Ljubljana Elections of 2010 (Part Two: The City Council)

For Part One click here

If the mayoral race in Ljubljana seems all but decided (although, as they say on the other side of the pond, it ain’t over till the fat lady sings), the elections for 45 seats in the Ljubljana city council are a different matter. In the landslide of 2006 Zoran “Zoki” Janković not only won 63% of the vote, but his List of Zoran Janković won 45% of the vote which (due to vote losses on account of parties and list which got the votes but didn’t make the cut) translated into an absolute majority of 23 out of 45 votes. This completely rearranged the political landscape in Ljubljana, where the mayor was usually held hostage by the power struggle within the uneasy coalition between liberal democrats (LDS) and Social democrats (SD). In 2006 the voters overwhelmingly send political parties packing and put the reins exclusively into Janković’s hands who used the powers thus vested in him to the fullest of his abilities.


Who’ll be sitting where? Ljubljana City Council (photo: The Firm™)

First he rammed through changes to Council Rules and Procedures, making the work of the city council a bit quicker and (for the most part) also more effective. And then he managed (contrary to pengovsky’s expectations) to keep members oh his list – most of them accomplished individuals, many of whom did not expect to get elected in the first place – to toe the line, be present in sufficient numbers at every vote (there was only one slip in four years) and vote according to mayor’s wishes. Janković basically ran a very tight ship and if things got too slow for his liking he was liable to bend rules of procedures a bit, just to get things going. All of the above made the rest of the political groups in the city council go mad with rage. Well, some more than others, but those who were regularly foaming at the mouth were mostly Borut Pahor‘s SD and Janez Janša‘s SDS, aided by Green Party’s very own Miha “Jazby” Jazbinšek.

Truth be told, there were quite a lot of votes where for one reason or another Janković secured more than just the slim majority of the votes. Some measures were passed even without a vote against, a fact Zoki never fails to mention when he is accused of autocratic tendencies. And to an extent he is right. There’s also the fact that his majority was a direct result of a popular vote and for better or for worse you don’t fuck with that. And to be honest, despite all their rage, the rest of the political groups in the city council understood that. They just found it hard to swallow.

Playing hardball

But playing hardball can cost you down the road. And Janković played a lot of hardball. He didn’t compromise because he didn’t have to. He also had a couple of very public fallouts with a couple of prominent city politicos, most notably with Dimitrij Kovačič of SDS (who was removed from front party lines by the new SDS Ljubljana leadership) and with Metka Tekavčič of Ljubljana SD, who now runs against him in the race for mayor (without much success for now). The spat between her and Janković is especially interesting as they had a more or less cordial relationship for the most of the term, but some time around March this year something happened and they were publicly spewing fire and sulphur at each other, to the point of Janković saying weeks ago of Tekavčič that “she would do better to shut up as she’s been in city politics for 15 years and has precious little to show for“. Playing hardball indeed.

Anyways, it seemed that all remaining political groups in the city council just sort of gritted their teeth, hoping that the term would end as soon as possible and were counting on the fact that there is no way Janković can get an absolute majority in the council for the second time, even though he is virtually unbeatable in the race for mayor. Were they right? Yes and no.

Polls and horse-trading

The Ninamedia/POP TV poll pengovsky quoted on Sunday does indeed show that the List of Zoran Janković (his 45 candidates for city council) register some 23% support, which only half as much as they got on election day four years ago. Slightly more surprising is the 19% support Social Democrats sport. It is not exactly clear where this came from. But what’s even more surprising is that all the other parties (including Janez Janša’s SDS) get only single-digit percentages.

So, what does all of this mean for the political future of everyone involved? First and foremost, this is far from over. While it is not uncommon for a party like SD to have a “proper” percentage of support and having its candidate for mayor fare miserably, it is unclear why the voters seem to have singled out Social Democrats as the party of choice. Hopefully, there’ll be another poll soon and we’ll see if this was just a fluke. Percentages scored by Jankovič’s list are much more interesting. Zoki said time and again that he will not engage in any horse-trading after elections even if he has to form a coalition government (a prospect he dreads) and should the voters deny him an absolute majority it will be interesting to see if and how he goes about that. Despite his claims it would be hard to imagine him throwing it all away just because he doesn’t like who SD (or any other coalition partner) would have put forward for a manager of this-or-that city service.

