A New Prez

President-elect Danilo Türk took the oath of office yesterday and will assume the powers of the President of the Republic of Slovenia later today. He will replace Janez Drnovšek, who will apparently totally retire from political life (and otherwhise) after being at the very top of the political pyramid for exactly two decades.

Source: Žurnal24

Political comentators this side of the newly-erased Schengen border tend to look at Drnovšek’s presidency as two separate movies. One pre-dating his spiritual renewal and one post-dating it.

For the uninitiated, a quick recap. After falling ill with cancer still while PM, Janez Drnovšek was always eyed with a bit of suspicion as far as his medical condition was involved. Since Slovenes are notoriouls secretive about personal matters (i.e.: personal whealth, healt, domestic abuse, extramarital affairs and the likes), it was sort of deemed inappropriate to ask the president about his healts. Even during his campaign the question was barely touched upon, as if the other side knew that a negative campaign would do more harm than good (a lesson which seems to have been lost on Türk’s opponents during this year’s presidential campaign). Anyways. Drle (as the outgoing Prez was known) was elected and he went below radar almost immediately. He attended only top-of-the-line state functions (in stark opposition with his predecesor, the legendary Milan Kučan, who -it seemed- attended every ceremony in 500 kilometre radius). He cut his workload to the point of Jožef Školč calling him lazy at one point. And Školč, mind you, does not have many expeditious qualities himself 😉

And then -all of a sudden- the President starts mingling with the alternative crowd (shamans, medicine men, people like that). For example: he is the only foreign dignitary to have attended inauguration of Bolivian president Evo Morales at the altitude of almost 4000 metres (that’s 12000 feet) in the Andes and survive, where most people skipped the event because of a severe shortage of oxygen at that altitude. He also took interest in the Darfur crisis long before Goran Višnjić and his ER team discovered it on the map. His moves were rather erratic and he seemed to lose interest in a particular matter quicker than you could say “alternative medicine”. Except in Darfur, when he even hosted some sort of peace negotiations, but failed to get anywhere. But all of these are just episodes in a life of a somewhat eccentric president.

In my opinion the true political legacy of President Drnovšek is at least two-fold.

One: He was instrumental in completing the political transition of this country. With his political “exit-stage-left” we can put an end to a period of two decades of Slovenia making it big. Much like the country he ran (or helped run) in those 20 years, he too came out of the blue and immediately had everyone’s attention. Contraty to expectations, he was elected member of the Yugoslav federal presidency in what was possibly the first somewhat fair elections in Slovenia in 1988 – and he never left the stage again. He was there when Yugoslavia broke apart, when Slovenia declared indepencendence and when Slovenia negotiated peace with the federal army. But in 1992 he was elected prime minister as Lojze Peterle (remember him?) was given a vote of no confidence. Drnovšek and his Liberal Democrats set about doing some real social and economic transition. Ten years and three mandates as PM and one kidney later he was elected the president of the republic, as Milan Kučan’s second term ended. He left a remarkable record, with Slovenia being on the brink of becoming a member of EU and NATO, with an ever stronger economy and a growing reputation in the world (OK, there was the small mater of Dimitrij Rupel, but we’ll save than one for some other time). In short – he showed that it can be done. All it takes is a worthy goal,

Two: As president he showed that his office bears more than just a distanced dignity. When government of Janez Janša lost touch with reality, Drnovšek (at this poing already slightly etheral) took it upon himself to call spade a spade and tear Janša’s government to pieces where deserved. Among other things he called Jaša the Prince od darkness and accused him (rightly, I think) of dictatorial tendencies. And Drnovšek should know, as he had to remove Janša as defence minister in 1994 because of the Depala vas indicent (one of the two attempts at a coup d’etat in this country). But the move of his presidency came exactly a year ago when he came to try to help the Strojan family (the Romas who were ran out from the village of Ambrus by the majority population), when he told off the people of Ambrus and told them that – although they swore by all that’s holy – they are not true Catholics because they cause suffering of fellow men. While his mission was unsuccessful, it showed the pettyness, small-mindedness and xenophoby of Slovenes.

And that is what a true president should do. To tell the people of his country where they fall short and where they are trully great.

But most of all – regardless of what other people think – Janez Drnovšek loathed ruling. I’m not saying he didn’t like the power, but for almost every single day of the past two decades he gave the impression that he would rather be somewhere else. And that is about as much as you can as of any politican.

