Muddy Hollows is less than a month away from parliamentary election and rubber is finally hitting the road. Technically, the campaign only started on 24 March. But in many ways, what is done is done. For the most part, political parties will not be seeking organic growth over the next month. Rather, they will try to keep whatever voter base they’ve established until now.
The parties will also hope the competition somehow fucks up royally, bleeds support and that they get to reap the benefits. Sometimes, this happens on its own, and sometimes it requires a bit of help. Which is probably why PM Janez Janša has avoided the first round of TV debates. He probably thinks he can waltz in during the final stretch of the campaign and throw everyone off balance.
As far as campaign strategies go, this is not the worst one ever. The problem, as always with the Glorious Leader, is the impossibly inept execution.
Namely, the make-the-leader-scarce approach carries its own inherent risks which Janša seems to ignore. To give an example at random, when Danilo Türk ran for another term as president in 2012, he decided early on to keep on trucking as president until the last day in office. He made a call to be a president first, and a candidate second. It didn’t turn out well for him.
Janša going AWOL
The main problem with this approach is that it gives the incumbent an aura of arrogance. This was an accusation commonly leveled at Türk and this is something Janša is starting to see hurled at him as well.
An added complication for Marshal Twito is the fact that he and his minions spent the last couple of months gutting the autonomy of RTV Slovenia. Rules are being bent, broken and flat out ignored in a blatant attempt to turn the public broadcaster into a government propaganda mouthpiece. And still the Glorious Leader would not show up for TV debates.
This week, for example, he came up with implausible reasons for a last-minute trip to Zagreb. Apparently, what could have been a 15-minute phone call just had to be a face-to-face with his Croatian counterpart.
Obviously, no-one bought this bullshit. Doubly so as his stand-in, interior minister Aleš Hojs (who had to skip an really important meeting in Brussels to be on the telly), was unable to explain why the Glorious Leader went AWOL.
Thus, what seemed like a good idea at first is fast turning into a PR nightmare for the PM. He botched the plan, the opposition now mocks him openly and calls him a pussy. The general tone now is that Janša is too afraid to face the opposition in an unscripted setting, while people replacing the PM in the debate are doing a piss-poor job defending the cause.
So what he have here is Marshal Twito shooting himself in the knee with a shitty execution of the make-the-leader-scarce maneuver. Janša is obviously trying to throw the competition off guard by deciding where and when he will enter the fray. But in the mean time, his stand-ins are being taken to the cleaners. Glorious Leader doing weird-looking quasi-motivational campaign videos in the mean time just does not cut it. Unless he is aiming to give you nightmares.
Speaking of nightmares, a different one is creeping up on the (broadly) other side of the political spectrum.
It just so happens that it is entirely possible that the vote breaks down in a way that precipitates a clash of egos on the centre-left. As we know from previous experience, this could well frustrate efforts to form a democratically oriented coalition.
The clash of the egos
Pengovsky raised this possibility about a week ago when the an outlet made a mistake of inviting him on a news programme to do some punditry. Others have followed since. And this is precisely what SD leader Tanja Fajon hinted at during Monday night’s debate. Obviously, much to the chagrin of many opposition supporters.
Long story short, the possible scenario here is a situation where Rober Golob’s Gibanje Svoboda would win a plurality of votes (at least among the centre-left parties), but the KUL bloc (SD, Levica, LMŠ and SAB) would get more votes as a group.
Since the four have an existing deal that whoever among them wins the most votes gets to nominate a PM candidate, this could lead to a nasty clash virtually minutes after the polls close.
At this stage, this is purely a mental exercise. But should it come to that there is no magic formula to solve the problem.
No easy way out
On one hand, KUL parties have borne the brunt of opposing the Glorious Leader and his autocratic regime. They e ran interference during government’s attempts at sweeping rollback of civic rights. They held up the parliamentary end of resistance to uprooting NGOs, public media and independent government agencies. And, finally, they are the ones who put in a lot of work to rebuild trust that evaporated following the collapse of Šarec government in 2020.
On the other hand, however, Robert Golob does seem to have the ability to reach at least some of the undecided voters. He has executive experience but was not involved directly in the bruising political battles of the last two years. And – perhaps his greatest asset – he makes the Glorious Leader fucking nervous.
To make things more complicated, some people on the left side of the spectrum are starting to advocate the idea that KUL parties fall in line behind Golob.
Junior varsity for Golob
Namely, the would-be anointed leader of the centre-left was relegated to junior varsity debate programme on RTVSLO. This is the result of the new government-friendly RTVSLO leadership denying Golob a seat at the grown-ups table. Instead, Naša Dežela of Aleksandra Pivec (remember her?) got a spot in the prime-time debate.
As a result, Golob will now boycott RTVSLO debates and Golob-friendly people are trying to coax KUL parties to follow suit. Naturally, SD, Levica, SAB and LMŠ are not buying what Golob’s supporters are selling.
To be precise, this is not an idea Golob or people high up in his party had floated. Rather, it is a trial balloon by individuals who are either in Golob’s orbit or are tying to get here. Nevertheless, it does show a remarkable level of tone-deafness and, frankly, arrogance. As if some people never learned anything from past mistakes.
Things like these an early test of (centre-) left leaders’, well, leadership. Will they be able to look past their own ambitions and narrow interests of people supporting them? Or would they let their egos get in the way, potentially setting the stage for a fourth Janša government?
Election Plan B
Speaking of the spectre of another Janša government, that would more than just a nightmare unto itself. Over the past couple of months, the Glorious Leader has been dropping subtle hints about how plans to dispute the result in the event of an election loss: This is not only worrying but downright disturbing.
These hints lurk in the general “flood the zone with shit” approach the Glorious Leader seems to have lifted from Steve Bannon. You can miss them easily. But they are there and have been for a while.
Back when the government got their asses kicked on the Waters Act referendum, Janša openly floated the idea that not all votes will be counted. Ultimately it didn’t matter as the result was such a landslide that even the Glorious Leader got the message. But inasmuch the Party has an election Plan B, disputing the validity of the result and claiming campaign fraud seems to be it.
This, of course, from the party and the leader who were caught red-handed trying to get off-the-books campaign financing via shady characters in Republika Srpska and who run a continuous country-wide jumbo-posters campaign, in clear violation of campaign finance legislation.
But if the election result ends up being close, Janša is by no means above going full Trump. Up to and including using January 6th tactics to get his way. And if latest polls are anything to go by, the end result could very well end up being close.
Nice party you have there, shame if something were to happen to it
Speaking of polls, a fairly interesting phenomenon is developing with regard to Matej Tonin’s NSi. A pollster that is generally considered to have a right-wing bias is constantly showing a lower result for the junior coalition party than other pollsters.
Even worse, among respondents who are sure about their intention to vote, NSi polls at only around 3%. This probably still translates into breaking above the 4% parliamentary threshold. But this close to the cut-off point, the situation is getting very fucktangular very fast for Matej Tonin.
First, with such a result he would have fared worse than Ljudmila Novak, for the second time running. And second, he will also be looking at a very real prospect of following in the path of Andrej Bajuk.
The former PM and NSi leader saw himself and his party squeezed out of the parliament in 2008. It was up to Ljudmila Novak to mount a comeback, only to be ousted by Tonin and his boy-band in a late-night party coup just before the 2018 election.
Nightmare in Muddy Hollows Street
As far as political implosion go, this one would be epic. That is not to say that it will necessarily happen. But the weird polling numbers by a right-wing-friendly pollster are there to remind Tonin that Janša always comes first. Moreover, there order of the right-wing foodchain is clear and Tonin is not on top.
To put it differently, in a situation where Janša needs the votes to compete with Golob or the left in general, Tonin is absolutely expendable.
A week is a long time in politics. With the vote in Muddy Hollows twenty-three days away, there is more than enough time for party leaders to start waking up screaming in the middle of the night.