Slovenian Elections: I’ll Show You Mine If You Show Me Yours

Well, now. It’s been a while since pengovsky last blogged on Slovenian elections. Thee last ten days saw a shitload of action, but you know how it is: things to see and people to do… :mrgreen: So, taking a look at how things stand, one can see that Gregor Virant has tanked completely and is virtually out of the picture (I told you he was all fluff!), with Borut Pahor‘s Social Democrats swinging into third place.

The story so far…

In the final stretch SLS and NSi seem to be making a dash for the 4 percent threshold, while DeSUS is well on the safe side. What is unknown is the fate of smaller parties, most notably Zares and LDS as well as (to an extent) TRS and SMS-Green party, both of which had their respective peaks. Word on the street has it that all of them are working their asses off in a grass-roots campaign, with LDS and Zares having some sort of advantage as they have relatively good networks on the ground. But the polls consistently fail to score them above any meaningful percentage. The answer will be known come Sunday.

I’ll show you mine if you show me yours

Barring disaster, however, the two main contenders for electoral victory on Sunday night remain Janez JanÅ¡a and Zoran Janković. For about a week now the two are locked into an exchange over their financial status and property ownership, with Janković being quizzed over transactions with his two sons (to whom he sold Electa, his construction and engineering company), a house in Grosuplje (ironically, JanÅ¡a’s home town) and an undeclared part of a forest behind his house, while JanÅ¡a became the subject of heightened scrutiny over how he bought and sold four or five pieces of real estate, making relatively hefty profits along the way and ending up with better property along the way.

Things got rather interesting on Wednesday afternoon, when JanÅ¡a – in what was an obvious case of damage control, for he didn’t do a very good job at explaining his real estate deals on Monday – said that he will reveal his financial details provided all the other leading candidates did the same. His bluff was called almost instantaneously as Borut Pahor apparently released all of his financial documentation to the Slovenian Press Agency (STA), while Zoran Janković brought his papers to a debate on cable television Info TV and literally handed them over to JanÅ¡a, who had nothing to give in return and was thus made to look like a bit of a fool.


Jay-Z calling JJ’s bluff (source: Info TV)

Admittedly, we do not know exactly what is in Janković’s papers, but the damage was done and JanÅ¡a didn’t have the means to return the blow. And while we’re on it, Jay-Z won the only head-to-head with JanÅ¡a of this election campaign hands down. Granted, just as the real-life Jay-Z, the mayor of Ljubljana is facing an increasing number of problems in this election campaign, but the scandals that were thrown in his way seem to have done little to dent his poll numbers. Ditto for JanÅ¡a, who seems to be going from strength to strength and is looking at the high-thirties region in polls. Take a look at this collection of polls by Ninamedia, which are slightly more relevant than just all the polls thrown togerher, as they are made on a similar sample with more or less the same set of questions

Projection

The way it looks right now, JanÅ¡a seems poised to win on 4 December. However whether or not he will be able to form a coalition remains a mystery and is dependant as much on the result of Zoran Janković as on the result of Virant’s List, SLS and NSi. Additionally, an 11th hour dash by either Zares or LDS (or both) could alter the board significantly and given enough of a clusterfuck, JanÅ¡a could well be left hanging out to dry. However, in all honesty, pengovsky thinks there’s not more than a 20% chance of that happening.

N.B.: Aside from the last graph, 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 still available as .xls file for download.

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The Real Slim Shady – Slovenian Elections Edition

Ah well, it’s that time of the year, I guess 😀 After the hugely successful Primary Colours and its follow up, the Top Gun, pengovsky gives you yet another round-up of the political movers and shakers. Most of them you already know, a couple of them are new kids on the block. But at any rate, this should be at least mildly entertaining. Hope you like!

The Real Slim Shady – Slovenian Elections Editions from pengovsky on Vimeo.

Naturally, credits, where credits are due: Original videos are the work of their respective authors and/or entities including SDS, SD, LDS, Zares, Vest.si and Idea TV. Songs on the other hand you know, but still: Real Slim Shady (Eminem), U Can’t Touch This (MC Hammer), Money (Pink Floyd), Pass the Dutchie (Musical Youth), Ice Ice Baby (Vanilla Ice), Always Look On the Bright Side of Life (Monty Python), I Will Survive (Gloria Gaynor), YMCA (Village People), Last Christmas (Wham) and Mah Na Mah Na (The Muppet Show version).

