Robert Golob Shoots Himself In The Same Foot Twice

When pengovsky went on summer vacay, the presidential race looked like a no-brainer. Sure, a week is a long time in politics. But with Nataša Pirc Musar, Anže Logar and Marta Kos declaring early, things seemed pretty much decided. The only question was whether Logar would lose to Kos or to Pirc Musar in the second round. This scenario went to hell in a hand-basket when Marta Kos bailed out of the race late last month, leaving Robert Golob with a bit of a problem.

Marta Kos, Robert Golob and Milan Brglez.
Kos, Golob and Brglez. Or, in aviary terms, blackbird, pigeon and nuthatch.

Then things got really interesting really fast. First, the NSi launched their own candidate. This all but denied Anže Logar the chance to unify the right-wing vote in the first round. And then Social Democrats – after an intensive internal monolgoue – fielded Milan Brglez MEP as their man on the ballot. Finally, Robert Golob made a string of strategic fuck-ups and ended up looking as if he only entered national politics last year. Oh, wait…

That said, it is now beyond obvious that letting go of Marta Kos as their presidential candidate was a stupid-ass move of galactic proportions on the part of PM Golob.

The Kos Konundrum

There are various competing theories as to why Kos was kicked out from the nest literally overnight. Some say that Golob wasn’t OK with her in the first place and wanted her gone. Others claim that it was the newly minted Gibanje Svoboda spin doctor Vesna Vuković who plotted to get rid of Kos, because reasons. Then there are those who believe that is was Kos’ dismal polling numbers that did her in.

Most likely it was some combination of the three. Although it must be said that whoever was looking to August polling for guidance needs to have their head checked.

If anything, subsequent developments have shown Marta Kos had the capacity to lock up a significant portion of the vote. Perhaps even big enough to win the whole thing. And yet Golob let her go, for whatever reason. The sheer stupidity of this boggles the mind.

The Big Bird and his henchmen (henchwomen?) may find it hard to believe Marta Kos was anything but a low-energy candidate with no future. Clearly, however, the political competition saw her as taking up plenty of oxygen. And with her gone the dial went all the way up to 11.

NSi flying solo

Case in point being the NSi decision to launch Janez Cigler Kralj as their presidential nominee. It could be just a coincidence that call was made after Marta Kos dropped out. But since the entire political landscape was scheming, calculating and triangulating their designs on presidential race, there isn’t much room for coincidences left.

At any rate, Cigler Kralj’s entry into the race complicates things for Anže Logar and SDS.

Back when Anže Logar was the only viable right-wing candidate (Ms. Singularity should not be taken seriously), it didn’t really matter a pair of fetid dingo’s kidneys whether he was officially an independent or a party candidate.

The accepted wisdom was that he would score a cool thirty percent of the vote and progress to the second round of voting. There he would be crushed by either Nataša Pirc Musar or Marta Kos, depending on who came out on top. Cue flash-backs to the 2007 presidential race. Back then, Danilo Türk beat Mitja Gaspari by a couple of thousand votes. Then he walked roughshod over poor Lojze Peterle who got his ass handed to him at the ballot box.

But then Marta Kos quit the race. And lo-behold, NSi realised they are not all that hot on a joint right-wing candidate.

Splitting the right-wing vote

You see, if they didn’t field their own candidate, the Christian democratic party risked yet more accusations of being nothing more than an SDS satellite. Which, fair.

Then again, if they did field a candidate, they risked splitting the right-wing vote. Which, also fair. This would likely prevent Anže Logar from reaching the second round. It would also make SDS boss Janez Janša very angry. And Matej Tonin doesn’t want the Glorious Leader to be angry.

However, there is also the unwritten rule of SDS and NSi taking turns in presidential races. Rather, there was such a rule. But it was flushed down in the last presidential cycle. Back in 2017, NSi launched Ljudmila Novak’s bid, only to be undercut by SDS’s Romana Tomc. As a result, neither made it even close to the second round. So perhaps it was time for some payback, too.

