This is a short follow-up to the post about Lojze Peterleâ€™s candidacy for the President of the Republic. Pundits have of course long been speculating that Borut Pahor will run as well, as he himself mentioned a few times. Considering the recent ratings, his standing fares above that of Peterle as a potential candidate, but also his party stands close to the governing SDS. According to some surveys, the Social Democrats even lead the polls. As mentioned before, this is partly the case due to Pahorâ€™s personal standing among the electorate and less with the organic growth of the party. But I wanted to turn to something else.
Pahor recently stated that he is willing to stand personally, but would not do so if asked by the party to lead the next parliamentary elections, or simply asked not to stand. He backs his argument by saying that the candidacy has to reflect the wish of people, not a personal ambition. OK, Pahor is personally ambitious and we know that there are many people that would like him to stand. I fear that most of them will be found on the right spectrum, since there is more to gain from his win on that side. Sounds like a paradox, let us play with the case.
The role of the President of the Republic of Slovenia is mostly ceremonial. Yes, the current one (Janez Drnovsek) has real influence because he was the Prime Minister for 12 years before. And yes, he can make it into the headlines in Slovenian newspapers, but then everyone with an idea and some basic PR skills can. I bet that he doesnâ€™t even have his PR organised, the country is simply so small that you can reach the main journalists (5 of them approximately) on the phone in say 15 minutes. Besides an Ã¼berparteilich role that the President could play (note could), few real powers remain: nominating candidates for the Governor of the Central Bank (this was a good story this year, still not over), nominating candidates for the Ombudsman (relatively smooth with Drnovsek) and nominating the candidates for the Constitutional Court. Then there is the signing of the laws and being the â€œchief of the armed forcesâ€?. But yes, that is ceremony.
So who would actually politically care about Pahor once he would be President? What kind of initiatives could he launch? Besides the current role as a member of the European Parliament and his chairing of the Slovenian Parliament in the previous mandate (2000-04), he doesnâ€™t have a prominent international standing. He doesnâ€™t have the executive experience of a Minister, let alone Prime Minister. This does means a lot. He could undoubtedly be a good President, slightly on the left â€“ if at all â€“ but nothing more. Sorry. Him winning the elections thus according to this argument means a win for the right.
Second thought. Pahor has been heading the personal ratings among the politicians for a period. He is judged as acceptable by all sides and is appreciated as an mild-mannered politican, ready to strike compromises (almost) at any cost. With this in mind, take a look at the Social Democrat ratings â€“ they have grown together with Pahor. He has been trailing the party along, more than the work of the group in the Parliament. This is good and bad. Before the Presidential elections, this is certainly bad. He wins the Presidential elections and his party falls back to 10% in the polls, if. Second point for the right.
Third thought. Pahor is also perceived as a modern Social Democrat â€“ one that is ready to take tough reforms on board, face the trade unionists (has he ever done so, really?), work for a more â€œcompetitiveâ€? Slovenia. No wonder he joined the â€œPartnership for developmentâ€? launched by the current government (oh, google this story if you have some timeâ€¦). Moderate people of the left thus count on him as a possible leader after the next Parliamentary elections. If he goes for President the left loses a central personality and loses the next 2 parlimentary elections for sure. So, again, a good argument for the right to support Pahor.
Fourth argument. Bear in mind his age – Pahor is below 50. If he goes for President and his party (and the left in general) loses points considerably, he is left without political support among the establishment. In such circumstances he can only hope of getting another mandate and be 60 when he retires. If his party loses badly, there is of course no 2nd mandate and no future in party politics. Not a very good prospect. Again, enough of a reason for the right to support him.
But this is of course a gamble. Pahor can certainly win the Presidential elections, but perhaps not the Parliamentary ones. For that he also needs some coherence among the Liberals and new independentists. This means that he cannot simply say â€œI will do whatever the party tells meâ€? in a situation when he has by far the most public support on the left and when he is actually heading the party. I would expect some clear leadership from him in this case. And bear in mind his ego. Becoming President is one thing, becoming the next Prime Minister quite another. And he does stand a good chance to be able to form a centre-left coalition after the elections of 2008.
For the bets, I think he will not stand. Although he could win this autumn, the prospect of a demise of the left in Slovenia scares him enough. And I think that in this respect he will show responsibility if not leadership.