These days one doesn’t really have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that Slovenian parties are gearing up for various elections coming up in the next two years. And even if it weren’t for that, there’s been enough movement in the political arena for the established political players (i.e. the parliamentary parties) to start twitching nervously while snapping left and right.
Slovenian politics increasingly becoming like a family comedy (source)
Case in point being leader of the Social Democrats Igor Lukšič, who earlier in the week succeeded in derailing the bid of former Court of Audit chief Igor Šoltes to take over of minister of health. Now, under normal circumstances, Šoltes would have had Lukšič at “Hello!”, so to speak. But fact of the matter is that after announcing he will not seek another nine-year term at the Court of Audit, Šoltes was tipped to launch a new centre-left party. He said so himself in a short interview last summer. However, precious little has happened since. Šoltes had formed an association called Verjamem (I Believe), believed to be precursor to the party, but apparently he has some way to go before he actually forms a new political player.
Igor “Our Hands Are Clean” Lukšič
However, the prospect of a future leader of a miniscule party was enough to send Igor Lukšič to the barricades, calling the idea inappropriate, illogical and unhygienic. He flat-out accused Šoltes of attempting to promote himself via the ministerial post. In this he went head-to-head with the rest of the coalition which supported Šoltes’ bid and expected PM Bratušek to nominate him formally. This even included DeSUS which technically has the portfolio within its quota. But Lukšič would have none of it and when asked to comment on Gregor Virant‘s endorsement of Šoltes, Lukšič replied into the camera to “never mind Virant”. Which is a bit arrogant, considering Virant is interior minister, while Lukšič (albeit as a personal choice) is not a member of the Bratušek cabinet.
However, the real Top-Gun moment came Monday last when Lukšič was responding to allegations of misuse of public funds. Namely, he’s embroiled in a bit of controversy over allegedly rigging a public tender for a 1.4 million euro grant on civic education. Which may or may not be true, after all, pengovsky is told at least half of the accusations against him in an unsigned document are based on forged document. But the point is Lukšič went on the record saying SD’s “hands are clean”. Which is quite a ballsy statement coming from president of a party which bent over backwards to see the TEŠ6 Šoštanj coal power plant move forward despite warnings it will not be profitable. Warnings which are now becoming a reality.
Indeed Lukšič flashed the pair of rhetorical cojones he grew in the past few weeks more than once these days. Only a day later he took a broad swipe at everything that is left-wing and not part of the government. Specifically, this meant brow-beating their former coalition partners Zares (since ousted from the parliament), fringe-left TRS, newly formed party Solidarnost and Šoltes’ Verjamem, all in a single sentence, saying he believes “new parties will form some sort of Really Believe in Solidarty coalition, picking up a Sugar-cane worth of votes“, thus using names of the four parties in a cleverly abusive way.
Slightly off topic: it is somewhat ironic that SocDems, a party which claims political heritage of Edvard Kardelj should undermine political ambitions of Kaderlj’s grandson (that be Šoltes), but there you go 😉
Now, regardless of Lukšič’s derogatory rhetoric becoming uncomfortably similar to that of Janez Janša, there is an underlying sense of uneasiness with the SD leader. Namely, after going hard against Borut Pahor as party leader after the latter saw SD routed in the 2011 parliamentary elections, the two became remarkably amicable soon thereafter, fueling speculations Lukšič was in fact nothing more than an interim president with current minister of agriculture Dejan Židan waiting in the wings. And in this respect, the recent allegations against Lukšič may very well be a precursor to a leadership challenge.
Given the ratings SD enjoys lately, leading the public opinion polls for almost a year, such a challenge would have been next to impossible. But recently, the trend is becoming a bit less obvious and possibility of one or more new left-wing players (or old ones re-entering the match) is apparently making the SD nervous. Namely, it is more than obvious that SD is becoming a “refugee party”, with disappointed left-wing voters opting for them in absence of any meaningful alternative. But with alternatives appearing, SD as the “rational choice” is becoming less and less obvious. This, of course, does not mean SD will lose it’s alpha-party status on the left-wing. Not yet. But new parties just might chip off enough votes to preventg Igor Lukšič from achieving what he no doubt thinks is within his reach: becoming prime minister.
