It’s been a while since pengovsky last posted and a lot of things have happened during that time. First and foremost, coalition of Janez Janša is basically no more. While officially Gregor Virant‘s Citizens’ List is still the only party to have crossed the aisle, DeSUS of Karl Erjavec and SLS of Radovan Žerjav have announced they will do the same unless PM Janša resigns in the wake of the now-infamous anti-graft report.
Above, the 1984-Orwellian scene, below, Janša addressing the troops on Friday (source: all over the internets)
Janša of course will do no such thing. In fact, he is desperately trying to up the ante and make the other guys blink. So far, unsuccessfully. The reason Janša is still in power is not so much his political prowess (which is becoming ever more doubtful) but rather lies in the cloak-and-dagger politics where every party wants to screw the other parties dry and make it to the top in what increasingly looks like a snap election sans an interim government
Come see us, Janez!
But first thing’s first. With the wave of protest not showing any signs of abating, Janša had to do something about it. Indeed the rhetoric was using lately was getting more and more hard-line but until last week he was concerned more with keeping the coalition than with anything else. But as the anti-graft report seems to have hurt his standing with the party faithful in addition to his government sinking down to mid-teens in public opinion polls, he simply couldn’t ignore the issue anymore. This turned out to be a counter-rally, to be held on the same day (Friday last) as the so-called “third Slovenian uprising”.
The oxymoron of a pro-government protest aside, the whole shebang was organised by the Council for the Republic (ZZR), one of the main right-wing astroturf movements which has been holding rallies across Slovenia for some weeks now. These rallies have given us some epic scenes, the likes of ZZR president France Cukjati (also head of the parliament under Janša government 1.0) saying that “Janez will not cry if he quits… We will cry if he does”. Also, a ZZR meet-up in Maribor was heckled by anti-establishment protesters and plenty of fuss was made of it. Which is why many people were mighty nervous at the prospect of two rallies being held at the same location only hours apart. Also, since ZZR announced its rally much later than the protest movement proper, it was clear that Janša was looking to stir up trouble.
Luckily, nothing happened. According to police estimates, some 9000 showed up to support Janša. They were hauled in by buses from all over Slovenia and rumours had it they got some pocket money to boot. Also, media reported that no more than 5k people attended. POP TV has a nice piece with aerial images for comparison (Slovenian only). But be that as it may, hours later, the anti-establishment rally drew about 20,000 protesters according to the police, clearly drowning out any potential spill-over effect Janša was hoping for in the morning.
All in all a fitting setting for Prid nas pogledat, Janez!, a song by Otroci Oportunizma (Come See Us Janez! by Children of Opportunism), which in itself is a very smart rendition of Go See Him Brane by Otroci Socializma (Children of Socialism) some
forty thirty years ago and which one of numerous gigs that evening. The Firm™ is keeping tabs on the protest music on its Facebook page by the way and the collection is becoming quite a sight. Also, you will like the page…
At any rate, Janez (that it so say, Ivan, as is his proper given name) didn’t come see the protesters. In fact, he didn’t even come see his own people (lovingly known now as Šturm troopers, after Lovro Šturm, one of the leaders of ZZR), being tied up in Brussels negotiating the EU budget and all. Instead, the rally saw a pre-recorded address by Janša, not unlike the one we’ve seen on the eve of presidential elections in 2012 when he claimed a broad left-wing conspiracy is trying to derail the country. It was all rather Orwellian, really, Well, this time around he upgraded that particular rant with a claim of “left-wing fascism” haunting the country, trying to oust elected officials and nearly subjecting them to holocaust. Don’t believe me? Read the text in full. The party went to great pains in translating it and the grammar is much better than the last time around.
Bottom line: Janša is rapidly losing ground. Even though the pro-government rally made a lot of people who would otherwise not have joined the evening protest rethink their decision, it was mostly aimed at rallying the troops rather than dick-measuring contest of who gets to have a bigger crowd. That was to be only the soothing side-effect which backfired badly. Janša needed to show his people that they are still strong and that they love him (please, note absurdity of the sentence: showing someone they love you. It says it all, doesn’t it?). To achieve that, he had to not only haul people from all over the country to the capital and apparently provide a free meal and a couple of euros (reports vary from 30 to 50 per person) but he also had to rely on a blogpost (of all things!) by a British pro-Israeli political analyst Alan Johnson who some months ago bent over backwards in The Telegraph to paint Slavoj Žižek as a “left-wing fascist”. Yes, it’s that bad.
