Lame Duck Government

The government of Borut Pahor is as good as dead. After having their respective pow-wows, the remaining junior coalition parties, Zares of Gregor Golobič and LDS of Katarina Kresal demanded that either a comprehensive cabinet re-shuffle takes place (Zares) or a new government formed under the existing coalition (LDS). In both cases this includes the change at the top spot, effectively meaning that both parties want PM Pahor to step down.

Prime Minister Pahor during today’s press conference (source)

Of the two, the call by Zares is more radical as they want to see a result within fourteen days lest they quit the coalition. LDS on the other hand made a more hard-line call but they didn’t provide a time-frame, meaning that theirs was more a show of force rather than an actual commitment. On the other hand, Zares presented Pahor with an offer he can’t really afford to accept. Namely, if Pahor accepts Golobič’s offer and returns his mandate, he admits he has little or no control over the situation. On the other hand, if he doesn’t take the deal, Zares walks out of the coalition and Pahor’s coalition is down to 34 votes.

However, the PM decided to play hard-ball and challenged Zares to make good on its threats. As hinted yesterday by Igor Lukšič, minister of education and senior SD member, Pahor flat-out rejected Golobič and basically told him to go stick his head in a bucket (not in as many words, of course). Even more, the PM said that should he lose a confidence vote, his party will not put forward another candidate for the top spot but will rather work towards calling early elections. Translation: Pahor will blame Zares if the government falls.

However, behind the thick veil of bluff Pahor served today, he is only buying time and still considering his next move. He is not clear on whether the government will propose an emergency law or a rebalanced budget in order to save the 300 million needed and whether he will tie a confidence vote to either of the acts. He also entertained journalists’ questions on whether he will consider a thinly veiled offer Janez Janša made yesterday to form a grand SD-SDS coalition, but then found a plethora of reasons (all of them valid) why that would be an extremely bad idea. In other words, he can not decide on just how high a wager he is prepared to place in this particular game of political poker.

So, how will this play out? Despite Pahor’s insistence that he expects Zares to “extend the deadline”, the party of Gregor Golobič will most likely quit the coalition in two weeks. That this will happen on Statehood Day (June 25) is likely a coincidence, but a very symbolic one: 20th anniversary of Slovenian independence will be celebrated amid political turmoil. How very fitting 🙂

But little will change after that date. Zares, not being a part of the coalition , will have the luxury of picking which projects it will support, but one can hardly expect the party to go over to the opposition side. So, what we will have, will be a lame duck government, surviving on a daily basis unless of course Prime Minister Pahor finally makes up his mind and either seeks a new coalition (unlikely) or steps down and allows for early elections. Odd are that the current shaky coalition would find them more beneficial than the opposition which remains ill prepared platform-wise.

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.