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: 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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Slovenia Elections: Up, Up and Away

So, more polls, and a lot of people are probably none too happy about it. Dnevnik published a Ninamedia poll which showed the leading three parties going up, up and away, while the rest of the gang are basically eating their dust, with notable exceptions being SD and DeSUS, both of which are sort of hanging in there.


Poll results over time

But don’t take the champagne out of the fridge just yet. Rather than calling the race which has not yet begun, there are a few points that must be made lest they be lost in the general chatter of the election fever.

Media Exposure

Again, you can see how Zoran Jankovič’s and Gregor Virant‘s polls are all over the place. Leaders of the three leading parties have recently appeared on Pogledi Slovenije, a high-octane TV programme which gets its ratings from the conflict it aims to produce among the participants. And lo-behold! they immediately gain plenty of ground. This supports the notion pengovsky expressed some time ago, namely that especially Janković’s and Virant’s polls are media-exposure-dependant. This might look like a truism (since everyone’s polls are to an extent dependant on the media), but comparing the three top contenders, we can see that Janša and his SDS have a fall-back line at about 18 or 19 percent, which consists of their hardcore voters and the recently launched platform, whereas Jay-Z and Virant have only their media exposure. Take that away and they’re toast. At the very least Janković gets a fair amount of press-time by the virtue of being mayor of the capital, whereas Virant has abso-fucking-lutely no plan B whatsoever.

But saying that the numbers are inflated because of the media hubbub only gets you so far. The number are there and unless the competition does something about it, they will stay there. OK, so media tricks get real old real fast, but both Jay Z and Virant are smart enough to time their media ploys correctly and gain maximum output. Ditto for Janša. Which means that unless someone hijacks the debate and does it soon, things could go on like this until elections and by that time it won’t matter how the top dogs got there.

Projection

Apart from the top three parties only SD and DeSUS are hitting above the 4% threshold, with SLS hovering around three percent. But in the longtail, interesting things are happening. SLS, Zares, LDS and TRS are out in the field, operating almost below radar and putting their network to good use. Town-hall meetings, round tables and topical discussions are being held all around the country. As you can see below, the effect is still to be seen, but effort is being made.


Average percentage in polls

A lot of things can happen, but the more time passes, the more things tend to get fixed in the public opinion. So the parties below the threshold will have to be quick on their feet to produce a tangible result. Also, they will have to decide whether they will try to chip off votes from the (currently) big three parties or will they fight their immediate competition (most likely SD and DeSUS) and try to win over their electorate. There are pros and cons to either tactic and both can backfire at any time.

Note: 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 available as .xls file

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Slovenian Elections: Swing Time!

After the initial upset in polls, when Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković shot to the top in public, a series of public opinion polls were conducted which seem to confirm what the initial heat around Jay-Z and Gregor Virant is dissipating and that the hubbub was more due to their overall media exposure than to a permanent shift in voters’ preference.

First, a couple of disclaimers. Although the graph looks like it represents a significant span of time, do check the dates. Delo poll aside all were published (and by extension – conducted) in a very short time span and are therefore of limited value. On the whole, however, a few trends are starting to emerge.

Swing time!

First of all, it is now clear that the main contenders in this election campaign are Positive Slovenia (PS) of Zoran Janković, Citizens’ List (DLGV) of Gregor Virant and Slovene Democratic Party of Janez Janša with the latter two getting the most of the vote at this time. In fact, the pundits are still all over the question of whether Janša/Virant split is legit or are they faking it. However, when one takes a look at the polls it becomes clear that the question is beside the point, because Virant is at the moment in a position of a king-maker. He can choose to support Janša, but given enough encouragement (i.e.: continuous attacks by the SDS) he can opt to support the left and call even more shots.

Secondly, no matter the poll, Janša’s result is more or less stable, hovering around 19 percent. This is far (and I mean far) below his declared intention to win the majority single-handedly but he still is in the top spot. On the other hand Virant’s polls are all over the place, like a cork in the water. This goes for Jay-Z as well, only slightly less so, because he is consistently scoring lower than in the initial poll. This shows that both Virant and Janković are tapping into the swing vote, which – as many a politician will tell you – is a fickle lady. And swing time is here.

Thirdly. The nominally ruling Social Democrats of PM Borut Pahor are in deep shit. With their best showing in the polls available not exceeding 11 percent they are taking a hell of a beating. Ditto for Zares of Gregor Golobič and LDS of Katarina Kresal, which are scoring painfully low, both of them hovering around 1 to 1,5 percent, way below the 4% treshold. DeSUS of Karl Erjavec and Slovene People’s Party (SLS) of Radovan Žerjav are in a slightly better position, dancing just around the 4% mark, with everyone else, Zmago Jelinčič‘s nationalists and Ljudmila Novak‘s Christian democratic Nova Slovenija well below watershed. The same goes for every other kid on the block, including the recently announced Avion party (yes, “avion” as in “airplane”) by mayor of Koper Boris Popović.

Average

Again, these polls are not directly comparable and for two reasons: they each use a different sample and different set of questions. Also, they were conducted too close to each other to give any sort of clear indication of what is going on. But as shown in the above chart and at the risk of oversimplification, the way things stand now, five parties look like they will make the cut: SDS, Citizens’ List, Positive Slovenia, Social Democrats and DeSUS.

Projection

Things can still go either way and pengovsky believes it is too soon to write anyone off, especially those established parties which score less than 4%. The logic is realitvely simple. With their network on the ground, in theory they should be able to bring out enough votes to kick them above the threshold. But they’ll have to put their backs into it. Also, other than the initial mud-slinging, we’re still lacking a definite campaign issue. This especially goes in favour of Janković and Virant, who can as a result sell themselves and their trademarks rather than specific policies.

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