Slovenian Elections: The Janković Upset

In what was described as a shock win by the Beeb, Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković won yesteday’s early elections in Slovenia. His fledling party Positive Slovenia won 28.5 percent of the vote, narrowly beating Janez Janša and his SDS, which won 26.3 pecent. The turnout was around 65 percent.

The presumptive PM (photo by yours truly)

The upset was only hinted at on the last day of the campaign by the very last result of a tracking poll conducted by Mladina weekly, which did in fact note a slight downward trend for SDS. Every other poll missed by a mile. It wasn’t that Janković’s support surged all that much, but rather that Janša bled just enough votes to push Janković over the top. As it seems that the last few days were crucial, it can be said with a degree of certainty that Janša hurt himself too much by a) fumbling the question of his real estate, b) avoiding the last debate on state television and c) acting as if the election result is a foregone conclusion.

a) Documents

Janša couldn’t help himself. In what was essentially “game over” for Janković, he went on the offensive and pressed Janković (and by extention Pahor and Virant) to disclose their financial and real estate documentation. Borut Pahor and Gregor Virant obliged promptly, Janković – who was already under media pressure on this – dragged his feet, but did produce (almost) complete documentation, challenging Janša to do the same. The SDS leader – unexpectedly – came under fire himself due to somewhat misterious ways of his real estate deals and took much longer than expected to hand over his papers. And even after he did so, it turned out the package is incomplete (he published the complete documentation on his Facebook page early on the last day of the campaign).

More importantly, his party blamed a broken-down scanner for the delay in producing the papers which instantly brought about unpleasant memories of the Archivegate. Voters’ memory is indeed short, but some people seem to remember.

b) Debate avoidance

Both Janša and Pahor canceled their appearance on the last debate on RTVSLO (state television) opting to appear on cable-only Info TV instead. While Pahor’s motives are unclear, it was more than obvious that Janša did not want to face Janković for the third time in a week and in a setting, where he would have to share time with “lesser” candidates. It was a snub both to his fellow candidates as well as to the viewers, who had to settle for Patrick Vlačič (SD) and Zvonko Černač (SDS) instead. While Vlačič was his usual acceptable self, Černač perfomed poorly, being unable to go beyond buzzwords and the general SDS mantra. It was not a good conclusion to the otherwise professionally conducted SDS campaign.

c) Foregone conclusion

Pahor and Janša on Info TV was meant to generate the appearance of the outgoing and the incoming prime minister having a civil chat on the pressing issues, possibly undoing the damage Janša suffered during a mano-a-mano with Janković on the said TV station. This, however, was Janša’s crucial mistake. His demeanor throughout the campaign was one of calmness and composure. Janša was already meeting with labour unions, EU ambassadors and was receiving support from fellow right-wing party leaders throughout Europe (including ill-concieved support from the jailed Julia Timošenko of Ukraine and Victor Orban of Hungary). In the end, it might have done more harm than good, probably convicing some of those who would have otherwise voted for him to support other parties. Either because it seemed game, set and match for Janša, or because the whole thing spilled over into arrogance.

The aftermath

Janković won, Janša lost. But winners (in their own particular way) also include DeSUS (the pensioners’ party) of Karl Erjavec, who seem to be disaster-proof, regardless of the clowning demeanor of the party president and Christian Democratic Nova Slovenija of Ljudmila Novak, which scored the unprecedented success of being the first party in history of Slovenia to make it back into the parliament. There is certain logic to it, as it is against the general order of things not to have the Catholics in the parliament in a country which is nominally 57% Roman Catholic.

The same logic applies to the apparent losers of this elections, both liberal parties, LDS of Katarina Kresal and Zares of Gregor Golobič. Neither of them made it above the 4% treshold. Zares scored a disastrous 0.65 % of the vote, while LDS fared only marginally better with 1.46 %. This, however, will not stand in the long run and I fully expect the liberal/social-liberal option to make it back into the parliament. But we’ll cover that in one of the upcoming posts.

One party no-one will particularly miss are the nationalists of Zmago Jelinčič. Scoring only 1.80 % of the vote they’re down and out. We’ll see if that’s for good, though.

Also, technically Borut Pahor’s Social Democrats must be counted in the ‘losers’ column, since they’re down to 10 seats from previous 28. But given the criminally low ratings Pahor’s government was getting in its last year, the fact that the SD came in third does soften the blow quite a bit.