Enter Janez Cigler Kralj, a much more inspired choice than gaffe-prone Janez Pogorelec or batshit crazy Alojz Kovšca (both of whom were reportedly in play for the nomination). Suddenly it became very important whose candidate Logar was and where he stands.

It soon dawned on Logar that standing too close to the SDS is not a good idea. Which is aways a valid point. So he scrambled to paint himself as an independent candidate and put as much daylight as possible between himself and the Party. He even went as far as to collect the full complement of five thousand voter signatures to back up his bid. Which is a bit harder than the usual “three thousand plus a parliamentary group” or “ten individual MPs” plan. Though it isn’t that hard for a party with a loyal fanbase that will sign just about anything they are told to sign.

Anže “independent af” Logar

However, the independent presidential candidate Anže Logar is still firmly chairing the SDS Council (Party advisory body). He also still sits on the SDS executive committee. Just in case you were wondering how sincere his distancing really is.

But if Anže “Independent as fuck” Logar is a tough sell, the NSi – for some unfathomable reason – opted for an even tougher sell and started billing their candidate Janez Cigler Kralj as a dyed in the wool conservative politician.

Make no mistake, Janez Cigler Kralj is no bleeding-heart liberal (full disclosure: pengovsky and JCK were mates at the university). But while he is a loyal party soldier, he is no populist reactionary, either.

Take me to your dealer

Regardless (or, maybe, precisesly because of that), NSi media shills really went of the rails and claimed Logar was moving to the left, thus leaving the opening for a traditional right-wing candidate Cigler Kralj. Which was like… dude, take me to your dealer.

You see, while both Logar and Cigler Kralj served as ministers in Janša’s last government, it was Logar who sent out anti-media and anti-civil society screeds disguised as official government documents. For his part, Cigler Kralj limited himself to merely using government funds to prop up party media operations.

So, while the NSi nominee is not above a little abuse of executive power for party purposes, the SDS guy apparently isn’t above undermining the very foundations of the democratic order for party purposes. Now, who’s the real right-wing populist here?

Leftist flip-flopping

But the presidential identity issues on the political right are just light entertainment compared to the clusterfuck in the left and liberal blocs. And it mostly has to do with Robert Golob misreading the situation.

To be sure, the flip-flopping approach the SD (and to some extent Levica, too) took in the presidential race didn’t really win them any favours.

The calculus here was similar to that of the NSi. Both junior coalition members could play adults and field their own candidates, lose and hope they don’t undermine Marta Kos too much. Or they could fall in line, support Marta Kos (just as she had wanted in the first place) and risk being labeled as Gibanje Svoboda’s satellite parties.

And since no self-respecting left-wing party never thinks of itself as anything but the centre of the universe, supporting Kos was out of the question. The problem was that no self-respecting left-wing politician wanted to submit to the humiliation of a single-digit result.

Enter Brglez…

But when Golob fucked up royally and let Marta Kos go, the SD finally saw the opening they needed. They twisted the arm of Milan Brglez just enough for the MEP to relent and agree to enter the race, instantly making him a viable candidate that could – given the right circumstances – give Nataša Pirc Musar a run for her money.

Milan Brglez ticks a lot of boxes, as far as liberals and leftists is concerned. He is an accomplished professor of international relations. He was heavily involved with the creation of Miro Cerar’s SMC back in 2014 and served as Speaker that term.

He is full of idealism when it comes to issues dear to the left (and the Left), not in the least things like Palestinian independence, migrant policies and asylum rights. The initial cause for his eventual break with Cerar and the SMC was the – in his view – a needlessly harsh Aliens Act in 2017.

Then again, he is not above some pragmatism when it is time to cast a wide net in seach for the votes. Case in point his equivocating on LGBT rights before the 2014, when SMC was fishing for some centre-right votes. He came around eventually (especially after SMC vacuumed up mostly centre-left votes), but it does show there is a transactional side to the man as well.

… and wither Kordiš?

