Ljubljana Elections of 2010 (Part Two: The City Council)

For Part One click here

If the mayoral race in Ljubljana seems all but decided (although, as they say on the other side of the pond, it ain’t over till the fat lady sings), the elections for 45 seats in the Ljubljana city council are a different matter. In the landslide of 2006 Zoran “Zoki” Janković not only won 63% of the vote, but his List of Zoran Janković won 45% of the vote which (due to vote losses on account of parties and list which got the votes but didn’t make the cut) translated into an absolute majority of 23 out of 45 votes. This completely rearranged the political landscape in Ljubljana, where the mayor was usually held hostage by the power struggle within the uneasy coalition between liberal democrats (LDS) and Social democrats (SD). In 2006 the voters overwhelmingly send political parties packing and put the reins exclusively into Janković’s hands who used the powers thus vested in him to the fullest of his abilities.

Who’ll be sitting where? Ljubljana City Council (photo: The Firm™)

First he rammed through changes to Council Rules and Procedures, making the work of the city council a bit quicker and (for the most part) also more effective. And then he managed (contrary to pengovsky’s expectations) to keep members oh his list – most of them accomplished individuals, many of whom did not expect to get elected in the first place – to toe the line, be present in sufficient numbers at every vote (there was only one slip in four years) and vote according to mayor’s wishes. Janković basically ran a very tight ship and if things got too slow for his liking he was liable to bend rules of procedures a bit, just to get things going. All of the above made the rest of the political groups in the city council go mad with rage. Well, some more than others, but those who were regularly foaming at the mouth were mostly Borut Pahor‘s SD and Janez Janša‘s SDS, aided by Green Party’s very own Miha “Jazby” Jazbinšek.

Truth be told, there were quite a lot of votes where for one reason or another Janković secured more than just the slim majority of the votes. Some measures were passed even without a vote against, a fact Zoki never fails to mention when he is accused of autocratic tendencies. And to an extent he is right. There’s also the fact that his majority was a direct result of a popular vote and for better or for worse you don’t fuck with that. And to be honest, despite all their rage, the rest of the political groups in the city council understood that. They just found it hard to swallow.

Playing hardball

But playing hardball can cost you down the road. And Janković played a lot of hardball. He didn’t compromise because he didn’t have to. He also had a couple of very public fallouts with a couple of prominent city politicos, most notably with Dimitrij Kovačič of SDS (who was removed from front party lines by the new SDS Ljubljana leadership) and with Metka Tekavčič of Ljubljana SD, who now runs against him in the race for mayor (without much success for now). The spat between her and Janković is especially interesting as they had a more or less cordial relationship for the most of the term, but some time around March this year something happened and they were publicly spewing fire and sulphur at each other, to the point of Janković saying weeks ago of Tekavčič that “she would do better to shut up as she’s been in city politics for 15 years and has precious little to show for“. Playing hardball indeed.

Anyways, it seemed that all remaining political groups in the city council just sort of gritted their teeth, hoping that the term would end as soon as possible and were counting on the fact that there is no way Janković can get an absolute majority in the council for the second time, even though he is virtually unbeatable in the race for mayor. Were they right? Yes and no.

Polls and horse-trading

The Ninamedia/POP TV poll pengovsky quoted on Sunday does indeed show that the List of Zoran Janković (his 45 candidates for city council) register some 23% support, which only half as much as they got on election day four years ago. Slightly more surprising is the 19% support Social Democrats sport. It is not exactly clear where this came from. But what’s even more surprising is that all the other parties (including Janez Janša’s SDS) get only single-digit percentages.

So, what does all of this mean for the political future of everyone involved? First and foremost, this is far from over. While it is not uncommon for a party like SD to have a “proper” percentage of support and having its candidate for mayor fare miserably, it is unclear why the voters seem to have singled out Social Democrats as the party of choice. Hopefully, there’ll be another poll soon and we’ll see if this was just a fluke. Percentages scored by Jankovič’s list are much more interesting. Zoki said time and again that he will not engage in any horse-trading after elections even if he has to form a coalition government (a prospect he dreads) and should the voters deny him an absolute majority it will be interesting to see if and how he goes about that. Despite his claims it would be hard to imagine him throwing it all away just because he doesn’t like who SD (or any other coalition partner) would have put forward for a manager of this-or-that city service.

Lest we forget

Virtually all players on the Ljubljana political scene made it plain obvious that their prime goal is not defeating Janković but reining him in by means of making sure he doesn’t win an absolute majority again. Janković recognises this and is pushing the message of “Zoran Janković and his List” more aggressively. Whether or nor he will succeed remains to be seen, but before people start passing judgements, a couple of things should be remembered:

1) 27% of those likely to vote are still undecided. Granted, not all of them will go to the same camp, but they could tip the balance heavily one way or the other.