What happens next?

Obviously, Janković will have to go about forming a coalition government. We already noted the seat-divison for the top three parties. Citizens’ List led by Gregor Virant came in fourth with 8 seats, DeSUS gor six seats, ditto for SLS of Radovan Žerjav, while NSi of Ljudmila Novak got the minimum possible four seats. Two seats are, of course, reserved for MPs representing Italian and Hungarian minotiries.

The PM-presumtive (that be Jay-Z) said time and again that he will not form a coalition with Janez Janša no matter what (as in: he’d rather gnaw his arm off than have to work with the man who snubbed him in every way possible during his 2004-2008 rule). And even though he reportedly initiated talks with SDS as well, that can be – for the time being – regarded more of a good-will gesture than real negotiations. Which leaves Zoki with a couple of options to go by: First (and least likely) is to try to isolate Janša and invite just about everyone and his brother to form a coalition, including the NSi. But since the latter went head-to-head with the new leader of Slovenia on a couple of occasions, including but not limited to Tito Street (where the NSi won the case in the Constitutional Court), odds are NSi will sit this one out.

This leaves Janković (PS) with SD, SLS, DeSUS and Virant’s List (LGV) to choose from. Social Democrats are almost necessary as coalition partners as they bring in ten votes. Additionally, If the PM-presumptive wants to achieve at least some sort of across the isle consensus on reforms, he will have to include at least one of the pro-welfare-reform parties, either Virant’s List of the SLS (both centre-right). If he includes both of them, he already enjoys a comfortable majority of 52 votes (54 if minorities are counted in) in a 90 seat parliament. The other possibility is a Jankovic-Pahor-Virant-Erjavec coalition (again, 52 votes) or a slightly less comfortable PS-SD-DeSUS-SLS combo with 50 votes.

But given DeSUS’ anti-reform stance, the PS-SD-LGV-SLS seems most probable. This would also probably mean (in addition to Janković at the helm) Borut Pahor as foreign minister (a field where Zoki is noticeably lacking both in skills and personnel), Gregor Virant as either minister of justice or of the interior (possibly both, as there is talk of reducing the number of porfolios) and Radovan Žerjav as agriculture or transportation minister (portfolios which SLS usually wants to control).


The State Electoral Commission will declare the final official results no later than 16 December, which means that the new parliament will convene for the first time on or around 24 December. After that the President of the Republic Danilo Türk will start consultations with parliamentary groups upon which he will make his nomination for the post of prime minister. While the consultations are a mere formality, they help to establish a clear picture of whether the PM presumptive can secure a necessary majority in the parliament.

And if all goes smoothly, Zoran Janković, a self-made-man of humble origins, born to a Slovene mother and a Serbian father in a backward village in Serbia, who moved to his maternal country at the age of 11 and continues to be mocked on account of his mixed roots to this very day, will be sworn in as the eight Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia.

The irony of course is not lost on Janša… If only he hadn’t had Janković removed as CEO of Mercator retail chain in 2005…

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Slovenian Elections: Last Call

So, this is it. Election silence commences tonight at midnight and it’s hight time pengovsky wraps things up. This is why today’s tittage was rescheduled but tune in tomorrow (hint, hint :mrgree: ). Virtually all polls predict a decisive victory by Janez Janša‘s Slovene Democratic Party, with Zoran Janković‘s Positive Slovenia coming in second with about 10 percent gap. Further down the ladder, Borut Pahor‘s Social Democrats seem poised to finish third, ahead of Gregor Virant‘s Citizens List.

Poll numbers over the course of the campaign (see note at the bottom)

There are a couple of ways to look at this campaign. First, the fact that Top Four were reduced to Top Three. Gregor Virant crashed and burned early in the game and his Allowancegate was a gift that kept on giving, cutting him down from almost 20% to single digits. He just wasn’t up to it and went from bad to worse, not being able to stop digging even though he was in a deep hole already. In contrast, neither Zoran Janković nor Janez Janša did a particularly good job at explaining discrepancies in their financial and real estate reports but seem to have suffered very little in the polls (until today, that is). This can to an extent be explained by the fact that their voters are rather devoted to their respective political leader, but more likely it has to do with their fierce refusal to admit to have done anything wrong, even though Janković failed to declare a small part of his real estate to the anti-corruption commission (as in: did not tell he owns the wood). Also, he was anything but quick on his feet to disclose his financial obligations, but in the end did just that.

