Will Pahor Take Karl’s Portfolio?

Rumours have it that PM Borut Pahor will today officially propose to the parliament the demission of minister of environment Karl Erjavec. Ever since the two made a surprise deal last week Erjavec’s Pensioner party (DeSUS) was in turmoil, with Teflon Karl resorting to some neck-breaking antic to survive politically.

First take his job then sue the bastard. Karl Erjavec and Janez Podobnik in December 2008 (source)

But when he failed to have DeSUS MP Matjaž Zanoškar nominated for the soon-to-be-vacated ministerial post (Zanoškar’s acceptance would in turn vacate a parliamentary seat, which would – surprise, surprise! – be taken by Karl himsef), Erjavec’s position was eroding fast and started making ever bigger bets. On Tuesday he announced that he will be filling charges against his predecessor Janez Podobnik od Slovene People’s Party (SLS), apparently for failing to do what Erjavec is now taking the flak for (namely, to put in place a national system of waste management). But since the move failed to cut any ice, he went into a top-level DeSUS meeting, announcing that he will be nominating a world-renowned climatologist Lučka Kajfež Bogataj as his successor.

The only problem is that Kajfež Bogataj didn’t know she was getting nominated.

It was a fishy piece of information to begin with, as she rejected a climate change portfolio only months ago, citing lack of executive power the position had (or rather didn’t have). It turned out Erjavec was trying to buy time, to get his shop in order as the PM told him to come up with a name, so that his successor would be named immediately after Erjavec’s demission. However, as that will apparently not happen and there is no candidate in sight, PM Pahor will probably temporarily assign another minister to head the ministry of environment (his party VP and minister of transport Patrick Vlačič comes to mind). Either that, or he can notidy the parliament that he will head the ministry personaly. Either way, such an interim solution can last no longer than three months. By that time DeSUS will have surely either cleaned their act up or break up and go down the drain…

EDIT: According RTVSLO Pahor decided to wait a few more days. On the other hand Erjavec is making statements which verge on insanity. His latest was about impeaching Pahor, since he moved to dimiss Erjavec without asking the Constitutional Court whether there were any grounds to kick him out of the government.

The Spectre of Communism (You Call THIS An Exit Plan?!)

A spectre is haunting Slovenia — the spectre of communism. At the very least, that is what one would think if one read the more fervent responses to a document, a group of scientists, a former ombudsman, a former politician and a civil servant (Marta Gregorčič, Matjaž Hanžek, Lučka Kajfež Bogataj, Lev Kreft, Ana Murn, Dušan Plut, Tine Stanovnik and Jože Trontelj) put together as a vision of a post-crisis Slovenia, a sort of an outline for a crisis exit plan.


Apparently written at the behest of prime minister Borut Pahor, the document called “Where to After the Crisis – A contribution to a sustainable vision of Slovenia’s future” outlines future economic development, society and human relations. To cut a long story short, authors (sociologists, a climatologist, a philosopher, a neurologist/academician, an economist, an ecologist and a civil servant) put forward what they see as propose a set of eleven fundamental policy changes aimed at establishing a new paradigm of a natural, mutual, responsible, regionally harmonious and sustainable development of Slovenia. I’m transcribing this, just so you get the feeling.

Problem is that quite a number of these policy changes are controversial. Among other things, they include redefining the relationship between public and private in favour of the former, a strong public sector, with possible nationalizations of key sectors, establishing policies for solidarity and wealth redistribution and – at the gist of it – redefining the relationship between work and capital, together with introduction of co-management by employees. There are other set of policies as well, but at first glance it seems that the above are the most controversial. Indeed the document drew a lot of flak from various blogs, including (but not limited to) from Žiga Turk minister of development during Janez Janša’s tenure (Slovenian only, I’m afraid). Several points of his post were already taken apart over at Drugi Dom (ditto for the language).

