All The Presidential Men

All the presidential men… and a woman

As you know, Slovenia is up for presidential elections in autumn this year. Now, the President of the Republic of Slovenia is a curious office. It bears relatively little powers, but its influence is near enormous. The office as we know is today exists since winter 1992, when the current constitution was passed. Article 103 of the Constution stipulates that The President is elected by a popular vote for a five-year-term with a possibility of being re-elected once.

Historically, one of the reasons for a constitutionally weak Office of the President is the fact that – when framing the constitution – Milan Kučan was thought to be unbeatable in presidential elections. That indeed happened to be the case, and since Kučan had enourmous moral and political capital stemming from peaceful democratization and achieving independence, there was a tacit agreement among various political powers that be, that Kučan should not be a powerful president.

Thus the office of the President is largely ceremonial, limited to naming ambassadors, promulgating laws and conferring mandates to form a government. That said, however, the President does have extensive emergency powers. Should the National Assembly become unable to convene, the President can declare war or a state of emergency and even pass laws.

But perhaps even more importantly, the office has high moral authorithy, which was achieved (or created, if you will) by two presidents: former President Milan Kučan (held office for two terms from 1992 to 2002) and incumbent president Janez Drnovšek (holds office since 2002, but said that he will not seek re-election).

Slovenes seem to think of their president as a counter-weight to an increasingly self-involved goverment (any government, not just current one) and thus the voters often disregard “party directions” and go for the person they deem most fit to hold office, regardless of the candidate’s party affiliation. But the definition of “fit” is quite flexible, mind you. Take President Drnovšek, for example. Having been elected on a slightly liberal platform (pro-choice, anti-death penatly), he underwent a radical personal transformation from a somber, even uptight and sometimes perfunctionary president, to a new-age, proto-hippy president on a strictly vegan diet. Curiously enough, voters didn’t mind.

And so this autumn somenoe will have to fill a rather large pair of presidential shoes.

Parties of the political right have found a common candidate in the person of first Slovenian PM and incumbent MEP Lojze Peterle who has been campaigning since last November and is poised to win a substantial percent of the vote – close to 50 %, thus tossing the glove to the political left very early in the game. Since the leader of the Social Democrats Borut Pahor decided to run for PM in 2008, he has to put forward a credible candidate (a rather daunting task, since Pahor is the most popular politician in Slovenia by far).

He picked Danilo Türk, former Slovene Ambassador to the UN and former right-hand man to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. Türk is probably a good choice as his achievements are recognised across the political spectrum, making him also acceptable to some right-leaning voters. But for now it seems that Pahor so far failed to “sell” Türk as a common candidate for left-wing parties.

Namely. Liberal Democrats (LDS) have put forward Mitja Gaspari, former Governor of the Central Bank as their nominee… You might remember Gaspari from this post and LDS are apparently counting on a lot od sympathy vote for the fallen Governor. (slightly OT: When Zoran Janković, 6 months after he was ousted as CEO of Mercator, ran for Mayor of Ljubljana, sympathy vote played a crucial role in clinching him a victory in the first round).

Some people believe that the left is better off with two candidates, supposedly ensuring mobilisation of more left-wing voters and making sure they also cast their vote in the second round wheren the best of the two candidates would take on Peterle. Others, of course fear that the vote will be split and that neither of the left-wing candidates will win a substanital percent of vote (say, above 40%), making him unelectable in the second round.

But the second round is by no means a given. It could very well be that Peterle has already built a voters’ base far beyond the reach of any other candidate. He’s been campaigning uninterruped for the past six months and has won support of all three major right-wing parties, clearing the field on the right just for himself. All he has to do is to win enough moderates to get 50% plus one vote and he wins the presidency in the first round.

What may save the day for the left is the fact that there are several “lesser” candidates, which will win a certain percentage of vote, perhaps just enough to stop Peterle short of winning the majority of the vote. These canidadates include Zmago Jelinčič of the Slovene National Party, Darko Krajnc of the Slovene Youth Party, Marjan Beranič, a Maribor-based enterpreneur, Monika Piberl of the Slovene Female Voice and Jože Andrejaš, who won a mock election in Hri-Bar talk show and then decided to run for real.

Anyways… There is more at stake then it seems at a first glance.

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.

20 thoughts on “All The Presidential Men”

  1. The fact that through his personal transformation Drnovšek has become weird, is clear. He appears like some Don Quixote and acts too much on impulse loosing the grip of a balanced president.

    I also can not believe that Pahor is the most popular politician – I fail to see any credible reason for that, except that he is “impeccable”.

    As for Turk and Gaspari – it will be hard to pick from the two since they appear like two upright men fit for the office.

  2. Funny thing being that LDS has become more of a left-wing party since the now hippyish Drnovšek left. While he was there and before his transformation, I never would have categorized them as lefties.

