Under usual circumstances, Levica bailing out on the supply & support agreement with the Šarec government (or the other way around, depending on whom you ask) would be big news. But seeing as the circumstances are anything but usual, the splash Luka Mesec and his democratic socialists hoped for was anything but spectacular.
This was just the latest of missteps, unforced errors and ham-fisted efforts at controlling the narrative that has marked the past few weeks in Muddy Hollows and pengovsky hopes to make a short series of posts on them. Let’s start with the latest one.
From the beginning the coalition itself was a myriad of interests, be it party, personal or vested. And while PM Šarec was able to maintain a semblance of discipline by giving the grand total of zero fucks about the future of the government (basically always daring the partner to quit the coalition), the relationship with Mesec & Co was testy from the get-go.
Case in point being the fact, that while the draft agreement was hammered out just in time for Levica to support the inauguration of Šarec and his cabinet in August 2018, the actual signing of the text took place eight months later.
Things came to a head this week when Levica, unhappy about not making enough headway in terms of dictating policy, submitted their own legislation on health insurance overhaul, something the coalition agreed to in principle but was advocating a much softer approach.
TL;DR: Levica wants all health insurance to be paid on a progressive scale as well as 100% coverage (now divided into mandatory and voluntary-complementary insurance schemes) for everyone, and they want it now.
Seeing as that would blow a significant hole in the budget (a claim Levica dispute), the government tried to slow-walk the whole thing and ultimately put forward its own amendments, in a thinly-veiled attempt to derail the procedure on Levica’s proposal.
As a result, Luka Mesec said that they’ve had it and that Levica will now be returning to the opposition ranks.
As both readers of this blog know, Levica bent over backwards in claiming that they were in no way, shape or form, a member of the ruling coalition.
Which, at the time, was fair and square and had merit. The government of Marjan Šarec is a minority one and had a confidence & supply agreement with Levica. Not unlike the UK Conservative party has with the ultra-nationalist Norther Irish DUP, to take an example at random.
The problem was that for all intents and purposes, Levica acted as if it was a part of the government. It wanted to dictate policy on a wide range of issues, demanded that legislative initiatives be cleared with them and, curiously, sometimes played ball where it didn’t really have to. Which is what coalition parties do.
This made a lot of people unhappy. Some in Šarec’s government felt they were basically blackmailed by Levica, while some in Levica accused (and not for the first time) Mesec of selling out. And on top that, the right-wing opposition, especially SDS, was screaming bloody murder, as a nominally opposition Levica meant different distributions of parliamentary committee seats.
But since both Šarec’s coalition and Levica were willing to go ahead with the charade, the whole thing sort of worked for a while. Until it didn’t.
However, even with the agreement, well, dead in a ditch, not a whole lot will change. Senior Levica members went on the record saying they will not be bringing down the government which basically means that PM Šarec will continue to shop around for support for his legislative proposals but won’t be obliged to go to Levica first. And seeing as Levica says he wasn’t doing a whole lot of that in the first place… plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
That said, there are two lesson here, for everyone involved.
Firstly: positions such as the one Mesec put Levica in for the past year, are in the long-term intrinsically untenable. You can pull tricks like this every so often but you cannot base your entire position in the political ecosystem on such a basis.
Secondly: With the latest in political experimentation ending in tears and Muddy Hollows being back to the text-book definition of minority government (albeit a stable one), the 1992 coalition acrobatics performance by the late Janez Drnovšek continues to stand out as a singular political achievement. Forming a coalition with two polar opposites, left-wing ZLSD (now SD) and right-wing SKD (part of which continues today as NSi) by signing two different coalition agreements still reigns supreme in the admittedly short textbook of Slovenian political innovations.
This time around, clearly, no-one was thinking.