At the risk of oversimplification, most critics believe that the document advocates a return into ages past, notably a reintroduction of communism and, by extent, a resurrection of a totalitarian regime. They see the document as ideologically biased and thus fatally flawed, a springboard for populist measures which would lead nowhere but into an economic and social abyss of trying to create a classless society, without any regard for individual freedom and human dignity. The fact that the document is written under a left-wing government only serves to underscore their worries.


What the document actually does (rather than call for immediate re-establishing of a communist state) is that it analyses the flaws of an increasingly (neo)liberal structure of Slovenian society and defines (some) questions which will have to be tackled if this crisis is to be solved. In short, the document states that the existing patterns of development, wealth distribution, access to resources and whathaveyou can simply not be sustained. Thus, things need to be changed. The problem with this particular crisis, as opposed to most crises after WWII, is that it challenges the very fundamentals of a liberal/capitalist society. Paradoxically, the society (the Western way of life, if you will) is today challenged by itself, rather than by an outside threat, such as communism.

As we globally became a competing society (and, at the same time, a society competing globally), there were – in the immortal words of Tom Skerrittno points for second place. But since the race had no end it turned out to be a death-match, where ever more ludicrous bets were made by everyone (well, most players, anyway), up to the point where their egos were writing checks their bodies could just not cash. The result was an inevitable crash-and-burn which painfully demonstrated that Gordon Gekko was wrong and that greed (for the lack of a better word) is not necessarily good

However, despite everything that had happened neoliberalists, proponents of a free, privatised and ultimately unchecked economy (the market will take care of it) decided to ignore the fact that it was a free, privatised and ultimately unchecked economy which crushed many a people’s dream of “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness”. The market did not take care of it, rather it took care of those who had a lot to begin with. And yet, neoliberalists would address the failures of their approach to economy with – more neoliberalism, not realising (or not willing to realise) that the crisis of today is different from all other post WWII crises because it is global and this time around even capital has no place to hide. So, what we are faced with today is a massively different array of problems which – were they attempted to be solved by neoliberalist means – would quite probably quickly lead into another meltdown, followed even more quickly by yet another, in a sort of continuous “W”, only with pick-up periods becoming ever shorter and ever weaker, until the whole thing crashed forever, firmly putting neoliberalism where its evil twin brother communism rests in peace. Solving new problems by old methods leads to disaster.

Oddly (or maybe not that much) this is precisely what critics of the document are saying. The only difference is that they see the proposed policies as paving the way back to communism rather than towards the end of the crisis. But this is precisely the point where they make a huge mistake. They forget that communism is dead and don’t see that liberal democracy (as a societal concept, part of which are more or less strict forms of neoliberalism) is fast dying. Instead they pretend that lib-dem state is purring along quite nicely, thank you very much, and that communism is lurking in the nearest shadow, waiting to homp the lib-dem state into submission. The notion is wrong for several reasons.

1. Concepts which are proposed in the document are perfectly legitimate economic concepts and have been used regardless of the type of government. Just look at nationalization, which critics of the document scoff at. During the financial meltdown of 2008, states poured galactic amounts of hard currency into banks which played with funny money and effectively nationalised them. Things get a bit tricky with co-management and self-management since this country has a bad experience with the latter and the once-bitten-twice-shy reflex is quite understandable. But self-management, nationalisation and communism do not necessarily go hand in hand.

2. There is absolutely no evidence that a lib-dem state can turn communist. In fact, history suggests that a country with a fragile or failing democracy is likely to go fascist, especially since corporativist state structures are good for business. Paradoxically, a country is more prone to go communist if its preceding social structure resembles feudal societies or is, at the very least, industrially extremely underdeveloped.

3. Proposed concepts do not aim to replace capitalism, but rather amend it. True, this would mean discarding most (but not all) of neoliberalist mumbo-jumbo, but that in itself is neither a bad thing nor it is an end of a lib-dem/capitalist state. In fact, the ability of capitalism to adapt to new paradigms (such as the one proposed by Pahor’s team of intellectuals) is remarkable. In post-WWII western world capitalism found it remarkably easy to incorporate concept of the welfare state, the very thing which was thought to be the beginning of the Apocalypse in pre-war capitalist societies. The only problem is that the whole world had to go through one helluva economic meltdown and 60-70 million dead to figure that one out. OK, so that was not by far the only reason for WWII, but it played a part.