Lest we forget

Virtually all players on the Ljubljana political scene made it plain obvious that their prime goal is not defeating Janković but reining him in by means of making sure he doesn’t win an absolute majority again. Janković recognises this and is pushing the message of “Zoran Janković and his List” more aggressively. Whether or nor he will succeed remains to be seen, but before people start passing judgements, a couple of things should be remembered:

1) 27% of those likely to vote are still undecided. Granted, not all of them will go to the same camp, but they could tip the balance heavily one way or the other.

2) Voter turnout and vote dispersal are crucial. In urban municipalities a straight proportional voting system is used and if the turnout is low or a lot of votes get lost(i.e.: go to candidates who don’t make the cut), then a couple of thousands votes one way or the other can mean a big difference for the bigger players.

3) Right wing parties register unusually low scores. Despite the fact that Janez Janša while prime minister did everything in his power to alienate voters in Ljubljana, SDS, NSi and SLS should under normal circumstances fare much better.

4) On that same token, there’s no apparent reason why (in addition to Janković’s List) it should be only Social Democrats which get a substantial support on the left wing without Zares, LDS and DeSUS joining in on the fun. This too will in all likelihood play out a bit differently.

and 5) Four years ago no poll registered even the remote possibility of Janković’s List grabbing an absolute majority. A couple of polls near the end of the campaign put his list on top, but none predicted the whoopass which was election day on 22 October 2006.

Projections

None, at this time. The way things stand, this could go either way. The campaign to date has been about as lacklustre as a sex-life of a catatonic and is poised to pick up in the ten remaining days. We’ll just have to wait and see how this particular election cookie crumbles

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Ljubljana Elections of 2010 (Part One: The Mayor)

With local elections fourteen days away it is high time pengovsky writes them up. Not that there’s a whole lot of interest in them in the first place. Case in point being this video featuring main contenders for mayor which drew about as much attention as a six-days-old fart (either that or it’s just that fucking bad :)). Be that as it may, fact of the matter is that as many as 770 people are running for mayors of 208 municipalities, of those sixty-nine are running for mayors of eleven urban municipalities.

If you’re a statistics buff, here’s some more for you, courtesy of the National Electoral Commission: 25,824 people are running for seats in municipal and city councils, of those 9,951 are women. There are 93 women running for mayor, while the youngest candidate is one Aljaž Verhovnik, age 19, who’s running for mayor of Ravne na Koroškem on a Social Democrats ticket. 23 incumbent mayors have no opposing candidate and are for all intents and purposes already re-elected. And, finally turning to Ljubljana, the nation’s capital sports the longest ballot as there are thirteen people running for mayor and twenty-four parties and lists which put forward 658 candidates for 45 seats in the city council.


Janković seems poised to continue to wear the mayoral chain and recieve foreign dignitaries (photo: The Firm™)

The Metropolis

Ninamedia polling agency and POP TV ran some polling results for Ljubljana ten days ago which were encouraging, Or discouraging. Or surprising. Depends on how you look at them. Pengovsky had the opportunity to look at the entire data set so my conclusions in this series will be based on more that just the sketchy report published first by POP TV and then by Finance daily.

So, where is we? Basically there’s no chance of an upset in Ljubljana mayor race. Incumbent mayor Zoran Janković has a 63% support among Ljubljana voters and is trailed a long way back by Mojca Kucler Dolinar of Nova Slovenija (NSi) who got a measly 6,2 % support. She is then followed by Zofija Mazej Kukovič of Janez Janša‘s SDS, who mustered a 5,3 % support.

Say what?

Let me run that by you again: Zoran Janković has a 63% of support to begin with. This is exactly the same level of support he won in elections four years ago. So despite all the mud that was thrown at him, despite the fact that sometimes things are not exactly as advertised, despite the fact that he has the political nuance of a bulldozer on steroids which alienated some of his political supporters and the despite the fact that he doesn’t give a shit about the “not-in-my-back-yard” syndrome, which spurred some sixty initiatives opposing many of his projects in Ljubjlana, despite all that he didn’t lose an inch of support among the electorate.

