The Aftermath Of An Election

The ordeal is finally over. Borut Pahor was elected to a second five-year term, fending off a second-round challenge by Marjan Šarec, the mayor of a mid-size town in central Slovenia. But although Pahor’s victory was expected, he had to work harder and longer for it and won with by a much smaller margin that generally expected at the outset of the campaign.


The runner-up and the incumbent (source)

Still reeling from the clusterfuck after the first round when a number of of prominent polling agencies called the race for Pahor even ahead of the vote, the pollsters were more or less on target this time around. Most of final polls coalesced around 55/45 percent for Pahor but the final tally showed Pahor won in the end by 53 percent to Šarec’s 47 percent. That’s a mere six-point spread.

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Presidential Election: The Run-Off

What was unlikely as late as Friday evening when the campaign ended, materialised on Sunday night when the votes were staring to come in. President Borut Pahor and his main challenger Marjan Šarec are headed for a run-off in three weeks’ time.


Results in the first round show Pahor winning most votes in all but three precincts (source)

In all honesty, Pahor came close to winning in the first round. But not close enough. With 99.98 percent of the vote counted, Pahor won 47.07 percent while Šarec won 24.96 percent. Among the also-rans, Romana Tomc of SDS won a respectable 13.74 pecent while the other main centre-right contender, Ljudmila Novak of the NSi, won 7.16 percent. Maja Makovec Brenčič of the ruling SMC won an embarrassing 1.76 percent of the vote while Angelca Likovič of the ultra-conservative GOD party tallied a measly .58 percent. The alt-right candidate Andrej Šiško won 2.22 percent of the vote which is an unpleasantly remarkable feat given that he hardly campaigned at all.

Continue reading Presidential Election: The Run-Off

President Pahor Mounts a Reaganesque Defence in TEŠ 6 Investigation

Vacation, as per von Clausewitz, is a continuation of stress by other means. And while pengovsky planned to post extensively during the vacay it turned out that another von (Moltke, in this case) was right when he observed that no plan survives the initial contact with the enemy. Which makes one wonder just what exactly President Borut Pahor’s plan was yesterday when he faced off with former coalition partner and former leader of now-defunct Zares party Gregor Golobič as they both testified in front of the parliamentary committee investigating the clusterfuck that is the TEŠ 6 power plant in Šoštanj.


Gregor Golobič and Borut Pahor (right) (source: RTVSLO)

Now, sitting presidents in Slovenia don’t often get called to testify in parliamentary investigations. In fact, the last one to have done so was Milan Kučan, testifying in 1995 on the circumstances on the JBTZ affair in 1988, one of the key events in emergence of multi-party democracy in Slovenia and its drive for independence. Additionally, this was – by pengovsky’s admittedly perfunctory count – the very first instance of a sitting Slovenian president facing off with a contradicting witness. This alone makes yesterday’s a truly remarkable event. Then there’s the fact that it was Golobič vs. Pahor, a former and a current political heavy-weight respectively who used to bat for more or less the same team as coalition partners in Pahor’s 2008-2011 government (later brought down by Golobič for reasons including but not limited to TEŠ 6). And secondly – or thirdly, for those keeping count – the mere fact that the showdown at OK TEŠ 6 took place less than two months before the first round of presidential elections makes this a rather extraordinary occurrence.
Continue reading President Pahor Mounts a Reaganesque Defence in TEŠ 6 Investigation

Ljubljana Elections of 2010 (Part Four: The Round-up)

With two more days of campaign remaining, it is time for pengovsky to bring you the fourth and last instalment of 2010 local election guide-extraordinaire. For parts One, Two and Three click here, here and here respectively.


Debate of candidates for mayor of Ljubljana. Source: The Firm™

So, what to say about this campaign in Ljubljana local elections? One word comes to mind: lacklustre. In Slovene capital at least, there was no serious campaigning until the very end. As if the huge lead incumbent mayor Zoran Janković enjoyed from the start put his challengers off. To an extent that may very well be the case. However, this election season was also marked by striking similarities between platforms the candidates and their parties and lists were running on.

