Local Elections Postmortem (Kind Of)

Local elections came and went yesterday. Mostly, that is. A run-off will be necessary in forty-seven municipalities across the country. Most notably in Maribor where incumbent Saša Arsenović will face the agens movens of the 2012/13 Winter of Discontent, former mayor Franc Kangler. Apparently, ten years is enough for the good people of Maribor to forget what a knuckle-dragging douchebag he is.

Master Yoda has a lesson for local elections.

Pengovsky wrote on Friday that the vote will be a fucking mess. And it was, although for reasons that are not immediately obvious. Of the 212 mayoral races, 137 returned incumbents. And that number may increase still, after the second round. However, there were several cans of whoop-ass that good people of Muddy Hollows opened on several high-profile(-ish) local honchos.

While the first reports suggested at a dismal turnout, it, well, turned out to be more in the not-great-not-terrible range. Overall, around 48 percent of voters cast their vote. This is less than the 51 percent in 2018, but more than 45 percent in 2014. But at the municipality level, the turnout varied substantially. In Ljubljana, for example, the counter stopped at a mere 39.85 percent. Which is probably due to the fact that the capital had no real mayoral contest to speak of.

In places, where an actual race was expected, things were much more dynamic. Nowhere was this more visible than in Koper, where the turnout of 53 percent surpassed the national average.

Capo di Capodistria

There, the former mayor and windbag-deluxe Boris Popović made a grand re-match of the 2018 race. Four years ago, Popović lost to Aleš Bržan of then-SMC by a grand total of seven votes. He didn’t take it wel and relented only after losing a court case for yet another recount.

This time around, however, it wasn’t even close. Bržan, who by every account is a much more staid head of Slovenia’s only port city, handed Popović his ass on a platter. A first-round victory with 54 percent to Popo’s 38 percent is as much an approval of Bržan’s handling of the city as it is a repudiation of the ex-mayor’s antics in times past.

But this is where things get messy. Bržan hooked up with PM Robert Golob’s Gibanje Svoboda (that is to say, the Koper brach of the flock) to wipe the floor with his predecessor. But the mayor’s list of candidates and GS ran on a separate ticket for the city council, resulting in Popovič’s Koper Je Naš list winning the plurality.

Still, it wasn’t enough for Big Popo. Bržan’s list and GS together won 15 out of 30 seats in the city council. So, overall, it will be easier for Aleš Bržan to run the city as it was in the last four years, but the deal comes with strings (or is that feathers?) attached.

Mayor without majority

Speaking of city councils, the biggest news of the day was Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković losing his long-held absolute majority in the city council.

In the olden days, this would not be news at all. Ljubljana city politics was by definition a very sordid affair, appealing only to people with a very specific set of fetishes. But then Janković came in 2006 and turned over the table, winning both the mayorship and the city council in a landslide. And then repeated the excercise four or five times (depending on the way you count).

Only that is not entirely correct. In 2014, Janković narrowly lost the majority, winning 21 seats in the 45-seat city council. Back then it was heralded as the beginning of the end of the Sheriff of Ljubljana. Especially since it was Miro Cerar’s SMC that picked up six seats, placing themselves smack in the middle between Janković and his arch-nemesis, the Ljubljana branch of the SDS.

New kids on the block, again

But it took mayor Zoki only a couple of well-placed job offers to minor parties to seal the gap and to continue to rule as if nothing happened. The SMC subsequently self-destructed nationally and were nowhere to be seen four years later, while mayor Zoki won another absolute majority in 2018.

2022, however, is turning out to be a different kettle of fish. Janković lost as many as five seats. And given the way the cookie crumbled, he cannot make up for that by sweetening the pot for lesser parties and lists. Namely, just as in 2014, on Sunday the new kid on the block got a substantial number of votes.

Golob’s Gibanje Svoboda netted eight seats in the city council. This makes them the only viable coalition partner for mayor Janković. And unlike SMC eight years ago, Ljubljana GS are very much keen on striking a deal with Janković. As a result, they are likely to have veto power on all major decisions the mayor needs the city council approval for.

