Ljubljana By-elections

Apart from the crucial vote on the Family code (more on that tomorrow), Ljubljanchans will vote in the mayoral by-elections this Sunday. The players are known and pengovsky introduced them some time ago, so we’ll dispence with niceties this time around.

Well, there you have it… (source)

While there’s always an outside chance of an election uspet, the result of the vote seems a foregone conclusion. Zoran Janković is poised to be elected mayor for the third consecutive time which will be a bit of a tounge-in-cheek as the by-elections were called because he was elected to the parliament in the first place. But since Janković was denied the premiership even though his Positive Slovenia won the elections, Janković probably won’t hurt in the pols too much.

While some candidates raised the question of apropriateness (after all, it isn’t really customary to cherry-pick positons you run for), the main thing is that this time around it isn’t Zoki’s charm that’s working for him, but rather the fact that – save a couple – all candidates are, well, bland. It’s allways nice to read about the challengers’ platforms, but delivery is just as important. Really, work on it.

The only two candidates besides Janković which did put some back into it, were Mojca Kucler Dolinar (joint NSi/SDS candidate) and Vito Rožej (Zares). Neither really has any chances to win this time around and both recognise the fact (semi-officially, at least). In fact, Janković’s bid nothwithstanding, the candidates are mostly laying groundwork for the regular municipal elections in 2014. Either that or they’re fighting a losing battle for a reward – say a more decent job description somewhere along the road.

At any rate: It looks like Zoki will take this one home in the first round. But paralel to the mayoral by-elections, Slovenes will vote on the refrendum on the new family law. As you’ll see tomorrow, the situation in that particular cesspool is “dramatic”. 😀


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Indecent Proposal (How Many Ways To Say “Fuck You”?)

The SDS of Janez Janša and DLGV of Gregor Virant had a bit of a fall-out in the past few days over the position of the State Prosecution office after the ongoing reshuffle of public administration. The whole thing escalated into a very public spat with DLGV saying that SDS made an unacceptable offer when they offered that the coalition agreement be suspended in the part which provided for the prosecution to be moved under the jurisdiction of the minister of interior, but under the condition that justice minister Senko Pličanič of DLGV resigns if no viable results are shown within a year.

Janša and Virant a month before the elections (photo: Borut Kranjc/Mladina)

Now, as you very well know, little love is lost between DLGV and pengovsky and truth be told, they’ve more or less themselves to blame for this latest cock-up. It all goes back to the time when Gregor Virant thought he has everyone by their balls and was trying to play both ends (Janković and Janša) against the middle during the coalition negotiations. Back then he demanded that the prosecution be moved under the interior portfolio, having already earmarked his man Jani Soršak for the post. But once Virant gave the finger to Zoran Janković, he was stuck with Janša no matter what and all of a sudden found that his ego was writing checks his body couldn’t cash. Janša came back hard, had Soršak move out of the arena via a quick-and-dirty smear campaign and had his very own Vinko Gorenak installed as minister of interior.

Naturally, DLGV had a very quick change of heart and demanded that the prosecution remain within the justice department “for reasons of political hygiene” (in other words, they saw the light). They were not heard and the government (including DLGV ministers) approved the reorganisation of the public administration, moving prosecution into the interior portfolio. Thus an SDS minister had within his sphere of influence both the police and the prosecution at the time when his party boss is being tried for charges of corruption and bribery.

Still, DLGV wouldn’t let go of it as Pličanič and Virant demanded the coalition agreement be amended and prosecution returned to the justice portfolio, which was part crying over spilt milk, part gutsy move. You see Janša and his SDS could have stonewalled the issue. The move was made, decision passed, case closed, et cetera. Instead they wanted to teach Virant a lesson, offering him to move the prosecution back to justice department, provided that minister Pličanič resigns his post if no results are shown within a year.

Yep, you read it right the first time. A senior coalition party said a minister of another coalition party must pack his bags should he not perform according to its expectations. This fact alone speaks volumes about how the SDS sees the coalition as its own backyard where everybody dances to their tune. The goal of the exercise was not just protecting political gains brought to them on the platter by way of Virant being overambitious early in the game, they had to humiliate DLGV as well. Had the latter accepted the deal, it would have thrown itself at Janša’s feet and Pličanič might as well have resigned immediately, because the SDS does not specify what exactly it means by “viable results of the prosecution”. Presumably shaping the justice after their own image.

Be that as it may, DLGV obviously had to turn down the offer if it wanted to keep some sort of a face. In fact, by saying that the offer insulting, DLGV came as close to a “fuck you” as humanly possible without them being carried out of the coalition legs-first. Whether or not this is a first real crack in the coalition remains to be seen. Sure enough, the SDS faithful went after Virant and Pličanič with full force when the news broke. But then again, they were praising DLGV as a god-send when Virant picked Janša over Janković, so their acid out-pour was to be expected. But since the end result equals zero and the prosecution remains with the ministry of the interior, you can be sure that neither side will soon forget the acts of one another. But at the very least, the DLGV managed to wash their hands of their foley and can now put the blame for any future cock-ups in this department squarely at the SDS. Oh, and one more thing: this is the final proof that Virant’s election adventure was not just a Janša spin-off, but rather the real deal.

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Janković Fails In A Cliffhanger PM Bid

We were in for a cliffhanger. Today the parliament voted on Zoran Janković‘s bid for the post of Prime Minister with the outcome being far from predictable. Janković needed 46 votes but after Gregor Virant’s Citizen List gave him the finger on Monday evening, the winner of December 4 elections only has a 44-vote coalition.

