The Slovenia Times

Pick a Leader



So here we are, in a snap pre-election time. The media is already full of different polls and prophecies suggesting different outcomes. But instead of looking into a crystal ball in an attempt to predict the future we should perhaps consider what the political world looked like before the last elections.
When Janez Janša was still Prime Minister in 2008, he was absolutely convinced he would easily win the next term. Concluding his speech at a grand SDS gathering, he shouted out "We shall win by..." and the crowd was supposed to unanimously reply "a big difference (of votes)." But in the final count, the difference was small and not in the SDS' favour - the party came second to Borut Pahor's Social Democrats. Interestingly enough in absolute terms SDS got more votes than ever before, but the real story of 2008 was the massive electoral mobilisation of "anti-Janšists".
Two years after those fateful elections, the polls again made the SDS by far the most popular party, and many of the SD voters moved back to the ranks of the undecided or abstaining. Janša, who had apparently learnt nothing about the strange ways of megalomania, began to dream not only of winning the next elections, but scoring "50+", arguing that an absolute majority of a single party is the only way for this country to get things done. After a period of unstable coalition and impossible reforms, this seemed a pleasing idea, but less appealing for those with bad experience from the 2004-08 term. The polls were actually so optimistic that nothing seemed could stand between SDS and victory. The "50+" target quickly became "60+" and the question was no longer who would win but how much the SDS would triumph by. That was until something unexpected happened...
There is little doubt that the only politician who shares the same level of personal charisma and populist potential to counter Janša is current Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković. Janković honestly didn't find it comfortable to enter state politics, but a pledge from a group of left-liberal leaning dignitaries was apparently strong enough to make him consider it. He postponed his final decision day by day and just a moment before his choice was to be announced, the unexpected element popped in in the form of Gregor Virant who has also decided to run with his own list. Virant was a close associate of Janša, the Minister of Public Administration in his government, and as such the most popular member of the 04-08 team. In fact even some Janša haters would admit that Virant is somehow OK. When he delivered a similar economic platform to that of SDS, but explicitly without the right-wing ideological trash, it became clear he could bite away a large chunk of the notorious 50 plus. Janša was outraged, labelling it as a backstabbing act. Meanwhile others have constructed conspiracy theories in which Virant is actually a Trojan horse to collect some additional votes and then make a coalition with SDS. But still, it would be fair to assume Virant simply feels he can contribute as a stand-alone political entity, being trusted as an efficient person. He also doesn't have dirty hands - or perhaps hasn't yet had the opportunity to acquire them. This cannot be claimed for the other two.
All in all, the battle lines are drawn. This time in particular, we have a choice of three strong candidates, none of which can confidently be proclaimed as the probably winner. This time in particular, we are explicitly dealing with symbolic "political fathers", as none of the lists/parties in question exists apart from their irreplaceable leader. It will be interesting to see whether Janša's challengers in this round are just some ad-hoc projects or new political forces which will last for the decades to come.


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