What seems to have occurred though, is that the above initiatives have generated enough support for Miha Jazbinšek (The Green Party), the lonesome cowboy of Ljubljana politics to end up in fourth place with a staggering 5,1 % of support, who constantly hovered around them, giving them advice (either solicited or unsolicited) Since Jazby, as he is popularly known runs for mayor primarily to generate enough votes for his list of city council candidates, the result is more than encouraging for him. If this goes on he might even get enough votes to not just get himself re-elected as councilman, but also to squeeze in another member of his list which would be a major achievment for the former environment minister (1990-1994) who runs a no-budget campaign.

A smack in the face

But if Jazbinšek is (percentage-wise) on a par or even better than most of the candidates save Janković, this also a smack in the face for established political parties (i.e: those which are represented in the national parliament). Namely, local elections in Ljubljana transcend the pure local nature of the phenomenon. Ljubljana has always been prime battle ground between the left and the right, even more so since Janković took power in 2006 in what was a direct “fuck you” to then-PM Janez Janša. Back then the political right united behind a single candidate and France Arhar (former governor of the Bank od Slovenia, now CEO of Slovenian branch of Unicredit) won almost 20% of the vote. Fast forward to today and candidates of the three main right wing parties, NSi, SDS and SLS, Mojca Kucler Dolinar, Zofija Mazej Kukovič and Janez Žagar can muster only 13,5 percent of support between them.

But the situation is even worse for the left wing parties. Metka Tekavčič of Social Democrats barely registers with a meagre 2,1 %, while Meta Vesel Valentinčič of DeSUS and Milan Hosta of Zares hover around 1% mark. In that respect the only party which saved itself grief it doesn’t need is LDS which openly supported Janković and did not nominate a candidate of its own. However, that may work against them. Sure enough, they will not be wasting resources on a lost battle for mayor, but as a result they may not get enough exposure for their list of candidates to make a decent result. Currently LDS holds three seats in the city council (initially it held five, but then two members switched allegiances) and anything less than that would be a bitter disappointment. And truth be said, this is probably exactly why Zares sent Hosta into the battle: to steal the limelight from LDS, chip off some more votes and come out on top in a continuous low-intensity struggle between two parties which rose from the ashed of once almighty LDS.

Also-rans

The list of would-be mayors obviously does not end there (pengovsky can, contrary to some reports, count to thirteen) thus it is only fair that we mention the rest of the poor sods who barely register on the voters’ radars: Marko Mitja Feguš, who also ran for mayor in 2006 and won an impressive tally of 69 votes (yes, sixty-nine). This year Feguš (a landscape architect) runs as a candidate for List for Clean Drinking Water and has had a stroke of luck with the floods of last weekend, where he actually sounded credible for a moment. But only for a moment. Especially since the LCDW (headed by Mihael Jarc) made local news not as much for their drive for clean tap water but much more for their opposition to erection of a mosque in Ljubljana some years ago.

Then there’s Jože “Joc” Javornik of Slovenska Unija, which (a bit of political gossip) is ran by Metka Tekavčič’s ex-husband and minister of labour Vlado Dimovski. Among also-rans we find Jože Drnovšek (presumably no relation to the late president) a candidate for Naprej, Slovenija (Forward, Slovenia), a ridiculous proto-Nazi party whose chief Blaž Svetek reportedly runs a whore-house on the outskirts of Ljubljana. Then we have another proto-Nazi who goes by the name of Miha Majc and runs as a candidate for Stranka slovenskega naroda (SSN – Party of Slovene Nation) which made its claim to five minutes of fame during the near-fuck-up on Croatian NATO entry. And last (and most likely least) we have before us Janez Lesar, a candidate for Social-Liberal party, who was ran the city services in the early 90s and was pretty powerful back then. Time’s a bitch, however, and Lesar (who seems not to be entirely with us) is running on a platform of more biomedicine for everyone.

End of Part One

Since the power in the city lies with the city council as much as with the mayor, the results of council elections will be just as interesting. Perhaps even more so. More on that on Tuesday…

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