2) Voter turnout and vote dispersal are crucial. In urban municipalities a straight proportional voting system is used and if the turnout is low or a lot of votes get lost(i.e.: go to candidates who don’t make the cut), then a couple of thousands votes one way or the other can mean a big difference for the bigger players.

3) Right wing parties register unusually low scores. Despite the fact that Janez Janša while prime minister did everything in his power to alienate voters in Ljubljana, SDS, NSi and SLS should under normal circumstances fare much better.

4) On that same token, there’s no apparent reason why (in addition to Janković’s List) it should be only Social Democrats which get a substantial support on the left wing without Zares, LDS and DeSUS joining in on the fun. This too will in all likelihood play out a bit differently.

and 5) Four years ago no poll registered even the remote possibility of Janković’s List grabbing an absolute majority. A couple of polls near the end of the campaign put his list on top, but none predicted the whoopass which was election day on 22 October 2006.


None, at this time. The way things stand, this could go either way. The campaign to date has been about as lacklustre as a sex-life of a catatonic and is poised to pick up in the ten remaining days. We’ll just have to wait and see how this particular election cookie crumbles

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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.


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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Repent! Repent! The End Is Nigh! (or something…)

again, a very fine guest post by dr. Arf

Bart de Wever, leader of N-VA (source)

So, last time I posted, N-VA had won the national elections in Flanders, Vlaams Belang was the biggest loser of them all and is now back to where it belongs : in the margins of the political landscape, rotting from within and all the other traditional parties goth either a big smack upside the head (Open VLD, CD&V) or saw their margins thin out even more, albeit less significantly (SPa, Groen). Meanwhile, in Wallonia, PS won back their lost ground from MR – FDF, while the other parties held their respective ground.

So what did this mean? Those who read the blog and my update, already knew that both winning parties would have to work together to come up with a new government team. However, that N-VA won in the north and PS in the south made one thing very clear : both regions chose a very different political style, therefore illustrating the big difference between the two. N-VA is a right wing political party, while PS, obviously, is left wing. While they dance around the centre of the political spectrum, especially N-VA does so on the fringes with a very ultra liberal economical and social program, which is diametrically opposed to that of the socialist parties on both side of the language border.

N-VA has three immediate problems :

1) The mass of voters that made them the biggest party in Flanders aren’t all ultra liberals, nor are they die hard nationalists. What most voters wanted, was to send a signal to the political south that a) no, they’re not going to budge when it comes to ceding territory around Brussels and b) that they’re sick and tired of the whole B-H-V question being run aground by delaying tactics and (politically) unrealistic demands. Those 28 percent didn’t turn nationalist over night and any N-VA politician thinking otherwise is fooling himself. They were given a mandate to try and realize their party program, though, which some voters may now regret not having read it entirely.

2) N-VA isn’t the biggest party in Belgium, only in Flanders. Percentage wise, PS remains the biggest party in this country, gaining more than 30 percent in Wallonia. While this is still well below the political hegemony of the days of yore, it’s still obvious that they, too, have been given a mandate to realize their political program which is, as we said, diametrically opposed to that of N-VA. Their big score also means they have the right to the prime ministership, but we’ll get to that later.

3) N-VA winning may have been a joyous moment for the party, it also means they will have to compromise in the formation talks in order to come to a government. The question most if not all political commentators have posed before and after the election is : is N-VA ready, willing and able to do so? One can imagine this wouldn’t sit well with all the nationalist hardliners who have been with the party ever since it was still called Volksunie.

N-VA actually has a fourth problem : that of the Wallonian perception. While the Wallonian press was rather cautious (well, for their doing anyway) right after the elections, we’re now well over three months into the new political reality and knives and swords have been whetted and the first mediatic skirmishes have already taken place. “Why?” might you ask? Well, this calls for an overview of these past months…

At first, N-VA’s Bart Dewever and PS’s Elio Di Rupo – who’s chomping at the bit to become PM – agreed that Dewever would clear the path for Di Rupo by holding talks with just about everyone who’s relevant in the political world : party chairmen- and women, unions, employer organizations and other lobbyists. Three weeks in, I almost feared he would invite the janitor of the federal parliament to see what he had to say.
After this round of talks, Dewever needed some time to come to the conclusion that there were ‘convergences’ which would allow to build a governing team with the following parties : N-VA, PS, SPa, Groen, CD&V, CDH and Ecolo. This would mean a ‘mirror’ cabinet, with all parties having their respective sister parties across the language border joining, except for N-VA, which of course has no sister party in Wallonia. However, said Dewever, this would not be easy and plenty of work still had to be done.