Regardless of capitalism’s adaptability, the continuous survival or a more-or-less healthy combination of lib-dem state and capitalism is far from certain. If modification of failed neoliberalist patterns is a priori disqualified as communist and as such unacceptable, we are bound to enter a self-induced position between a rock and hard place, where rock represents the failed neoliberalism, while communism is the hard place. With no place else to go, fascism will become increasingly appealing to the masses. Therefore it is necessary that neoliberalists shake themselves loose of their primordial fear of communism and stop seeing it everywhere. To put it in Freudian terms, sometimes a wage increase in just a wage increase.

When read sans this ideological filter, the document can be seen for what it is. An attempt at constructing new tools to amend, rather then to replace, the existing socio-economical patterns. Even less. The document is not a strategy. It is not even an exit plan. It is only an attempt at defining the questions this crisis poses to us all. And that is probably more than has been done to date to tackle the crisis in the long term. As every scientist knows, a well formed question is a big step towards finding a solution.


What do Karl Erjavec and Ivo Sanader have in common? Not much, actually 🙂 Defenestration is, however, one of those things.

(source and source)

Last Monday in what was a swift, decisive and merciless action, former Croatian PM Ivo Sanader was expelled from Croatia’s ruling HDZ party after he tried to stage a comeback, supposedly because he realised that both the country and the party need him at the helm to stay the course. He added that his leaving politics three months ago was a mistake and that he realised that, hence the return. Flanked by his most ardent supporters in a hastily called press conference on Sunday last, he said that he supports his successor Jadranka Kosor, but then went on to criticise her politics as well as meagre result HDZ got in the first round of Croatian presidential elections (a mere 12 percent) and it soon became obvious that he wanted to install himself as PM. Being the honorary party president for life (a function created especially for him, apparently), he actually was in a position to do so, and it soon became obvious that we were witnessing an attempted party putch.

Kosor, however, turned out to have balls of steel. She quickly rallied her troops, among them prominent members of HDZ’s hard-line fraction, who were believed to unequivocally support Sanader. She even had Vladimir Šeks, a hawk-deluxe pour over the party’s statute and concoct a way to excommunicate honorary president for life. Having achieved this, she walked into a press conference of her own, and explained in no uncertain terms that had she or some other member of the party tried to pull a trick Sanader did while the latter was still party president, he or she would literally be thrown out the window.

As a result Ivo Sanader will apparently attempt to activate his MP status. Not being familiar with Croatian legislation I’m not sure how he aims to achieve this, but it turns out that this is another thing he and Karl Erjavec have in common. The soon-to-be-defenestrated minister of environment yesterday made it clear that he will attempt to gain MP status although he was not elected to the parliament (thus being the only parliamentary party president failing to achieve that).

As it became apparent that the parliamentary majority (with or without DeSUS) will vote Erjavec out of office, PM Borut Pahor asked Teflon Karl to pick his own successor since the environment portfolio is DeSUS’ turf. Erjavec made a move that was obivous to everyone, but it was deemed too desperate and too preposterous even for him. And yet, he is trying to do just that – to persuade DeSUS MP Matjaž Zanoškar to be nominated as minister for environment. If Zanoškar accepted, his seat would be – due to laws of elections mathematics – taken by Teflon Karl himself.

And thus would both Ivo Sanader and Karl Erjavec become MPs, enjoying many privileges of their function, including legal immunity. And from the outside it looks like both of them are going to need it.

