(note: the following should have been published last night, but the server was down for maintenance, hence the post is back-dated)
The balance of power in Slovenia has shifted. Well, the balance of power in the fast-shrinking political/media bubble at least. As results of presidential elections came in on Sunday and Danilo Türk conceded defeat, it became clear that president-elect Borut Pahor will play merely a supporting role in the new political reality. Usually, on election night the order of appearance of political players in the national press centre is clear. The defeated candidate (or candidates in case of parliamentary elections) comes first, gives the concession speech and slowly fades into oblivion. Everyone with a vested interest comes next, with the victorious side coming in last. On Sunday however, it was the president-elect who gave his victory speech in the in-between slot, while Prime Minister Janez Janša had the last word. Just so everyone knew who’s the boss.
Almost 25 years ago Kongresni trg was full of people protesting for Janša. Today they protest against him.
And what a speech it was. While lauding the victory of Borut Pahor, he announced – in the wake of the wave of protests which is still sweeping the country – nothing short of changes to the political system of this country, hinting at sweeping changes in the judiciary, self-government, election system, the constitution and so on. Pahor’s speech, on the other hand, was full of fluff.
At any rate, it took Janša less than 48 hours to come up with a slightly more detailed, eleven-point plan on revamping the political system:
-Electing MPs directly
-Provide for possible re-call of an elected MP
-Provide for possible re-call of mayors and city/municipal councilmen, limit mayors to serving two terms maximum
-Disband the National Council
-Institute a trial period for all newly appointed judges
-Keep the permanent mandate for judges after the trial period, but subject all existing judges to re-election by the Judiciary Council which is to be strengthened with judicial experts and supreme judges from other EU member states
-Set up a special court dealing in the worst cases of white-collar crime. Judges in this court to be nominated by the President and appointed by the parliament with a 2/3 majority
-Set up financial police
-Disband all agencies and institutions which cannot be found in other EU member states
-Take away all privileges enjoyed by elected officials after they leave office
-Provide for a simpler procedure to call early elections and form the government.
The political/media bubble was taken by surprise. It needn’t be. The “sweeping reforms of the political system” are nothing more than the same old story Janša has been going on about for fifteen years now, only slightly updated. You don’t believe me? Here’s a version from 2009 and here is the 2011 edition. No wonder Janša was able to come up with the latest version so fast. He merely updated the file on his iPad.
But despite all the waves Janša and his SDS made with the latest incarnation of the “Second Republic”, this is little more than clever diversionary tactics. Pengovsky tweeted as much yesterday evening and Janša’s further statements today only prove this point.
Upam, da vam je jasno: "spremembe političnega sistema" so samo vaba. Zgodba se bo v resnici odvila drugje.
— pengovsky (@pengovsky) December 4, 2012
Namely, a day earlier leader of Social Democrats Igor Lukšič, trying to capitalise on Borut Pahor’s presidential victory, went in front of the cameras and said that early elections were needed in order to break the political deadlock this country is facing. But when journos pressed him on the issue, asking why doesn’t he simply move for a no-confidence vote, he said plain and simple that his party can not muster the 46 votes necessary to overthrow the government.
I mean, talk about political amateurism… Lukšič said this country is in a political deadlock. He added that it can only be broken via early elections (the same instrument Borut Pahor bent over backwards to avoid a year and a half ago). And yet at the very next moment he admits that he has a snowball’s chance in hell to bring Janša’s government down. Correct me if I’m wrong, but a government which you can’t really bring down is not particularly unstable, no? In fact, one would be hard pressed to put words “unstable government” and “Janez Janša” in the same sentence. Case in point being the fact that Janša is the only PM in the last sixteen years to have completed a full four-year term.
Janez Drnovšek was ousted as PM only months before his 1996 – 2000 term endend, Andrej Bajuk replaced him for eight months, only to see Drnšovek get re-elected later in the year and then quit two years later to get elected President. Tone Rop took over for the remainder of the term and got his ass whooped by Janša in 2004. Pahor took over in 2008 and saw his coalition crumble in 2011, forcing early elections later in the year, which – after a failed PM bid by Zoran Janković – reinstated Janša at the helm. Lukšič thus shot himself in the knee big time only hours after his man pulled off a political stunt of the decade and got elected president after first having been ousted as PM and later as party chief.
Janša obviously capitalised on Lukšič’s open-mouth-insert-foot moment and offered to hold early elections two months after all eleven points of his newest plan. But to call early elections would mean that the parliament would have to dissolve itself and with this in mind it becomes clear that chances of early elections right now are about two to the power of 276709 to one. It is thus obvious that the latest Janša blueprint is just a semi-clever ploy.
Truth be told, both Igor Lukšič of SD and Zoran Janković of PS rejected Janša’s blueprint, but since this was expected, SDS tried to sell this particular load of fecal matter as its response to the demands of the protesters in the street. There’s one caveat, though. While it is true that a few of Janša’s proposals are broadly going the same directions as the protesters’ demands, the PM is bending over backwards trying to side-step the fundamental demand – that he resign from office. And most of the political elite with him. The people don’t want changes which would lead to Janša’s even greater grip on power. They want heads rolling.
And in all honesty, Janša too doesn’t need this blueprint. He and his government are working hard to
dismantle remodel in their own image education, health and judicial systems. With the media under pressure yet again, he can achieve his “second republic” just fine even without it. He already controls the parliament. He controls the economy. And as of last Sunday, he also controls the president of the republic. Not sure if Borut Pahor knows this, but that’s the way it is. The Second Republic is already here, its just that we’ve been too busy to notice. And Janša wants to keep it that way.
The only unknown in this scenario are protests. The political class, even down to “middle managers” is shit-scared and they honestly don’t know how things will turn out. I don’t think anyone does. Individuals who started the riots are apparently in police custody and newspapers report they were well organised, paid to stir up trouble and that the trail of money leads to a particular political party (no points for guessing which one). And among those arrested yesterday in Maribor are apparently four members of the Slovenian army.
The plot thus thickens. Mayor of Maribor Franc Kangler announced he will be resigning as mayor tomorrow, reportedly after having a pow-wov with Janša. Well, too little, too late. Demands of the protesters have long evolved beyond the issue mayor Kangler. Had he resigned ten days ago, he might have been able to prevent the havoc. But he didn’t and he couldn’t. Which is why he is no longer relevant and his resignation solves nothing. The people will apparently take to the streets once more and with Kangler out, someone else will become the primary target. Janša will do his damnest it’s not him.
3 thoughts on “Second Republic (Again)”
Another excellent piece.
One thing though: In the last paragraph you wrote “Had he reigned ten days ago”. I presume you meant “resigned”? Rather changes the meaning otherwise…
Thank you, kind sir. And auto-correct be damned. 🙂
Great piece! “The political class, even down to “middle managers” is shit-scared and they honestly don’t know how things will turn out.” One can only hope this be true!
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