Janković minutes before the fateful vote (photo: RTVSLO)

Janković’s coalition forming attempts got off to a rocky start. PM-presumptive got himself into a cock-fight with outgoing PM Borut Pahor early on, while Gregor Virant accused him of not so much negotiating but rather dictating terms. It all culminated in a clusterfuck at the end of which Gregor Virant saw himself get elected to the post of President of the Parliament, courtesy of an ad-hoc coalition between DLGV, DeSUS,NSi, SLS and SDS. Seemingly having learned his lesson, Jay-Z re-initiated negotiations and was all praised for the “new and much more constructive approach”. And indeed it looked as if the coalition deal will be cut like a butter with hot knife, with PS, SD. DeSUS and DLGV initialling the agreement during the weekend.

Playing both ends against the middle

But the ink on the paper didn’t even dry properly, when Virant was already in a huddle with Janez Janša, Radovan Žerjav and Ljudmila Novak, hammering out their version of a coalition agreement and apparently agreeing to that as well. Virant said that his party’s executive council will take the final decision on Monday evening, when they decided – without a vote against – not to go with Janković. However, careful observers immediately noted that Virant did not explicitly say that he’ll go into cahoots with Janša.

Virant’s chief negotiator Janez Šušteršič gave the flimsiest of excuses for the move for bailing out on a deal with Janković, saying that the PM-hopeful was not serious about it and would agree to just about anything to make the deal. He also said that DLGV and PS did not see eye to eye on some key points. In this he of course contradicted himself, showing that these were more excuses than real reasons. Also, Virant’s epic flip-flop from “he’s dictating terms, thus no deal” to “he’ll agree to anything, thus no deal” did not go unnoticed. It looked as if Virant was playing both ends against the middle and trying to end up on top, just as he did during the vote for the president of the parliament. This would mean Janković got screwed over yet again, this time due to no fault of his own (unlike the first time around).

Digging a new political low

As a result, Janković was left two votes short of an absolute majority, but claimed all along to have secured enough votes. This prompted a frantic search for supposed rats on the right side, with a couple of possibles coming from Virant’s own party. The political right went into emergency mode and announced that they will not even be collecting the ballots, much less casting their votes. With this they hoped to smoke out any possible converts (and en passant dug a new low in Slovene political culture). For a while it looked as if the two minority MPs might chip in their two votes, but they went on the record saying they stand by their previous statements that they will not be casting the decisive votes and will support a candidate who will secure 46 votes without them.

In the end, there weren’t any converts. Janković got only 42 votes, four short of the necessary absolute majority and two less than his coalition could nominally muster, which only adds insult to injury. It remains to be seen whether or not Janković will repeat the bid for PM, but since the right wing parties moved fast and already invited DeSUS and SD to enter coalition negotiations, odds are that Janša will have a go. But just as Janković could count on only 44 votes (give or take), Janša has no more to begin with and needs at least DeSUS to form a majority.

Will Janša step in?

And this is where things get blurry. Namely, it is entirely possible that the two votes Janković fell short of, were that of DeSUS’ very own Karl Erjavec and Franc Jurša. This is pure speculation and conjecture on my part, but word on the street has it that Jurša is somewhat more right-wing oriented than the rest of the pensioners’ gang, while Erjavec was apparently manhandled by the party’s executive council into supporting Janković. And since it was a secret balot, no one can actually say for certain who cast the single no vote and which four MPs abstained. On the other hand, it could still happen that – just as he did Janković – Virant doublecrosses Janša as well. I agree that is not likely to happen, but it is an entertaining to think that DLGV would actually play to come out on top, screwing both Janković and Janša out of their PM bids. Some say that this is the so-called “American plan”, where the US would like to see neither Janković nor Janša at the helm, but rather “the third man”, which Virant often hinted could be his chief-negotiator Janez Šušteršič. Again, not that this is a likely scenario.

What happens next? The president of the republic will re-open consultation with parliamentary groups to see if there is a new or at least a different consensus regarding a candidate for the PM. Türk did not rule out the possibility of re-nominating Janković, but that was before SDS officially invited DeSUS and SD for coalition talks. One thing the president did make clear, however, is that he will be making a nomination. This of course means that he could end up nominating the man who used forged documents, trying to implicate President Türk in the Velikovec Affair. But democracy is a cruel mistress and she has a sick sense of humour. On the other hand, even if Janša gets nominated, the outcome is far from certain. Not only does he not yet have the necessary votes, with him being the one who has to broker a deal, the relationships between potential partners will change rapidly. Erjavec will have to do some master salesmanship within his own party to ally DeSUS in the right wing coalition yet again, while SD membership will most probably mount a bloody revolt if Pahor as much thinks about jumping on that particular bandwagon.

Thus, what we saw today was not a forming of a right wing coalition, but rather an orchestrated attempt to prevent Zoran Janković from becoming prime minister, with little afterthought for consequences. It was, in fact, old boys preventing the new kid on the block from getting where the relative majority of the people wanted him. Theoretically, this can even end in yet another snap elections, but in all likelihood it will not come to that. With the new guy out of the picture, the established political players can now return to their business as usual and stop worrying about competition. This includes Virant, who is a) on the scene for more than a decade and b) is – as of today – a political corpse. He just doesn’t know it yet.

On the other hand, Zoran Janković could very well again run for Ljubljana mayor.

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