And on Tuesday, back to number crunching 🙂

Slovenian Elections: Jay-Z Might Have Plan B

The epic #fail of Gregor Virant dramatically changed the relative positions political parties – for the lack of a better word – occupy in this election campaign. Virant dropped way down to number three and is suddenly feeling the breath of Borut Pahor on his neck, something which seemed impossible only a week ago. Also, the state television seems to have lived up to its mission once for a change and gave us an issue-oriented debate the other day. It it were a seven-way competition, then Gregor Golobič would have won fair and square. Janez JanÅ¡a was somewhat tame, being flanked by Golobič on one side and Pahor on the other, but he managed to keep his cool for most of the time and deliver his talking points, although he took plenty of flak over the emergency finance law which would save up to 300 milion euros and which his SDS rejected. Golobič and Pahor took turns at beating JanÅ¡a over the head with it and especially the incumbent prime minister was on a roll, not unlike the previous two debates and Social Democrats’ bounce is more than understandable from this point of view. Thus you see that the political landscape in this country could yet be significantly altered until December 4th. But what lies before the election Sunday is nothing compared to what lies after that. And most of it has to do with Ljubljana mayor and leader of Positive Slovenia party Zoran Janković.


Which way will he go? (source: The Firm™)

One of the recurring questions of this campaign is “what will Janković do?”. This was asked before he finally decided to enter the race, this was asked when he entered the race and wasn’t decided whether to run for MP or not and this is asked now, when he in fact is standing as a candidate in two precincts in Ljubljana. In each of those cases the logical answer was “no” and in every single time Zoki answered with “yes”. It was logical for him to reject calls to enter the race. It was logical for him not to stand as candidate for MP and yet he did just that (this one was kind of expected). And now it is logical for him that upon election he starts serving as MP, at least for the first six months, but by now we know better, right? 😀

You see, the thing is that when Janković is elected (having selected two safe precincts, there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell of him not getting elected) his mayorship is automatically terminated and a new mayor must be elected. However, Janković will not have his MP status confirmed until the inaugural session of the new parliament (expected about two weeks after the elections) and then there are additional requirement on the part of the City Council and the end result is that elections for a new mayor can be held no earlier than late February 2012. On the other hand, the law on deputies (MPs) stipulates that if an MP resigns his/her post a replacement MP is picked provided that the resignation does not happen sooner than six months after the elections (in our case May 2012).

Now, compare this with the timetable for mayoral elections and Ljubljana and combine with the fact that Zoran Janković repeatedly said that he will not be serving as a mere MP, and you got yourself a clusterfuck on your hands. That Janković wants to be nominated as prime minister is of course his stated goal. Being a mere MP is utterly unappealing to him. He wouldn’t do it for all the farms in Cuba. And he cannot simply quit being an MP. Or can he? Technically, the law does not forbid him from resigning within six months, but only says that in this case a new election is called for the parliamentary seat in question. This is to discourage parties running with people who would win huge amounts of vote , resign early on and let their political masters enter the arena. But Janković repeated time and again that sitting in the parliament just ain’t his thing (as in he’d rather lick a live toad every morning than sit in there). So resigning ASAP in case he doesn’t get the premiership in in fact a very real option.

So, what are the possible scenarios here? In fact, there are two and both are bound to create a lot of hoopla as neither have ever been tried and some might even argue that they violate the spirit (although the follow the letter) of the law. Under Scenario one Janković resigns immediately after the elections and prior to the first session of the parliament. That way he does indeed force repeated elections for his parliamentary seat, but the upside is that he gets to keep the mayorship. The mechanics of this are rather complicated but the bottom line is that according to one set of legislation his MP status is acquired immediately upon official results are announced, but under another set of rules he only starts executing his MP role once the parliament is sworn is (which is when his mayorship gets terminated). Thus giving him a 14-day-window where he could technically resign and remain mayor of the capital.

But under (much more likely) Scenario two Janković is confirmed as MP, his mayorship is terminated and – failing to become the Prime Minister – he runs for mayor yet again. Should he get re-elected as mayor, his MP status would be terminated ex lege, meaning that a replacement MP would be named. Namely, the law specifies that new elections for his seat are called if an MP resigns within six months of getting elected. If, however, the MP would be elected to another function and entered a conflict of interest, he doesn’t resign but gets terminated as MP instead. And a mayor/MP conflict of interest was established only recently after Zares party of Gregor Golobič almost bent backwards to pass a law establishing it and thus removing a huge anomaly of the Slovene political system.

At any rate, Zoran Janković has a couple of options available to him should he lose out on the PM bid. But if his going national made a lot of people twitch, any of the above will make them go positively ga-ga. If nothing else, Zoki will be accused of cherry-picking offices and that never looked good. He better choose wisely.

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Slovenian Elections: Amateur Night

New polls for your viewing pleasure and boy, are they interesting. To be honest, the most interesting is the last one, published yesterday (this post should have been dated 15 November 2011) which shows Gregor Virant dropping staggering ten percent. Remember how pengovsky wrote that Virant is running on fluff and how he will probably go down once his spell on the media is broken? Well, the honeymoon is over and the polls’ runner-up is tanking, all of it on account of his faux pas regarding his income in 2009.


Politics 101: When you’re in deep trouble, say nothing and try to be cool

What happened was that the media – as per usual – went over tax returns of various party leaders and stumbled over Virant’s earnings in two-oh-nine, the year after JanÅ¡a’s government was ousted in 2008 elections. As you’ll remember, Virant was JanÅ¡a’s high-octane minister of public administration and after the change in government he became eligible for the so-called ‘ministerial compensation’, monies more or less equalling his basic ministerial salary but without bonuses. While perfectly legal, this compensation is one of the most controversial perks in the system. Originally envisaged to ease the return of ministers and MPs into their normal lives upon leaving their post (i.e. finding a job) it was and still is widely abused, mostly in the form of ministers and MPs being ‘unable’ to find a job. Miraculously, most of them found a job (or retired) only days after their year-long-perk expired. So did Virant. His problem turned out to be the fact that in addition to 66,000 euro compensation, he earned some 95,000 euro in consulting and lectures.

Whoops!

Media smelled blood and Virant held his ground only a day or so. During Thursday’s debate he maintained that he only took what the law provided for. Additionally, he shot himself in the knee saying that he took the money to make it up to his family. Which was not a very brilliant piece of political improv and it only got worse. Friday and Saturday saw Virant on an ill-conceived damage control operation where he promised to return the difference between taxed paid on his consulting and lectures earnings and the net compensation income (some 36k euro after taxes), the difference amounting to exactly 1285 euro. At which point all hell broke loose with people generally saying that Virant is taking everyone for fools if he thinks he can get away with it by giving back 1,2k. It was not a good weekend for the prospective prime minister.


Note Virant tanking in the last poll

Come Monday, Virant announced on a press conference that he will be returning 18,777 euros, a sum which includes social and health insurance paid for from the compensation income (i.e. by the taxpayers). And this probably finished him off. By returning part of the money, Virant admitted that it was not all right to take the money in the first place (which was his initial position) and if it wasn’t all right, why didn’t he give back the entire 66k? Also, Virant said that he gave the money back (technically this took the form of a donation to the state budget) by taking out a loan at the bank. Again, a fuckup. He decided on the ammount returned no earlier than Sunday. So on Monday morning he just walks into a bank and takes out an 18k loan, at a time when banks are not really in the mood of lending money. And even when they were granting loans left and right, it took at least a day or so to do the paperwork. So, what kind of a collateral did Virant put up to walk out of the bank the very same day with a loan that would buy him a mid-size car?

As you can see it just keeps getting worse and worse and come next Monday, Virant will probably be landing very hard at the lower end of the two-digit score. He would have done better to stick to the original position and take flak over that. He’d come across as a pompous bastard, but he wouldn’t be on the run. Now he’s bleeding support, media and his opponents smell blood and he came across looking like an amateur. Or, as the good doctor put it: when you’re in a hole, stop digging!

While we’re on the subject

Speaking of amateurs, TRS party screwed up in voting unit 3 (West Ljubljana and surrounding areas) because their list of candidates did not have the correct male/female ratio. As a result the entire candidate list in this voting unit got thrown out, while TRS – which among smaller parties fared noticeably well – will not be taking part in the debates on the national television (only parties with candidates in all eight voting units get to do that). And last but certainly not least, LDS of Katarina Kresal was under the spotlight for some minor cockups when filing their list of candidates in voting unit 3. There were some identity issues as to who is seconding the list and who is filing it with the electoral commission, but the problem seems to have been solved by this evening.

In other news…

State television held its first debate this evening and there were quite a few good punches thrown. It seemed that leaders of the smaller parties were especially well prepared and motivated and on general they made good use of the opportunity. We’ll see what new polls will bring in this respect, but for now let me just present you with the average numbers of all the polls to date.

N.B.: 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 still available as .xls file for download.

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Slovenian Elections: The Great (TV) Debate

Touchy subject. Tomorrow will see the first two debates since the election campaign officially began last Friday. In fact, a small ratings war is about to ensue between RTVSLO (state television) and privately-owned POP TV. The former is to broadcast its flagship high-octane conflict-prone programme Pogledi Slovenije at 2000hrs (until 2130 approx.) while POP TV is to start the first debate at 2055hrs and lasting well into the night. But there’s a catch…


Pogledi Slovenije: No seats at this table for Zares, LDS, NSi and SNS (source)

Although the law on RTVSLO specifies that it has to treat all parliamentary parties equally (and – to accommodate the Christian Democratic NSi – the definition of “parliamentary” has been stretched to include parties in the European Parliament), authors of Pogledi Slovenije decided not to invite leaders of Zares, LDS, NSi and SNS, Gregor Golobič, Katarina Kresal, Ljudmila Novak and Zmago Jelinčič. Obviously, the choice of guests in the studio is ultimately editorial one. Journalists hate to be told what to do. However, this is state/public television we’re talking about. The taxpayers are paying 12 euro per month per household in order to finance it and at least during election campaign they should be entitled to a larger and less editorialised scope of relevant information.

Producers of the show claim that tomorrow’s programme is not an election campaign debate and that they’ve selected guests according to their poll ratings, where the four parties that were left out indeed score only a couple of percent each. Now, technically, Campaign Rules of RTVSLO state that campaign-related programming will start on 14 November. The programme is on tomorrow, on the 10th, so everything should be OK. Really? No. The law on RTVSLO states that all parliamentary parties should be represented during the election campaign – and that started Friday last. So, on one hand we have RTVSLO’s campaign rules, on the other the law under which it operates. Guess which takes precedence. What’s more, even though producers and the info desk (under whose jurisdiction falls the Pogledi Slovenije programme) claim this is not an election debate, it is being marketed as such.

So, whether one likes it or not, not inviting Kresal, Golobič, Novak and Jelinčič is unfair and possibly not legal. Ljudmila Novak and her NSi (for which RTVSLO usually bent over backwards to find it a programming slot) seem to be aware of that as they threatened legal action to gain equal access to programming. Should they succeed (although it is hard to see how a court would decide on this in only a few days), Zares, LDS and SNS would probably applaud wildly, especially since the latter three parties co-signed a letter demanding the very same thing from RTVSLO. However, no dice.

Slightly off-topic. A funny if somewhat bizarre debate ensued on Twitter when it emerged that LDS and Zares went into cahoots with the nationalists over air time. Some people were appalled that the two progressive and libertarian parties would join forces with a nationalistic party whose leadership is often bigoted, insulting and even retarded and promotes values which are anything but civilised. Some say that any level of cooperation with the nationalists is unacceptable and that LDS and Zares are losing credibility for it.

Pengovsky begs to differ. Politics makes for strange bedfellows and it should not be at all surprising that liberals and nationalists find themselves on the same side. This is one issue, where the parties’ immediate interests are more or less the same, albeit with different motivations. They are not running bag for anyone, nor are they signalling long-term cooperation. Winston Churchill once famously said that if Hitler invaded Hell, he would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons. While nowhere near the same order of magnitude, the mechanics are more or less the same. Sometimes you don’t have the luxury of picking your allies. Sometimes you’re just happy there’s someone else fighting on your side.

Interestingly enough, the privately owned POP TV has no problem hosting leaders of all parliamentary parties plus the two heavywight newcomers that very same evening.

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