Unless the world comes to a premature end, Janez Janša of SDS will be sworn in as the tenth Slovenian PM come Saturday. In what was an act of political expedience, the coalition agreement was hammered out during the weekend, while leaderships of SDS, DLGV, SLS, NSi and DeSUS are meeting today to vote on whether or not to join the centre-right coalition.
Although not an entirely open-and-shut case, it seems safe to assume that everybody is more or less on-board with this one. Some key members of DeSUS (the pensioners’ party) are not really head-over-heels about going to bed with Janez Janša and a relatively coordinated lobbying action is taking place to convince enough members of the party’s executive committee to vote against. But note that the phrase “relatively coordinated” should be taken with a pinch of salt. To be honest: the general level of party organisation in Slovenia is awful. If companies in this country were ran that way, they’d go bankrupt in a matter of years. Oh, wait…
Karl Erjavec wants to become No. 2
Anyways. As both readers of this blog know, DeSUS is in the kingmaker position and it is generally considered that they drove a hard bargain. Whether or not it was hard enough, remains to be seen. Janez Janša was smart enough to at least try to get the parties agree to a coalition agreement first and leave the issues of specific ministerial nominations for after he is sworn in. However, names have already been leaked and there are a couple personnel problems the new PM-apparent will have to tackle soonest.
First and foremost, it seems that Gregor Virant and Karl Erjavec are locked in a bit of a cock-fight over the presidency of the parliament, nominally the No.2 spot in the country, just after the President of the Republic. As you know, Virant’s ascent to the position was the result of a similar cock-fight between Zoran Janković and Borut Pahor back in the days when Jay-Z was eyeing the PM spot himself. Back then Virant said time and again that he let himself be elected as president of the parliament just to get things going and that he will vacate the position should any coalition agreement demand so.
Well, guess what… Turns out Virant kind of likes it there and (apparently) for the same reason as Erjavec wants to get there. A high-profile, perk-heavy, pizazz-rich position with a security detail, bullet-proof car and a relatively low workload. At least compared to any ministerial position where the occupants are sure to piss blood during the next few years. Alternatively, Erjavec is earmarked for the position of the foreign minister, which should provide some laughs, not just at home, but also around the continent. With the pensioner party FM, the term “old school diplomacy” might take on a whole new meaning.
But be that as it may, the balance of power seems to favour Erjavec. Not only do he and his party hold the key to a Janša-led coalition, Gregor Virant and his DLGV are in no real position to bargain. This was graphically demonstrated today, when the dirty-lanudry-news-sites posted a picture of Jani Soršak of DLGV, former head of national anti-trust office and a man widely expected to take over as justice minister in a not-really-intimate-but-suggestive-enough position with a woman who is not his wife. Not that his really is anyone’s concern (save maybe his and his wife’s), but it was all a part of a quick-and-dirty character assassination, which – in addition to the picture – included a much more damaging accusation that Soršak, while still the head of anti-trust office, in fact facilitated an attempt to take over Večer daily through a straw company which definitely did not have the funds to buyout the newspaper’s owners.
Soršak alleged role was to turn a blind eye to the fact that the ultimate buyer would be a now-bankrupt-and-sold media company Delo Revije, at the time owned by Soršak’s close friend Matej Raščan. Soršak already denied any wrongdoing and stressed that he excluded himself from the procedure for exactly that reason, but he also said publicly that he will not be taking over the justice portfolio. Which means that the character assassination succeeded brilliantly.
While we’re on this: it’s kind of funny, how accident-prone DLGV is. First it was Virant’s faux-pas over MP compensation, now this thing with Soršak and just as if that isn’t enough, Janez Šušteršič is apparently poised to take over as finance minister, possibly the worst job there is in any government. Finance ministers tend to get screwed for every financial fuck-up there is, while receiving little praise when things are good. The late Andrej Bajuk learned this the hard way during Janša’s first stint as PM (2004-2008) and Šušteršič would do well to watch his back.
And in case you’re wondering, where the attacks came from, look to the political right. Virant was eating into Janša’s electorate early on in the campaign and had to be cut down. He then insisted his party take over the justice portfolio regardless of the eventual coalition, since both Janša and Janković are or are about to be subjects of criminal investigation. Sure, Janša is standing trial over Patria Affair, while Janković is rumoured to have been indicted for tax fraud and abuse of office (no official word on that yet, though).
So, the need to discipline the new justice minister early on is also plainly visible. Add to that the fact that Virant himself was recently sentenced to a month in prison with a two-year probation period over defamation and you see that very little is left of his and his party’s claims to be the defenders of truth and justice in the next government. Unless they are prepared to commit a honour-bound political suicide, they will most likely just sit there and be pretty.
WWDTD (What Would Danilo Türk Do)?
Therefore, all eyes are on DeSUS of Karl Erjavec, while his eyes are on the position of the President of the Parliament. If the pensioners’ party gives the nod, the parties of the centre-right coalition will – as per constitution – nominate Janez Janša for the post of the Prime Minister in the second round of the nomination process. However, president Danilo Türk is also scheduled to make an announcement regarding his PM nominee, a week after he fumbled it with Marko Voljč.
The Prez, who is up for re-election later this year and already has a challenger from SDS in the form of MEP and former education minister Milan Zver, has two options. He can go full-throttle-head-to-head with Janša and say that he will not be making a nomination (retracting his previous statement, that he definitely will be making a new nomination) and unload a barrage on Janša, including but not limited to the Patria Affair and Archivegate. On the other hand, he can try to take the wind out of Janša’s sails, hijack the entire thing and nominate Janša himself. Since the president’s nomination takes precedence in any vote, this would technically mean that the parliament would support the president. But the question is whether or not anyone would in fact care for such political niceties.