His main opponent, however, got into a lot of hot water demanding everyone else discloses their accounts and property, but then dragged his feet doing so himself. In fact, just before yesterday’s debate on POP TV his party claimed that their scanner broke down. Now that SDS and scanners don’t mix was well demonstrated in the case of creative photocopying and sure enough it turned out that this time too not everything was fine and dandy with Janša’s documents. The whole thing was revolving around how the SDS leader bought, sold and managed his real estate and it turned out that the initial contract, where he sold his existing property and bought an elite apartment in Ljubljana is fishy, with the buyer (a construction company which won many government contracts including construction of defence ministry building during Janša’s days at the ministry) being overly generous to the point of making economically unsound decisions. Re

But today, Mladina weekly, which is conducting a tracking poll over the last week, detected a marked drop in SDS’ ratings, virtually unchanged result for Janković and a rise for Social Democrats. According to this Janković is trailing Janša by only 3,6 percent. And that means that a lot of people will have a nervous 44 hour-wait.

Looking at it from another point of view, a few permanent fixtures are on the brink of dropping out of the parliament. LDS and Zares are registering low single digit percentage points and their only saving grace can be the fact that with such low numbers the margin of error is relatively huge and that it is possible that their voters are simply not detected. We’ll know for sure come Sunday. But even if both parties drop out, this will not last. Just as with Christian Democratic NSi of Ljudmila Novak, which dropped out in 2008 and looks poised to make it back, the (social-) liberal option has its rightful place in the parliament and when the pendulum swings the other way, they will most likely make it back over the 4%. But they are trying very hard to prevent dropping out in the first place. Zares of Gregor Golobič is throwing everything it has into the field (literally, they’re running a grass-roots campaign) while LDS of Katarina Kresal is beating the human-rights drum, reminding people of the 2004-2008 Janša government.

Another point of view is the dichotomy between fluff and stuff. There were some platform points that stood out: emergency financial legislation, TEŠ 6, pension and labour market reforms, some notable successes of the outgoing government (Arbitration Agreement, rectifying the issue of the Erased, Family Code, although pending a decision of the constitutional court) and so on. On the other hand, this was probably one of the most vicious, brutal and personal campaigns in recent history. Families were dragged through the mud, wives were interviewed standing next to their husbands during a debate, names were called and ad hominem attacks were the norm, especially by rank-and-file members. As per usual, journalists (yours truly included) were not spared.

But perhaps the single most defining moment of this campaign was emergence of social media as an important tool in the campaign. For the first time campaign-related tweets were published in near real time during debates (on POP TV) and the inflation of politicians, their supporters and fake accounts generated to create the necessary buzz and hate speech was – well – admirable (in a perverse sort of way). Also, social media – Twitter in particular – offered a rare insight into the campaign mindset. 140 characters are just enough to get the message across without too much spin and one could see how some politicians who usually act normally (even though they might not agree with you) went positively bananas, denouncing everyone who didn’t dance to their tune. God forbid someone actually pointed out basic flaws in their politics. On the other hand some politicians embraced Twitter and are actually using it to broaden the scope of the immediate debate. Then, of course, are also those who block other users to keep a neat and embarrassment-free timeline.

At any rate, the run is over, pengovsky decided on his vote long before the campaign began and all that’s left to do is to go out and vote. Whoever wins will probably go belly-up (politically speaking)relatively soon as the clusterfuck this country and this continent are headed into is worse than anything this generation has ever seen. We’ll probably have another elections in 2014. Provided there will be anything left to vote on.

So, tune in tomorrow for a generous helping of Friday Foxies and expect exit poll results on Sunday, some time after 7 pm local.

N.B.: Graph data is compiled from different polls with different sets of questions and different samples, so it is not directly comparable from a scientific point of view. Data still available as .xls file for download.

P.S.: Commenting is closed for this one until Sunday evening, but you can still place trackbacks and pingbacks to this pots.

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Slovenian Elections: I’ll Show You Mine If You Show Me Yours

Well, now. It’s been a while since pengovsky last blogged on Slovenian elections. Thee last ten days saw a shitload of action, but you know how it is: things to see and people to do… :mrgreen: So, taking a look at how things stand, one can see that Gregor Virant has tanked completely and is virtually out of the picture (I told you he was all fluff!), with Borut Pahor‘s Social Democrats swinging into third place.