Teflon Karl’s Trials and Tribulations

Political life of DeSUS president and minister for environment Karl Erjavec is in limbo as of yesterday. Prime Minister Borut Pahor namely submitted a motion for Erjavec’s demission to parliament, citing a damning report by the Court of Audit and hinting to various other mishaps which hampered Erjavec’s performance as of late. Not that he had a lot to show for himself in his first year as minister of environment, but there you go.

Minister of environment Karl Erjavec leaving. Permanently. (source)

Erjavec was very much accident prone even while he was defence minister during the government of Janez Janša (just as today, then too DeSUS was a part of the ruling coalition). Not only did his ministry “mistakenly” transferr some 600.000 EUR to a bank account of a Maribor-based company, only never to see part of the money again, but also signed the contract to purchase the now-infamous Patria APCs. When shit started brewing (first over quality of the product), he defended himself saying that he only signed the document which was brought to him by his secretary to be signed (this bit will become important later on) and that he was unaware of any harmful provisions in the contract.

By then Erjavec started sporting some weird teflon characteristics as none of his accidents reflected badly on him. Even more. Regardless of the fact that he was (by way of office he held, at least) embroiled into the Patria Affair, no mudsling, no matter how gooey seemed to have stuck on him. People were being accused left and right of him, charges of bribes were being laid, only he, apparently blissfully ignorant of the storm around him went about his business and led his party to a resounding success in 2008 parliamentary elections, where it won seven seats. However, the honeymoon was soon over as he and the newly minted PM Borut Pahor fell out over which portfolio Erjavec be given. He himself (naturally) wanted to remain defence minister, but Pahor didn’t want to have any of that and after a brief show of force by both politicians shoved the environment portfolio down Erjavec’s throat.

Fast forward one year and suddenly criminal charges are filed against Erjavec, accusing him of gross negligence in the Patria Affair which are the first charges filed against any serving member of any Slovenian government. Immediately the question of whether Erjavec is fit for the job was raised, but PM Pahor insisted that Erjavec is inoccent until proven guilty, whereas the dilemma of whether the charges hamper his efficiency as a minister, Pahor left to Erjavec himself to decide on.

However, this push came to a shove days ago when Dnevnik daily ran a story on Erjavec signing a contract to sell 49% government stake in a energy company without government approval, although the government must approve every single sale of its assets. Erjavec defended himself that he was misled by the notary, who apparently assured him that everything about the sale is squeaky clean. In essence, he just signed on the dotted line without reading the contract. Rings a bell? Thought so…

And just to top it off, only yesterday did the Court of Audit published a highly critical report on activities related to establishing an effective waste-separation system in Slovenia and concluded Erjavec was grossly negligent in execution of his ministerial duties and recommended that PM Pahor dismisses Erjavec.

It was at that point that Teflon Karl’s credit seems to have run out. Two counts of “signing without reading” and two counts of “gross negligence” combined with some heavy-duty discipline enforcing within his party was just too much to handle even with his slick style of politics. At this juncture Erjavec seems so radioactive, that no-one will touch him with a ten foot pole, his own MPs included. It was only last week that hewas yet again threatening with DeSUS walking out of the coalition should his ministerial position be endangered. But yesterday DeSUS MPs were in disarray, some saying that it was all a set-up, others saying that they will go with the flow and vote with the majority of the coalition. This means that they will vote to dismiss Erjavec, as every other coalition party went on the record saying that they will support the demission.

As things stand now, Erjavec is politically dead and decaying rapidly. It should not be put past him to regroup and cajole his remaining five MPs to oppose his demission in the parliament, regardless of their stated intention to remain a part of the coalition. However, the mathematics of the parliamentary vote makes it virtually impossible for Erjavec to survive the vote. This would be possible only if he were supported by what is left of DeSUS parliamentary groups, entire opposition plus the two minority MPs. But this scenario borders on outer limits of science fiction, especially since Zmago Jelinčič of nationalist party already said that his MPs will vote for demission.

This leaves only two questions. What will this mean for parliamentary majority of Pahor’s government and whether the whole shebang was a neatly directed set-up to get rid of Erjavec.

