As expected, President Pahor announced on Thursday he will nominate leader of SDS Janez Janša for the position of the prime minister following the results of election on 3 June. In reponse, Janša said he will think about it and will get back to Pahor on that.
NARRATOR: You’re probably wondering what the fuck is going on here…
The president and the guy playing hard-to-get. (source)
Six weeks after the voters have had their say, Muddy Hollows is still government-less. Not that anyone really noticed, but there you go. In the mean time, a lot has happened but the country is only marginally closer to appointing a new government than it was six weeks ago. Not in the least because President Pahor seems keen on shedding as much of his constitutional prerogative on this matter as humanly possible.
On the face of it the issue seems unproblematic. Despite making plenty of noise, Marjan Šarec of LMŠ has thus-far been unable clobber together 46 votes he needs to clinch the PM nomination. In a turn of events that surprised a grand total of zero people, the main sticking point turned out to be the division of portfolios between the five centre-left parties rather than any sort of policy conflicts.
Adding to the confusion is the fact that the centre-right NSi is negotiating both with LMŠ and SDS. While the party is obviously keenly aware of the fact that they are an instrumental part of any ruling coalition, they run the risk of overplaying their hand and may see their approach bite them in the ass hard. Especially if they end up in a Janša-led coalition as the Glorious Leader is not exactly known for kindness towards those who challenge his authority.
And chances of Prime Minister Janša 3.0 have increased dramatically on Thursday when president Pahor announced that he will, as per his earlier statements, nominate the SDS leader for the post.
But there’s a catch. At the moment Janša can – officially, at least – count on even fewer votes than Šarec. SDS, NSi and the nationalist SNS can muster only 36 out of 46 needed (as opposed to Šarec’s 43 out of 46, not counting the NSi). So, why have Janša’s chances increased?
First, there is a world of difference between a party leader manoeuvring for votes among his peers on one hand and a president-appointed nominee with entourage and a security detail in tow. There’s a slight shift in authority and seniority and these things matter, especially if the nominee has a shitload of mileage while most the people he negotiates with are n00bs of various degrees.
Second, the fact that Janša has, for some reason, been president Pahor’s preferred nominee all along. Ever since pre-election polls began consistently showing SDS with a substantial lead Pahor went on the record saying even before the election that he will nominate whoever gets the most votes. You’ll be excused for thinking that had this not been the case, Pahor would not be so forthcoming and decisive about his post-election moves.
On a side note, Pahor’s infatuation with Janša has long been a matter of more or less open public debate. Pahor puts this down to his style of politics but curiously this extends to mostly Janša while the rest of political players are considered frenemies at best. The more likely explanation is that the current president has a thing for leaders who ooze power (pengovsky will not use the word strongmen but feel free to think it) and among Slovenian politicians Janša fits the bill most.
But thirdly, and most importantly, not only has president Pahor decided to nominate Janša for PM but has also ceded control of the timeline to him, de facto empowering Janša with deciding who, if anyone, gets to form the government in the end. This is tantamount to dereliction of duty.
So, let us unpack it a bit.
The fact that Pahor nominated Janša for PM is in itself not problematic. The above notwithstanding, it is a matter of basic political hygiene. Since neither of the two likely would-be PMs did not present a coalition with 46+ votes, it seems logical that the guy who won most votes fo the two gets first crack at this. After all, electoral proceedings need some sort of constitutional closure in at least a perfunctory attempt at forming a government.
The problem started when Pahor, even after maintaining that he will nominate Janša, publicly said that it is for Janša to accept the nomination and gave him a week to decide. This alone is problematic. The president nominates. He (or she) doesn’t ask, beg or plead for someone to accept the nomination.
This is not some second-hand car the president is selling here, giving a potential buyer a few days to see if there’s a better offer around. This is the leadership of the government of a goddamn EU member state he is handing out and whoever is going to get it better be prepared to ready for it.
And this, of course, it the crux of the problem. Janša is nowhere near ready. Not only does he not have the necessary 46 votes, he doesn’t even come close. But Pahor had already said he will nominate whoever wins the election, which means he boxed himself into a corner, where his nominee would most likely fail, at least in his first attempt. And is something Pahor seems desperate to avoid. Indeed it doesn’t look good for a president if he puts forward a nominee who through either political ineptitude or arrogance (or both) fails to win approval of the parliament (see Türk, Danilo and Jankovič, Zoran, 2011.
But in trying to avoid political humiliation and kowtowing to Janša at the same time, Borut Pahor has relinquished complete control of arguably the most important peace-time power the constitution bestows upon the president.
The SDS leader now has until Thursday next to say whether he’ll accept the nomination. But on Monday after that, the 30-day deadline for the president to put forward a nominee passes, leaving president with four days at best to come up with an alternative name. And that is provided Janša plays a fair game and doesn’t try to extend the deadline. By waiting a week for Janša exclusively (a courtesy he has not extended to Marjan Šarec or anyone else for that matter) Pahor has now effectively put the SDS leader in the driver’s seat, letting him decide the tempo and the direction of this entire shit-show.
Admittedly, the story does not end on 23 July. If the president doesn’t put forward a nominee, the parliament takes over and the parties get to put forward their own nominees. At this point, however, the process starts to get messy with parties being able to put forward names they know will fail and forcing the parliament to vote on them in a lengthy procedure, further prolonging the entire ordeal. And that’s before the third round, where the constitution allows for a minority government to emerge, as well, which opens up a whole new can of worms.
Point being, that as far as an orderly formation of the government, the president basically abandoned his post.