Get Rid Of Him. Expeditiously.

Threatening journalists is not cricket. Regardless of whether you’re drunk as a skunk, in a middle of a bad spell or the journo in question is just plain obnoxious, there are lines you don’t cross and that’s one of them. Doubly so if you happen to be the son of freshly re-elected mayor who has a bad case of love-hate relationship with one Jaka Elikan of Finance newspaper.


Jaka Elikan explaining why he can’t accept the apology in full

Jure Janković, son of mayor Zoran Janković committed such a transgression Sunday last, when Elikan approached him (apparently more than once) to ask him about the state of his construction and retail company which was owned by Zoran Janković prior to his becoming mayor in 2006. I don’t mean to bore you with details, suffice it so say that earlier in the night Janković, jr. refused to answer questions, but Elikan apparently returned later in the night (with a colleague in tow) to press junior further on this. The kid seems to have lost his nerve, turned to his colleague and told him to “kill this guy“, meaning Elikan. Seeing this, mayor Janković intervened and sent everyone packing, but the deed was done and the next day shit hit the fan.

After the press and some political elements had a field day with this, Jure Janković apologized to Elikan who in the mean time pressed charges and added that he said the words in a state of drunkenness and agitation and that he didn’t mean them seriously, while mayor Janković issued a statement to the effect that if Elikan felt threatened he is right to press charges and that what his son did was wrong. Both Jankovićs also mentioned that Elikan was in their opinion out of line and rude. But that in itself is no excuse to ignore him, let alone threaten him. Despite what seems like (and I’m guessing here) shared animosity between Elikan and Jankovićs, despite his possibly objectionable approach, fact remains that the guy was doing his job. And that’s where the buck stops.

Having said that, the fact that Elikan did not accept the apology in full, saying that neither father nor son understand the role of the media in the society, does show a certain lack of grace on the journalist’s part as well. But then again, grace is not a job requirement in this line of work. There are ways of dealing with unfriendly press, but threats, no matter how irresponsible or not serious they were. It’s one thing to see Sylvester Stallone say “Get rid of him. Expeditiously!” in a sub-par film, quite another to say it for real. That is just uncool.

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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 One: The Mayor)

With local elections fourteen days away it is high time pengovsky writes them up. Not that there’s a whole lot of interest in them in the first place. Case in point being this video featuring main contenders for mayor which drew about as much attention as a six-days-old fart (either that or it’s just that fucking bad :)). Be that as it may, fact of the matter is that as many as 770 people are running for mayors of 208 municipalities, of those sixty-nine are running for mayors of eleven urban municipalities.

If you’re a statistics buff, here’s some more for you, courtesy of the National Electoral Commission: 25,824 people are running for seats in municipal and city councils, of those 9,951 are women. There are 93 women running for mayor, while the youngest candidate is one Aljaž Verhovnik, age 19, who’s running for mayor of Ravne na Koroškem on a Social Democrats ticket. 23 incumbent mayors have no opposing candidate and are for all intents and purposes already re-elected. And, finally turning to Ljubljana, the nation’s capital sports the longest ballot as there are thirteen people running for mayor and twenty-four parties and lists which put forward 658 candidates for 45 seats in the city council.


Janković seems poised to continue to wear the mayoral chain and recieve foreign dignitaries (photo: The Firm™)

The Metropolis

Ninamedia polling agency and POP TV ran some polling results for Ljubljana ten days ago which were encouraging, Or discouraging. Or surprising. Depends on how you look at them. Pengovsky had the opportunity to look at the entire data set so my conclusions in this series will be based on more that just the sketchy report published first by POP TV and then by Finance daily.

So, where is we? Basically there’s no chance of an upset in Ljubljana mayor race. Incumbent mayor Zoran Janković has a 63% support among Ljubljana voters and is trailed a long way back by Mojca Kucler Dolinar of Nova Slovenija (NSi) who got a measly 6,2 % support. She is then followed by Zofija Mazej Kukovič of Janez Janša‘s SDS, who mustered a 5,3 % support.

Say what?

Let me run that by you again: Zoran Janković has a 63% of support to begin with. This is exactly the same level of support he won in elections four years ago. So despite all the mud that was thrown at him, despite the fact that sometimes things are not exactly as advertised, despite the fact that he has the political nuance of a bulldozer on steroids which alienated some of his political supporters and the despite the fact that he doesn’t give a shit about the “not-in-my-back-yard” syndrome, which spurred some sixty initiatives opposing many of his projects in Ljubjlana, despite all that he didn’t lose an inch of support among the electorate.