As for Danilo Türk: he may have a better hand at solving international crises but first he’ll have to solve several domestic ones


As promised, this is another Sunday Special by pengovsky.

Ljubljana saw the largest gathering of people since the end of World War II. 70.000 (yes, seventy thousand) workers demanded a rise in basic wages. The constant tug-of-war between the unions and the employers was fueled by rising inflation (shown in 10 – 20 percent raise in prices of basic food comodities such as bread, dairy product, etc…) which hit those with small incomes hardest. Employers of course will hear nothing of it and the end result was that negotiations broke down and unions took to the streets.

Unions don’t demand a staggering raise in wages – a mere 3.5 percent, just enough to offset the inflation. And – as odd as it may seem, the minister for labour Marjeta Cotman supports their cause. As does presiden-elect Danilo Türk, as you can see on the video.

Iif unions’ demands are not met, they will call a general strike. Which will make the 70.000-strong crowd seem like a picnic. So employers should think twice about not heeding to unions’ demands. I can understand that it may seem like blackmail, but if Slovene economy is really doing better, than a pay raise should be no trouble at all. The unions know that the days of free lunches are over. That’s why they called the demonstration on a Saturday. The employers have been given a fair warning.

And since things can be lost in translation, let me just explain the last part of the video. I used a song by Jani Kovačič, Delam (Working) – which is about people not being able to find work and still having to feed their families, while the only “work” they get is standing in a line at the local unemployment office. It became the unofficial anthem of Slovene working call (and others who are simply overworked).

A Landslide Win for Danilo Türk

According to the exit polls, Danilo Türk won the second round of Slovene presidential elections in a landslide. He received an anstonishing 70 percent of the vote while the winner of the first round Lojze Peterle received 30 percent, faring far worse than in the first round. Turnout was criminally low – just below 50 percent.

Danilo Türk after the first electoral roud (photo: www.daniloturk.si)

Pengovsky predicted a much more close result, but it seems that the smear campaign only presuaded the undediced voters to support the victim of the campaign, while it more or less failes to galvanise the political right close to Lojze Peterle.

I will comment on the result posthaste, but for starters – just a few thoughts:

-This is a massive warning sign for Janez Janša. I suspect plenty of votes for Türk were actually protest votes agains the government of Janez Janša and its policies.

-Add to that an article ran by Croatian daily Jutarnji list, clamining that Janša and his war buddies made some 150 million euros in arms dealing immediately after independence and you can see that today is not a good day for Janez Janša

Smear campaigns do not work in Slovenia

-Türk set a new electoral record, as he got more votes a higer percentage of the vote than the legendary Milan Kučan (althoug Kučan won at a much higher turnout and consequently with a higher number of total votes cast).

EDIT @ 2100 hrs: In his first statement Lojze Peterle put the blame on his humiliating defeat squarely on Janez Janša and his government. And he’s not far off. This election was also a test for Janša’s government and he flunked it big time. The question of course is if Janša will get the message. And (if he will), is there enough time for him to change the downward trend. The political left if right now of course euphoric, but it may be that Janša & Co. are about to spiral out of contol. Just to give you two examples:

Janša failed to support Peterle with more than just a quick tap-on-the-back. This will not go down well with Peterle’s Nova Slovenija, which until now was a very reliable coalition partner. And – perhaps even more importantly: More than one third of voters of Slovenska Ljudska Stranka (another coalition partner) voted for Türk. This of course means that the two parties will become increasingly independent from Janša, which means that good old JJ will have a lot on his hands until next November, when parliamentary elections are to be held. And his grip on things is slipping, it seems. Namely, Slovene Press Agency STA (government owned and controlled) ran the already mentioned article about Janša’s arms dealings. Which means that someone wasn’t paying attention and that heads will probably roll.

At this moment Janša’s response it all that’s misisng. But we’re not holding our breath. He would do well to congratulate the new president-elect, but (knowing Janša) he’s just as liable to question the legitimacy of the elecoral result, due to low turnout.

Incidentally, Janša also suffered defeat on referendum on the privatisation of Triglav insurance company. And also incidentally: the new president will probably be sworn in in mid-December

The President of the Republic of Slovenia


The exit polls are in and it looks like that Lojze Peterle (25,8%) and Danilo Türk (25,6%) will advance to the next round. But I will reserve my final call until later tonight, as Mitja Gaspari gor 24,5 % of the vote.

