Slovenia Elections: Up, Up and Away

So, more polls, and a lot of people are probably none too happy about it. Dnevnik published a Ninamedia poll which showed the leading three parties going up, up and away, while the rest of the gang are basically eating their dust, with notable exceptions being SD and DeSUS, both of which are sort of hanging in there.


Poll results over time

But don’t take the champagne out of the fridge just yet. Rather than calling the race which has not yet begun, there are a few points that must be made lest they be lost in the general chatter of the election fever.

Media Exposure

Again, you can see how Zoran Jankovič’s and Gregor Virant‘s polls are all over the place. Leaders of the three leading parties have recently appeared on Pogledi Slovenije, a high-octane TV programme which gets its ratings from the conflict it aims to produce among the participants. And lo-behold! they immediately gain plenty of ground. This supports the notion pengovsky expressed some time ago, namely that especially Janković’s and Virant’s polls are media-exposure-dependant. This might look like a truism (since everyone’s polls are to an extent dependant on the media), but comparing the three top contenders, we can see that JanÅ¡a and his SDS have a fall-back line at about 18 or 19 percent, which consists of their hardcore voters and the recently launched platform, whereas Jay-Z and Virant have only their media exposure. Take that away and they’re toast. At the very least Janković gets a fair amount of press-time by the virtue of being mayor of the capital, whereas Virant has abso-fucking-lutely no plan B whatsoever.

But saying that the numbers are inflated because of the media hubbub only gets you so far. The number are there and unless the competition does something about it, they will stay there. OK, so media tricks get real old real fast, but both Jay Z and Virant are smart enough to time their media ploys correctly and gain maximum output. Ditto for JanÅ¡a. Which means that unless someone hijacks the debate and does it soon, things could go on like this until elections and by that time it won’t matter how the top dogs got there.

Projection

Apart from the top three parties only SD and DeSUS are hitting above the 4% threshold, with SLS hovering around three percent. But in the longtail, interesting things are happening. SLS, Zares, LDS and TRS are out in the field, operating almost below radar and putting their network to good use. Town-hall meetings, round tables and topical discussions are being held all around the country. As you can see below, the effect is still to be seen, but effort is being made.


Average percentage in polls

A lot of things can happen, but the more time passes, the more things tend to get fixed in the public opinion. So the parties below the threshold will have to be quick on their feet to produce a tangible result. Also, they will have to decide whether they will try to chip off votes from the (currently) big three parties or will they fight their immediate competition (most likely SD and DeSUS) and try to win over their electorate. There are pros and cons to either tactic and both can backfire at any time.

Note: Data is compiled from different polls with different sets of questions and different samples, so it is not directly comparable from a scientific point of view. Data available as .xls file

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Slovenian Elections: Swing Time!

After the initial upset in polls, when Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković shot to the top in public, a series of public opinion polls were conducted which seem to confirm what the initial heat around Jay-Z and Gregor Virant is dissipating and that the hubbub was more due to their overall media exposure than to a permanent shift in voters’ preference.

First, a couple of disclaimers. Although the graph looks like it represents a significant span of time, do check the dates. Delo poll aside all were published (and by extension – conducted) in a very short time span and are therefore of limited value. On the whole, however, a few trends are starting to emerge.

Swing time!

First of all, it is now clear that the main contenders in this election campaign are Positive Slovenia (PS) of Zoran Janković, Citizens’ List (DLGV) of Gregor Virant and Slovene Democratic Party of Janez JanÅ¡a with the latter two getting the most of the vote at this time. In fact, the pundits are still all over the question of whether JanÅ¡a/Virant split is legit or are they faking it. However, when one takes a look at the polls it becomes clear that the question is beside the point, because Virant is at the moment in a position of a king-maker. He can choose to support JanÅ¡a, but given enough encouragement (i.e.: continuous attacks by the SDS) he can opt to support the left and call even more shots.

Secondly, no matter the poll, JanÅ¡a’s result is more or less stable, hovering around 19 percent. This is far (and I mean far) below his declared intention to win the majority single-handedly but he still is in the top spot. On the other hand Virant’s polls are all over the place, like a cork in the water. This goes for Jay-Z as well, only slightly less so, because he is consistently scoring lower than in the initial poll. This shows that both Virant and Janković are tapping into the swing vote, which – as many a politician will tell you – is a fickle lady. And swing time is here.

