As autumn municipal elections approach (the date has not yet been set, but second half of October this year seems reasonable), Ljubljana branch of Janez Janša’s Slovene Democratic Party held its electoral conference and picked new leadership. As of yesterday the new leader of Ljubljana SDS is Dragutin Mate who served as interior minister during Janša’s 2004-2008 government.
Dragutin Mate, new president of Ljubljana branch of SDS (source)
This in it self would not be news, although Mate played a dubious role in the anti-Roma Ambrus Standoff (to pick an example completely at random). Being branch president does not necessarily mean running for mayor. Indeed, history shows that political parties in Ljubljana often picked other prominent people to run for mayor’s office, whereas branch presidents remained the behind-the-scenes power brokers and/or powerful figures in the City Council (under Ljubljana Statute the mayor does not have a right to a vote in the City Council).
However, things do get interesting when one takes into account that Peter Sušnik stepped down as branch president only days before the conference and announced that he is leaving city politics after a sixteen-year stint (he had hinted at the move in the end-of-the-year-interview for The Firm™), saying in no uncertain terms that he had done his bit. Perhaps no less important than Sušnik politics-fatigue was an interview party leader Janša gave in autumn 2009 where he specifically criticised Ljubljana branch saying that it had underperformed.
This probably was not completely fair to Sušnik. Ljubljana branch of SDS is working in a “hostile” environment. Not just because Slovene capital is considered predominantly left-wing oriented, but – even more importantly – because Janša’s government changed the law on funding of municipalities, depriving Ljubljana of some 53 million euros because it had elected “the wrong man” in 2006 – namely incumbent mayor Zoran Janković. Given the situation, SDS in Ljubljana performed quite well under Sušnik. It was (well, is) the single largest group in the City Council after Janković’s List, by far the largest party group (Janković’s group is not considered a proper party but rather a “group of candidates”) even doubly so in the right-wing part of Ljubjana’s political spectrum.
But be that as it may, the new Ljubljana branch leadership faces a tall order. To secure a better result than their predecessors and put a noticeable dent in Mayor Janković’s ratings. But… There is one positive side to Mate’s becoming the Big SDS Kahuna in the capital. Being born in Čakovec, Croatia, this will probably put an end to below-the-belt hits against Janković being born in Serbia. If there is one thing this town has too much of is the xenophobia, small-mindedness and inferiority complexes which manifested itself shortly before new year when youth organisations crahsed Janković press conference and called him names. So maybe with a Serb-born and a Croat-born Ljubljanchan calling the shots in the city the musty provincial odor this city sometimes still sports will finally clear up.