T-minus-seven and the presidential race finally heats up. At least in terms of words if not (yet) in numbers. Earlier today a group of broadly left-leaning intellectuals published a scathing rebuke of President Borut Pahor while the leader of the opposition SDS Janez Janša did something similar – only far more effective – days before. All the while Maja Makovec Brenčič running on the SMC ticket finally realised she’s got nothing left to lose and is at least trying to have fun.
SMC presidential nominee Maja Makovec Brenčič moments before she punches voters on the nose in her Twitter ad (source)
The polls, however, have remained consistent over the last few days. Borut Pahor is still well within the reach of clinching a first-round victory and thereby a second term as President of the Republic, joining Milan Kučan as the only president to have done so (both Janez Drnovšek and Danilo Türk served only one term, the former on account of ill health, the latter on account of, you know, losing elections). However, Pahor is not there yet. And he desperately wants to be there, lest he be subjected to the Hillary Effect in Round Two, which is why his camp is trying desperately to chip off points from other candidates wherever it can.
After the attempt at ratfucking Marjan Šarec failed miserably and drew howls all across the spectrum, even from people who normally eschew daily politics, people in Pahor’s orbit tried a similar approach with Maja Makovec Brenčič, posting an image of her embracing Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković who just dodged a case of alleged sexual harassment due to a fuck-up by the prosecution which missed a deadline for presenting the evidence which then “somehow” leaked (wink wink). The attempt here being that MMB consorts with sexists, a label usually applied to the incumbent president (although not in as serious a mode as the one against Janković was. Long story. I’ll write it up some day). Not to put too fine a point on it, this was done solely for the optics and maybe to gain a fraction of a percent or so with a specific demographic group.
Anyhoo, given MMBs low numbers it is impossible to tell if the manoeuvre worked but the very fact that this was done suggests that Team Pahor is more than a little afraid of a run-off and that it will happily scrape the bottom of the barrel to avoid it. For her part, Makovec Brenčič apparently took a long look at her numbers and realised that she is now in it just for kicks. At least judging by her last two videos where she basically punches the voters in the face and states she would, as president, demand legislative veto power over “irresponsible legislation”. Had she come up with stunts like these three weeks ago she might have stood a fighting chance. But this late in the game this is just making noise and having fun. Just as well, especially since she is drawing zero support from any other circle
Put up or shut up
Case in point being a group of left wing intellectuals signing an open letter harshly criticising Pahor and detailing every item where in their view the incumbent failed as a president. Needless to say that the list is long and distinguished (link in Slovenian).
But as much as one is inclined to agree with the content of the letter (and many of the issues in the letter were detailed at length on this blog) that particular piece of writing is notable for something completely different. Namely, the fact that it is nothing but impotent rage on the part of a part of intellectual elite unable to come up with a meaningful alternative to a self-absorbed president who will happily demean the office he holds if it serves his agenda (rings a bell?).
Unable? Make that unwilling. The said intellectuals bend over backwards to show they’re not supporting anyone in particular and are merely warning against five more years of Borut Pahor. But why bother, then? Telling people not to vote for Pahor is not the same as telling people to vote for someone else. Anyone else, for that matter. Indeed, if these people were hoping to make any sort of a dent in Pahor’s armour they should have thrown their weight behind his strongest challenger Marjan Šarec, regardless of what they may think of him. If anyone (save maybe alt-right Šiško and Dominatrix Likovič) is better than Pahor, then surely they could find enough reasons to endorse the only viable centre-left challenger? Or maybe go for broke and endorse MMB? Put up or shut up, people.
Speaking of Šarec, he’s been awfully quiet these past few days. That’s not to say he’s not active, as he is attending the debates, doing a whistle-stop bus tour as well as writing a blog (so 2007! Oh, wait…) but it’s as if he’s not registering anywhere. More and more it seems that Šarec will serve as an object lesson Campaign 101 in chapter titled “Every Candidate Needs A Story”. Šarec continues to frame himself as everything Pahor is not while attempting to woo basically the same centrist subset of voters (perhaps with a slight leftist tilt). The main problem of running as a centrist is that one runs the risk as coming across as bland. Which is why one needs a story. Preferably something voters can relate to. And Šarec seems to actively evade opportunities to give the voters something to relate to. His comedic persona from before his time in politics? He will not tap into that. The story of him being adopted? Will not milk it for sympathy vote (even though nearly everyone went apeshit over Team Pahor using it). His achievements as mayor of Kamnik? We’ve yet to hear anything ob substance about that (and there is a lot to tell). It is as if Šarec just sits there, waiting for the plan to come together.
Live and let die
However, another letter, this time to party members in a form of a blogpost by the Glorious Leader (link in Slovenian) was making rounds these past few days. In it, unlike the left-wing intellgientsia, Janez Janša has no qualms about going after Pahor with both barrels as well as throwing his full weight behind Party’s presidential nominee Romana Tomc. Arguably, Janša as a party chief is expected to do that while elements civil society is not. However, this was vintage Janša, not the self-pitying everybody-is-out-to-get-me sulk we’ve lately come to expect of the SDS leader. The vigor with which he went after Pahor is something we haven’t seen in ages. This is all the more remarkable since Janša basically got Pahor elected in 2012 by supporting him against then-incumbent Danilo Türk and that Pahor has been nothing if not accommodating with regard to Janša’s views, from the Anti-Corruption Commission on down.
The one problem with Janša’s letter titled Live And Let Die (apart from the fact that is makes no substantial reference to agent 007) is the fact that he glosses over SDS’ support for Pahor in 2012. It puts it in the “smaller of two evils” category even though one could argue that he supported Pahor back then even more than he supported his own nominee in the first round. Will the party faithful simply accept this fairly abrupt change of course or will there be a price to pay for this about face?
However, the Question du jour therefore is whether Janša knows, or at least senses, something the pundit class doesn’t. Namely, is it possible that Romana Tomc somehow makes it into the second round and then wins the anti-Pahor votes? It seems a bit far-fetched despite the fact that Tomc has been rising in polls and solidifying her third place in the last few days while runner-up Šarec has not moved all that much and has even bled some support according to some polls. But then again, Janša doesn’t go to the loo without having some kind of a strategic master-plan.
One thing is for certain, though. Borut Pahor has, against all odds, finally managed to unite the left and the right wing of Slovenian politics.
They both loathe him equally.