A big unwelcome surprise is the result of candidate of the Slovene National Party Zmago Jelinčič, who got 20,5 % of the vote

According to the Constitution, the powers of the President of the Republic are severely limited. However, the office of the President does bring some very important responsibilities, the chief one among one being the fact that the President is technically the Commander-in-Chief of the Slovene defense forces, which, curiously enough, besides the Army also include the Civil Defense and the firefighters. But that aside, the President is elected for a five-year term with a possibility of being immediately re-elected for another five-year term. He or she, however, cannot run for office again if they did not seek re-election after their first term ended.

Another important role of the President is to appoint the candidate for the Prime Minister, a rather curious provision of the Slovene Constitution, which stipulates that the Parliament must take two votes: first on the Prime Minister him- or herself and then on his or here selection of the cabinet, both of which must be approved in order for the Government to be formed. This of course puts the President of the Republic into the spotlight as far as selection of the Prime Minister is concerned.

This will do for now. It looks like the fun isn’t over yet as the second round will be held on November 11th. But I will continue to update this post as the night progresses.

UPDATE 1: According to state television, Peterle and Gaspari will proceed to the second round. This promises to be plenty of fun 😀

UPDATE 2 (2040 hrs): For all of you who want to follow the results in almost real-time, this is the link to the state electoral comission in English. It appears that the turnout was terribly low – only 53,6 % of eligible voters cast their vote. And – not unlike the last two presidential elections in the US, it could very well happen that the final result will be determined by overseas votes. Namely, the state electoral commission has (somewhat controversially) decided to send a ballot to every voter outside Slovenia, even to those who haven’t requested a ballot. It is understood that some 50 thousand ballots will be returned. This represents 3.125 percent of total votes and although most of those votes will probably go to Peterle, they could very well decide whether Türk or Gaspari go to the second round. Results @ 20:40 Peterle: 28,07%, Türk: 24,71%, Gaspari: 24,34%

P.S.: She speaks!!! 😆 PM’s – well – girlfriend Urška Bačovnik finally spoke to the media. First of all: she needs a lot of media tranining. But most importantly – she announced that she and PM Janša are about to get married. Not that it was totall unexpected, but still… The yellow press will probably go ga-ga over this tomorrow.

UPDATE 3 (2215 hrs): The elections will probably come down to the wire. The unofficial incomplete results show that Lojze Peterle got 28,5 percent of the vote, Danilo Türk got 24,55 percent and Mitja Gaspari got 24.16 percent.

So I guess it’s time for some analysis.

Probably the biggest surprise was the relatively low number of percentange of votes Lojze Peterle got. All the pre-election polls predicted he would get at least 10 percent more. And although he is still the winner of the first round, his campaing entered a downward trend which he must now work hard to stop it. Türk or Gaspari, however, have both exceeded expectations and whoever of the two goes on to the second round can build on the momentum in the next fourteen days.

The reasons for this rather surprising result? First and foremost, the criminally low turnout. But that may be more of an effect than a cause. Peterle seems to have neglected his electorate, taking it for granted and perhaps moving too much to the centre – his natular electorate failing to go to the polls as a result. On the other hand, neither Gaspari nor Türk have shown great promise during pre-election campaign, but are now in a dead-heat for a place in the second round. This early in the aftermath period (and lacking any empirical data) I would agree with an opinion by analyist Miha Kovač on POP TV, who said that Türk (and in my opinion Gaspari as well) did gain some ground in the centre in the final stages of the campaing, but that the disenchanted voters of the left have voted for fourth-placed nationalist Zmago Jeličnič.

The second round, held on 11 November, will be most interesting. Following the rules of simple mathematics, it looks as if Peterle is in grave danger, as combined votes for Türk and Gaspari by far exceed votes for Peterle. But there are a lof of “if”s out there and such a simple transfer of votes is highly unlikely. I would presume that in the next fourteen days we can expect much more visible roles of both the incumbent president (Janez Drnovšek) and his predecessor Milan Kučan, as well as a more promiment role of PM Janez Janša on the other side of the ring.

Results @ 2300 hrs: Peterle 28,5 %, Türk: 24,54 %, Gaspari: 24,15 %