Shut Up, Rado!

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Since this country is facing the latest instalment of a joke called European elections, it is only fitting to take a look at a political process which makes little sense. First, we must ask ourselves, what did Slovenian MEPs of the first term do for us? Rather than of course running up high costs – covered by the taxpayers – incurred by some twat who was explaining to his equally useless eurobuddies about Slovene potica and the suffering of Slovene mothers. Second. What are we to think about an institution as silly as the European Parliament? It has none of the functions a parliament traditionally has. It is hosting a third-rate debate club, which is deliberating questions as important as the primary source of a Basque bat. And third: Why must we vote for these local clowns? Isn’t this a European election? Why can’t we vote for a German party if we feel that it would better represent our interests? Again, we are limited to the trivial choice of Pahor/Janša-type, albeit with a European flavour. It would be best if Slovenia gave up this expensive an useless circus and lets Brussels know that until European Parliament becomes a proper parliament, Slovenia will not take part in this Eurosong contest.

Economist Rado Pezdir on Vest.si (source via DrugiDom)

The fact that Rado Pezdir is one of the self-styled shock-jocks of Slovenian economics should be more than enough to preclude any substantial comment to a text which clearly falls under the AW category. And if his macroeconomic antics, which echoed those of Mičo Mrkaič, Jože P. Damijan and other members of the Slovene Macroeconomic Forum (or Sexy Motherfuckers as they wanted to be known at first), were still somehow understandable (you cannot expect a Thatcherite to make an about-turn just because the reality had changed), his swipe at upcoming European elections is completely unforgivable.

Granted, European elections and -by extension- the European Parliament (EP) are not all that they could be. I will not go into the history of evolution of EP, but suffice it to say that it did indeed start as a debate club for elderly gentleman who were way past their due date. But it has grown considerably, both in terms of representation as well as in the scope of its powers. Budgetary powers of a parliament are among the most important powers in this day and age. And in this respect EP is not lacking. Furthermore, the parliament approves and can recall the European Commission (the “executive branch” insofar as we can talk of division of power on the EU level), which is another important factor in the game of checks and balances. Even if we can put Pezdir’s lack knowledge on political intricacies down to his economic background (for which he is dully forgiven), his lacking in the basics outlined above is below the acceptable minimum.

With this in mind it seems pointless to go delving deeper into shallowness of Pezdir’s text. But hey . you only live twice, or so the song goes. Maybe in his next lifetime, provided that he does not reincarnate as a member of Tephritidae persuasion, Rado Pezdir will learn that indeed one can vote for a German (or Latvian, or British) candidate or even a party, provided that such a party would find it reasonable to run its candidates in Slovenia and conform to Slovenian legislation on political parties. The fact that no non-Slovene parties or candidates do such a thing proves only that the Slovenian political market is saturated with little room for expansion. As an economist, Pezdir should be able to understand that, but he doesn’t. Which could tell us something about his overall abilities of perception as well.

And finally, if Rado Pezdir really believes that MEPs debate on geographical origins of food and animals, his arrogance and ignorance are truly infinite. It takes only a quick glance to see that during its last session (May 4 to 7) the EP – among other items on the agenda debated credit requirements directives, electronic communications networks, personal data and the protection of privacy and frequency bands for mobile communications.

To cut a long story short: As it is, Rado Pezdir has once again shown that he favours style over substance. This time, however, he is way out of his depth and has ashamed himself as well as Vest.si which ran his piece. But truth be told, this is only the last and most blatant example of the fact that Rado Pezdir has nothing important left to say. And in that respect one feels that Tom Lehrer, a matematician/musician pengovsky only recently discovered, was right when he said that if a person has problems communicating the very least he can do is to shut up.

Second Republic

Opposition SDS had a post-election convention Saturday last where the former PM was (not unexpectedly) re-elected as party chairman. What was somewhat surprising was the force with which he went after the current government, although it must be said that Janez Janša seems much more comfortable in the role of opposition leader. But it could be that pengovsky is just used to seeing him in that particular role.

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Janša probably didn’t get the message. A marvellous photo by Luka Cjuha/Dnevnik (source)

In his acceptance speech (Slovene only) Janša denounced the way this government was tackling the crisis and called for “The Second Republic” by proposin a set of radical constitutional reforms which are suppose to streamline development and turn the economic tide. Janša called for

-reform of the judiciary (abolition of indefinite tenure of a judge)
-making a referendum decision revocable only by another referendum
-streamlining the formation and increasing efficiency of the government (executive branch)
-allowing early elections
-implementing regions under penalty of dissolution of parliament
-reforming the National Council into Council of regions
-introducing compulsory high school
-prohibiting glorification of all totalitarian regimes
-amending Article 39 of the Constitution (freedom of speech) by prohibiting media monopolies
-introducing environment protection as a constitutional category

