Slovenian parliament today debates the demission of minister for environment and urban planning Karl Erjavec. As you will remember Erjavec was rapidly losing friends within the ruling coalition (not that he was popular to begin with) and finally fell out of favour with PM Borut Pahor when the Court of Auditor ruled that Erjavec did bupkis on setting up a state-wide system of waste separation and recommended that Pahor dismiss him. Unsurprisingly Pahor grabbed the opportunity with both hands (and a leg).
Erjavec of course thinks the Court of Audit does not have a leg to stand on. Pengovsky covered most of the dirty details here and here, but it emerged only a couple of days ago that Igor Šoltes, president of the Court of Audit let PM Pahor know in advance what their recommendation will be, which puts PM Pahor in a slightly awkward position since he insisted that he will decide on what to do with Erjavec upon receiving the Court’s recommendation. Now, technically there is nothing wrong with Šoltes letting Pahor know in advance (after all, this was just around Christmas and New Year holidays), but Pahor is sure to take some flak for apparently feigning ignorance.
Be that as it may, Erjavec was busy trying to mount some sort of resistance in the past few days. He appears to have rallied MPs of his DeSUS (pensioners party) who until a week ago were in disarray like a flock of panicked old hens (pun very much intended). However, it seems that for the first time in a while Erjavec had to make consessions to his own people, as DeSUS MP Matjaž Zanoškar refused to take Erjavec ministerial post, thus freeing a seat in the parliament for Erjavec. Indeed, it seems that regardless of Erjavec’s wishes his MPs will continue to support the coalition. The worst that can happen is that a couple from his flock switch to other parties, but that can only dent the majority Pahor’s coalition enjoys in the parliament, not sink it below the required 46 votes.
Thus speculation is rife as to who exactly will become Teflon Karl’s successor. DeSUS claims to have already picked a candidate but will not divulge his name just yet, hoping that Erjavec might somehow beat the odds and survive the vote. One of the more surprising names to have popped up yesterday was Miran Gajšek, currently Head of the Urban Planning Department in the administration of Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković. Gajšek definitely knows the field and he is only months away from wrapping up the biggest urban-planning project this city has witnessed in the last 25 years. Namely, some time in the next six months the city council will have debated and probably passed the new Spatial Plan, laying down the quidelines for Ljubljana’s development for the next two decades. In terms of achievement and knowledge of the field, PM Pahor could certainly do worse than picking Gajšek. But there’s one problem.
Eight years ago, while holding a similar position in the city of Celje, Gajšek was found guilty of abuse of power and sentenced to four months in prison with a two years suspended sentence. Apparently he issued a certificate of adhering to legal requirements to a construction company in Celje, although he knew full well that was not the case. He was tried and convicted and has already served his sentence which has also already been stricken from his record. After this had happened, Gajšek was invited by then Ljubljana mayor Danica Simšič to take the vacant post of Head of the Urban Planning Departament and he remained there even after Zoran Janković won the 2006 elections. Word has it that he is peforming his role very well.
Gajšek yesterday refused to comment on whether he would take the job, but it seems improbable that PM Pahor would consider him as a candidate given his run-in with the law. But if he were to nominate him, the amout of shit thrown both at him as well as at Gajšek would probably be beyond anything we’ve seen to date. Question of course is whether either Pahor or Gajšek can afford this at this time. Pahor’s ministers are incredibly accident prone as it is (strangely enough, this goes for his male ministers only) and he surely does not want yet another political liability, regardless of his professional expertise. And if Gajšek really wants to enter politics, he still might get his opportunity at the municipal level if vice-mayor Janez Koželj in charge of urban planning sees through his decision not to seek re-election, leaving mayor Janković a man short.
EDIT@1725 hrs: A couple of minutes ago Karl Erjavec resigned from office of minister of environment and urban planning. More on this tommorow.