Platforms

Again, one word: traffic. With mayor Janković sort of delivering on most of his election promises from 2006 (although, it must be said again, things are not always as advertised), most candidates focused on problems this city has yet to solve. And traffic in Ljubljana is one big clusterfuck which will probably get much worse before it gets better. Candidates somewhat differ on approaches, but the bottom line is that some sort of railway will have to be constructed. Question is, whether Ljubljana should have a tram or a fast regional railway, which would connect Ljubljana to its airport and nearby towns (with SDS’ Zofija Mazej Kukovič and notably would-be councilman Žiga Turk opting for both). In addition, there are plans (mostly by mayor Janković) for widening main traffic arteries to allow “yellow lane” for buses and other modes of public transport. All candidates also vow to complete the network of cycling lanes. The same goes for most of other issues. Almost everyone agrees on what is needed, but they differ on how to get there.

Differences

Where there was some scuffling, it had mainly to do with challengers taking turns in criticising and attacking how incumbent mayor Zoran Janković ran the city in the past four years. The hick-ups related to Stožice sports we documented on this blog as well. But criticism also went in the general direction of his conduct during sessions of the city council, presumed arrogance, authoritarian tendencies and overspending.

Janković in turn generally replied that most of the people trying to oust him from office have one way or the other been in power for years on end (either on state or city level) and that they had ample opportunity do things their way, but instead just sat on their hands and talked too much. As for overspending, he maintains that, although higher than in previous years, the city debt is still well within legal limits and is being repaid without a problem.

How much is true?

Well, technically Janković has a point about city debt. By law a municipality can raise loans only up to a certain percentage of budget income, with the whole debt not being allowed levels which would hamper normal functioning of a municipality. This level is decided on a case-by-case basis by the ministry of finance. In case of Ljubljana this means that the current debt ceiling is set at about some 170 million euros, while the city currently runs a debt of about 124 million.

If there’s one thing one has to concede to Janković and his team is the fact that they know how to juggle numbers. As the mayor brought three of his four vice-mayors straight from the board of Mercator, financial planning is something they’re pretty good at. Although, it must be said they too sometimes find it hard to accept the peculiarities of public finances where not everything always goes according to plan. But in general Ljubljana’s finances are in order, it’s just a case of how much manoeuvring space remains should a financial emergency occur.

Secondly, Janković will apparently never forget how the government of Janez Janša took away 60 mil of spending money in 2006. After keeping quiet for most of 2010, he again brought it up with regard to Mojca Kucler Dolinar of NSi and Zofija Mazej Kukovič of SDS (his leading challengers, but both struggling in single-digit areas of polls). The mantra is naturally not as effective as it was prior to 2008 parliamentary elections, but Janković is very much an instinctive politician and his actions are rarely pre-meditated.

Which also reflects in the way he ran the city and (specifically) city council sessions. Pengovsky often said that the incumbent mayor is about as delicate as a buldozer on steroids when it came to enacting his policies. But if he was a bit rough around the edges at the beginning of the term, he got his bearings pretty soon and as a rule followed procedures. When he didn’t the city council rebelled (there was an issue of quorum) and he learned his lesson.

Approach

There are two things that work in Janković’s favour (and no, it is not media bias – a claim predictably uttered by Janez Janša a couple of hours ago). He is a text-book definition of a hands-on manager, who will go above and beyond the call of duty to oversee how things are progressing. He is also very approachable (if he wants to be) and he is known to be a great motivator, leading mostly by example. However, he is also the kind of person who loses his temper quickly if he feels people are wasting his time and can be very direct about it (to put it mildly). Case in point being a couple of outburst both in city council sessions as well as in press conferences. In one word, he is extremely charismatic.

And charisma is exactly what his opponents lack. Granted, most of them can hold their own. Some have more mileage in Ljubljana politics than it even bears thinking about. Some are in the race just for the heck of it, still others to lay groundwork for future terms (the latter case being especially Zares’ Milan Hosta).