“I DON’T CARE, WE’LL TAKE ANYTHING!!!”
But if Lukšič and SD are panicking due to too many possible alternatives, Positive Slovenia is going all Homer Simpson over the lack of them. Namely, the lack of policy alternatives. As most of their painstakingly put together platform went right out the window with an all-out effort to avoid the (banking) bailout, the party is struggling to find firm footing, which is why they probably floated the idea od “researching the possibility of implementing universal basic income”.
Now, UBI is a radically different concept of welfare state, an overall noble idea and – strangely so – best of both socialist and neoliberal worlds. But this can not be done overnight. Probably not even in a year. But PS made an off-hand remark about how UBI should be included in the new coalition agreement as if they were talking about an insignificant little benefit. Which probably did more harm than good as everybody and his brother went ape-shit over the idea, even the wannabe neolibs who – if they were to remain true to their Friedmanesque ideas – should be all over the idea like Jeena Jameson over Peter North’s dick. Not to mention the left-wing which would rather see the welfare state of mid-70s suffer a death by a thousand cuts rather than accept the fact that an entire generation of young precariat is forming before their very noses and do something about it. As a direct result the UBI initiative is about as attractive to the general public as a pair of fetid dingo’s kidneys, all thanks to PS’ frantic search for something to stand for. Sort of.
Truth be told, it seemed for a moment they were going to stand for a strict re-examination of the TEŠ6 project, but that went out the window quickly enough. So not only the SD maintains “their hands are clean”, the coalition (in this case in cahoots with most of the opposition) agrees the project is bad but will carry on with it nevertheless.
Moving on to the parliamentarian centre, Citizens’ List (DL) – rather, what’s left of it – is in a mild state of panic ever since the party tore itself down the seam and basically exists only as a figment of political imagination, barely registering in the polls. Which is probably why Gregor Virant has an opinion on every issue, sometimes even more than one. Is. Not. Helping.
Fight on the right (to party)
But if the left-wing is contemplating panic, the right-wing is moving from panic to hysteria. Well, not entirely, NSi, for example, hit the ground running and is doing the pre-EU-election legwork already. It seems that Lojze Peterle, their main man in Brussels is out of the picture and they’ve got some catching-up to do. But the Ljudmila Novak – Matej Tonin duo seems to be purring along quite nicely, possibly with Novak heading the party ballot on 25 May when Slovenians are to choose their representatives in Brussels.
The SLS is also showing signs of independence, distancing themselves from the latest political stunt by the SDS, where European People’s Party sort of got Janša’s back. SLS said they will have no truck with this, despite EPP paying lip-service to NSi and SLS as well.
With both junior right-wing parties showing increasing signs of independent cognitive abilities, the SDS is truly starting to become hysterical. The main reason for this being that ever more of their resources are being diverted to “saving private Janša” than creating a meaningful political alternative. As a result, they’re locked in re-living the glorious past, re-enacting the first mustering of Slovenian armed forced (via VSO, a “patriotic society” linked heavily with The Party) and defaming everyone who doesn’t toe the increasingly radical party line.
With a ruling of the Higher Court in the Patria case looming, the crunch-time for Janša is fast approaching. Indeed, it is a matter of political life and death for the illustrious party leader. Should the prison sentence be confirmed, even his EPP companeros might find Janša too hot a potato to handle and bail out on him. Which is why it is imperative he survives. To ensure this, no punches are being pulled.
Case in point being Janša’s statement yesterday (carried by Party’s official Twitter account) that Jože Pučnik (the defeated candidate for first democratically president of Slovenia) in fact got more votes than the official tally showed.
.@JJansaSDS: Mislim, da je dr. Jože Pučnik na volitvah za predsednika predsedstva l. 1990 dobil bistveno več glasov, kot so mu jih našteli.