You will notice that not a single proposal deals with the crisis. Not one. Rather than an honest attempt at helping out this is rather yet another short-cut to power Janša is trying to take. In this case the short-cut means nothing less than disturbing the entire system of checks and balances, which is something Janša has always had a problem with. Even while he was in power he considered the judiciary branch as a “bastion of commie filth”. Indeed there are problems with Slovenian courts, manifested mostly in the form of horrible delays (it will usually take you from three to five years to get a final verdict on anything). But this has precious little to do with the economic crisis. Janša’s problem with Slovenian judiciary is not its inefficiency, but rather its independence and the latter is very much founded in the permanent tenure of the judges. Granted, the permanent tenure has its drawback, but if judges were up for re-election every (say) five-or-so years, you can bet your ass they would be much more inclined to decide in favour of those who decide on whether they keep their job. Because if a judge would play ball, the coalution could simply have its MPs not extend the term of this particular judge.

This goes hand in hand with streamlining the formation of the government and increasing its efficiency. This is of course just a euphemism for increasing competences of the government, naturally at the expense of the parliament. While the formation of the government in Slovenia really is a complicated three-step procedure, it should not be abandoned just because Janša said so. As things stand now, a government – once formed – can almost always count on its majority in the parliament to rubber-stamp its decisions. It is the fragility or sturdiness of the coalition (rather than the government formation process) which decides on how much power the parliament and the MPs will have. Furthermore – Janša proposed that the parliament could only recall an entire government and not individual ministers (as it can do now) and even that the PM could choose his ministers without the parliament vetting them. This is a great tool to play your coalition partners one against another and would actually breed even more governmental inefficiency as no coalition will bring its own government down just to change a minister, whereas there would be no parliamentary control of who gets to be a minister.

And finally, there’s the call to enable early elections, which thoroughly weakens the parliament and infinitely strengthens the government. Because if elections would be called every time a political impasse would be reached, Slovenia would suddenly be ruled by a string of caretaker governments without any parliamentary control whatsoever. Moreover, as historians of the Weimar Republic will tell you, constant elections will ultimately weaken the parliament and the whole democratic process, paving the way for a more autocratic leader.

And to hasten the process, Janša proposes the parliament has another go at the legislation on regions (the very issue where Janša failed spectacularly) or face dissolution. As there is no way in hell regional legislation in its present form would pass, the whole process of early elections and caretaker governments would be jump-started, preferably with Janša already in power.

Then we have Janša peddling with Article 39 of the constitution. The sheer stupidity of having the article include anti-media-monopoly provision is beyond description. A monopoly is a monopoly, be it in media or otherwise. A monopoly is by definition related to ownership and market share rather and there are institutions to fight that already in place, (in)effective as they may be. There is absolutely no reason to start fooling around with the Constitution because of that, much less with the article which guarantees freedom of speech. Because one you open that article up for debate, you can be sure that someone (maybe even JJ himself) will have a really bright idea about curbing this freedom “just a little” so it would suit their political needs.

Which brings us to our final point – Janša’s idea to have the Constitution ban glorification of all totalitarian regimes and their symbols. Which a) immediately puts anyone who doesn’t think Tito a complete and utter criminal on the wrong side of the law b) criminalises any and all Partisan paraphernalia from WWII and c) equals resistance and collaboration during WWII, making both of them “equally bad”, which is nothing less than a complete revision of history.

Which makes Janša’s second republic sound a whole lot like a proto-fascist regime. Only that this time around he’d have the Constitution to cover his ass. However, in every cloud there’s a silver lining. And in this case it is the fact that Janez Janša and his SDS finally recognised the fact that there is an economic crisis.

You will no doubt remember how as late as Summer 2008 Janša cited incredible economic results his government supposedly had and denounced everyone who warned against the crisis as being scare-mongers trying to rain on his parade. He also acknowledges the fact that this county is seriously indebted which makes the crisis all the more worse. But he fails to note that it was his expansionary economic policies which prompted an increase in loan-taking and thus overheating the economy. But hey, you can’t expect him to understand everything in one go. Because he also seems to understand that there is a lot of media concentration in Slovenia, but he fails to add that he helped create one of the largest media barons and failed to bust all other media concentrations which were formed under previous governments.

Janša said that Slovenia can be government better. It sure can. It’s just that he’s is not it. Not after only six months since he was ousted as PM. True, pengovsky may be more accustomed to Janez Janša as leader of the opposition, but the man himself seems to be suffering from a serious case of withdrawal symptoms.

Liberating Ljubljana #8

“Nema odmora, dok traje obnova!” (no rest till the work is done). A post-WWII slogan encouraging the people to quickly rebuild the country. In this picture: the building site of new Ljubljana football stadium