Not only that, but in the past few weeks Janša and the Party were dogged by yet another scandal involving their MP. This time it was one Alenka Koren Gomboc, who – it turned out – forged her education papers and was discovered to have had graduated only elementary school, forged a letter of recommendation by a former employer (a bank), who, it transpired has in the past pressed actually charged her with embezzlement. Koren Gomboc denied any wrongdoing and refused to resign, forcing the Party to execute a legal trick to cut her loose when things became too hot even for SDS. Namely, Koren Gomboc was appointed MP after Ljubo Žnidar MP was made state secretary on ministry for infrastructure. At the time it was speculated Žnidar was in fact “promoted” to make room for Koren Gomboc, an SDS heavyweight in Koroška region and – apparently – also a cousin of Janša’s wife Urška Bačovnik. Thus the only way to get rid of Koren Gomboc (and do it expeditiously) was to relieve Žagar of his duties at the ministry, thus returning him to the parliament and kick the replacement MP who was becoming pure posion, out of the parliament.
Bratušek wants interim government as Lukšič hits the campaign trail
In this setting one would assume that Janša would be begging for a mercy shot (politically speaking, of course). But he refuses to recognise any reality which does not include him as the top dog and – not entirely surprising – he is getting his way. For the time being, at least. Namely, in the wake of coalition crumbling, the newly minted acting president of Positive Slovenia Alenka Bratušek started manoeuvring for an interim government (a project government, she calls it) which would have an across-the-aisle support of basically all parties save SDS and possibly NSi and carry out a couple of widely agreed-upon project (including a reform of voting system) and then have elections called in nine months. Snap elections were the other possibility.
But this being the parliament and all, it was suddenly evey-party-for-itself. Some time before Bratušek floated her on proposal, pengovsky came to similar conclusions, albeit for different reasons. Namely, if the protest movement is to form a coherent set of political demands, it needs time (and more protests). Early elections this spring would add to dissatisfaction with the current political system as there is absolutely no party in the parliament which could effectively address the plight of the people. Bratušek, on the other hand, is probably more concerned with survival of Positive Slovenia as the party is hitting perilously close to the 4% parliamentary threshold in public opinion polls.
Those same polls, however, put the other opposition party, the Social Democrats of Igor Lukšič at the top, making the successor of Borut Pahor at the party helm very keen on calling elections as early as possible. Lukšič is in fact so eager that he already started campaigning. The SD is calling these events “public tribunes” but for all intents and purposes, the party leader has hit the campaign trail. Which is why SD MPs were lack-luster to say the least in their support of PS finding a PM nominee to put up against Janša in a possible no-confidence vote. Eventually they agreed (sort of) and for a day it seemed as if the deal is sealed. Even Gregor Virant, the guy who set this particular chain of political events in motion, was on-board (he, too, needs time as he has precious little groundwork laid in terms of party infrastructure).
Curiously enough, DeSUS of Karl Erjavec played ball. The Foreign Minister, who made headlines by apparently hammering out a deal with his Croatian counterpart Vesna Pusić over Ljubljanska Banka saving deposits by Croatian nationals, announced that DeSUS too will be leaving the coalition at the end of February. Well, the reason for Teflon Karl picking a fight with Janša is simple. He is up for re-election as party leader and needs to comfort the base, especially since he is facing a serious leadership challenge this time around.
SLS kills anti-Janša coalition to survive
And so it came down to SLS of Radovan Žerjav. This party too is up for a leadership change. Just about the time when the anti-graft-report-bombshell was dropped on Slovenia, Žerjav announced his resignation as party boss, prompting a party congress at the beginning of March where a new leadership will be chosen. Žerjav wants Franc Bogovič to take over, but the party is seriously split, with Podobnik Bros. (remember them?) trying to take it over again. To this end they enrolled one Laris Gajser, who goes by the title of “geo-strategical analyst” and has high media visibility to run against Bogovič. But only yesterday, the outgoing party leadership nixed Gaiser’s candidacy on administrative grounds, ensuring Bogovič’s election. Curiously, at the same time they also said the party will not be joining the other parties in a no-confidence vote against Janša, stopping PS, DeSUS, SD and DL just one vote short of necessary 46 to remove Janša from power.
This made a lot of people very unhappy, including Miro Cerar, jr., a prominent lawyer who (as a man of high moral stature and also a household name) was widely tipped to have a crack at the PM job. But SLS backing off in pengovsky’s opinion has little to do with the new ad-hoc coalition but rather with intra-party friction. Namely, it is quite possible that not supporting the no-confidence vote against Janša was the price Žerjav had to pay for other party heavyweights to agree to have Gajser stricken from the ballot and ensuring that Žerjav’s fraction will continue to rule the party.
Willie E. Coyote
And so Janez Janša survives in power even though he is very much in position of Willie E. Coyote, hanging in mid-air, knowing that the moment he looks down, he will go face-first into the abyss. But the opposition is not (yet) prepared to make him look down. And thus Slovenia remains hostage to party interests and power-struggles, while people pour into the streets in tens of thousands.