Get Rid Of Him. Expeditiously.

Threatening journalists is not cricket. Regardless of whether you’re drunk as a skunk, in a middle of a bad spell or the journo in question is just plain obnoxious, there are lines you don’t cross and that’s one of them. Doubly so if you happen to be the son of freshly re-elected mayor who has a bad case of love-hate relationship with one Jaka Elikan of Finance newspaper.

Jaka Elikan explaining why he can’t accept the apology in full

Jure Janković, son of mayor Zoran Janković committed such a transgression Sunday last, when Elikan approached him (apparently more than once) to ask him about the state of his construction and retail company which was owned by Zoran Janković prior to his becoming mayor in 2006. I don’t mean to bore you with details, suffice it so say that earlier in the night Janković, jr. refused to answer questions, but Elikan apparently returned later in the night (with a colleague in tow) to press junior further on this. The kid seems to have lost his nerve, turned to his colleague and told him to “kill this guy“, meaning Elikan. Seeing this, mayor Janković intervened and sent everyone packing, but the deed was done and the next day shit hit the fan.

After the press and some political elements had a field day with this, Jure Janković apologized to Elikan who in the mean time pressed charges and added that he said the words in a state of drunkenness and agitation and that he didn’t mean them seriously, while mayor Janković issued a statement to the effect that if Elikan felt threatened he is right to press charges and that what his son did was wrong. Both Jankovićs also mentioned that Elikan was in their opinion out of line and rude. But that in itself is no excuse to ignore him, let alone threaten him. Despite what seems like (and I’m guessing here) shared animosity between Elikan and Jankovićs, despite his possibly objectionable approach, fact remains that the guy was doing his job. And that’s where the buck stops.

Having said that, the fact that Elikan did not accept the apology in full, saying that neither father nor son understand the role of the media in the society, does show a certain lack of grace on the journalist’s part as well. But then again, grace is not a job requirement in this line of work. There are ways of dealing with unfriendly press, but threats, no matter how irresponsible or not serious they were. It’s one thing to see Sylvester Stallone say “Get rid of him. Expeditiously!” in a sub-par film, quite another to say it for real. That is just uncool.

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Electoral Post-Mortem

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 🙂

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Zoran Janković Re-Elected Mayor, Increases Majority in City Council

According to exit poll data, incumbent Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković was re-elected to the position with some 69 percent of the vote. Runner-up Zofija Mazej Kukovič of SDS barely got 12 percent of the vote, with Mojca Kucler Dolinar of NSi getting 8 percent.

Four more years for Zoran Janković (source: The Firm™)

In what what is apparently a landslide victory, exit polls suggest List of Zoran Janković also increased its majority in the city council with 54 percent of the vote (an increase of 9% compared to 2006 elections). SDS won 13 %, Social democrats 9%, DeSUS (pensioners’ party) 5%, NSi 4,8% and LDS, the last party which seems to have made the cut, won 3,3% according to exit polls data.

Of the parties and lists which held seats in the current City Council, this leaves out Zares, SLS and List for Clean Drinking Water.

Ljubljana Elections of 2010 (Part Four: The Round-up)

With two more days of campaign remaining, it is time for pengovsky to bring you the fourth and last instalment of 2010 local election guide-extraordinaire. For parts One, Two and Three click here, here and here respectively.

Debate of candidates for mayor of Ljubljana. Source: The Firm™

So, what to say about this campaign in Ljubljana local elections? One word comes to mind: lacklustre. In Slovene capital at least, there was no serious campaigning until the very end. As if the huge lead incumbent mayor Zoran Janković enjoyed from the start put his challengers off. To an extent that may very well be the case. However, this election season was also marked by striking similarities between platforms the candidates and their parties and lists were running on.


Again, one word: traffic. With mayor Janković sort of delivering on most of his election promises from 2006 (although, it must be said again, things are not always as advertised), most candidates focused on problems this city has yet to solve. And traffic in Ljubljana is one big clusterfuck which will probably get much worse before it gets better. Candidates somewhat differ on approaches, but the bottom line is that some sort of railway will have to be constructed. Question is, whether Ljubljana should have a tram or a fast regional railway, which would connect Ljubljana to its airport and nearby towns (with SDS’ Zofija Mazej Kukovič and notably would-be councilman Žiga Turk opting for both). In addition, there are plans (mostly by mayor Janković) for widening main traffic arteries to allow “yellow lane” for buses and other modes of public transport. All candidates also vow to complete the network of cycling lanes. The same goes for most of other issues. Almost everyone agrees on what is needed, but they differ on how to get there.