    To my mind, Gaspari cannot compare to Türk when it comes to experience and profile in politics. They don’t belong to the same category and I think Gaspari would make a wiser choice running for another type of office. Of all the declared candidates, I think the only ones that make for an interesting choice to the voters are Türk and Peterle.

    I must say I don’t understand Pahor’s popularity either. Another appearance freak like yesterday’s meat. I go for substance.

    I think worse things could happen to Slovenia than Peterle becoming President. I’ll be rooting for Türk, though.

  3. Kučan has a special position and he’ll always have it as he was the one on the top while we were “born”.
    Drnovšek knows very well what he’s doing. I think it ‘s mostly a sort of game for him as he has achieved everything he can in some way. So he can now finally do what he wants.
    Pahor.. I never liked or disliked him… He was always only a politician for me.
    Peterle… Maybe he should stay where he is but I understand his ambitions of becoming president.
    As for me … I’d prefer to see a woman on the top… but I hardly imagine which one… the one crossing my mind is Vlasta Nusdorfer.
    Our institute of a president is something like retirement… So I’ll go for it when I’ll retired. Hope I won’t be as ugly and dumb as some of ours politicians…

  4. LDS a left-wing party? Not since Kresal-Senica-Gantar take-over, it isn’t. It was for a with a manifesto by Dušan Keber, but that was a still-born political child. As you know, Keber left the party.

    As far as Pahor’s popularity is concerned, it is relatively simple: Since he has no real challenger on the left, he can afford to reach out to the political centre without making a real commitment. While many peolpe (including myself) detest this weasel-tactics, I must admit that on a purely political-pragmatical level Pahor has mastered the art of having the cake and eating it at the same time. And that makes him a force to be reckoned with.

    Re: Gaspari and Turk: I may be wrong, but it just might happen that Gaspari will be persuaded to drop out of the race. He has not yet even given his formal consent to run for office.

  5. @Morska: About Drle: Yes and no, in my opinion. I honestly think there are times when Drnovšek is acting erratically. I’m not saying that he’s losing it, but sometimes his actions appear not to have a motive.

  6. Well, I’m speaking as a regular person and not a politician (maybe more as …you know what I mean..) and I think every action does not have a motive even with the others not only JD. I wanted to say that JD reached the top and he knows he just can’t go higher . Not just this… he can’t stay there any longer.. so I think he’s just “playing his final scenes”.

  7. at least in moja resnica Drle sounds like he’s always been kind of incalculable and has become politician by chance anyway. I can’t quite judge it due to lack of some background knowledge, but it sounds somehow familiar so far (I haven’t finished the book yet)

  8. There is something about Drle’s influence none of us should underestimate: it is all very well for us to be able to discern lack of logic or consequence, pathos, even kitsch and other funny stuff in his words (written, spoken, not spoken…) But if I think about the irrational ways many people think, feel or react (by association, depending on power distribution, depending on situation, driven by baser motives, etc.) – no wonder people like him. They may not be applying reasoning when dealing with the phenomenon President, it is enough that they can hang themselves unto some nice words.
    But I don’t think he would have won the election if he ran again.
    And I do think it is his right to use his brain to discover new things.

  9. @Dietmar: Curiously enough, “Moja resnica” is also the title of another book, which hit the stands some weeks before Drle’s first book

    @Alcessa: Point. Although I’m sure that if he ran it would have been an open race right up till the end.

    I’m actually quite fond of Drle and the way he does politics. Not in the least because he is inventive.

  10. Been there, done that… Was there when he was signing his previous book, wasn’t impressed. I like him as a politician. As a writer he is negligable 😉

  11. BTW did you catch Nežmah’s take on the Walk for Food and the Live Earth gigs last night on Studio City? Heck, this mislead sould has been to both 🙂

  12. Re. left wing, agreed on the short-term relatively leftish nature of the party, which is why I find it interesting that Gaspari – supported by LDS(?)- is being portrayed as one of the left-wing candidates.

    Excellent take on Pahor. This tactic is only possible if one does not have to make important *choices* and stick to them, though. Which is why (he probably feels) being President of the State would have suited him better than the role of Prime Minister.

  13. Re: Nežmah – no, I didn’t… Must have been fun 🙂

    Re: Pahor – Agreed. Until couple of months ago I was strongly in favour of his running for PM, but as the reshuffle on the left happened (LDS coming back from the dead, Zares appearing DOA and the shit hitting the fan with this government), I made the exact same calculation you have… Pahor should’ve run for President. It would make life a lot simpler for everybody. I mean – I’d hate to have a PM who convenes a forum of wise men to debate whether to increase the price of cigarettes.

  14. Nežmah and fun used in a single sentence? Hardly. Think I’m starting to develop an allergy. My trigger-happy finger thankfully only has the remote control to abuse.
    Re BarbieDoll… let’s see what happens. Should be interesting.

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