Di Rupo was then upgraded to the status of ‘informateur’ for another round of information talks with the respective parties. Flash forward to another couple of weeks later, and Di Rupo virtually says the same as Dewever did. The message between the lines is clear : there still no ground gained, enough to start formation talks. Di Rupo then visits King Albert II, our country’s ever loyal referee, who – pardon my French – is shitting his pants at the prospect of losing his kingdom and appoints Di Rupo to a heretofore non- existing status : that of ‘preformateur’. Needless to say, this caused many hilarity and sarcasm within the world of political commenting, as well as the political opposition. Basic message : Di Rupo is incapable to getting a governing team together.

Unfortunately, this is the case and while at first a before unseen rule of discretion is upheld by all parties involved, cracks eventually start to show when it becomes apparent that N-VA isn’t going to budge over certain points, like the financing law which divides the federal income between the regions. According to Di Rupo, it was agreed that this would not be on the table during this formation, but N-VA claimed that Wallonian demands made it inevitable to keep it off the table.

While it might come as a shock to most Wallonians, it actually makes sense to definitely arrange this financing law, which is so complex that it’s actually costing the federal government money. But the Wallonian politicians fear that it will end the money stream from Flanders which they have been dependent on ever since their heavy industry collapsed that touching this law is the same as strangling them financially. Which is incorrect, but neither the politicians, nor the media down south are prepared to even consider this.
Instead, the preformation talks were blown up again and all of a sudden, Wallonian politicians are starting to talk ‘nationalist’ speak’. Several PS politicians said their constituents should ready themselves for a separation. Where before there didn’t seem to be one, there was now a ‘Plan B’ on their minds : separating from Flanders, taking Brussels along into something called ‘Wallonian Belgium’. Some ‘rattachists’ even would like to see Wallonia and Brussels added to France, which I’m sure Sarkozy would like as much as he likes Roma gypsies.

So, with our Wallonian brethren now chiming in about separation, is this a feasible scenario? Several political commentators seem to think it’s bull. And theoretically, they would be right. There are so many political intricacies making it impossible for either region to secede, like Brussels and its financing and statute. In all likelihood, Brussels would not want to go along with any of the two regions, because it likes being what it is, a sort of unofficial European Washington D.C. Brussels has the most to lose in this scenario, not in the least its status as European Capital.

However, your Dr. ARF doesn’t think in theories, as he’s some sort of amateur history buff and he agrees that in order to see the future, one should often look to the past. Therefore, I say that it could be highly likely that a breakup scenario could happen, because theoretical logic might not even come into play. Case in point : World War I. Up until a few days before it began, there was absolutely nothing that indicated an armed conflict was going to take place. Every party involved still believed diplomacy would prevail. However, a few minor events decided otherwise and millions died because some people didn’t choose to follow the logical course of action. The devil is in the details. You, as Slovenes, know all too well how fast a political disagreement can escalate into armed conflict.

While I’m not saying it will be necessarily so, I just am pointing out that Belgium breaking up – be it through sheer political means or civil war – is definitely a feasible scenario, in spite of all the theoretical naysayers.
Going on four months now, the preformation talks have stalled, Dewever and Di Rupo are trying to rebuild their political trust in each other and we still are nowhere nearer a federal government than we are to a national budget for next year. Social security wise, things are brewing like an underground lava flow about to burst and this Autumn is promising to be littered with strikes and protest marches. Who again said ‘Nil Volentibus Arduum’ after he won the elections?*

*N-VA’s Bart Dewever

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Top Gun (who’s who in local elections)

Pengovsky is not covering this year’s local elections to the extent he’d like. He’s much too busy doing that very same thing for The Firm™. Also, there’s been some light rain recently and as a result blogging suffered. Hopefully this will improve in the coming weeks and to kick it off, here’s a round-up of candidates for mayor of Ljubljana in the October elections. If you remember this post, then you know what to expect 🙂

Top Gun (who’s who in Ljubljana local election) from pengovsky on Vimeo.

Note: LCWD stands for List for Clean Drinking Water (yeah, I know!) and LZJ stands for List of Zoran Janković (not very imaginative, but it does get the message across.).

EDIT: Also, please note that there are also four other candidates running. But they don’t really matter and I don’t really mind. 🙂

Parts of Ljubljana Flooded

Yesterday and today Slovenia was hit by some heavy rain which caused some serious flooding. Even in Ljubljana. Pengovsky was out and around doing work for The Firm™ and below are some pics taken during this eventful weekend which bears promise of more rain still. The hardest hit areas in Ljubljana include Vič, Murgle, Brdo, Vrhovci and Kozarje.

But as you can see, some people had fun nevertheless :mrgreen: