Crunch Time in Slovenian Election

With parliamentary election in Muddy Hollows in T-minus-two-weeks, we are finally at crunch time. The stage of the campaign where things start to matter. This is not to say that things didn’t matter before. Until now, however, the parties and their leaders were busy with laying the groundwork, setting up a favourable narrative and testing messaging. They have two weeks left for everything to come together.

Crunch time beckons in Slovenian parliamentary election. Politico Europe's poll of polls indicates stable support accross the board.
Politico Europe’s Poll of Polls for Slovenia (source)

Public opinion polls will also become much more relevant in the next fortnight. Until now, the things to watch were mostly trends. As of now, however, numbers will become important, too. But most importantly, whatever room parties and their leaders had for various campaign mishaps is rapidly disappearing. From now on, every fuck-up could be fatal.

Unsurprisingly, different pollsters have different numbers for different parties. That said, parties have coalesced into two (and a half) distinct groups. And within those two groups, the numbers are as close as they could be without spawning offspring.

Two and a half groups

The first group consists solely of Janez Janša’s SDS and Robert Golob’s Gibanje Svoboda (GS). As things stand today, these two parties divide between 40 and 45 percent of would-be voters, more or less equally (but see below).

The second group consists of SD, Levica and NSi, who snapped up an approximate further 20 percent of the vote. SD holds a slight edge over Levica (8.5 over 7.5 precent), while NSi trails both, with around 5 percent of the vote.

However, this group is already in deep single-digit territory. Thus it cannot be easily separated from another group of parties, hovering around the 4-percent parliamentary threshold. Hence the reference to two and a half groups.

LMŠ of Marjan Šarec and SAB of Alenka Bratušek are both just slightly below the threshold. They are in good company of POS, a coalition of more or less diminutive parties, spearheaded by Konkretno leader Zdravko Počivalšek.

Small party kink

Incidentally, if small party coalitions are your kink, you will probably be interested in knowing that POS (Povežimo Slovenijo / Unite Slovenia) consists of Konkretno (ex SMC), Green Party of Slovenia, once-mighty SLS and its splinter group NLS. Leading them are minister of economy Zdravko Počivalšek, Andrej Čuš (state secretary at ministry of economy), Marjan Podobnik and Franc Kangler (state secretary at ministry of the interior), respectively.

Finally, there is GAS, a political non-entity, apparently existing only to allow its leader Alojz Kovšca tweet stupid shit. That, and make a mockery of the National Council (the not-really-second-chamber of parliament), which he somehow ended up presiding over.

But if you are into bondage, you’ll be pleased to know that Povežimo Slovenijo can translate to “Tie Slovenia Up”. Which is a nice little Freudian moment, because a tied-up Slovenia is exactly what these jokers need to keep on living off the taxpayers’ money, even though they’re so incompetent they couldn’t organise a piss-up at a brewery.

Margin of error

But pengovsky digresses. Point is that on the face of it, these parties are underwater and should be panicking. But while they probably are losing sleep over their borderline numbers, in reality things are much more fluid.

The keyword here, of course, is the margin of error.

Basically, what pollsters present as a fixed percentage is actually a result somewhere around that number, within the margin of error. Effectively, that means that a result of 3.5% that SAB is scoring as of late, could mean that the party clears the parliamentary threshold comfortably. It could also mean that SAB could only barely make the 1% threshold which still secures budget financing for non-parliamentary parties, but staying way outside the parliament.

Conversely, however, it also means that parties scoring in the 5% range (*cough*, NSi, *cough*) could possibly luck out and end up below the 4% threshold, but still record a result within the margin of error.

Dead heat

This is why pengovsky said there are two and a half groups of parties in these public opinion polls. The likes of Levica, NSi and perhaps even SD can not be completely seaparated from LMŠ, SAB, POS or even Zmago Jelinčič’s SNS and Aleksandra Pivec’s Naša Dežela.

To be completely fair, there are other parties down the line as well, but for them to make the cut, they would have to record the result at the very upper edge of their margin of error. Although not impossible, something like that is highly improbable.

More to the point, however, the margin of error points to another, more important conclusion. Namely, as far as public opinion polls go, Janša and Golob are in a dead heat. As a result, big fat headlines about one party or the other taking the lead are just that. Big fat headlines, ignoring the fine print.

Grasping at straws

Depending on your point of view, this can be both good and bad at the same time. On one hand, it makes claims of developing trends rather ridiculous. Case in point NSi, which fished out a suspect poll by a PR agency to claim significant movement. Talk about grasping at straws…

As long as the difference between parties is within the margin of error, there is no gap to speak of. Sure, it may materialise once the votes are cast. But from the perspective of the pollster, it is not that easily detectable, if at all.

On the other hand, however, even a mid-range fuck-up could develop into a quick downtrend, impossible to reverse. This is why the next two weeks will be so crucial. As election day will approach, nervousness will start setting in and experience will start to matter more.

“I just want to hear the son of a bitch deny it.”

Robert Golob, for example, has shown lately that, even if unfounded, accusations of improper earnings can get under his skin. In one of the recent debates he kept defending himself from accusations interior minister and resident bomb thrower, Aleš Hojs flung at him.

Lyndon B. Johnson once observed of a political opponent about whom he was circulating unfounded rumours, “I know it is not true,I just want to hear the son of a bitch deny it.” It is not that Golob did a bad job of defending himself. But he did spend an inordinate amount of time defending himself.

Combined with his propensity to physically touch the person he is talking to, thus invading their personal space, Golob is showing that he still has a thing or two to learn when it comes to campaigning.

Enter The Glorious Leader?

However, even if Golob were to start bleeding votes over the course of the fortnight, that would probably only mean more votes for opposition KUL parties.

PM Janša, on the other hand, is really going to need every vote he can get. Because no matter how you crunch the numbers, the Glorious Leader and his existing coalition end up about 10 percent short of a majority.

That is not an insurmountable deficit and Marshal Twito still has ace up his sleeve. Namely, himself. Pengovsky fully expects him to start appearing at the debates.

Especially if the recent dip in numbers for the SDS turns out to be more than just a statistical fluke.

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.