They. Know.


Yesterday I gave a passing mention to a poll-rigging faux pax by the ruling Slovene Democratic Party. To cut a long story short, the free daily Žurnal24 (lots of pictures and ads, limited or no useful content) ran a web-poll on 9 March asking people whom they support: PM Janez Janša or the once-almighty Andrijana Starina Kosem, who broke rank and blew the whistle on Janša’s meddling with the media and state-owned comapnies. Apparently the very next day the PM got as much as 115.000 votes, against some 6000+ for ASK. That’s 120.000 clicks in less than 24 hours just for this one poll. That’s 5.000 clicks per hour or 1,38 clicks per second.

A lot.

Too much, actually. Web polls are a shit. Everybody knows that. You cannot control the sample which renders them unsuable beyond filling up some white space on your website. Also, they are hugely unpopular. Žurnal24 went on the record saying that usually they register only a couple of hundred votes on any given subject. OK, say you expected 1200 votes since the question was deliberatly controversial. But 120.000? A hundred times more? No go. It’s just not possible. So the IT people at Žurnal24 launched their own investigation and found out that a computer or a cluster of computers, residingin on an SDS-owned domain was rapid-firing clicks, voting in favour of the PM. When confronted with this, SDS spokesperson at first refused to comment, saying only that the system allowed for a multiple voting from a single IP, but later issued a statement denying any abuse and addind that they “only made use of the voting system at Žurnal24 website“. Blimey! The statemenent reveals something quite astonishing: that they were in on it. This was apparently an orchestrated attempt at manufacturing a favourable result. Even more, the statement shows that SDS finds this sort of behaviour entirely acceptable.

Every party is keen on fixing the polls. It makes them look good and there’s always a chance of jump-starting a positive trend. But to noone will admit it, of course. Except SDS, apparently. Time and again I am amazed and baffled by sheer arrogance this party is capable of. Every other political party knows this is wrong and at least has the decency to try to hide it and make the result believable. But not SDS. It mass-clicked a staggering 115.000 votes for its boss and then went: “What?”.

What amazes me most is their belief that they can actually get away with it. This is not the first time something like this has happened. Remeber Vroči stol, when Janša got 83% over Pahor? It looked really pathethic and one would think that SDS learned something from that sorry episode. Apparently not. I mean, who are they trying to fool? If you want the people to believe something, you have to make it believable. But apparently the belief that power is theirs to have – that they are somehow entitled to it by default – is so deeply rooted within the party faithful that they have no scruples left and are bent on creating a favourable reality than adapting to it an existing one.

This is the party whose president decried the media criticism he was/is facing as opposition propaganda and now that same party would have us believe that 95 percent of the people support the prime minster. This is the party whose president regularely brushes aside far more competent polls as biased and unimportant and now that same party freely admits to abusing a loophole in a meagre and trully insignificant webpoll to create a favourable-if-unbelievable result. This is the party which – for better of for worse – thinks that if theory doesn’t fit the facts, well, so much worse for the facts. Because they know what the public opinion is. It’s just that everyone in this country is hell-bent on removing them from power and no real poll results are published. So they created some.

Sometimes I entertain by myself thinking that people who speed-click or phone-in in favour of the government are kept in large numbers in a dark basement, in a large steel-barred cage, their legs chained to the table, being fed raw meat and a Snickers bar twice a day. But in reality these people are almost like you and me. Its just that they know.

Zmago Jelinčič Stirring The Pot, SDS Up To Its Old Tricks

More polls. The latest one was done by NinaMedia and run by Dnevnik daily and POP TV. Two things stand out. Firstly, the poll recorded an almost exact same percentage of undecided voters than a month ago (a rather welcome change from the wildly fluctuating number of “don’t knows” we’ve seen in the last couple of months). Secondly, the nationalists (SNS) led by Zmago Jelinčič recorded a sharp rise in popularity.


We can safely assume that Jelinčič’s rise in popularity is directly and indirectly the result of renewed border disputes between Slovenia and Croatia. As the latter revoked its Ecological Fishery Zone and was in return given a seat on the fast train to the EU, Slovenia has lost its leverage in Brussels and must now deal with Croatia on its own. Its just that the current situation suits politicians on both sides of the border just fine. The dispute is easy ground for scoring cheap political points. All you need is to go to the disputed area, have cameras follow you and start talking tough. If you repaint a border-marker ot two, all the better. This is exactly whar Zmago Jelinčič did: He went into a bush that supposedly separates Slovenia and Croatia on the bank of the river Mura, and went about single-handedly protecting Slovene national interests. Or so he says. TV crews obligingly followed and participated in this charade and made Zmago the day’s headline. Cocksucking supreme, if you ask me. Why not just ignore the guy?

