Time for some election result analysis in Ljubljana. With 99,57 percent of the votes counted, Zoran Janković won with a few percentage less than exit polls suggested. In the race for mayor the incumbent mayor won with 65 percent, leaving his nearest challenger, Zofija Mazej Kukovič of SDS in the dust with 13,5 percent. His List of Zoran Jankovič, however, got a significantly lower percentage (48 % as opposed to 54% suggested by the exit polls), but even with that result he still strengthened his hold on the majority in the city council (25 seats out of 45, an increase of two seats). The divison of city council seats is now as follows: List of Zoran Janković – 25, Slovene Democratic Party (SDS) – 9, Social Democrats – 4, DeSUS (pensioners’ party) 2, Nova Slovenija (NSi) – 2, The Green Party -2 and Liberal democrats (LDS) – 1.
The outgoing Ljubljana City Council
The above is not exactly what pengovsky predicted, so let’s see what lessons can we derive from this electoral post-mortem for Ljubljana
1) Things don’t happen by themselves
Pengovsky already wrote that this was a lacklustre campaign. Most parties were sort of resigned to the fact that Janković will get another term and only made more or less token efforts in the race for mayor, hoping to see the mayor’s power curbed by preventing his List to retain absolute majority in the city council. However, they made only half-hearted efforts in that area as well. As if they convinced themselves that there is no way for Jankovič’s List to repeat the result. Well, guess what: parties that had most vested interest in this issue (SDS on the right and SD on the left) gave sub-par perfomances, both in terms of style as well as content and the List of Zoran Janković now enjoys an even bigger majority.
2) Never, ever, run without your candidate for mayor
LDS took a big hit, as they’re down from five seats to just one. They probably wouldn’t have repeated their result anyway, but we can probably put their feeble result down to the fact that they did not run their candidate for mayor. Not only does this confuse the voters (vote Janković for mayor, but don’t vote for his list!), it also diminishes their media exposure, as most if not all debates are held for mayoral races. The fact that there weren’t that many debates in the first place only reiterates the point.
3) If you put forward your candidate for mayor, even for the sole point of collecting votes for your council candidates, make sure he/she stands out.
Case in point being Zares of Gregor Golobič, which failed to win a seat in the council. Granted, we can apply this formula to virtually all candidates and parties, but Zares had a lot going for them: they had a likeable, educated and eloquent candidate for mayor, who had no real experience in politics which is an asset in this day and age when “politics” is a dirty word. Unfortunately Milan Hosta discovered too late that being different grabs attention. In the last few days he did start to talk about the need the change the system, either from within or from without and he coined some highly quotable soundbites (pengovsky’s favourite being about how Ljubljana should switch from donation urbanism to donation socialism) but it was too little too late. Most of the time he just tried to imitate the big boys and girls, not knowing that they were just as much at a loss as to what to do as he was.
The other side of this coin are Mojca Kulcer Dolinar of NSi and especially Miha “Jazby” Jazbinšek of the Green party. The latter put virtually all of his eggs in one basket: the referendum bid to overturn the new spatial planning act. And (to quote Andrew Carnegie) Jazbinšek then watched the basket. As the referendum bid, in fact initiated by him but executed by an association of citizens’ groups, started crumbling, he wisely put a daylight between him and the proponents of the referendum, coming across as the only guy in city politics who knows how things really should be done. And he won two council seats in the process.
4) If you want to make a decent result, don’t go after the leading candidate
What we saw in this campaign was most of the candidates going after mayor Janković, attacking both the style and the content of his running the city. While this is a perfectly legitimate tactic it can backfire big time (as it did in case of Ljubljana elections). But the added effect was that by subscribing to this approach candidates which went after Janković were all addressing the same pool of disillusioned voters and – by extension – blurring differences between themselves. Thus there was no intelligible difference between (for example) Metka Tekavčič of Social democrats and Meta Vesel Valentinčič of DeSUS. The fact that both some from the left side of political spectrum only adds to the effect.
With the benefit of hindsight pengovsky thinks that it would be much better if candidates from the left went after Zofija Mazej Kukovič (SDS) and Mojca Kucler Dolinar (NSi), thus a) better profiling their differences and b) galvanizing a different pool of voters. This especially applies if their goal is not really to win the race for mayor but to create enough hubbub to make the cut for the city council.
Again, cases in point being Milan Hosta of Zares and Miha Jazbinšek. The former decided too late that he can be a colourful candidate with both a good platform and an attitude to match, whereas Jazby picked a single issue (spatial planning act) and campaigned hard on it.
5) Don’t import candidates
This goes mostly for SDS. Just as they did four years ago, this time around they picked a candidate who originally resided outside of Ljubljana. Technically this is solved easily – the candidate just has to change his/her address of permanent residence, just as Zofija Mazej Kukovič did. But since all politics is local, this can and usually is a factor. Perhaps not for die-hard voters (of any party), who will vote for their party’s candidate regardless of everything, but if such a candidate wants to appeal to a broader base of voters, he or she will find the recently-changed address a rather huge drawback.
There, this about covers it 🙂