The upcoming elections to the European Parliament continue what pengovsky calls a perpetual election campaign. Starting in 2006 Slovenians went to the polls every year since and will continue to do so until 2010 (inclusive). There will be a short pause in 2011 which will be followed by a super-election year in 2012, when both parliamentary and presidential elections will be held.
This year’s European elections come only nine months after the parliamentary elections of 2008 when Social democrats won by the thinnest of margins and Borut Pahor put together a left-wing coalition which is high on friction factor from the beginning, not to mention that it has an economic crisis to handle. With this in mind it is all the more clear why European elections are seen as a sort of a test for the ruling coalition. Even worse – as two ministers of Pahor’s government are running for MEPs, a cabinet shake-up is possbile (although not very likely), which would throw this quarrelsome coalition off balance yet again.
European parliament is composed of 785 MEPs, only seven of whom come from Slovenia. They are elected by a proportional voting system with a preferential vote, where every party runs a list of maximum seven candidates. Voters choose either a list (a party) as a whole or a particular candidate. The number of seats each party wins is proportional to the percentage of the vote it gets. If a party wins more than one seat, MEPs are seated in the order they appear on the list – unless a particular candidate on the list won enough preferential votes to “jump queue”. On the whole, each seat corresponds to approximately 14,5 percent of the votes cast, although this can vary as a lot of smaller parties might not make it above this “threshold”.
The above suggests that turnout is crucial. Small turnout can cause seemingly enormous fluctuations in votes cast and crucially affect the end result. Thus in 2004, when Slovenes voted in euroelections for the first time, the turnout was appallingly small (only 44%) and christian-democratic Nova Slovenia got most of the vote even though they were only a slightly-more-than-a-marginal political force in Slovenia. Indeed, Nova Slovenia has the most to lose this time around. They’ve dropped out of the parliament in 2008 parliamentary elections and are holding on to political survival by their fingernails. While they publicly state that they hope to repeat the result of 2004, the reality is much bleaker: they can only pray (pun very much intended) to win one MEP. Just as it was the case in parliamentary elections in 2008, the bulk of NSi electorate seems to have moved to Janez Janša’s SDS. Which is good news for the former PM, as his party seems poised to win as many as three EP seats, which would be a first in the short history of European elections in Slovenia and would mean that SDS won the elections beyond the shadow of a doubt.
However – winning more seats at the expense of your ideological allies only goes so far.
Ruling Social democrats of PM Borut Pahor seem certain to win two MEPs. Together with the projected result of SDS this would result for the bulk of Slovenian EP quota and throw the field wide open for the remaining two seats. As I wrote above, NSi can only hope to win one, as do all three junior coalition members: Zares, LDS and DeSUS. The latter stands little chance of success, but remember the paragraph about attendance: the smaller the attendance, the bigger the possible upsets.
Today, five days before the elections it seems like the opposition SDS will win three seats, ruling SD two, at least one seat will go to either LDS or Zares, whereas the seventh seat will be a toss-up between LDS, Zares, NSi and possibly DeSUS and SLS.
Naturally, the result will be interpreted in a zillion different ways. While the number of seats will of course be important, percentages won will be the thing to watch to get a quick snapshot of the political balance of power. Obviously, most people will be interested in the difference between Janša’s SDS and Pahor’s SD. In parliamentary elections six months ago the latter got only marginally more votes than the former (both won about 28 percent of the vote) and if this balance is not disturbed too much, even if SDS wins three seats and SD only two, than it will be safe to say that Social Democrats held out pretty well. Anything less than that, and it will be obvious that SDS regains some ground it lost to SD six months ago.
However, it could be that SD is not losing to SDS but to Zares and LDS, its two major coalition partners (DeSUS being the third). So it will also be interesting to see how the coalition parties will fare as a whole. Remember, SDS expanded its base mostly at the expense of Nova Slovenija (NSi) and it could very well be that it made only marginal headway in the “swing vote” category. If SD, Zares, LDS and even DeSUS rack up a healthy percentage, then Janša, who is increasingly alone in the opposition, will have to rethink his tactics.
There are numerous other lists and parties running in these elections. The Greens and the Youth party are the eternal underdogs which – with every election – look more like a group of dedicated amateurs than a serious policial party. If these guys were for real, they’d have merged long ago, as their platforms are painfully similar. But as things stand, they split up even the poor vote they do get. Then there’s Jelinčič’s nationalists, who are in a bit of schizophrenic position: they are anti-European and yet they run in an European position. Their message is therefore appropriately muddled.
But then, there are what we call “parachuters”, people who have zero chance of being elected and who run on the wildest of platforms. My favourite is Nedeljko Dabić, a candidate for Christian Socialist Party, whose slogan is “50 is more than a 100” and who runs on a radical solidarity platform – that every company must share 50% of its profit with its employees. Sounds nice. But first we have to have companies creating profits!