T-14 days and the election campaign in Muddy Hollows is now seeing increased use of heavy artillery, pengovsky did some punditizing on the telly and the debates are about to start coming in thick and fast.
Debate on POP TV on Monday night (source: screencapture)
But before we go into all that, the story that dominated the past week was one this scribe had briefly covered here and has to do with Slovenia turning out to be much more of a banana republic than its indigenous population is willing to admit
Both readers will remember the clusterfuck Janez Janša and his SDS waded into with a shady loan taken out with Dijana Đuđić, a young Bosnian Serb woman. Back then, a parallel story was developing about Iran running a money-laundering scheme through Slovenia in 2009 and 2010, that is to say during the tenure of PM (now president) Borut Pahor. Both stories converged in a parliamentary inquiry headed by Jani Möderndorfer (SMC) which published a 600-page report late last week. To put it mildly, it caused a bit of a stir
It turned out that when not signing loan agreements with Janša, Ms. Đuđić was acting as a mule for a money laundering ring that made good use of the apparently lax anti-laundering procedures in Maribor-based NKBM, at the time the second largest state-owned bank. Interestingly, the person overseeing (or, rather, not overseeing) these activities was a former secret service operative who came to the bank during Janša’s second instalment at prime-minister in 2012-2013. Millions of euros are thought to have been laundered by various individuals and organisations, including the Italian mafia, specifically the ‘Ndragheta crime syndicate.
Whether or not Đuđić was part of this or some other ring is not entirely clear. But it is clear she was withdrawing large sums of cash and handing them to people in Janša’s orbit. Rok Snežič, a notorious tax dodger and Janša’s cell mate while the Glorious Leader was doing time for the Patra Affair (the verdict was later overturned) is thought to be one of key players in this ring.
As a result, the SDS is now finding it very hard to maintain the it-was-an-honest-mistake narrative. In fact, they’re not even fighting it but – rather smartly, I might add – admitting *some* wrongdoing (mostly breaking campaign financing regulation) and saying they’ll accept whatever fine the authorities deem fit, thus trying very hard to put the story to bed. Which is much more preferable than having to fight allegations of aiding and abetting money laundering on an industrial scale.
You know things are bad when the SDS doesn’t really fight a negative narrative. But you know things are really, really, bad when neither the SDS nor the Social Democrats fight a negative narrative.
Namely, the other bombshell the inquiry dropped landed squarely at the feet of Social Democrats as it transpired that not only did Iran indeed launder as much as 800 million euro thorough the bank and that senior bank management as well as finance and foreign ministers at the time, France Križanič and Samuel Žbogar were aware of the shenanigans.
What’s more – and this is the real kicker – SOVA, Slovenian intelligence service, knew about it, too and attempted to notify the prime minister, to whom it reports directly. However, then-PM (now president) Borut Pahor apparently ignored the report. And since Pahor was also leader of Social Democrats at the time and since Križanič is again running on their ticket, the party suddenly found itself neck-deep in some quality shit.
And just as with SDS, the SD quickly realised this story needs to be contained as quickly as possible which is probably one of the reasons it was MP Matjaž Han who handled the initial fallout, saying that the party accepts the political responsibility but tried very hard to have unspecified others share the blame as well. It was Han himself to let on just how bad things are for the party when in a Freudian slip he said that “we’ll see if the voters let the party off the hook again”. Think TEŠ 6.
It would appear, however, that President Pahor is not at all happy with SD’s containment strategy of putting some serious daylight between the two of then. Which is why he went on the offensive the other day and tweeted a video of himself sort-of addressing the nation, saying that “even if the prime minister did not read the report, this should not have precluded relevant agencies to act upon it”.
— Borut Pahor (@BorutPahor) May 18, 2018
Which is probably true, but there’s no indication “relevant agencies” did not act upon the discovery. At least, not in the part of the report that is not classified. If there’s something to that effect in the classified section, however, the president might have just broken the law. Oops.
Moreover, in trying to deflect the responsibility (the same manoeuvre he attempted in the TEŠ6 affair) Pahor implicitly admitted that he was negligent in prime-ministerial duties. Which, although not criminal, do further erode his capability to execute his current office. Right now, the president of Slovenia is not a happy panda.
Luckily for Pahor, he is not running for office this time around. But SD is feeling the pain big time. A Mediana poll released yesterday has them down to 6.5%, turning their downward trend that has been going on for several weeks almost into a freefall.
SDS, however, is continuing its upward trend and reached 15% this time around, which – with this particular pollster – is a new high for the party which is running a very Orbanesque campaign, heavy on anti-migrant rhetoric, threatening to shut down the entire NGO sector (realizing only later that would also include all the local firefighting associations, catholic charities and similar) and at the same time playing fast and loose with economy and finance.
While abhorrently xenophobic, their campaign is pretty slick (human factor notwithstanding). There are even reports of Trump-like Facebook activity with dark posts and pages tailored to very specific audiences. But if the latest poll is anything to go by, a victorious Janša would have a hard time cobbling together a coalition. And not because of want of potential partners but rather because there is no obvious runner-up to court and divide the spoils with.
The thing is that apart from the SDS every other party is now in the single digit territory. And even if we account for the undecided voters, Janša’s party would have to bring on board a plethora of smaller parties to secure an absolute majority in the parliament. And if the NSi, now led by Matej Tonin, actually fucks up and gets relegated from the parliament, this will make Janša’s job all the harder.
Things can change
As Harold Wilson once observed, a week is a long time in politics and Sunday’s polls may be outdated soon Especially after the debate on Monday night on POP TV which – despite not actually breaking new ground – did provide a moderate dose of entertainment and WTF moments. Janša had a strong start but then got rattled by Luka Mesec (The Left), Erjavec underperformed, as did Židan who in addition switched tactics on NLB issue (he is now hugging Pahor tight), Cerar was getting killed on health reform but then put on a strong show, while Šarec and Tonin were nowhere to be seen.
Will the polls reflect that? Stay tuned…