As far as parliamentary majority is concerned things neither look too bleak not too hot for Pahor. The coalition enjoys a majority of 50 votes in a 90-member parliament. Ever since Franc Žnidaršič and Vili Rezman were ejected from DeSUS parliamentary club (although now independent, they still support the coalition), Erjavec’s party has 5 MPs, one of whom – Vasja Klavora – is also vice president of the parliament. So if Erjavec somehow persuaded his MPs to leave the coalition, PM Pahor would be one vote short of an absolute majority (46 votes) and would effectively run a minority government, leaning on minorty MPs and Zmago Jelinčič’s nationalist to supply the votes needed. Admittedly not a nice prospect, especially as far as Jelinčič is concerned.

But a possibly hung parliament means that neither can the opposition muster enough votes to form a new majority, which makes Pahor’s position more or less safe, especially when one considers the more earthly conequences of DeSUS leaving the coalition. It can be expected that Vasja Klavora (to pick an example completely at random) would be replaced as parliamentary VP, a privilege few would be give up willingly. So with a bit of horse-trading PM Pahor can get rid of Teflon Karl and keep the majority in the parliament.

Which leads us to the second question. It Erjavec a victim of a smear campaign or is he experiencing a series of highly unfortunate events? At the risk of sounding naive, pengovsky believes that it is a bit of both. Shit Erjavec managed to get away with until now is almost unbelievable and – combined with his quick wit – borders on hilarious. Fact of the matter is that he was a pain in the ass of many a political big shots including (but not limited to) Katarina Kresal of LDS and Gregor Golobič of Zares, to pick two examples completely at random :mrgreen: Especially his repeated threats to walk out of the coalition (a tactic that worked well in Janša’s government) were winning him no friends and were wearing the patience of other coalition partners thin.

So a certain amount of plotting must have taken place, otherwise things would not have fallen into place so neatly. Even more, the way PM Pahor handled it suggests that in the true spirit of Sun Tzu’s Art of War the battle was won before it begun and that Erjavec was reduced to watching himself going from bad to worse. Namely, after the damning report by the Court of Audit Pahor called a meeting of coalition leaders (including Teflon Karl) and then had a tete-a-tete with him. Emerging from this meeting Pahor and Erjavec announced that they both agreed that the PM would propose Karl’s demission and let the parliament decide whether or not the latter gets to keep his job.

It was a rather clever trick. Short of Erjavec stepping down of his own accord, there is no other way to replace him but to ask the parliament to dismiss him, since it is the parliament (rather than PM) who appoints ministers in the first place. But the way Pahor phrased it and used the report of Court of Audit as a pretext, he tried to keep the appearance of conforming to checks and balances of various institutions and – somewhat surprisingly – Erjavec seems to have bought it. Either that or they made some sort of a deal to keep the soon-to-be-former minister happy. Namely, Teflon Karl was not elected to the parliament in 2008 and will (once dismissed) remain sans any relevant public position, save being a president of DeSUS. But a party president who is not in the governmental loop is poised to soon become an ex-party president as we have seen a year or so ago in case of Slovene People’s Party and its president Bojan Šrot who also didn’t hold a government post but was/is rather mayor of Celje.

However, it should be said that Erjavec has no one blame but himself. It was more than apparent that he was rapidly alienating the rest of the coalition as well as part of his own party. And yet he was careless enough to cook up shit. Had he more friend in the coalition, these mistakes and blunders would probably be forgiven, but since he was getting on everyone’s nerves, the rest of the gang saw this as an opportunity to get rid of him expeditiously. So instead of a slap on the wrist he is now being charged with gross negligence.

Moral of the story: if you’re a political maverick, you have to cover your ass. Otherwise you get busted.