In any case, Zmago seems to have struck a chord with some of the 2,7% additional voters who support him. I would sumbit to you, however, that a large proportion of his newfound support materialised “by extension”, so to speak. Namely, anytime Croatia is on the menu, people instinctively think of Jelinčič and his anti-Croatian rhetoric. In any case, Zmago Jelinčič and his SNS are the only party making any serious gains this time around


Having said that, the other part of the nationalist wing, Sašo Peče’s Lipa is again loitering around the 1% mark, which isn’t exactly good news for Sašo, as he should be making headlines by now, having a new party and all. In other races, Katarina Kresal’s LDS seems to have closed the gap on Zares, and is now trailing the party led by Gregor Golobič by a mere 1,1 percent, while SD and SDS kept first and second place respectively, with both parties losing some support but still breathing down each other’s neck.

We now have two sets of polls for a sort-of-longitudal comparison. If we take Delo’s polls of February and March and look at them side by side – well, one above another, actually – with Ninamedia’s polls of the same period, we can recognize some similarities, especially as far as LDS, Zares, SNS and SLS are concerned (the latter just can’t get off the ground). But there are also big differences: In Delo poll Janša’s SDS took the lead with Pahor’s Social democrats coming in second, while DeSUS and NSi enjoyed a hefty addition to their popularity, while Ninamedia poll detects an opposite situation, with SD marginally leading over SDS and DeSUS and NSi taking a slump


Pengovsky’s projecton: As other subjects grow more imporant in this campaign, Jelinčič’s bump is not expected to last. But this is fast becoming an eight (OK, at least seven) horse race, where a development in any of the smaller parties might have huge impact on any of the two big parties. So a continuosly strong showing by Zares had made its president Gregor Golobič self-confident to the point of not excluding joining a ruling coalition, although he was very conservative about his party’s goals as late as December last. But apparenly a lot can change in three months. So, if Zares and LDS (and possibly DeSUS) manage to hold on to or even improve their current ratings, their importance might grow far beyond their size as Borut Pahor will be pressed from all sides to form a centre-left government (with him being the centre – in more ways than one).

Oh, and while we’re on the polls issue: POP TV reports that SDS went mouse-click happy (Slovene only, I’m afraid) as one or more computers within its domain were used to vote on a web-poll run by Žurnal24 daily. What apparently happened is that SDS organised a click campaign and bumped the support for PM Janša in the poll. Before the trick was spotted, the poll said that 95% of responeed supported the PM against Andirjana Starina Kosem . Can’t say I’m surprised, really, because we’we seen something like that in Vroči Stol, when 83% of respondees supported Janez Janša against Borut Pahor. When will these guys learn that old tricks just don’t work any more?

EDIT: Olimpija lost yesterday. Bugger.

Dej ga na gobec!*

*Punch him in the face!

Olimpija’s Brendan Yarema beating Alba’s player Odor in Austrian EBEL league

OK, so I don’t usually do sports on this blog. Unless of course you count sex and that other thing as a sporting activity. The reason for this is that I can’t even pretend to know the first thing sports. I couldn’t bluff my way through it under any circumstances. But to make an exception (if only to confirm the rule, today’s topic is ice hockey.

As some of you probably know, Ljubljana’s own ZM Olimpija followed suit of its eternal rival Jesenice and joined the Austrian EBEL ice hockey league. After decades of Slovene ice hockey being dominated by the two teams a change was more than welcome, not in the least because both Jesenice and Olimpija could now play against clubs on or above their level. Especially Olimpija performed admirably and qualified all the way to the finals of the league where it has already played five games against Salzburg Red Bulls and through a combination of skill and luck got a 3:1 lead in victories prior to last Sunday’s match. Or did they?

Namely: only hours before Sunday’s game a fax came in, saying that Olimpija was stripped of one victory (the game was played almost a week before), because – watch this – the average age of players exceeded the limits set in the rules of the league. Obviously, half of Slovenia went EXSQEEZE ME? BAKING POWDER? WTF? Average age?!?! What is this? The Little League!?! But there was no avoiding it. Rules are there and you can’t just ignore them if you don’t like them. Funny thing is, that the management of the league sent word only hours before the fifth game, with Olimpija being on a roll and all primed to score what they thought was the last victory needed to win the championship. And the – dissapointment and disbelief. Not only was one of their hard-fought victories disallowed, but was awarded to Salzburg. You can’t really put up much of a resistance knowing that everything you did was in vain. Consequently Olimpija lost Sunday’s game 5:0 and now the victory tally is 3:2 in favour of Salzburg, while only 72 hours ago it was still 3:1 for Olimpija.

While the error was clearly on the side of Olimpija’s management, the fans and the players were outraged at the behaviour of the league’s management, which was clearly aimed at destroying Olimpija’s morale. In responce, it seems, Salzburg is about to get a shot of the Balkans tonight. This evening Salzburg and Olimpija clash for the sixth time in this play-off and Olimpija must win to even the victory tally and stay in the game. A little birdie tells me that Green Dragons, Olimpija’s official fan club/amateur hooligans and the players were given an unofficial all-clear to make tonight’s game a living hell for both Salzburg and the league’s management.

The running joke is that if Salzburg loses the finals, they’ll be off playing in the German league next season, but in realitly Olimpija is the weaker team. But no matter who wins, I (and thousands like me, I’m sure) would like to see the victory being achieved in the ring and not on some clerical error.

The Garden Of Gethsemane (Take This Cup Away From Me)

A biblical story, naturally.

Once upon a time, there was a guy who had clear political convictions. Not that he let them get in the way of having fun or getting laid, but he was quite outspoken about the matters of the world – especially Slovenian politics. But he was a fun guy to be around. A party animal that could hold his liquer. But eventually he settled down and like most of his student colleagues ended up in the media world. Not surprisingly he chose to write for a magazine that more or less echoed his political views and which he read avidly alerady as a student. Predictabily, he was slightly out of his depth at first and when his editors taksed him with digging up the dirt on the mayor of a certain Central European capitol, he turned to a colleague of his working for another media company and asked him if there is a person in the city administration which could spill the beans of mayor’s alleged misuse of public funds or some other juicy details. Now, our hero was a complete greenhorn back then and of course didn’t know that sources are not shared but must be found – or, as it happens in most cases – sources themselves find journalists.

But hey! You live and you learn. So he kept on working, gaining experience and bettering his articles. The political and media world around him, though, reached boiling point as several hundred journalists from all walks of life signed a petition claiming government pressures and even censorship. Did we say “all walks of life”? Not really. A small-but-significant portion of journalists, mostly from our hero’s magazine and other media of similar political alignment did not sign the petition, but instead wrote a counter-petition, an “Ethical Call To Professionalism” in which they denounced the original petition and its signatories. Our hero, possibly still being rather fresh and idealistic, signed this counter-petition together with his colleagues from the magazine.

But Fortune is a fickle lady and owners of the parent company of his magazine (which just happened to be the country’s most influential daily newspaper) had a political change of heart and started attacking the government they previsouly supported. Eventually things started to change at our hero’s magazine as well, as the owners – amid outcries of censorship, similar to those which the magazine denounced earlier – replaced the editors of the magazine and (by extension) changed the political profile of the magazine as well. And within months the magazine ran a story uncovering a network of nepotism and cronyism surrounding and leading up to the prime minister of the country, connecting him to a construction scandal which rattled the country weeks earlier. But as the magazine’s circulation was somewhat low (it wasn’t big to start with, but as a result of editoral changes it dropped even further, losing hard-core readers), an abstract of the story was run in the daily newspaper as well. And lo! behold! One of the two authors turns out to be our hero.

No one knows exactly what happened. Did he realise the error of his previous ways or was he threatned into writing it? Or could it be that he is just a good adapter? Who knows. But I sure wouldn’t like to trade places with him at that particular table, because like J.C. in that olive grove 1975 years ago I’d have wished for that cup to be taken away from me.

BBC On Slovenian Media

I like to think that even a not-so-regular visitor to this puny blog can get a general picture of the way things are in Slovenia. At the very least, you can see how I see things over here, but if you take the time to read the comments and follow the links, I would venture to say that you get a very comprehensive view of the state of affairs. And as the debate has recently focused on media, the following story by the Beebs might come in handy in understanding what had happened.

In this picture: Blaž Zgaga of Večer daily. Click image to play

The piece is a bit outdated and does not cover the rather recent events at Mag magazine, where the whole thing backfired into government’s face. But… If we neglect the fact that Anže Logar, the head of the Governmental Communication Office barely speaks English (the man holds an MSc, for crying out loud!), I would like to point out the absurdity of his answer that “…journalists are free to ask any question they like” and that is proof enough that there’s no pressure.

I mean – WTF??? Did we actually sink so deep that the government boasts that Slovenian journalists ask questions? Would the gov’t rather they didn’t? I mean, it’s like boasting with compulsory primary education or electricity. It’s kind of entry level standard these days..

So – yes. Slovenian journalists can ask questions they like. But that doesn’t mean that the government doesn’t distinguish between right and wrong questions. Or, in government-speak, between right and left questions. It shouldn’t, but it does. And that’s one way to apply pressure.