The story so far…

In the final stretch SLS and NSi seem to be making a dash for the 4 percent threshold, while DeSUS is well on the safe side. What is unknown is the fate of smaller parties, most notably Zares and LDS as well as (to an extent) TRS and SMS-Green party, both of which had their respective peaks. Word on the street has it that all of them are working their asses off in a grass-roots campaign, with LDS and Zares having some sort of advantage as they have relatively good networks on the ground. But the polls consistently fail to score them above any meaningful percentage. The answer will be known come Sunday.

I’ll show you mine if you show me yours

Barring disaster, however, the two main contenders for electoral victory on Sunday night remain Janez Janša and Zoran Janković. For about a week now the two are locked into an exchange over their financial status and property ownership, with Janković being quizzed over transactions with his two sons (to whom he sold Electa, his construction and engineering company), a house in Grosuplje (ironically, Janša’s home town) and an undeclared part of a forest behind his house, while Janša became the subject of heightened scrutiny over how he bought and sold four or five pieces of real estate, making relatively hefty profits along the way and ending up with better property along the way.

Things got rather interesting on Wednesday afternoon, when Janša – in what was an obvious case of damage control, for he didn’t do a very good job at explaining his real estate deals on Monday – said that he will reveal his financial details provided all the other leading candidates did the same. His bluff was called almost instantaneously as Borut Pahor apparently released all of his financial documentation to the Slovenian Press Agency (STA), while Zoran Janković brought his papers to a debate on cable television Info TV and literally handed them over to Janša, who had nothing to give in return and was thus made to look like a bit of a fool.

Jay-Z calling JJ’s bluff (source: Info TV)

Admittedly, we do not know exactly what is in Janković’s papers, but the damage was done and Janša didn’t have the means to return the blow. And while we’re on it, Jay-Z won the only head-to-head with Janša of this election campaign hands down. Granted, just as the real-life Jay-Z, the mayor of Ljubljana is facing an increasing number of problems in this election campaign, but the scandals that were thrown in his way seem to have done little to dent his poll numbers. Ditto for Janša, who seems to be going from strength to strength and is looking at the high-thirties region in polls. Take a look at this collection of polls by Ninamedia, which are slightly more relevant than just all the polls thrown togerher, as they are made on a similar sample with more or less the same set of questions


The way it looks right now, Janša seems poised to win on 4 December. However whether or not he will be able to form a coalition remains a mystery and is dependant as much on the result of Zoran Janković as on the result of Virant’s List, SLS and NSi. Additionally, an 11th hour dash by either Zares or LDS (or both) could alter the board significantly and given enough of a clusterfuck, Janša could well be left hanging out to dry. However, in all honesty, pengovsky thinks there’s not more than a 20% chance of that happening.

N.B.: Aside from the last graph, data is compiled from different polls with different sets of questions and different samples, so it is not directly comparable from a scientific point of view. Data still available as .xls file for download.

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The Real Slim Shady – Slovenian Elections Edition

Ah well, it’s that time of the year, I guess 😀 After the hugely successful Primary Colours and its follow up, the Top Gun, pengovsky gives you yet another round-up of the political movers and shakers. Most of them you already know, a couple of them are new kids on the block. But at any rate, this should be at least mildly entertaining. Hope you like!

The Real Slim Shady – Slovenian Elections Editions from pengovsky on Vimeo.

Naturally, credits, where credits are due: Original videos are the work of their respective authors and/or entities including SDS, SD, LDS, Zares, and Idea TV. Songs on the other hand you know, but still: Real Slim Shady (Eminem), U Can’t Touch This (MC Hammer), Money (Pink Floyd), Pass the Dutchie (Musical Youth), Ice Ice Baby (Vanilla Ice), Always Look On the Bright Side of Life (Monty Python), I Will Survive (Gloria Gaynor), YMCA (Village People), Last Christmas (Wham) and Mah Na Mah Na (The Muppet Show version).