Echoes of the Past

Members of SDS, SLS and NSi youth organisations throwing slurs at mayor Zoran Janković

Pengovsky went more or less AWOL in mid-December and failed to post on a couple of things which may very well come to determine the immediate political future of this country, or – at least – some of its politically prominent citizens

Echoes of a revolution

While addressing the Council for Republic (Zbor za republiko), opposition leader Janez Janša said core values of “Slovene Spring” were under threat and that it was high time to “repeat certain lessons from twenty years ago” and that wants the people to turn out en masse on Slovene streets in spring. The statement sent shockwaves through Slovenian political scene, just as (probably) intended. First reactions were nervous and even furious. Justice minister Aleš Zalar of LDS (wrongly) interpreted it as a call to arms, while others saw this as Janša’s attempt to cash in on the social unrest and topple the government. Somewhat unexpectedly, however, Janša found himself very much isolated, since even Slovene People’s Party (SLS) and Slovene National Party (SNS) rejected a call to the streets. Radovan Žerjav of SLS even said that “getting people on the streets is easy during times of crisis. The problem is getting them off the streets again.“.

Slovenian Spring aside, this would not be the first time Janša tried “street democracy”. When the late PM Janez Drnovšek proposed demission of then-defence-minister Janša in 1994 over the Depala Vas Affair, thousands poured to the streets in his support, some sporting pitchforks and shovels. Janša was dismissed from office regardless. Ten years later, in the summer of 2004 he took part in anti-Roma demonstrations (that time around happily seconded by Zmago Jelinčič of SNS) and thus helped uncork a prolonged out-pour of racism and xenophobia which was for years aimed at Slovene Romas, symbolised by eviction of the Strojan family

Speculations about what prompted Janša to issue the call and why, specifically, does it have to be spring? Some say that it has to do with the Patria Affair and that, come spring, people will again be protesting for the release of prisoner Janša. Others say that he’s likely to get more people to attend when the weather is warmer. Which weirdly reminds of Janša’s reaction to labour union demostrations in 2005. Then still a PM, Janša upon hearing of the strike being called for end of November, cynically remarked that the unions would be better off staging the strike in spring, to get the attendance. He was soon forced to take his foot from his mouth, since 30.000 people attended in near-blizzard weather.

Anyway, things will get mighty interesting, come spring.

Echoes of xenophobia

Which is not to say, that things are not interesting as it is. Just before Christmas representatives of youth organisations of right-wing SDS, NSi and SLS paid a visit to Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković and presented him with Monopoly card-board game, thus trying to point out that he is – in their view – ruining rather than running the city and is selling city property to line his own pockets. They also accused him of lying to the people of Ljubljana. Since the whole thing happened during one of Janković’s regular press conferences in full view of cameras, the mayor responded immediately, telling the youngsters off and (obviously prepared) gave them a book on democracy for children as well as a copy of law regarding financial transactions of municipalities.

But then all hell broke loose, as some of the visitors said that “at the very least they are Ljubljana natives, whereas Janković is not” and added that he is “a Balkan cowboy stealing from city coffers“. The mayor (rightfully) retorted that he is proud of his family and then some more slurs flew in his direction.

Not that is stopped there. Soon thereafter SDS youth organisation, whose newly minted president Klement Perko was present during the Janković escapade, tried to pull a similar trick on president Danilo Türk, apparently for his giving a medal to Tomaž Ertl (the last socialist interior minister). Perko tried to present Türk with a plaque with the word “Šalabajzer” written on it. Being of Serbian apparently German origin, the word can best be translated as “twat“. Which is not a nice thing to say to a president, no matter what language you say it in.

It should be noted, however, that NSi and SLS youth days later apologised for the outburst, while SDS remained stubbornly quiet and accused Janković of using their words against them (whatever that means)

Back to the future

And just to top it off (and do some teasing for tommorow’s post), Prime Minister Borut Pahor proposed a demission of minister of environment and DeSUS leader Karl Erjavec. Reasons for this are various and the demission will have to be voted on by the parliament and it remains to be seen whether this means that Pahor’s government will lose the majority in the National Council.

The game, as the phrase goes, is afoot :mrgreen: