Gold Rush

In a development that surprised a grand total of zero people, Marjan Šarec, mayor of Kamnik and erstwhile presidential candidate announced yesterday that he will take part in the parliamentary election. This comes on the heels of a host of new political parties announced or already formed and ready to enter the already-crowded arena. And with the vote six months out it is high time pengovsky takes a closer look at the lay of the land .

Slovenian ballot box (photo by yours truly)

Although reguraly decried by their more established and/or traditional cousins as attempts to con and defraud the good citizens of Muddy Hollows, new parties are by no means a purely Slovenian phenomenon. Case in point Czech Republic (or Czechia, as it now wants to be called in English) where a large majority of parliamentary parties have yet to celebrate their tenth birthday and one was established only two years ago. Or neighbouring Slovakia where two parliamentary parties were non-existent as little as three or four years ago. Or even France, where the right wing is currently billed as Les Republicains but used various acronyms throughout the decades as its (originally Gaullist) platform evolved. All this and we haven’t even mentioned Emmanuel Macron’s La Republique En Marche which was but a figment of imagination as little as eighteen months ago but has since opened a can of whoop-ass on the French political establishment.

Point being that political parties come and go, despite the traditional parties telling you otherwise. Having said that, Slovenian 2018 parliamentary elections do seem poised to be replete with newcomers.

Even before Šarec made his move, other players and would-be players have moved in to feast what they suspect will the the rotting corpse of the ruling SMC. Most notably, Bojan Dobovšek, an independent MP (elected on a SMC ticked but soon parted ways with the party) formed a party and named it – of all things possible – The Good State. Which sounds like a neurolinguistic joke gone, well, bad. Then there’s the NLS, New People’s Party, headed by former Maribor mayor Franc Kangler (whose douchebaggery sparked the 2012 Winter of Discontent) and even former eternal foreign minister Dimitrij Rupel is looking for a comeback with something called List 88, clearly aiming at people longing for the romantic times of the late eighties when no-one had a clue about what the future holds. It seems Rupel still doesn’t. Have a clue, that is. And last, but certainly not least is Aleš Primc and his aptly named GOD party who got roundly fucked at the presidential election with his faux-dominatrix candidate Angelca Likovič. Presumably he’ll try to do more than just hold up tit-pics to win votes.

Not everyone grows up to be an astronaut

Therefore, it seems reasonable to expect a crowded field this coming spring. True, some of those aspiring to enter the parliament might not even make it past the first hurdle and actually form a political party. Like Prstan, to give an example at random, a right-liberal wannabe party where founding members (some of them with previous political experience) apparently found the going too tough and quit before they even started. But not before they fired off a passive-aggressive tweet about how “we’ll miss them“. Yeah well, life’s a bitch and not everyone gets to be an astronaut.

But, others may make it and join Dobovšek, Šarec, Kangler and Primc in trying to round up the disenchanted voters. To this point, both readers should be reminded that 2014 election saw two new-founded parties that made it past the 4% parliamentary threshold. And while SMC won the election in a landslide, the fact that The United Left (now simply The Left) made it, too, was just as shocking. Neither party fulfilled the enormous expectations their voters had of them. In part because these expectations were unrealistic to begin with but were encouraged because votes and in part because both parties were sorely lacking political operatives with substantial-enough mileage to navigate the post-electoral minefield of Slovenian politics where often personal interests and connections take precedence over party loyalty. Add to that party infighting over victory spoils (SMC) or a downright meltdown (The Left) and you can see how other players are looking for the opportunity to swoop in and split off voters.

Things are a bit more complicated, though. While most parties are bleeding voters and this seems true especially of the SMC, not everyone is going straight into the undecided column. Some voters are returning to the fold of traditional parties like the Social Democrats or Christian Democrats (NSi). Even Janez Janša‘s SDS seems to have stopped the bleeding of support and is performing well in polls, although in terms ob number rather than percent of the voters, even the traditional parties are hauling in only a fraction of what they were once used to. Add to that a host of non-parliamentary parties, which might be on idle for most of the electoral cycle but have at least some pre-existing experience and name recognition (like the Pirate Party on the progressive end of or Zmago Jelinčič’s Slovenian National Party on the retarded end of the spectrum) and suddenly the number of candidates for a fairly limited pool of votes becomes large indeed.

So, how does all of this play out? Obviously, it’s still early days, but the trend seems obvious. There will be a political gold rush for the disenchanted vote. But this is precisely why the whole thing might backfire. Unlike 2011 and 2014, where there were one or two new parties which shot to the forefront, in 2018 the competition just might cancel itself out. While most of these people think the SMC is dead in the water, that is not exactly the case. Barring a massive exodus in the coming weeks, the party is well positioned to make it into the parliament albeit in a massively reduced form. Which further limits the number of votes that are up for grabs. And since the threshold to enter the parliament is set at a relatively steep four percent, a number of these parties might pick off a couple of percent but still not make win seats in the National Assembly. Especially since the voting system is set up in a way that rewards parties winning larger share of the votes. Thus, ironically, a swath of newcomers in the political arena might actually strengthen the traditional parties rather than serve a good dose of ass-whooping. Although pengovsky is inclined to agree that ass-whooping is what most of the traditional parties are in desperate need of. Unless of course, the Constitutional Court decides to throw a big fucking monkey-wrench in the works and single-handedly overthrows the apple cart.

Enter The Constitutional Court

Some weeks ago, seemingly out of the blue, the National Council (the not-exactly-second chamber of the parliament) challenged the constitutionality of the electoral system claiming it did not provide voters with sufficient influence over which candidate gets elected to the parliament. The nitty-gritty of it are a bit complicated and will be a subject of a separate post, but suffice it to say that the good council-people (in yet another twist of irony, themselves elected by an indirect vote) are convinced that every voting precinct in Slovenia should have one MP. But since the eighty-eight precincts are organised into eight voting units (the level at which the votes are tallied and seats distributed) this isn’t always the case.

Now, since the constitution states that “voters shall have decisive influence on the allocation of the seats” (Article 80a) but doesn’t say that “every voting precinct will elect one Member of parliament”, this challenge should have been defeated by a political science undergrad student after a night of binge drinking. However, the government and the parliament apparently did such a piss-poor job in stating the case for the defence that the judges (on the whole a remarkably uninspiring bunch) had no choice but to let the case move forward.

So, come late spring, Muddy Hollows might not be dealing just with post-electoral coalition woes but rather with a full-blown constitutional and political crisis entirely of its own making.

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    Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.