Where there was some scuffling, it had mainly to do with challengers taking turns in criticising and attacking how incumbent mayor Zoran Janković ran the city in the past four years. The hick-ups related to Stožice sports we documented on this blog as well. But criticism also went in the general direction of his conduct during sessions of the city council, presumed arrogance, authoritarian tendencies and overspending.

Janković in turn generally replied that most of the people trying to oust him from office have one way or the other been in power for years on end (either on state or city level) and that they had ample opportunity do things their way, but instead just sat on their hands and talked too much. As for overspending, he maintains that, although higher than in previous years, the city debt is still well within legal limits and is being repaid without a problem.

How much is true?

Well, technically Janković has a point about city debt. By law a municipality can raise loans only up to a certain percentage of budget income, with the whole debt not being allowed levels which would hamper normal functioning of a municipality. This level is decided on a case-by-case basis by the ministry of finance. In case of Ljubljana this means that the current debt ceiling is set at about some 170 million euros, while the city currently runs a debt of about 124 million.

If there’s one thing one has to concede to Janković and his team is the fact that they know how to juggle numbers. As the mayor brought three of his four vice-mayors straight from the board of Mercator, financial planning is something they’re pretty good at. Although, it must be said they too sometimes find it hard to accept the peculiarities of public finances where not everything always goes according to plan. But in general Ljubljana’s finances are in order, it’s just a case of how much manoeuvring space remains should a financial emergency occur.

Secondly, Janković will apparently never forget how the government of Janez Janša took away 60 mil of spending money in 2006. After keeping quiet for most of 2010, he again brought it up with regard to Mojca Kucler Dolinar of NSi and Zofija Mazej Kukovič of SDS (his leading challengers, but both struggling in single-digit areas of polls). The mantra is naturally not as effective as it was prior to 2008 parliamentary elections, but Janković is very much an instinctive politician and his actions are rarely pre-meditated.

Which also reflects in the way he ran the city and (specifically) city council sessions. Pengovsky often said that the incumbent mayor is about as delicate as a buldozer on steroids when it came to enacting his policies. But if he was a bit rough around the edges at the beginning of the term, he got his bearings pretty soon and as a rule followed procedures. When he didn’t the city council rebelled (there was an issue of quorum) and he learned his lesson.


There are two things that work in Janković’s favour (and no, it is not media bias – a claim predictably uttered by Janez Janša a couple of hours ago). He is a text-book definition of a hands-on manager, who will go above and beyond the call of duty to oversee how things are progressing. He is also very approachable (if he wants to be) and he is known to be a great motivator, leading mostly by example. However, he is also the kind of person who loses his temper quickly if he feels people are wasting his time and can be very direct about it (to put it mildly). Case in point being a couple of outburst both in city council sessions as well as in press conferences. In one word, he is extremely charismatic.

And charisma is exactly what his opponents lack. Granted, most of them can hold their own. Some have more mileage in Ljubljana politics than it even bears thinking about. Some are in the race just for the heck of it, still others to lay groundwork for future terms (the latter case being especially Zares’ Milan Hosta).

In terms of campaign quality, the candidate that underperformed the most is in pengovsky’s opinion SDS’ very own Zofija Mazej Kukovič. Since she was deemed Janković’s main challenger, she was expected to tackle the incumbent mayor on a variety of very specific issues. But as time election day approached, it became painfully obvious that she is unable to go beyond clichés of allegations of mismanagement, corruption and dictatorial tendencies. She and her party also piggybacked on the initiative to hold a referendum on the recently passed new spatial-and-zoning plan, but failed to actively support it beyond posing for cameras while signing the petition. The deadline for collecting 11,000+ signatures to hold a referendum was yesterday and the initiative failed, in part due to lack of support from SDS, the only right wing party in Ljubljana with a power-base strong enough to make a difference.

On the other hand, the party which exceeded expectations (pengovsky’s expectations, at least) is LDS. In part still reeling from the 2004 meltdown, constantly scuffling with Zares and with its top two people (interior minister Katarina Kresal and justice minister Aleš Zalar) being almost constantly under fire, the party, which is not known for unity, closed ranks and got their shit together. Having been additionally fucked over by Zares which (contrary to expectations) ran their own candidate for mayor – thus trying to chip off votes from LDS, which supports Janković – the party went into town-hall-meeting-mode, organising events and discussions and tried to present itself as open to new ideas and approaches. We’ll see if the tactics works, but the overall impression was above average.


In the race for mayor Janković is poised to repeat his landslide victory of 2006. Pengovsky still maintains that the incumbent mayor will receive about 56 percent of the vote, but he will still leave his challengers in the dust. Ditto for the race for city council, where pengovsky projects The List of Zoran Janković winning about 20 seats and SDS about 10, while both will be followed by LDS, SD, DeSUS, Zares, The Green Party and possibly The List for Clean Drinking Water.