In terms of campaign quality, the candidate that underperformed the most is in pengovsky’s opinion SDS’ very own Zofija Mazej Kukovič. Since she was deemed Janković’s main challenger, she was expected to tackle the incumbent mayor on a variety of very specific issues. But as time election day approached, it became painfully obvious that she is unable to go beyond clichés of allegations of mismanagement, corruption and dictatorial tendencies. She and her party also piggybacked on the initiative to hold a referendum on the recently passed new spatial-and-zoning plan, but failed to actively support it beyond posing for cameras while signing the petition. The deadline for collecting 11,000+ signatures to hold a referendum was yesterday and the initiative failed, in part due to lack of support from SDS, the only right wing party in Ljubljana with a power-base strong enough to make a difference.

On the other hand, the party which exceeded expectations (pengovsky’s expectations, at least) is LDS. In part still reeling from the 2004 meltdown, constantly scuffling with Zares and with its top two people (interior minister Katarina Kresal and justice minister Aleš Zalar) being almost constantly under fire, the party, which is not known for unity, closed ranks and got their shit together. Having been additionally fucked over by Zares which (contrary to expectations) ran their own candidate for mayor – thus trying to chip off votes from LDS, which supports Janković – the party went into town-hall-meeting-mode, organising events and discussions and tried to present itself as open to new ideas and approaches. We’ll see if the tactics works, but the overall impression was above average.

Projections

In the race for mayor Janković is poised to repeat his landslide victory of 2006. Pengovsky still maintains that the incumbent mayor will receive about 56 percent of the vote, but he will still leave his challengers in the dust. Ditto for the race for city council, where pengovsky projects The List of Zoran Janković winning about 20 seats and SDS about 10, while both will be followed by LDS, SD, DeSUS, Zares, The Green Party and possibly The List for Clean Drinking Water.

This concludes the Guide. Tomorrow is a you-know-what day, and pengovsky will be back with electoral results on Sunday 10 October, soon after 1900 hrs. Stay tuned! :mrgreen:

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Ljubljana Elections of 2010 (Part Two: The City Council)

For Part One click here

If the mayoral race in Ljubljana seems all but decided (although, as they say on the other side of the pond, it ain’t over till the fat lady sings), the elections for 45 seats in the Ljubljana city council are a different matter. In the landslide of 2006 Zoran “Zoki” Janković not only won 63% of the vote, but his List of Zoran Janković won 45% of the vote which (due to vote losses on account of parties and list which got the votes but didn’t make the cut) translated into an absolute majority of 23 out of 45 votes. This completely rearranged the political landscape in Ljubljana, where the mayor was usually held hostage by the power struggle within the uneasy coalition between liberal democrats (LDS) and Social democrats (SD). In 2006 the voters overwhelmingly send political parties packing and put the reins exclusively into Janković’s hands who used the powers thus vested in him to the fullest of his abilities.


Who’ll be sitting where? Ljubljana City Council (photo: The Firm™)

First he rammed through changes to Council Rules and Procedures, making the work of the city council a bit quicker and (for the most part) also more effective. And then he managed (contrary to pengovsky’s expectations) to keep members oh his list – most of them accomplished individuals, many of whom did not expect to get elected in the first place – to toe the line, be present in sufficient numbers at every vote (there was only one slip in four years) and vote according to mayor’s wishes. Janković basically ran a very tight ship and if things got too slow for his liking he was liable to bend rules of procedures a bit, just to get things going. All of the above made the rest of the political groups in the city council go mad with rage. Well, some more than others, but those who were regularly foaming at the mouth were mostly Borut Pahor‘s SD and Janez Janša‘s SDS, aided by Green Party’s very own Miha “Jazby” Jazbinšek.

Truth be told, there were quite a lot of votes where for one reason or another Janković secured more than just the slim majority of the votes. Some measures were passed even without a vote against, a fact Zoki never fails to mention when he is accused of autocratic tendencies. And to an extent he is right. There’s also the fact that his majority was a direct result of a popular vote and for better or for worse you don’t fuck with that. And to be honest, despite all their rage, the rest of the political groups in the city council understood that. They just found it hard to swallow.

