EU Elections: Left Man Standing

Two years ago, shortly after clinching the leadership of the Social Democrats, Igor Lukšič observed, administrative core of the party notwithstanding, most of the party’s elected leadership are just gifted amateurs, people who have day jobs and dabble in politics a bit on the side. Today, following a rout at yesterday’s EU elections he was forced to submit his resignation to those very same gifted amateurs, putting an abrupt end to his ambitions of a higher office and maybe even his political career as such.

Outgoing SD leader Igor Lukšič and his politburo-sanctioned replacement Dejan Židan (photo: Denis Sarkić)

But Lukšič was by far not the only victim of yesterday’s rout at the polls. In fact, the entire political left was beaten to a pulp, falling victim to in-fighting, clashes of egos, cross-party divisions, past grudges, lack of a meaningful agenda and an utterly uninspiring campaign. The other two high-profile victims were Gregor Virant, who quit as DL chief on election night and Pavle Gantar who threw in the towel as leader of Zares earlier today. Their parties scored 1.1 and 0.9 percent respectively. Adding to this the meager results of Positive Slovenia (6.6), soon-to-be-ex MEP Jelko Kacin (4.8) and Solidarnost (1.6) it becomes plainly obvious the voters opened a big can of whoop-ass on the political left.

Can of whoop-ass

Sure, not everybody is unhappy. Igor Šoltes has yet to form a party, yet he won himself an MEP spot with his 8-member candidate list. Ivo Vajgl, who switched allegiance from Zares to DeSUS surprised a lot of people by winning another term (especially after he fucked up royally during the last debate, forgetting he was with DeSUS and said he was a Zares candidate). The United Left (think Syriza Light) won an impressive 5.4 percent with their “democratic socialism” platform. Still 2.6 percent below the threshold, but a fair achievement in its own right. And, last but not least, the Social Democrats did win a single seat in the European Parliament. It’s just that it wasn’t leader of the list Lukšič who got elected but rather Tanja Fajon, who thus gets another go at the MEP job, courtesy of preferential votes, where she scored better than Lukšič.

Now, although Virant and Gantar quitting more or less means their parties are now clinically dead which in turn means the political centre is in ever worse shape than it was a year ago, the real story are, obviously, Social Democrats. They entered this election round with two MEPs and looked to repeating the result (at the very least). They tried to sell Slovenia as a swing-state in the pan-EU battle between conservative EPP and socialist PES, leaning heavily on Martin Schultz as PES candidate for President of the European Commission and trying to rally the troops with the cry of “Europe will either be red or disintegrate”. Little good it did for them.

From Slovenia with love

Although EPP and PES results are fairly close, Slovenia was in nowhere near becoming the “kingmaker country”. And although there was a lot of love for Schultz on SD part, the feeling apparently wasn’t all that mutual. Not only that. Lukšič seemed to have angered a lot of people within the party by muscling his way on top of the candidate list. Moreover, the run-up to elections which coincided with disintegration of the Bratušek administration and emergence of new parties, saw Lukšič playing hardball politically and turning to cynicism in media-wise. Neither won him any friends, neither with his (potential) political allies nor with the electorate.

Which is why Dejan Židan, the person groomed to replace Lukšič sooner or later as head of the SD, was slowly being pushed from the edge of the frame more towards the centre, finally taking over today, after he spent most of Sunday night denying he had any ambition whatsoever to lead the party. And since one is not to believe anything until it has been denied at least twice, it took Židan a bit longer to become the party regent, so to speak. It was all done in a manner of a good old-fashioned “politburo putsch” where the senior party figures conspire against their president and have him unceremoniously replaced. Predictably, Židan said he “realizes the daunting task ahead of him” and “recognizes the future of the left lies in cooperation”. Translation: “I fucking made it!”.

Offtopic: it is possible there will be more to this story than just a change at the helm. Apparently, schemes are aplenty within the SD as a lot of people are looking to replace a lot of other people, both on political as well as administrative party positions.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Anyways, the fun starts now. SD is about to perform an about-face vis-a-vis left-wing cooperation. Which is about a day late and a dollar short. Had they done so while the public opinion polls had them neck-and-neck with the SDS, they might have even been able to dictate terms. But as things stand now, either Igor Šoltes or PM Alenka Bratušek are best positioned to try to create some sort of momentum. With all the caveats, of course. But before that happens, the left has some serious thinking to do, mostly on what it actually stands for.

In the last couple of years we’ve witnessed a long series of knee-jerk reactions, ad-hoc political platforms which were either a patchwork of often mutually exclusive ideas, too far out progressive to register with the voters or the usual buzz-word-heavy crap. Often all of the above at the same time. And if snap elections are indeed to be held in July, time to think just ran out.

While we’re on the issue, pengovsky wouldn’t be surprised if the parliamentary parties which got their asses kicked on Sunday were suddenly to find a July election date “incovenient and not in the voters’ best interests”.

But despite the left-wing rout, in pengovsky’s opinion, too little had changed. Of eight Slovenian MEPs, half got re-elected. Alongside old hands Fajon and Vajgl and newcomer Šoltes, Milan Zver of SDS and Lojze Peterle of NSi+SLS get to see the inside of the European Parliament for another five years. Joining them are leader of the SLS Franc Bogovič (for NSi+SLS) with Romana Tomc and Patricija Šulin for the SDS. And while EP veterans are expected to stay put, at least three out of four newcomers are suspected to return to national politics as soon as possible. Šoltes and Bogovič will most likely run in the parliamentary elections as well, while Romana Tomc looks ever more like she is tapped to replace Janša after he starts serving his prison sentence and become the SDS nominee for PM if the party wins that vote (as everyone expects it to).

Thus the pace of political change, which right now needs to border on revolutionary (in terms of speed, not necessarily in terms of content), will probably be sluggish at best.

Third-lowest turnout

Which is probably one of the reasons only 24 percent of the voters bothered to shop up and vote. Only a handful of candidates appeared to have their hearts really in it. Others saw these elections as a trial run before the real (parliamentary) thing. And even those candidates and parties who did take the whole thing seriously, managed to make a lukewarm mess of it. Which is why the turnout more or less matched your average referendum turnout in Slovenia. More or less only political diehards voted. People who’d have cast their vote even in a referendum on the height of grass on the Stožice football pitch. Like yours truly. The other big reason for the third-lowest turnout in all of EU being the general disgust with politics, of course

Votes not cast vs. votes cast for specific parties (via FB)

Anyhoo, the right-wing won this one fair and square. As for the left, it will be the last man (or woman) standing who gets to pick up the pieces and try to start from scratch. But before we get there, more heads will roll.

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    Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.

    6 thoughts on “EU Elections: Left Man Standing”

    1. “More or less only political diehards voted. People who’d have cast their vote even in a referendum on the height of grass on the Stožice football pitch.”

      I love these little gems in your writing, P.

    2. Good call on the possibility of a fall election! Any comment on Vogrin’s move as reported in Slovenia Times?

    3. You were right about the Vogrin episode, just a flash in the pan. How about a follow-up on or summary of Magajna’s career with KSS as background to the election date challenge? I could not find any follow-up to your report on the search of his house and computers back in 2010 or his comments on “Uncle” Kučan and Forum 21 in 2011.
      Are he, KSS, and Solidarity serious about the holiday-election date conflict violating a fundamental human right or is it just a publicity stunt? Since when did the “right” to a holiday take precedence over civic responsibility?

    4. AFAIK charges against Magajana were dropped soon thereafter, apparently it was all legit porn 🙂 I thought I mentioned it back then, but if I didn’t, my bad.

      Magajna is more or less a non-entity ever since, soon to be joined by Vogrin. I am still preparing a longish post that will cover both the legal challenges to election date as well as Vogrin’s antics. The two are connected, of course.

      But to answer your final question: Yes, they are serious, but yes, it is a PR stunt as well. And I do agree with you, the argument of holidays over voting is rather preposterous.

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