With Brglez officially entering the race, the first question is whether Levica would be willing to climb into Brglez’s nest. Like SD, the self-styled true-left party is faced with the problem of finding some poor bastard who will take one for the team. The alternative is to come across as both arogant and ignorant at the same time. Because even though the president is mostly just a figurehead, presidential election definitely counts for something.

Unlike the SD, however, Levica was leaning more towards the “arrogant and ignorant” part of the equation. Only later did it dawn on them that it might actually be better to partake.

But just as their bomb-throwing hard-left MP Miha Kordiš was warming up to the idea of running (one assumes) a disruptive campaign, along came Brglez who would not look out of place as Levica member as it is.

So, the dillema Levica and its chairman coordinator Luka Mesec need to solve is whether to lose, gun blazing, with “Comrade Kordiš for President” or do they support SD’s Milan Brglez and actually stand a chance of winning this thing.

Did someone order a fuck-up with a side of arrogance?

Which brings us to Robert Golob and Gibanje Svoboda. One would assume that by now the Big Bird and his flock would have recognised the massive dumbfuckery they committed by letting go of Marta Kos.

From this point of view, Brglez’s entry into the game should be seen as a manna from heaven. It finds them a plausible, top-tier and experienced candidate (in some ways, even more experienced than their initial candidate). It puts the Marta Kos debacle in the rear-view mirror. And it allows them to project an image of a coalition that can unite on big issues such as who gets access to Slovenian nuclear codes to be the Commander-in-Chief.

Really, it should have been a no-brainer for Golob and Gibanje Svoboda.

And yet, somehow they managed to shoot themselves in the same foot twice in a month.

Apparently the fact that Brglez iz a high-ranking SD member is a deal-breaker for Golob and his party. Specifically, Golob said that his party will only support independent candidates in the first round. Which was at least partly good news for Nataša Pirc Musar (and, theoretically, for Vladimir Prebilič and Ivo Vajgl, but they don’t really count).

Bruised egos

I mean, other than make Brglez and SD bow to the Big Bird, what fucking sense does any of this make? Clearly, Golob and GS have no qualms about running a squarely partisan candidate for president. Marta Kos was one such candidate and she didn’t even plan to seek voters’ signature to support her bid. All she needed was ten MPs to support her . And in case you didn’t hear, since around mid-May Gibanje Svoboda is in an excellent position to provide such ten signatures (and then some).

And even if we took Golob’s sudden obsession with independent candidates at face value, it should be noted that Brglez ended up in SD back in 2018 out of necessity rather than out of conviction. So it would not exactly be some hard-nosed party faithful Golob would be endorsing.

However. Gibanje Svoboda let it be known that if Brglez were to quit as MEP and relinquish SD positions, then they would be open to endorsing him. Which, to be honest, is petty as fuck and smacks more of bruised egos than of savvy political operators.

Birds of feather

Clearly the lessons of Marjan Šarec’s arrogance towards Alenka Bratušek and Miro Cerar just before the 2019 EU elections were not learned. Robert Golob is making the exact same fucking mistake. Only this time he is screw up twice. First with Marta Kos and now with Milan Brglez.

And just to let you in on the joke: In addition to being proper Slovenian surnames, golob, kos and brglez are also three different bird species: pigeon, blackbird and nuthatch, respectively.

I guess birds of feather don’t always flock together.

Who are you, really?

Then again, the first round of the presidential election is six weeks from now. And right now nobody in this campaign is quite what they claim to be.

Anže Logar pretends to be an independent candidate all the while happily warming chairs in the highest echelons of Janez Janša’ SDS.

Nataša Pirc Musar struggles to project an image of election result as a foregone conclusion, whereas she is the only top-tier candidate lacking an established political network.

Janez Cigler Kralj is trying to embellish his conservative right-wing credentials, while belonging to the moderate and pragmatic wing of the NSi.

Milan Brglez is trying to sell himself as a coalition candidate, even though no-one outside the SD is buying what he is selling (yet).

And lastly, Robert Golob pretends that he is still calling the shots even after Marta Kos quit the race, when he is clearly not.

Much more clarity is required before the 2022 presidential race can start taking a recognisable shape.

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.