And on Tuesday, back to number crunching 🙂

Slovenian Elections: Jay-Z Might Have Plan B

The epic #fail of Gregor Virant dramatically changed the relative positions political parties – for the lack of a better word – occupy in this election campaign. Virant dropped way down to number three and is suddenly feeling the breath of Borut Pahor on his neck, something which seemed impossible only a week ago. Also, the state television seems to have lived up to its mission once for a change and gave us an issue-oriented debate the other day. It it were a seven-way competition, then Gregor Golobič would have won fair and square. Janez Janša was somewhat tame, being flanked by Golobič on one side and Pahor on the other, but he managed to keep his cool for most of the time and deliver his talking points, although he took plenty of flak over the emergency finance law which would save up to 300 milion euros and which his SDS rejected. Golobič and Pahor took turns at beating Janša over the head with it and especially the incumbent prime minister was on a roll, not unlike the previous two debates and Social Democrats’ bounce is more than understandable from this point of view. Thus you see that the political landscape in this country could yet be significantly altered until December 4th. But what lies before the election Sunday is nothing compared to what lies after that. And most of it has to do with Ljubljana mayor and leader of Positive Slovenia party Zoran Janković.

Which way will he go? (source: The Firm™)

One of the recurring questions of this campaign is “what will Janković do?”. This was asked before he finally decided to enter the race, this was asked when he entered the race and wasn’t decided whether to run for MP or not and this is asked now, when he in fact is standing as a candidate in two precincts in Ljubljana. In each of those cases the logical answer was “no” and in every single time Zoki answered with “yes”. It was logical for him to reject calls to enter the race. It was logical for him not to stand as candidate for MP and yet he did just that (this one was kind of expected). And now it is logical for him that upon election he starts serving as MP, at least for the first six months, but by now we know better, right? 😀

You see, the thing is that when Janković is elected (having selected two safe precincts, there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell of him not getting elected) his mayorship is automatically terminated and a new mayor must be elected. However, Janković will not have his MP status confirmed until the inaugural session of the new parliament (expected about two weeks after the elections) and then there are additional requirement on the part of the City Council and the end result is that elections for a new mayor can be held no earlier than late February 2012. On the other hand, the law on deputies (MPs) stipulates that if an MP resigns his/her post a replacement MP is picked provided that the resignation does not happen sooner than six months after the elections (in our case May 2012).

Now, compare this with the timetable for mayoral elections and Ljubljana and combine with the fact that Zoran Janković repeatedly said that he will not be serving as a mere MP, and you got yourself a clusterfuck on your hands. That Janković wants to be nominated as prime minister is of course his stated goal. Being a mere MP is utterly unappealing to him. He wouldn’t do it for all the farms in Cuba. And he cannot simply quit being an MP. Or can he? Technically, the law does not forbid him from resigning within six months, but only says that in this case a new election is called for the parliamentary seat in question. This is to discourage parties running with people who would win huge amounts of vote , resign early on and let their political masters enter the arena. But Janković repeated time and again that sitting in the parliament just ain’t his thing (as in he’d rather lick a live toad every morning than sit in there). So resigning ASAP in case he doesn’t get the premiership in in fact a very real option.

So, what are the possible scenarios here? In fact, there are two and both are bound to create a lot of hoopla as neither have ever been tried and some might even argue that they violate the spirit (although the follow the letter) of the law. Under Scenario one Janković resigns immediately after the elections and prior to the first session of the parliament. That way he does indeed force repeated elections for his parliamentary seat, but the upside is that he gets to keep the mayorship. The mechanics of this are rather complicated but the bottom line is that according to one set of legislation his MP status is acquired immediately upon official results are announced, but under another set of rules he only starts executing his MP role once the parliament is sworn is (which is when his mayorship gets terminated). Thus giving him a 14-day-window where he could technically resign and remain mayor of the capital.

But under (much more likely) Scenario two Janković is confirmed as MP, his mayorship is terminated and – failing to become the Prime Minister – he runs for mayor yet again. Should he get re-elected as mayor, his MP status would be terminated ex lege, meaning that a replacement MP would be named. Namely, the law specifies that new elections for his seat are called if an MP resigns within six months of getting elected. If, however, the MP would be elected to another function and entered a conflict of interest, he doesn’t resign but gets terminated as MP instead. And a mayor/MP conflict of interest was established only recently after Zares party of Gregor Golobič almost bent backwards to pass a law establishing it and thus removing a huge anomaly of the Slovene political system.

At any rate, Zoran Janković has a couple of options available to him should he lose out on the PM bid. But if his going national made a lot of people twitch, any of the above will make them go positively ga-ga. If nothing else, Zoki will be accused of cherry-picking offices and that never looked good. He better choose wisely.

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