Thirdly. The nominally ruling Social Democrats of PM Borut Pahor are in deep shit. With their best showing in the polls available not exceeding 11 percent they are taking a hell of a beating. Ditto for Zares of Gregor Golobič and LDS of Katarina Kresal, which are scoring painfully low, both of them hovering around 1 to 1,5 percent, way below the 4% treshold. DeSUS of Karl Erjavec and Slovene People’s Party (SLS) of Radovan Žerjav are in a slightly better position, dancing just around the 4% mark, with everyone else, Zmago Jelinčič‘s nationalists and Ljudmila Novak‘s Christian democratic Nova Slovenija well below watershed. The same goes for every other kid on the block, including the recently announced Avion party (yes, “avion” as in “airplane”) by mayor of Koper Boris Popović.

Average

Again, these polls are not directly comparable and for two reasons: they each use a different sample and different set of questions. Also, they were conducted too close to each other to give any sort of clear indication of what is going on. But as shown in the above chart and at the risk of oversimplification, the way things stand now, five parties look like they will make the cut: SDS, Citizens’ List, Positive Slovenia, Social Democrats and DeSUS.

Projection

Things can still go either way and pengovsky believes it is too soon to write anyone off, especially those established parties which score less than 4%. The logic is realitvely simple. With their network on the ground, in theory they should be able to bring out enough votes to kick them above the threshold. But they’ll have to put their backs into it. Also, other than the initial mud-slinging, we’re still lacking a definite campaign issue. This especially goes in favour of Janković and Virant, who can as a result sell themselves and their trademarks rather than specific policies.

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Conch Republic Slovenian Style

In 1982, people of Key West, fed up with the fact that the US Border Patrol set up a checkpoint just north of the Florida Keys, declared independence from the United States of America. The logic was simple. “If they treat us like a foreign country and stiffle our tourism, we might as well act like a foreign country.” Immediately after promulgation of independence, the newly declared Conch Republic declared war on the United States, it’s first and only act of war being hitting a US naval officer with a loaf of Cuban bread. The Conch Republic surrendered immediately thereafter (Key West after all is one of the largest US Navy bases in the Atlantic) and requested one billion dollars in foreign aid to “rebuild the nation after a long federal siege”.


Breaking Slovenia apart

Conch Republic is fun. I was there. People are cool and they don’t take themselves too seriously. Still, they travel around the world (well, around the Caribbean at least) on their own passports and even get to dabble in diplomacy. In Slovenia, however, things tend to get way to serious way too soon. Thus, when Zoran Janković announced he’s going national, several mayors from the Å tajerska region went apeshit about how this country is all centralised and how Ljubljana gets all the money and makes all the decisions and how their municipalities will not have a Ljubljanchan tell them what to do and how to do it.

Wait. What?

A Ljubljanchan? All along Janković was being derided for not being a Ljubljana native, the tell-take “-ić” suffix in his surname, denoting (in his case) Serbian descent being object of mockery, bigotry and even plain nationalism. That he is simply not Ljubljana enough. But lo-behold! The moment Jay-Z goes national, he becomes he epitome of Slovenian capital, the very essence of Ljubljana and a true swamp-man, who will appropriate all funds and channel them to Ljubljana. As a result, mayors of Celje and Murska Sobota called for their respective regions (Å tajerska and Prekmurje) to be granted autonomy, while mayor of Maribor Franc Kangler called for outright independence and later toned it down to “administrative independence” without elaboration what that means.

Obviously, this is an election ploy, so it shouldn’t be taken too seriously. But in case you ever wondered why Slovenia, a country of two million has 210+ municipalities, here’s your answer. Everybody wants to be independent from everyone else and Bob forbid they be told from Ljubljana what to do. But should the need arise (as it always does) they will be quick on their feet to call upon the state to provide them with money they’ve squandered, invested badly or planned wrongly. Case in point being the Maribor European Culture Capital where the state is throwing in loads of money to repair the theatrical and other cultural infrastructure. Additionally, they’ve received money to organise the 2013 Universiade, a project which threatens to collapse completely and put the city or at least its mayor to shame (pengovsky especially remembers a promise to build a curling hall in RuÅ¡e near Maribor).

Declaration of Independence

On the other hand, Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković likes to point out that the government of Janez JanÅ¡a took 60 million euro annually away from Ljubljana and that the Stožice sports complex, by far the biggest in Slovenia’s recent history, only got minimal funding from the state and the EU (a hefty loan from a state bank notwithstanding). To the said mayors and their brethren in Å tajerska this is a major concern. By that same token, the construction of TEÅ 6 coal power plant in Å oÅ¡tanj should send sparks flying, but…. nada.

