of what he helped cook in the past four years.

Make the call, dammit!

Janković is on the fence for a couple of weeks now and rumours have it that he will make the call late next week. High time he did, as the deadline for submitting candidate lists is 21 October. How he will decide, however, is still a mystery. Pengovsky believes the above clearly computes into Janković not taking the plunge. Pros are hugely outweighed by the cons. On a rational level, Janković knows most if not all of the above. However, there’s always the possibility of him taking a galactic gamble and having a go at it. If it came to that, however, anything falling short of a full commitment will turn out to be a short-cut to a political disaster of epic proportions.

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Constitutional Court Nixes Tito Street

In a highly anticipated decision, Slovenian Constitutional Court declared null and void a controversial decision by the Ljubljana City Council to name a newly-built avenue running along the Stožice Stadium after Communist leader of former Yugoslavia Josip Broz Tito. Plaintiffs, the Christian-democratic party Nova Slovenija, claimed that naming the street after a man led the regime which systematically trampled human rights and conducted post-war massacres goes against human dignity and is thus unconstitutional. The court went along with this argument and repealed Article 2 of the city ordnance in question.


This is no longer Tito Street (source)

Pengovsky said all along that Ljubljana could well do without Tito street, although the historic role of Josip Broz is both positive and negative and that mayor Zoran Janković was needlessly stirring the pot with this issue. While not totally unexpected, the ruling (and the logic behind it) can become extremely important, because it sets a new standard in determining what is allowed and what is not. On one hand we can expect a mass of petitions to have other streets and squares which still bear Tito’s name to be renamed (cases in point being cities of Koper and Velenje), but on the other hand this should open the doors to petitions to rename other streets named after controversial historical figures. The Pope John Paul II Street in Ljubljana comes to mind (to give an example at random).

Furthermore, the Constitutional Court is also expected to rule on whether to allow the referendum on the new Family Code, which will basically be a referendum on allowing same-sex marriage and adoptions (with certain limits). We’ll see if the court will recognise the “constitutional guarantee of respect for human dignity” when it rules on that issue.

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