This concludes the Guide. Tomorrow is a you-know-what day, and pengovsky will be back with electoral results on Sunday 10 October, soon after 1900 hrs. Stay tuned! :mrgreen:

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Ljubljana Elections of 2010 (Part Three: The Polls)

For the benefit of the reading public, pengovsky brings you the third instalment of yet another awesome guide. For parts One and Two click here and here respectively.

With local elections exactly a week away, some pretty important polls were ran in the last couple of days. As you will remember, Slovenia still sports this silly little legal provision prohibiting publishing – but not performing – public opinion polls a week before elections. The provision is being challenged before the Constitutional Court by Dnevnik newspaper and pengovsky hears that the court will probably strike the provision down. But be that as it may, some media are making a point of violating the law on this issue. Mladina weekly did it during the Arbitration Referendum hiatus and Dnevnik did it repeatedly, not in the least because it was the only way to actually submit a constitutional challenge (active legitimation is required to do that), but also because it makes for good copy. As in: whoops, we did something really naughty. What has the world come to, if publishing polls less than a week before elections is naughty. 🙂 It must be said, however, that some polls indeed are naugthy. Or, rather: the analysis of certain polling data is naughty and whoever did it, should be spanked.

Ljubljana. The electoral prize. (photo by pengovsky)

There were two interesting polls about Ljubljana elections this weekend, published by Žurnal24 and Delo dailies. Interesting, because they both came up with more or less the same data. The methodology seems to be a bit different, as Žurnal24 provides percentage of support at the time of the poll, whereas Delo also performs some statistical black art and provides both polling results as well as projection of the final result. Allowing for this, both polls come up with rather similar results especially in the race for the city council. However, both interpretations of polls leave – to put it mildly – a lot to be desired.

The Data

As noted, Delo’s poll provides both actual polling data as well as a projection of the final results. According to this poll incumbent mayor Zoran Janković is projected to pick up 66,5 percent of the vote, beating the shit out of, perhaps surprisingly, Mojca Kucler Dolinar of NSi with 11 percent of the vote. Third place would go to SDS’ very own Zofija Mazej Kukovič who is projected to pick up 8,1 percent, thus beating Miha Jazbinšek in the fourth place by a single percentage point. Not at all a promising prospect. Things get more funky on the City Council front. There the List of Zoran Janković is projected to pick up 33 percent of the vote, while Janez Janša‘s SDS is looking to pick up some 17 percent. They’re followed by Social Democrats (10,2 %), DeSUS (9,5%), LDS (8,3%), NSi (4,3%), Zares (3%), The Greens (2,7%), List for Clean Drinking Water (2,3%) and SLS (2%)

Žurnal24’s poll doesn’t do projections and it also deals with a lesser number of candidates, but – published a day before Delo’s poll – the results are similar. In this poll mayor Janković registers “only” 54 percent of support. He is followed by Zofija Mazej Kukovič with 15 percent of support. Third place goes to Mojca Kucler Dolinar with 9 percent and Miha Jazbinšek with 6 percent. Results for the City Council are a bit more in line with Delo’s poll. According to Žurnal24 the List of Zoran Janković enjoys a 31 percent support, followed by SDS with 15 percent and Social democrats with 6 percent.

Knowing jack shit and getting away with it

While the polling data seems to cross-corroborate, analyses in both newspapers show that people who wrote the respective articles know jack shit about the issue at hand. The author of Žurnal24 article thus writes about the possibility of a second round in Ljubljana mayoral race.

Pardon? Zoran Janković scores an ass-whooping 54 percent support, leaving his main rival in the dust with 15 percent and the paper writes about the possibility of a second round? WTF?!? I know that the guy has to pick up 50%+1 vote to win in the first round, but do your homework, goddamit! There’s a 16 percent gap in published results, which (presumably) is divided between the rest of the candidates and the “undecideds”. That’s a lot. Neglecting the fact that the paper didn’t publish the percentage of undecideds, those 16 percent should increase by one quarter (for another four percent) in order for Janković to be forced in the second round. It ain’t happening. But if Žurnal24 thinks their poll could be off by 4% in a race where one candidate has light-years of advantage, they might want to consider changing their pollster.

Speaking of polls being off, Delo doesn’t have the best of track records in Ljubljana either. Four years ago, when Janković’s List won 45% of the vote and thus won an absolute majority in the City Council, Delo’s last poll recorded a meagre 6,5 percent of support for the List of Zoran Janković, while the man himself was just short of the 40 percent mark. Now, presumably Delo’s pollsters got better in the last four years (that’s right, Delo doesn’t outsource public opinion polls, one of the few pluses this paper hasn’t wasted in the past few years) but their analysis still sucks. To their credit, Delo doesn’t have a problem with projecting Janković’s victory in the first round, but their analysis of the City Council vote is about as stupid as they come. Namely, the paper writes that it can very well happen that Janković’s list will have a hard time forming a coalition and may even end up in the opposition.