— SDS (@strankaSDS) January 20, 2014
The implication being that a) Milan Kučan, who won that and two succeeding presidential elections was in fact an impostor, b) the state electoral commission is an untrustworthy body (until now that, at least, was a no-go area of political rhetoric) and, consequentially, c) any future electoral result, unfavourable to the SDS, should be doubted as much as possible. Which is yet another step in Janša’s long-term undertaking of degrading Slovenia to a status of a banana-republic with him as the banana-in-chief. Expect calls for OSCE observers in the forthcoming election cycle. However, Janša’s immediate problems are judicial. The Patria case aside, he is embroiled in a number of smaller cases, not all of which are going well for him. He repeatedly fails to make himself available to be served with court mail (a special procedure in Slovenia, it can not be done Hollywood style over here) and was called out by the press repeatedly on this. But days ago Planet TV ran a piece on how Janša was absent yet again from a court hearing.
Authored by Gordana Stojilković, a journalist of (presumably) Serbian descent, it enraged Janša enough for him to start rapid-fire tweets about “opanke journalism”, with opanke being the traditional Serbian footwear and “Opanković” being the derogatory derivative for mayor Janković on account of his Serbian descent. The implication here being that the whole media coverage was orchestrated by journos and/or media faithful to Janković one way or another. The fact that Janković is in fact Janša’s only ally-of-opportunity in the much larger case of anti-graft report (and their efforts to show they weren’t given a chance to respond, hence the report is illegal) So, what we had here the other day was the leader of the main opposition party going on a nationalistic and xenophobic rant.
In fact, it was like Tomaž Majer all over again. Back then, pengovsky submitted that rather than being Janša’s pseudonim Tomaž Majer was/is a collective identity of like-minded individuals of nationalistic/xenophobic/supremacist/paranoid convictions. And, sure enough, almost instantly after Janša fired off the first tweet under the #opankarskižurnalisem hashtag a brigade of his followers started backing the man up with “evidence” of “opanke journalism”. It was only after the backlash became too strong, Janša started spinning the story, saying it has nothing do with nationality, but rather with unprofessional and unethical journalistic practices.
— Janez Janša (@JJansaSDS) January 21, 2014
Which begs the question, what exactly does Serbian folk footwear have to do with it. But I guess that something only an “opanke journalist” would ask anyhow.
Point is the SDS is losing energy battling enemies real and (mostly) imagined, yielding ground to junior right-wing parties and knowing it. But other than an occasional rant in the general direction of NSi and SLS and everyone who appeals for calm and a more centrist approach, there’s little they can do.
No clue what to do next
Which is why at the moment they’re banging the drums of history, making one hell of a ruckus over an old UDBa (socialist secret police) case where allegedly Slovenian UDBa operatives killed a Croatian immigrant in early 70s, first kidnapping him in Austria and then transporting him to Slovenia, then Yugoslavian territory. The thing is that one Roman Leljak, a former Yugoslavian military intelligence operative supposedly uncovered archives claiming this was done with full knowledge of top officials of Slovenian branch of UDBa as well as (and this is the key) with full knowledge of the Slovenian communist leadership which in that time alredy included Janša’s arch-enemy Milan Kučan. Kučan himself denied allegations, citing archive documents and transcripts of Central Committee sessions.
And this is why parliamentary committee on human rights is convening for lengthy sessions these days. It’s not about murders and political executions, as disgraceful as they are. It’s about rallying the party troops and chasing ghosts in the absence of any clue what to do next politically. The only positive side to this for SDS is that time and again the political left falls for the same trick and starts playing ball, entering a shouting match and trying to prove the Party wrong.
It doesn’t matter if the party discipline in the SDS would make the real Communist party of the iron 70s proud. It doesn’t matter that some of the more fervent Communists are now SDS members (its president included). It doesn’t even matter how many times the political left (or any specific parties of that side of political spectrum) denounces activities of the UDBa. SDS will always claim “they haven’t gone far enough” and call that “their burden of historical guilt they’ve yet to deal with”.
But other than that this is just mass-hysteria, a precursor to general panic. Should be fun.
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