Robert Golob took the plunge. The now-ex CEO of Gen-I electrical power provider took over Z.Dej, a small green party founded by Jure Leben and renamed it to Gibanje svoboda (Freedom Movement). Thus he inserted himself into the political arena. The move was long roumored so overtly indicated for the past week that even pengovsky got the hint.
This is bad news for Speaker Igor Zorčič and his newly-minted LIDE party. He can now only hope the remnants of pensioners’ party DeSUS will go all cougar on him. Golob, however, got precisely what he needed. An empty political vessel, devoid of an ambitious president and sans all the bureaucratic jumping through hoops that forming a political party entails.
With Z.Dej takover and rebranding over, the most pressing question facing Golob will not necessarily be the most interesting one as well. The latter needs an answer as to what platform he intends to run on, whereas the former needs an answer with whom he intends to run. Or, against whom, for that matter.
The “against whom” part is pretty simple. During the past few weeks, Golob’s position on potential post-election partnerships noticeably hardened. It went from “working with anyone who shares our values” to “not working with anyone from this government“. Which made the NSi and its propaganda machine have the vapours and reach for their smelling salts.
For weeks, the NSi and its leader Matej Tonin was relentlessly attacking Levica. He kept painting a picture of socialist dystopia that would surely descend onto Slovenia if Luka Mesec and his party entered the next government. He even endorsed a court appeal attempting to outright ban Levica on constitutional grounds (spoiler alert: no such grounds exist).
The idea was simple enough. Tonin tried to make Levica a bridge too far for centrists like Golob. At the same time, he wanted to insert NSi as the counterweight to the remaining three left-wing parties in any future coalition. That, of course, was based on an assumption that Golob is a centrist (right now, no-one knows what he is) and that he will be forming the next government.
But the plan backfired spectacularly, proving once again that Matej Tonin simply doesn’t have what it takes to play big-boy politics. Instead, what he has, is co-ownership of an authoritarian attempt to ban a political competitor, burnt bridges and political fortunes firmly tied to Janez Janša. Talk about a self-own.
Going where the votes are
Be that as it may, Tonin most likely just made a really stupid bet. He could not have influenced Golob’s decision one way or another. The last coupe of public opinion polls not only showed Golob still scoring a result in high teens, they also showed the majority of his support came from left-of-centre voters. Which is why he leaned into the left-wing part of his can’t-we-all-just-get-along shtick.
This, incidentally, is also why KUL opposition parties (SD, SAB, LMŠ and Levica) realised that, on second thought, they would like to talk to Golob. As a united front, not just individually.
But the only thing that KUL and Golob have in common right now is a shared goal of removing the Glorious Leader and his regime from power. Beyond that, things are wide open.
Because while it is true that KUL parties have very little in terms of a shared agenda, they do have a share an agenda, such as it is. More importantly, they each have their own individual platforms. And this is where we get to the other, more interesting question facing Golob and his Freedom Movement.
What will he run on?
To date, Robert Golob played his cards very close to his vest. Other than somewhat nebulous references to the “need to change the political culture” and “a world beyond left-and-right politics”, we know precious little about his political views.
He admitted as much in a recent interview when he said that while climate agenda is an issue dear to him, that alone will not cut it. But the off-handed way in which he added that other platform planks will be added suggests that not a lot of thought was given to that.
This was made plainly obvious after he completed the party takeover yesterday. Asked point blank what their political platform is, all he had to offer are buzzwords. Climate change, health crisis and inter-generational dialogue. He also managed to squeeze in digitalisation and rule of law somewhere in there.
On one hand, this is to be expected. For Golob, things are suddenly happening at a break-neck pace. To wit, the old party name, domain and webpage were still active nearly 24 hours after the takeover was completed. There isn’t even a fucking Facebook page. At least none pengovsky could find.
Vague by design
But on the other hand, odds are this vagueness is by design, too. Even though things will inevitably look amateurish when the Freedom Movement comes up with a proper party platform, with only weeks until election. In all likelihood, that is a calculated risk.
You see, the one thing that could hurt Golob more than having a vague and nebulous platfom is having a very specific and detailed platform.
To put it bluntly, the more defined Freedom Movement’s platform would be, the clearer differences and similarities between Golob’s party and other KUL parties would become. And it is not hard to imagine some of those KUL voters who switched to Golob, switch back. After all, why vote for a copy when there’s a perfectly good original available?
So, expect Golob and his party to stay vague as much as possible for as long as possible, policy-wise. History suggests that in Muddy Hollows politicians that can be many things to many people tend to do better. Just ask Miro Cerar.
What’s up with that name?
While we’re on the issue of party platform and branding, we need to talk about the party name. Freedom Movement Party? What the the fuck is… *waves hands*… that?
I mean, it is a movement or is it a party? Sure, Golob was waffling something about “doing things differently”. Guess what: you can’t. I mean, sure, there’s always room for political innovation. But in the end there is a reason political movements are labeled as movements and political parties are labeled as parties.
The former mostly describe semi-organised civic groups with a more or less specific agenda or a set of demands. The latter, on the the other hand describe a comparatively very organised group of like-minded individuals partaking in the political arena.
He also may be trying to paper over the fact that his foray into politics is not backed by a popular uprising of one sort of another, but rather by the fact that he was kicked out of a job he was good at and the feeling that “he needs to do something”.
At any rate, expect another name change sooner rather than later.
This is not to say that one type of motivation is inherently better than the other. But by trying to split the difference between the two, Golob is running the risk of coming across as a upstart conniving hypocrite. And the left loves nothing more than weeding out conniving upstart hypocrites among their midst. They are much more comfortable with tried-and-proven conniving hypocrites among their midst.
Then again, the political dynamic in Muddy Hollows these days is often much more Newtonian. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction and rarely do things go beyond that.
Which is to say that for all the drawbacks of Robert Golob’s entry into the national arena, the deciding factors may well boil down to two things. One, some sort of peaceful coexistence with KUL parties. And two, PM Janša losing his cool and tweeting stupid shit again.
Circular firing squad
Relations between Freedom Movement and KUL parties remain to be decided. There are multiple scenarios where inflated egos get in the way. Especially if poll numbers start favouring Golob. In that case some KUL parties might decide that defending their MP count is more important than actually winning the elections. If there is one thing the political liberal/left wing is good at, it is forming a circular firing squad.
One viable solution would be to basically leave things as they are, with Golob operating independently, but with an overt nod to KUL. Which is what he tacitly offered when he said that KUL parties are Freedom Movement’s natural allies.
Janša tweeting stupid shit
Cohesion is, obviously, best maintained by the existence of outside pressure and a shared target. Doubly so when it is the shared target that it exerting outside pressure. And PM Janez Janša is delivering that in spades.
Looking at the Twitter timeline of the Glorious Leader, one would think that Robert Golob is his worst nightmare. Which is odd, given that Janša and his government are the prime reasons Golob entered politics in the first place.
So, Marshal Twito went into Twitter overdrive. He tweeted, among other things, a supposed Swiss fable about “pigeons live off of trash and feed in the parks and believe they own the sky too, until a falcon appears”. Clearly, the Glorious Leader sees himself as a falcon, and Golob as a, well, pigeon. And yes, reader, this joke loses a lot in translation.
However, there’s a problem with that narrative. Turns out that in level flight pigeons are faster than peregrine falcons (the species found in Switzerland). Oops. It also turns out that the Swiss origin of this fable is somewhat dubious. Which is par for the course for the Glorious Leader.
What is not dubious is that in 2016 a man in Switzerland used kamikaze pigeons to kill falcons.
So, yeah. Analogies.