Exquiz me? Baking powder? You project one group to win a third of the vote and then you say virtually all the other groups in the council, both left and right, will refuse to cooperate and will gang up on the winner? What are you on, ferfucksake. One: do you really see SD, Zares, LDS, the Green party, DeSUS, SDS and SLS joining forces to shut out Janković’s list? And keeping the deal for the next four years? Two: what purpose would that serve? The mayor is not elected (nor can he/she be replaced) by the City Council but directly by the people. He represents the executive branch of the city and will therefore hold office regardless of the balance of power in the council. And three: Even if such a broad front were to be established, it would have no real meaning, as the mayor is not driven out of office for losing a vote, nor are most decisions in front of the council ideological or of a nature that would otherwise demand a vote along position/opposition lines.


Let me state for the record that pengovsky has no problem either with Janković having to go to the second round or with his list being “in the opposition”. If it happens, it happens. However, it my firm belief, based based both in my knowledge as well as experience that both of these projections are false. For the incumbent mayor to go to the second round, all the other candidates would have to receive among them at least 50% of the vote. With the runner up registering only mid-teen numbers, that is about as likely as getting wood while your bladder is still full of cheap beer. Ain’t gonna happen. Ditto for the city council.

However, results for the City Council are a bit tricky. 33 percent is a lot. But it still is some way from the 45% treshold which gave Janković an absolute majority. 12 percent ain’t peanuts and if we for the moment consider the polls as more or less accurate it will be mighty difficult for Janković’s list to make up for the difference in the five days remaining. But… (there always a butt involved)… Pengovsky noted time and again that voter turnout and vote dispersal will be crucial in the final tally.

Electoral mathematics

Out of some 270,000 Ljubljanchans, about 224,000 are eligible to vote. With an estimated voter turnout of 62 percent (as per Žurnal24 article), the number of votes against which the final results are calculated drops down to 139,000. Furthermore, the percentage needed to win one seat in the City Council historically revolves around 2 percent. Anything below that are votes counted, but lost. And this is where the fun starts. If we accept Žurnal24’s predicition of voter turnout, Delo’s prediction of election results and historical threshold data, we can conclude following:

Of 139,000 votes cast, some eight percent or 10,800 votes will get lost to lists ranking below 2 percent threshold (2 percent equalling approximately 2700 votes). This will in turn increase the number of seats won by more successful lists and parties. With the data at hand this puts the List of Zoran Janković closer to their stated goal of again winning and absolute majority, but it doesn’t take them all the way. By that same pattern we should see some gains by SDS and SD, possibly even DeSUS and LDS. The further down the list we go, the less effect this quirk in the proportional voting system has.

As things stand now, Janković’s List is poised to win some 19 seats (thus losing four), SDS is to win 9 seats (gaining one), Social Democrats have their sights on five seats (gaining one), DeSUS is looking at five seats as well (a staggering four-seat gain), whereas LDS is set lose a seat and end up with four. The remaining three seats should go to Zares, The Green Party and the List for Clean Drinking Water.


Pengovsky thinks this will not stand. The thing that stands out like a sore thumb is a huge four seat gain by DeSUS. There’s no particular reason why this should be so other than the fact that the party is playing harball on the national level, trying to prevent a freeze on pensions. But DeSUS has had good polling results just prior to elections before (notably in 2004 and 2008) but got a bit of a cold shoulder on voting day. Pengovsky thinks this is likely to happen again.

Also, the List for Clean Drinking Water is suspect as well. True, they made their case opposing the construction of a parking lot below the Central market, but there’s a crowd at that particular issue, with SDS, NSi, SLS as well as The Green Party in the form of Miha ‘Jazby’ Jazbinšek canvasing for votes and there’s not enough to go around. SLS is also problematic, as is Jazby himself, but his ability to land on his feet is astounding.


This Sunday pengovsky projects the List of Zoran Janković the overall winner of the City Council elections, but with 21 seats they will stop just shy of an absolute majority (23 seats of 45). They will be followed by SDS with 10 seats, SD with 5, LDS with 4, DeSUS with 2 and Zares, SLS and the Green party with 1. In the mayoral race, pengovsky projects Zoran Janković winning in the first round with 56 percent of the vote (I placed a wager on this result. A friend says 65 percent).

But still, there are five days of campaign remaining. A lot can happen. A lot will happen. So watch this space. 🙂

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