What seems to have occurred though, is that the above initiatives have generated enough support for Miha Jazbinšek (The Green Party), the lonesome cowboy of Ljubljana politics to end up in fourth place with a staggering 5,1 % of support, who constantly hovered around them, giving them advice (either solicited or unsolicited) Since Jazby, as he is popularly known runs for mayor primarily to generate enough votes for his list of city council candidates, the result is more than encouraging for him. If this goes on he might even get enough votes to not just get himself re-elected as councilman, but also to squeeze in another member of his list which would be a major achievment for the former environment minister (1990-1994) who runs a no-budget campaign.

A smack in the face

But if Jazbinšek is (percentage-wise) on a par or even better than most of the candidates save Janković, this also a smack in the face for established political parties (i.e: those which are represented in the national parliament). Namely, local elections in Ljubljana transcend the pure local nature of the phenomenon. Ljubljana has always been prime battle ground between the left and the right, even more so since Janković took power in 2006 in what was a direct “fuck you” to then-PM Janez Janša. Back then the political right united behind a single candidate and France Arhar (former governor of the Bank od Slovenia, now CEO of Slovenian branch of Unicredit) won almost 20% of the vote. Fast forward to today and candidates of the three main right wing parties, NSi, SDS and SLS, Mojca Kucler Dolinar, Zofija Mazej Kukovič and Janez Žagar can muster only 13,5 percent of support between them.

But the situation is even worse for the left wing parties. Metka Tekavčič of Social Democrats barely registers with a meagre 2,1 %, while Meta Vesel Valentinčič of DeSUS and Milan Hosta of Zares hover around 1% mark. In that respect the only party which saved itself grief it doesn’t need is LDS which openly supported Janković and did not nominate a candidate of its own. However, that may work against them. Sure enough, they will not be wasting resources on a lost battle for mayor, but as a result they may not get enough exposure for their list of candidates to make a decent result. Currently LDS holds three seats in the city council (initially it held five, but then two members switched allegiances) and anything less than that would be a bitter disappointment. And truth be said, this is probably exactly why Zares sent Hosta into the battle: to steal the limelight from LDS, chip off some more votes and come out on top in a continuous low-intensity struggle between two parties which rose from the ashed of once almighty LDS.

Also-rans

The list of would-be mayors obviously does not end there (pengovsky can, contrary to some reports, count to thirteen) thus it is only fair that we mention the rest of the poor sods who barely register on the voters’ radars: Marko Mitja Feguš, who also ran for mayor in 2006 and won an impressive tally of 69 votes (yes, sixty-nine). This year Feguš (a landscape architect) runs as a candidate for List for Clean Drinking Water and has had a stroke of luck with the floods of last weekend, where he actually sounded credible for a moment. But only for a moment. Especially since the LCDW (headed by Mihael Jarc) made local news not as much for their drive for clean tap water but much more for their opposition to erection of a mosque in Ljubljana some years ago.

Then there’s Jože “Joc” Javornik of Slovenska Unija, which (a bit of political gossip) is ran by Metka Tekavčič’s ex-husband and minister of labour Vlado Dimovski. Among also-rans we find Jože Drnovšek (presumably no relation to the late president) a candidate for Naprej, Slovenija (Forward, Slovenia), a ridiculous proto-Nazi party whose chief Blaž Svetek reportedly runs a whore-house on the outskirts of Ljubljana. Then we have another proto-Nazi who goes by the name of Miha Majc and runs as a candidate for Stranka slovenskega naroda (SSN – Party of Slovene Nation) which made its claim to five minutes of fame during the near-fuck-up on Croatian NATO entry. And last (and most likely least) we have before us Janez Lesar, a candidate for Social-Liberal party, who was ran the city services in the early 90s and was pretty powerful back then. Time’s a bitch, however, and Lesar (who seems not to be entirely with us) is running on a platform of more biomedicine for everyone.

End of Part One

Since the power in the city lies with the city council as much as with the mayor, the results of council elections will be just as interesting. Perhaps even more so. More on that on Tuesday…

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