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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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, Vest.si 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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Slovenian Elections: The Great (TV) Debate

Touchy subject. Tomorrow will see the first two debates since the election campaign officially began last Friday. In fact, a small ratings war is about to ensue between RTVSLO (state television) and privately-owned POP TV. The former is to broadcast its flagship high-octane conflict-prone programme Pogledi Slovenije at 2000hrs (until 2130 approx.) while POP TV is to start the first debate at 2055hrs and lasting well into the night. But there’s a catch…


Pogledi Slovenije: No seats at this table for Zares, LDS, NSi and SNS (source)

Although the law on RTVSLO specifies that it has to treat all parliamentary parties equally (and – to accommodate the Christian Democratic NSi – the definition of “parliamentary” has been stretched to include parties in the European Parliament), authors of Pogledi Slovenije decided not to invite leaders of Zares, LDS, NSi and SNS, Gregor Golobič, Katarina Kresal, Ljudmila Novak and Zmago Jelinčič. Obviously, the choice of guests in the studio is ultimately editorial one. Journalists hate to be told what to do. However, this is state/public television we’re talking about. The taxpayers are paying 12 euro per month per household in order to finance it and at least during election campaign they should be entitled to a larger and less editorialised scope of relevant information.

Producers of the show claim that tomorrow’s programme is not an election campaign debate and that they’ve selected guests according to their poll ratings, where the four parties that were left out indeed score only a couple of percent each. Now, technically, Campaign Rules of RTVSLO state that campaign-related programming will start on 14 November. The programme is on tomorrow, on the 10th, so everything should be OK. Really? No. The law on RTVSLO states that all parliamentary parties should be represented during the election campaign – and that started Friday last. So, on one hand we have RTVSLO’s campaign rules, on the other the law under which it operates. Guess which takes precedence. What’s more, even though producers and the info desk (under whose jurisdiction falls the Pogledi Slovenije programme) claim this is not an election debate, it is being marketed as such.

So, whether one likes it or not, not inviting Kresal, Golobič, Novak and Jelinčič is unfair and possibly not legal. Ljudmila Novak and her NSi (for which RTVSLO usually bent over backwards to find it a programming slot) seem to be aware of that as they threatened legal action to gain equal access to programming. Should they succeed (although it is hard to see how a court would decide on this in only a few days), Zares, LDS and SNS would probably applaud wildly, especially since the latter three parties co-signed a letter demanding the very same thing from RTVSLO. However, no dice.

Slightly off-topic. A funny if somewhat bizarre debate ensued on Twitter when it emerged that LDS and Zares went into cahoots with the nationalists over air time. Some people were appalled that the two progressive and libertarian parties would join forces with a nationalistic party whose leadership is often bigoted, insulting and even retarded and promotes values which are anything but civilised. Some say that any level of cooperation with the nationalists is unacceptable and that LDS and Zares are losing credibility for it.

Pengovsky begs to differ. Politics makes for strange bedfellows and it should not be at all surprising that liberals and nationalists find themselves on the same side. This is one issue, where the parties’ immediate interests are more or less the same, albeit with different motivations. They are not running bag for anyone, nor are they signalling long-term cooperation. Winston Churchill once famously said that if Hitler invaded Hell, he would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons. While nowhere near the same order of magnitude, the mechanics are more or less the same. Sometimes you don’t have the luxury of picking your allies. Sometimes you’re just happy there’s someone else fighting on your side.

Interestingly enough, the privately owned POP TV has no problem hosting leaders of all parliamentary parties plus the two heavywight newcomers that very same evening.

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Slovenia Elections: Deathmatch

The campaign for December 4 parliamentary elections officially began on Friday and everyone more or less hit the ground running. Polls were again being published by the truckload and they further strengthen the notion that rarely in the history of democratic Slovenia has so much been at stake. In fact, the polls combined with some early below-the-belt punches create the notion that what we will be seeing in the next 28 days will not be just yet another election campaign, but rather a deathmatch.


Janković closes the gap a bit by virtue of losing less than Janša and Virant

Numbers

Let’s do a bit of number-crunching first: Citizens’ List of Gregor Virant and SDS of Janez Janša are interchanging at the top spot, while Pozitivna Slovenija of Zoran Janković is sticking to spot number three. DeSUS of Karl Erjavec and Social Democrats of PM Borut Pahor are hovering around the 4% threshold, while everyone else, including Zares, LDS and SNS are (still) below water, while only SLS occasionally makes ot above the surface. The irony is that no-one can really be happy with the situation. Parties of Gregor Golobič, Katarina Kresal, Radovan Žerjav, Ljudmila Novak and Zmago Jelinčič (Zares, LDS, SLS, NSi and SNS respectively) are fighting for survival and although they all proclaim they’ve no doubt about making it into the parliament, some will face the reality in a manner akin to hitting a brick wall.

Arguably, the guy who stands to lose most is Zmago Jelinčič. Leader of the nationalists used to be the resident joker, the political free-loader who won the disgruntled vote and occasionally threw in an actual policy issue or two, is in deep trouble as his voters are among the most fickle ones. They’ll vote for whomever they can relate to best, and in this respect Jelinčič is apparently losing ground to the other funny man of Slovene political arena: Karl Erjavec of DeSUS, who is no stranger to political stuntmanship, only he takes himself much more seriously. Not that moron-factor is any lower for that but still. Sure enough, Erjavec is on the brink as well, but in terms of survivability his odds are much better than Jelinčič’s.

Below the fold, however, LDS and Zares seem to be getting the short end of the stick. Both are increasingly being written of dead meat although it needs to be said that the lower the percentage, the more unreliable polls become (as Davor explained in Slovene in this comment). So it could be – and both Katarina Kresal and Gregor Golobič are counting on this – that their support is in fact much stronger than polls suggest. Only time will tell, but the downside of these polls is that they are being used as points of reference by TV stations when picking candidates and parties who get to have a seat at the debates (more on this in the coming days). Ditto for NSi and only slightly less so for SLS.

Of those who seem poised to make it, SDS and SD have the most stable result. Unless disaster strikes, Janša’s party looks poised to win at least around 18 to 20 percent, whereas Pahor’s party seems to have hit rock-bottom and will probably level out at about 8 to 10 percent. On the other hand, parties of Zoran Janković and Gregor Virant have their ratings all over the map and they need a good election result if they want to call the shots in forming the government.

Deathmatch

So, as you can see, a lot of people stand to either gain or lose quite a lot. In fact, if one is to expand the field of political impact beyond the immediate scope of election result, we see that there is not a political leader in Slovenia who doesn’t have to worry about political survival. Gergor Golobič, Katarina Kresal, Zmago Jelinčič, Ljudmila Novak and Radovan Žerjav are struggling to make it to the parliament. Karl Erjavec is close, above the fold, but always five minutes away from an in-party mutiny. Borut Pahor is trying to put on a brave face at the prospect of a disaster of epic proportions which would probably lead to his swift removal from the party helm. Janez Janša is being prosecuted in the Patria case. Gregor Virant is running on fluff and neither he nor his party would ever recover if their spell of mesmerizing media and voters was broken. And finally, Zoran Janković is risking it all by actually running for MP in a safe precinct in Ljubljana, which means that if his party doesn’t get enough votes he might end up stuck in parliament, losing his mayorship (there are slim chances of him getting out of this mess, but more on that some other time).


Average percentage scores computed from all polls

Projection

In other words, what we will be seeing for the next 20+ days will be a multi-way political death-match and – to use a quote from Top Gun – there are no points for second place. Well, there are points for anything above 4%, but you get the point. Carnage will be #epic.

N.B.: 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 .xml .xls file for download.

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