Robert Golob Wins Slovenian Election: The Fuck Just Happened?

OK, so the “just” in the title is doing a lot of heavy lifting here, seeing as it has been nearly 72 hours since Robert Golob taking Janez Janša to the cleaner’s became global news. But still, Marshall Twito being defeated at the ballot box by a political adversary he himself had created, for the second time, is a big fucking deal.

Gibanje Svoboda led by Robert Golob threw a party after the election results were in.
Party at Gibanje Svoboda electoral HQ after the results came in (source)

But, wait, did pengovsky really state that Golob took Janša to the cleaner’s? He did? Well… In fact, the Glorious Leader and (some of his) minions even slightly increased their MP count. It is just that Robert Golob and his newly-minted party Gibanje Svoboda (GS) won basically all the other marbles, ending up with 41 MPs in a 90-seat parliament. Reader, it was a blow-out.

Since parliamentary elections in Muddy Hollows are a zero-sum game, Golob’s massive advantage in MP bodycount had to come from somewhere. Turns out it was the parties of the opposition KUL alliance that paid the price for ousting Janez Janša and his SDS from power.

So fucking close

With almost 100 percent of the vote counted, Tanja Fajon’s Social Democrats won 7 MP seats and Luka Mesec’s Levica has 5. And that is all as far as KUL are concerned. Alenka Bratušek’s SAB and Marjan Šarec’s LMŠ did not even make the cut.

Both liberal parties were downright mauled at the ballot box. SAB, for example lost a full 50% of its voter base compared to 2018 election. But the burn is particularly painful for Marjan Šarec. Not only because his party went from 12 to 0 MPs (which has got to be some sort of a record), but mostly because the results counter for LMŠ stopped at 3.75 percent. A mere .25 percent below parliamentary threshold.

So fucking close and yet so fucking far away. That has got to hurt.

Records broken

Speaking of records, on Sunday Golob’s GS reached an all-time high in the National Assembly. With 41 MPs, it bested SMC’s record of 36 MPs in 2014. With a cool 400,000 votes won, it performed better than LDS in 2000, by ten thousand votes. This was a landmark victory by any measure.

Well, almost any measure. It turns out that the, well, turnout is not the highest ever. With 70.05 percent it fell just short of the 70.14 percent reached in the year 2000. Though that may change as there may still be ballots floating out there that could push the final number north of that by a few tenths of percent.

Golob’s overwhelming victory is the third – or fourth, depending on how you count – time in a row voters in Muddy Hollows threw their lot with a newcomer to the political arena. But while the new-party phenomenon is not exclusive to Slovenia, there are specifically Slovenian themes that power it.

Tactical voting

For all the debates about structural problems of Muddy Hollows, ideas about how to make this society a fairer one and future projections, it turned out that the voters – a vast majority of them, at least – wanted one thing, and one thing only. To get rid of Janez Janša.

A recent analysis by Valicon pollster concluded that nearly half of all votes cast for GS were tactical in nature. Meaning, that about 20 out of those 41 MPs will be sitting there because their voters skipped over their initial party of choice and voted for Golob, just to make sure he wins. And win he did.

There is another line of thought floating around in Muddy Hollows attempting to explain the piss-poor showing of the KUL alliance parties. Namely, that the four parties themselves ran on a lacking platform, ran a bad campaign and were hampered by voters remembering that the Janša government was brought about by these four parties being unable to get along in Šarec government. That they were, in short, a shit alternative.

This interpretation is not exactly made out of whole cloth. To some extent, all of the above played a role. Especially, one should think, the lingering resentment of the Šarec government fiasco. This point is doubly reiterated by the fact that the two Janša-enabling parties from the Šarec coalition, Konkretno (ex SMC) and DeSUS, were also ejected from the parliament, with extreme prejudice.

This is an ex-party

Going off on a tangent, by winning 0.64 percent of the vote, DeSUS, the pensioners’ party is finally no more. It has ceased to be. It has expired and gone to meet its maker. A political stiff, bereft of life, it rests in peace. If it were an actual living thing, it would be pushing up the daisies. Its metabolic processes are now history. It has kicked the bucket, shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible. This is an ex-party.