Playing hardball

But playing hardball can cost you down the road. And Janković played a lot of hardball. He didn’t compromise because he didn’t have to. He also had a couple of very public fallouts with a couple of prominent city politicos, most notably with Dimitrij Kovačič of SDS (who was removed from front party lines by the new SDS Ljubljana leadership) and with Metka Tekavčič of Ljubljana SD, who now runs against him in the race for mayor (without much success for now). The spat between her and Janković is especially interesting as they had a more or less cordial relationship for the most of the term, but some time around March this year something happened and they were publicly spewing fire and sulphur at each other, to the point of Janković saying weeks ago of Tekavčič that “she would do better to shut up as she’s been in city politics for 15 years and has precious little to show for“. Playing hardball indeed.

Anyways, it seemed that all remaining political groups in the city council just sort of gritted their teeth, hoping that the term would end as soon as possible and were counting on the fact that there is no way Janković can get an absolute majority in the council for the second time, even though he is virtually unbeatable in the race for mayor. Were they right? Yes and no.

Polls and horse-trading

The Ninamedia/POP TV poll pengovsky quoted on Sunday does indeed show that the List of Zoran Janković (his 45 candidates for city council) register some 23% support, which only half as much as they got on election day four years ago. Slightly more surprising is the 19% support Social Democrats sport. It is not exactly clear where this came from. But what’s even more surprising is that all the other parties (including Janez Janša’s SDS) get only single-digit percentages.

So, what does all of this mean for the political future of everyone involved? First and foremost, this is far from over. While it is not uncommon for a party like SD to have a “proper” percentage of support and having its candidate for mayor fare miserably, it is unclear why the voters seem to have singled out Social Democrats as the party of choice. Hopefully, there’ll be another poll soon and we’ll see if this was just a fluke. Percentages scored by Jankovič’s list are much more interesting. Zoki said time and again that he will not engage in any horse-trading after elections even if he has to form a coalition government (a prospect he dreads) and should the voters deny him an absolute majority it will be interesting to see if and how he goes about that. Despite his claims it would be hard to imagine him throwing it all away just because he doesn’t like who SD (or any other coalition partner) would have put forward for a manager of this-or-that city service.

Lest we forget

Virtually all players on the Ljubljana political scene made it plain obvious that their prime goal is not defeating Janković but reining him in by means of making sure he doesn’t win an absolute majority again. Janković recognises this and is pushing the message of “Zoran Janković and his List” more aggressively. Whether or nor he will succeed remains to be seen, but before people start passing judgements, a couple of things should be remembered:

1) 27% of those likely to vote are still undecided. Granted, not all of them will go to the same camp, but they could tip the balance heavily one way or the other.

2) Voter turnout and vote dispersal are crucial. In urban municipalities a straight proportional voting system is used and if the turnout is low or a lot of votes get lost(i.e.: go to candidates who don’t make the cut), then a couple of thousands votes one way or the other can mean a big difference for the bigger players.

3) Right wing parties register unusually low scores. Despite the fact that Janez Janša while prime minister did everything in his power to alienate voters in Ljubljana, SDS, NSi and SLS should under normal circumstances fare much better.

4) On that same token, there’s no apparent reason why (in addition to Janković’s List) it should be only Social Democrats which get a substantial support on the left wing without Zares, LDS and DeSUS joining in on the fun. This too will in all likelihood play out a bit differently.

and 5) Four years ago no poll registered even the remote possibility of Janković’s List grabbing an absolute majority. A couple of polls near the end of the campaign put his list on top, but none predicted the whoopass which was election day on 22 October 2006.

Projections

None, at this time. The way things stand, this could go either way. The campaign to date has been about as lacklustre as a sex-life of a catatonic and is poised to pick up in the ten remaining days. We’ll just have to wait and see how this particular election cookie crumbles

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