Janez Janša, leader of the largest opposition party SDS was stripped of his MP seat
yesterday on Wednesday, thus bringing to a close a protracted period of post-election second-hand embarrasment this country was collectively experiencing due to the fact that a convicted criminal was elected to the parliament and was indeed executing his office.
The SDS put up a sign where Janša sat in the parliament saying “Political Prisoner” (source: sds.si)
In case you live in the real world and not in this sorry excuse for a country, here’s a quick rundown: Janša was sentenced to two years in prison for corruption in the Patria Case. He appealed his sentence, got his appeal dismissed by the higher court and then again by the supreme court. Some time in between (at the height of the election campaign this summer) he started serving his sentence, but was elected to the parliament nevertheless. Thus prompting a legal and political clusterfuck because – you’re not going to believe this – the law says an MP is stripped of office “if convicted to a prison sentence exceeding six months” but doesn’t specify if this means sentences after he/she was confirmed as an MP or does this apply to sentences passed before an MP is elected to office.
And while this legal minefield was navigated, Janša was sleeping in a prison cell but was coming to Ljubljana whenever parliament was in session. Which was quite often in the past couple of months. And since Janša had no intention of resigning of his own accord (after all, he sees his prison sentence as a result of a global communist conspiracy), a curious situation was created where a person convicted of criminal activity was deciding on laws in this country. Even more – staying true to form, i.e. pushing the envelope to breaking point – Janša tried to have himself appointed in the parliamentary Intelligence Oversight committee.
Which apparently was the straw that broke the camel’s back as the ruling SMC repeatedly blocked constitution of this committee, on the grounds of Janša being able to access sensitive information as a member of the committee. Which is true. Having a convict attending a surprise inspection of a police wire-tapping facility is simply preposterous. Therefore, the question at hand was not only that of legality of Janša’s MP seat, but that of legitimacy of the parliament. Because what kind of a sorry-ass parliament allows a convict to hold it by the balls through procedural maneuvering?
After months trying to have the cake and eat it, the ruling SMC of PM Miro Cerar finally got their shit together and realised the situation will require a political decision (preferably one which survives legal challenges) rather than a legal decision passed by a political body. Which was a marked improvement from their initial approach which was designate an ad-hoc committee of outside legal experts since the parliamentary legal service stated that in their view Janša can not legally be stripped of his term.
Obviously a whole lot of brouhaha was made about this document, especially by the SDS. But the parliamentary legal service is a child everybody likes to kick around when they feel like it and feign to protect when it makes them look good. Virtually every party in the parliament at one stage hailed documents by the legal service but flat-out ignored them at another stage. SDS is no exception. Even worse, whenever they disagreed with the position of the parliamentary legal service, they accused it of currying favour of communists, carrying bag for powers that be, etc, etc. Point being, that the new-found faith of the SDS in the legal experts of the parliament is probaby short-lived and confined to this particular issue.
Anyhoo, on Wednesday parliament finally voted on the matter and decided to strip Janša of his term as per law. Which means that not only have the parliamentarians ejected a convict from their midst, they’ve also set a precedent and passed an interpretation of the disputed Article 9 of the Law on Deputies. Clause “if convicted to a prison sentence exceeding six months” is now interpreted as “regardless of whether conviction took place prior to MP actually being elected or after he/she was already sworn in” provided the sentence is still being served.
Again, Janša can and probably will mount a legal challenge, but his luck seems to be running out. Not only is his star-lawyer Franci Matoz repeatedly failing to deliver for his client, he also has a couple of other cases against him due in court. Nothing of the Patria magnitude, but enough to be more than just a hassle. Despite the fact that there is a merry band of followers picketing the Ljubljana Court building every day, there is noticeable and growing dissent among the faithful. Even Reporter magazine, usually a mouthpiece for the most crackpot of SDS ideas (not to be confused with Demokracija magazine, which is actually part-owned by the Party), threw Janša under the bus a couple of weeks ago, much to the man’s annoyance.
In 1988, when Janez Janša was put in prison, he was catapulted into top-tier politics where he remained ever since. It seems only fitting he should make his exit in the same manner.