The “administrative independence” suggestion is as bad as they come. It would be funny if it came from a man in a Hawaii shirt and wearing Wayfarers. Instead it came from high-profile mayors of a particular political party (SLS) which profited both politically as well as materially from Slovenia being infested with municipalities. And although not serious, the move is completely irresponsible. Playing with integrity of this country borders on sick, even if only for election purposes.

Sorry, Kangler, you just ain’t funny!

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The Game’s Afoot

And so it begins. After both Zoran Janković and Gregor Virant announced their campaigns for Slovenian early elections to be held on 4 December, the field is more or less set and the race can begin. Pengovsky already noted that with Jay-Z and Virant entering the game, all the polls conducted before the end of last week can be thrown right out the window, which is why a poll by Delo newspaper published last Sunday can be considered as the opening salvo.

And what a salvo it was! More like a barrage, in fact. If Janez JanÅ¡a and his SDS were considered victors-in-waiting only weeks ago, their lead washed away completely. Jay-Z, who is scheduled to form a party this Sunday Saturday (unofficial reports say it will bear the name Pozitivna Slovenija – Positive Slovenia), shot to the forefront, grabbing 19.4 percent support, marginally beating SDS which scored 19.3 percent. Gregor Virant and his list came in third with 6 percent while (still) ruling Social Democrats came in fourth with mere 4.1 percent. All other parties (new kids on the block included) scored below the 4% treshold.

What the fuck happened?

Nothing special, really. OK, a lot of people, mostly those who were already celebrating Janša as the new Prime Minister, went apeshit, saying that Delo basically rigged the poll and is creating rather than recording public opinion. But in fact Janković (and to an extent Virant) only grabbed the headlines for most of the last week and the result was there almost by necessity. In fact, Janša and SDS were nowhere to be seen. Pengovsky already wrote that they had the rug pulled right from under them, but the beating they took in the past week was indeed epic.

It should be noted, however, that this is not the end. This is not even the beginning of an end. Nor it is the end of a beginning. It is simply a beginning of a campaign which will be shorter than it would have been normally, but will be mighty long for some. According to Delo’s poll, only Jay-Z, JanÅ¡a, Virant and Pahor would make the 4% threshold. This will not stand, obviously. Not only should Social Democrats end up with a considerably better result, the new players in the field have also considerably reduced the percentage of undecideds – from 40+ percent to 20.5 percent. And as immediate infatuation with new candidates decreases, these votes should at least partly be transferred to all other parties, most notably NSi, LDS and Zares, all of which need only a couple of percent more to make it over the 4% threshold.

The other new kids on the block

With Janković and Virant stealing the spotlight, other newcomers are in the field as well. Most notably TRS – Party for Sustainable Development led by former Ombudsman Matjaž Hanžek and Movement for Slovenia, a loose coalition of mayors from several Slovene municipalities. In all honesty it was Hanžek’s party which kicked off the trend of new arrivals and they’ve something to show for at the very beginning. 3.7 percent ain’t bad. “Mayors’ Caliition” on the other hand is scoring feebly and is probably already DOA, because they don’t have a network on the ground and with a feeble result, they don’t even have the incentive to establish one – unlike Zares, LDS and NSi which already have their respective networks in place and can focus on actually getting the vote out.

Projection

This is still early days and things could change dramatically. Janković and Virant are doing their best to capture headlines and knock JanÅ¡a down for as long as possible. He is already bouncing back, but his initial lead is all but gone. Odds, however, will even out and in the end we’ll see more parties in the parliament than the first poll would have us think.

DATA: available in .xls file

OFF TOPIC (but still immensely enjoyable): Go forth and check out pizdun.org where a good friend of mine is proving that she should not be wasting her talent in a PR sthick. Slovene only, I’m afraid, but a highly witty and often painfully truthful take on life, universe and everything.

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Spaces of Freedom (Prostori svobode). Come!

Today at 1600 hrs on Kongresni trg in Ljubljana. Pengovsky co-signed and is co-hosting, so you could pretend to be mildly worried by the fact that the level of public discourse is sinking below anything resembling civility, that disqualification and name-calling has long since become the norm and that one tends to get a labelled just for expressing one’s views. If you believe that one should enjoy the freedom of simply being able to say who he or she is, what does he or she stand for and what they believe in, then Spaces of Freedom is your thing. Come! Failing anything else, good tunes are promised. Oh, and dress warmly! 😀