But back to making sense of the abysmal performance of the KUL opposition alliance. While they were indeed plagued by past transgressions and probably made several mistakes in the run-up to the election, there is one thing they very pointedly did not do. They did not hinder, interfere with or otherwise play against Robert Golob. In this, they gave permission to their voters to vote for Golob if they felt it necessary.

Tactical defeat, strategic victory

It would seem KUL parties learned their lesson of the 2020 fiasco. They remained team players and had each others’ backs to the very end.

Moreover, parties ran on detailed platforms and tried very hard not to piss in each others’ pools. They seemed to be aware that voters were lumping them all together and were eager to show they were, in fact, four different parties, willing to work together for a common cause. Outside of a few missteps, pengovsky is hard-pressed to see how they could have run this campaign differently.

Be that as it may, KUL parties were hurt badly, with LMŠ and SAB paying the highest price. What we have here are two ex-PMs and their parties, unceremoniously kicked out of the parliament. Still, KUL may have been defeated tactically at the ballot box but they have achieved the strategic victory they were working for. Talk about sacrificing yourself for democracy.

Circular firing squads

The KUL/Golob dynamic is a level of close cooperation we rarely see in Slovenian politics, especially on the left/liberal side. This alone tells you just how crucial this election was and how threatened democratic values and standards were in Muddy Hollows. Shit must really be hitting the fan for the left wing to work together.

But now that the immediate danger has passed (for the time being, at least), these parties are back to doing what they do best: form circular firing squads.

SD leader Tanja Fajon, for example, was never fully accepted as the undisputed party leader. Alternative voices within the party are, in fact, so strong that PM Janša tried to exploit that. On more than one occasion he praised Jani Prednik, Fajon’s erstwhile competitor for SD leadership, as someone he could work with.

Fajon from Brussels to Ljubljana

As weird as that was, things will get weirder still, as SD is always chock-full of people who see a future party leader every time they look in the mirror. Already, SD vice-president Jernej Pikalo has resigned, saying there is no way to sugarcoat the atrocious result. No-one missed the obvious implication that in Pikalo’s unstated opinion, Fajon should get the fuck out, pronto, as well.

However, Fajon may not be interested in getting the fuck out, at all. Regardless of the disastrous election result, SD will definitely be a part of Golob’s coalition. He hasn’t the votes otherwise. This means Tanja Fajon can secure a couple of plum positions in the new government for herself and those loyal to her. The two most obvious positions are those of the speaker of the parliament and of the minister of foreign affairs.

Fajon would be a good fit for either role. But if she somehow managed to negotiate both positions for the SD, it would become extremely hard for those plotting against her, to make their move. You see, for SD it is all about bringing bacon home.

Kordiš kerfuffle

Speaking of making moves, Levica leader (that is to say, coordinator) Luka Mesec has already offered to resign, pending an analysis of the result. Because, let us be honest, going from 9 MPs down to 5 is a pretty shitty result.

Predictably, the party is now splitting into two camps. The realists, presumably led by Mesec acknowledge that the results are less than ideal, but shit happens and anyhow they now have the opportunity to enter a ruling coalition and – for the first time ever – enact parts of their agenda. The other camp, presumably led by the radical MP Miha Kordiš, naturally concluded that Levica was penalised because it strayed from its ideologically pure path. In a Facebook post Kordiš called for Levica to “go back left”, apparently to recapture the votes it has lost.

Kordiš, of course, is as wrong as Dan Quayle on a spelling test. Still, if the hardliners take over the party, they may well repeat the very same mistake that helped bring down the Šarec government and brought about two years of Marshal Twito’s authoritarian rule.

It seems Luka Mesec has real problem on his hands.

