With elections due to take place in less than a week, party leaders are becoming less and less fearful of making big promises to the electorate. For incumbent PM and leader of the Liberals, Noa Dargany, sticking to her guns has been the prime strategy.
Dargany has had to shrug off critics of her “uneventful” administration by stating her program is “long-term”, and that she intends to fulfill all of her campaign promises from 2017 – which were, in fact, not hers but rather former Liberal leader Andrew Blackhorse’s – in a second term. From the Opposition, Dargany has been blasted for “misleading” the electorate with grandiose promises (the expansion of Sabioveronese territory in the South is a notable example) while failing to maintain high activity levels in the nation. The PM has responded by contrasting her tenure to the unstable governments of her predecessor and current leader of the Artists, Shounn Virny, who oversaw the implementation of a new constitution and the foundation of Sabia and Verona’s Southern hubs.
Dargany has also attempted to make name for herself as the institutionalist candidate: after promoting the military reform in July of last year, she promised there would be “no more reforms”, and vowed to maintain the Constitution as it is “for as long as [she’s] Prime Minister”. The focus on institutional quality and political stability may work well with the traditional Liberal voter base, but it remains to be seen whether it will appeal to the broader electorate she needs to get a majority in Parliament.
This is because Dargany must go beyond her voter base to get her much-desired second term. If polls are to be believed, the National Artists’ Guild will fail to break the 15% ceiling, and the true race will be between Dargany’s Liberals and the newly formed Democratic Party, which polls consistently show leading by impossibly slim margins. While the Liberals are not unfamiliar with minority governments and coalitions (every blue government since 2013 has reached power without a majority), Dargany surely wants to avoid negotiating with the Artists once again to produce a government, as she was forced to do in 2017 when she won over half of the popular vote, but fell short of a complete majority due to the low magnitude of Sabia and Verona’s 20-member Parliament.
Reaching a deal with the Artists would not be hard for Dargany. She is known to have good rapport with Virny and his circle, and the pink party may be hesitant to co-operate with the Democrats as the shadow of the disastrous Artist-Left coalition government still looms over it. But the Artists (and Virny, specifically) are kryptonite to Dargany’s base, and while the two parties can work well together in Parliament and get away with it, a post-election government formation pact may be too much bad publicity for a leader as questioned by her own party as Dargany is.
To top things off, Dargany must not only appeal to the Sabioveronese electorate as a whole, but she also needs to prove herself as an effective leader to the Liberal partycrats. It hasn’t gone unnoticed to the Prime Minister that her former mentor and predecessor as Liberal leader, Andrew Blackhorse, has been making rounds in the parliamentary caucus, trying (in her view) to boost his own image ahead of the election. There are fears in Dargany’s circle that Blackhorse may use a bad result in the election to contest Dargany’s position in a leadership spill and return to the party’s forefront, this time gaining the top plushie job in the nation in the process.
In 2017, Blackhorse’s resignation from the Liberal leadership following the party’s most successful election since 2012 was a head-scratcher for many a Valtirian. The former Communist militant and Army officer-turned reformist leader was widely credited for restoring the blue party’s credibility in Sabia and Verona, and many saw him as Shounn Virny’s successor in the premiership even before the magnanimous 2017 election result. Even today, the reasons for his resignation remain unknown to the public at large.
Still, even after leaving the limelight, Blackhorse never strayed far from power in the party – or the nation. Dargany’s rise to power was only possible because Blackhorse had previously selected her as his deputy, and her claim to legitimacy largely derived from her closeness to the former leader. Her program for 2017-18 was, to a considerable degree, Blackhorse’s. Now chairing the diplomacy and welfare divisions (two of the most important), it would not take Blackhorse much of an effort to dethrone his protégée should he feel like returning to power.
Whether Dargany is right to fear of her predecessor remains to be seen, and is still dependent of many contingent factors.
The red threat
Without a doubt, Dargany’s greatest threat is still external, and it comes in the shape of a bright red mob. The newly formed Democratic Party, founded late last year as a merger between the Left Alliance and an important splinter faction of the Artists, is leading the polls by slim (yet dangerous) margins. The left-leaning party is yet to properly define its idelogy (its platform is still ‘incomplete’, the party’s leadership admit), but its catch-all approach and newcomer status serve more as advantages than anything else: according to analysts, the red party has the potential to steal voters from Dargany’s Liberals as much as the Artists’ Guild.
As if that weren’t enough, the Democratic Party is a breeding ground for charismatic leaders, some of whom are new to Sabioveronese politics (an important characteristic, as history shows traditional politicians rarely fare well in Sabia and Verona’s ever-changing political landscape). Opposite of that, Dargany has constantly struggled to command enough charisma to fill Blackhorse’s shoes, and has often been overshadowed by her own ministers and even other Liberal MPs. Unfortunately for her, Dargany’s deal-making and consensus-reaching abilities that allowed her to fare well in Parliament will not be of use in her first-ever campaign as party leader.
The Democrats make use of the Sabioveronese left’s greatest weapon: rhetoric. This election season has been stained by constant reminders of Dargany’s past as a collaborator (and close friend) of Hans Starlynn, the infamous founder of the Righteous Faith League (OBL). The OBL is widely remembered as Sabia and Verona’s only open experiment with the far-right, and Starlynn is known for his xenophobic outbursts in a time when Sabia and Verona’s national identity was still a struggle between persistent regionalist sentiments. While Dargany has repeatedly attempted to distance herself from Starlynn and the OBL (even going so far as to claim she was ‘stupid’ to join him), her rivals have been far from forgiving.
The wish to make history
It is not a secret that despite lacking the charisma of her predecessor and her rivals, Dargany wishes to make history. In Sabia and Verona’s eventful history, no Prime Minister has ever served two complete terms, and it was only in 2016 that a Prime Minister (Shounn Virny) made history when he celebrated a full year in the premiership. Dargany values institutionalism and long-term projection, and she will want her legacy to reflect that. In truth, she has a good chance of returning to the premiership after May 20, but her path is not free of obstacles. With enemies to every side, Noa Dargany must fight the world to get what she wants.