Kingmakers

Incidentally, GS now enjoys similar king-maker positions in three largest municipalities in Muddy Hollows: Ljubljana, Maribor, Koper. Not running the place, but making themselves indispensable in running it. In addition, they are also on the cusp of winning all the marbles in The Big Bird’s home town of Nova Gorica. Put it all together and it just might make them more viable locally than SMC, or SAB or LMŠ ever were. It is still early days but we may actually be seeing something resembling an actual left-liberal centre of gravity the likes of the old LDS.

Speaking of LDS, pengovsky was astonished to learn that the party of Jožef Školč, Janez Drnovšek, Tone Rop and Katarina Kresal is still a thing. In fact, it won its (presumably) single mayorship in the small municipality of Markovci (population: 4,000). Go figure.

But back to Ljubljana, where mayor Zoki getting stripped of his absolute majority was not the only thing that has changed in city politics.

Thar be pirates!

One thing in Ljubljana that made everyone look up was actually three things. First that Aleš Primc, the Primc of Darkness, won himself a seat in the city council. From there he will try to combine his vision of turning Muddy Hollows into Gilead with his actual platform of financing elevator construction in every building in the city. Good luck with that.

Just as importantly, however, the Pirate Party and ecological Vesna party both got themselves a seat in the council. This is significant as it demonstrates that both parties are actually viable platform-wise. Even more so since their platforms are very similar. The two representatives could act as a small-time environmental post-politics coalition in the city council.

This also reiterates something pengovsky has been droning on for a while now. Namely, that these small new parties, which have been trying to break through in vain at national level for some now, need to establish a local base first. That way, they will gain mileage, contacts visibility (see the beginning of this post). Sunday may very well have been a step in the right direction for them.

Fuck around and find out

But even more significant was the ass-whooping the SDS had received at the ballot box in the capital. Namely, the Party went down from ten down to six seats in the city council. Not only is this a reduction of 40% in city representation, it also means a drop in the ranking order. The always-second are now only the third strongest party in the city, significantly behind GS.

Seeing SDS in Ljubljana cut almost by half is fucking mental. It is as if voters in the city (those who bothered to show up, anyway) still felt strongly about Janša government dousing the capital in tear gas and rubber bullets a year go.

In the words of Master Yoda: Fuck around, they did. Found out, they have.

And while we are on the subject, it should be noted that the shellacking the SDS got on Sunday in Ljubljana already claimed its first victim.

Wither Logar?

Namely, Anže Logar resigned as head of the Ljubljana branch of the Party, following the dismal electoral result in the city.

On one hand, this is par for the course. I mean, it really was a shitty night for Ljubljana SDS. But on the other hand, Logar was kind of busy over the past couple of months, while his team…

…let’s just say that their heart wasn’t really in it. To wit, they even forgot to update the name of the candidate for mayor on at least one page of their website.

Now, either Ljubljana SDS couldn’t organise a piss-up at a brewery or Logar was playing something else with his resignation.

Namely, the message the presidential runner-up is signalling here is clear: lose your ass whooped, time to get lost. Which could very well be a not-so-subtle dig at the Glorious Leader.

Rising up or staying out of history’s way

For thirty years, Janša hasn’t really recognised the difference between electoral victory and defeat. Always acting like he was in the opposition, he never really paid attention at what the voters were trying to tell him, ridding the Party of its moderate element in the process. What he has ended up with is a alt-right, conspiracy-theory-loving, extremist leftover which could give MAGA a run for its money.

Maybe Logar is getting his ducks in order to try and force the Big Man to face the music. Combined with his cryptic announcement about “the beginning of something big” during his concession speech a week ago, the possibilities of a Logar-led uprising against Janša, or a mass walkout from the party are tantalizing.

But then again, it could all be just wishful thinking. It is not as if Janša hasn’t been at this particular rodeo before. For all his signalling, Anže Logar could just as well be packed off to Brussels as MEP in eighteen months, and stay out of history’s way.

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pengovsky

Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.

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