NSi waiting in the wings

But if Kordiš’s line prevails and Levica sits out a second government in a row, there is a case (as thin as it may be) for Golob to open negotiations with NSi. This would probably make a lot of people livid, and Golob would likely not exactly jump at the opportunity, but it is a possibility.

Thus, the likes of Kordiš need to have a long and thorough internal dialogue about what do to. Would they go all beautiful soul and thusenable a government that includes the NSi? Or would they, maybe, possibly, want to, I don’t know, fucking do something about the problems of this country? It could go either way…

Seeing as we mentioned him, Matej Tonin seemed smug as a bug on election night. And for a good reason. A late-breaking scandal with agriculture minister Jože Podgoršek did not hurt the party result too much and NSi even added one MP more to their 2018 tally.

Hashtag sadface

The only fly in Tonin’s ointment was minister for digitalisation Marcus Antonius Mark Boris Adrijanič not making the cut.

Not that many tears are being shed for, or by, the former Uber lobbyist. The guy can now add “government minister in an EU country” to his LinkedIn profile. Hashtag sadface, hashtag life lessons, hashtag embrace opportunities.

The real dilemma Matej Tonin is now facing, is how close he should still be hugging Janez Janša. SDS and NSi leaders were practically inseparable over the last two years. Tonin carried water for the Glorious Leader when he didn’t need to, on more than one occasion. In the process, he has managed to re-insert NSi into an orbit around SDS, undoing all the hard work by his predecessor Ljudmila Novak. Maybe it will be his undoing, too.

A two-thirds majority

The above will become especially pertinent if Golob undertakes things like electoral system reform. Or any other legislation that requires a 2/3 majority. NSi is definitely in a position to supply votes on such projects.

Robert Golob seems to be technocratic enough to not really mind working with Janša’s posse if circumstances so require. So, Tonin will need to decide if he dares alienate Janša in such circumstances, and risk the wrath of his propaganda machine.

Lastly, the soon-to-be-ex prime minister Janša will probably be sulking for a while, but he is not going anywhere.

Janša back to his usual self

In an event that surprised a grand total of zero people, the SDS executive council flat out rejected any thought of replacing the Glorious Leader. Nevertheless, they apparently did not expect such a resounding defeat. In the short run, that is good, as it puts kibosh on the idea of challenging the election result.

In the run-up to the election Janša openly questioned the integrity of various parts of the electoral process. He frequently called on his supporters to “be vigilant at the ballot box”. Combined with his eternal harangues about a general left-wing conspiracy to deny him his rightful electoral victories, this was widely understood to be a thinly-veiled dog-whistle to his supporters to start objecting to results as widely as possible.

The decisive result, not unlike in the Waters Act referendum last July, put paid to all that. At least for now. Namely, there is still enough talk of the election being stolen in the darker corners of SDS social media that the line can be resurrected at a moment’s notice.

In the long run, however, the massive defeat will likely only fuel Janša’s and SDS’s resentment. Put another way, they will be back to their usual selves.

Bad days coming

Two years of running a conservative populist revolution under the guise of fighting the pandemic. Hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ euros spent on questionable “recovery” projects. Literally trying to buy votes by doling out “general aid” in energy crisis, only days before the election. Capturing almost every nominally independent oversight institution. Politicising the police and using it to harass political opponents. Ransacking public media and trying to turn it into propaganda outlets. The outgoing government did all of that and still managed to only repeat the result from 2018.

The Glorious Leader must be really unhappy.

And when the Glorious Leader is unhappy, he gets nasty. Which is probably what awaits Golob once the parliament constitutes.

Even on good days, the SDS presents a formidable parliamentary opposition. These guys have been at it for so long that they know every trick in the book and then some.

On a bad day, however, Janša ans SDS in opposition can be downright brutal. Just ask Miro Cerar.

And there are going to be a lot of bad days. At least in the beginning.

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.

2 thoughts on “Robert Golob Wins Slovenian Election: The Fuck Just Happened?”

  1. Hello! Would you like to make a few comments for a University College London/University of Sussex podcast on elections and parliamentary systems?

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