Wild Wednesday in Muddy Hollows

Harold Wilson once observed, and pengovsky is fond of repeating, that a week in politics is a long time. Rarely was this more true than in Slovenia these days, where Jože P. Damijan’s antics on national television seem all but forgotten.

Image of European Parliament with Ljudmila Novak, Karl Erjavec and Zdravko Počivalšek in Slovenia

The one-time PM-hopeful was replaced in the news cycle by the EU parliament debate on media freedom in Slovenia (plus Hungary and Poland), Karl Erjavec quitting DeSUS (again), Zdravko Počivalšek of SMC sending a CYA letter to everyone and Ljudmila Novak of NSi denying that she’s about to launch her own party. And you know what that other British PM had to say about denials.

What’s worse (or better, depending on your point of view), all of the above happened in a space of a few hours. Now, at some point in the near future, these incidents will their own respective write-up on this excuse for a blog, but for now, let’s just run through them.

European parliament on media freedom in Muddy Hollows

The European Parliament plenary debate on media freedom in Hungary, Poland and Slovenia was supposed to be the biggie. In its anticipation, the government propaganda engine started churning out a narrative about Slovenia scoring high on democracy scales, the media being infested with leftists and liberals and in general portraying themselves as victims of left-wing globalists elite.

Which more or less how far-right groups in the European Parliament sought to portray the subject matter, thereby even further cementing the notion that the government running Slovenia is in fact nothing short of far-right. No wonder SDS MP and Janša’s chief attack dog Branko Grims favours following in Viktor Órban’s footsteps and quitting the EPP.

In case the EPP bigwigs are still in doubt as to who their next headache is going to be, MEP Romana Tomc (SDS/EPP) buckled the general party line yesterday and – in a performance for the audience of one – unconditionally supported Marshal Twito in his illiberal anti-media aboutfuckery.

Be that as it may, the general tone of the EP debate didn’t leave much to imagination. This is now on EU Parliament’s and Commission’s radars and with Slovenia taking over the EU Council presidency in four months, the scrutiny will only increase in scope and volume.

Perhaps Janez Janša should have been more careful when he wished for and got his second Council presidency

Počivalšek’s CYA move

That is, assuming he even gets there. As we said in the beginning, a week is a long time in politics and fourteen weeks separating the Glorious Leader from his much-coveted political prize may just turn out to be too long.

Namely, events seem to be going on in the SMC. On Wednesday, hours before the EP debate was about to start, boss Zdravko Počivalšek sent out a hand-wringing letter addressed to “the opposition and fellow travelers” where it took him two single-spaced pages to say absolutely jack shit.

He did manage a Freudian slip or two, where he used first person plural to define the root causes of the current political mess, as in “we fucked up”. What he meant, of course, was to blame the entire political class. But seeing as he still is vice-PM and a leader of the second largest coalition party, mischievous people can easily read it as a sort-of confession letter. And in case you didn’t notice, pengovsky can be very mischievous.

https://twitter.com/PocivalsekZ/status/1369610999037321220

More likely, however, Počivalšek was simply executing a cover-your-ass (CYA) maneuver.

Word on the street has it that SMC rank and file (what’s left of it, anyway) is unhappy with the way senior party figures performed lately, specifically minister of education Simona Kustec, who was nowhere to be seen during the entirety of the four-month-long homeschooling period, and minister of justice Lilijana Kozlovič.

The latter very embarrassingly ran out of text on live TV the other day, when the host grilled her on why the PM continues to veto her nominees for open positions in the state prosecution.

https://twitter.com/StudioCity_/status/1366646967829467136

Počivalšek runs no real danger of being ousted. Not in the least because there is no apparent challenger within the party, even though Speaker Igor Zorčič was trying to make some noise about how SMC should be more forceful in the coalition about protecting the rule of law.

What Počivalšek could do, however, is try too hard to keep the party in line and sour it even more for some people. This includes Zorčič and head of parliamentary group Janja Sluga, both of whom played ball the last time around and supported Janša in the no-confidence vote.

Erjavec bids adieu (encore un fois)

While Zdravko Počivalšek writes letters but shows no signs of leaving, Karl Erjavec somewhat surprisingly packed up his toys and left the sandpit, and didn’t even leave a note.

Not only did Komeback Karl quit DeSUS leadership, he quit the party altogether. Which probably isn’t exactly the ride into the sunset he imagined for himself. But hey, in the words of a British poet, you can’t always get what you want, but you get what you give.

What exactly made Erjavec throw in the towel merely three months after staging a fairly spectacular comeback is not officially known. Odds are, however, that his irresistible force met the immovable object of DeSUS parliamentary group.

While the group did leave Janša’s coalition, leaving the Glorious Leader with a minority government, Franc Jurša and the rest of DeSUS MPs did leave the door ajar, saying they will support those government bills they happen to fancy. Which sounds almost like the confidence and supply agreement Levica had with the minority government of Marjan Šarec.

But fact of the matter is that DeSUS does not hold the key to the survival of Janša’s government. That role belongs to the SMC and – to some extent – to the NSi.

Ljudmila Novak does a full Sherman (just not on every topic)

And it was from thence where yesterday’s last source of instability appeared. Following her dust-up with Marshal Twito, rumours started swirling that Ljudmila Novak is planning to leave the NSi and form her own party.

Novak vehemently denied that in a lengthy public statement. But since denial is not just a river in Egypt, Novak went further than that and lashed out at her critics both inside her own party and on the right wing in general. And she echoed the general sentiment of the debate in the European Parliament and called Janša, without naming him, a far-right politician, similar in tactics to the far-left (which, for obvious reasons, the NSi dogma finds abhorrent).

Not only that, Ljudmila Novak also hinted at again running for president. She ran in 2017 and was thought to have a decent shot at denying Borut Pahor a second term, when Janša persuaded Romana Tomc (see above) to join the fray, thus splitting the right-wing vote and leaving Novak with no path forward.

And finally, while Novak did a full Sherman regarding rumors of starting a new party, a funny thing happened late Thursday: Iva Dimic, a NSi MP and a close ally of Novak’s somehow managed to vote in favour of an opposition amendment regarding kindergarten financing, allowing the amendment to be adopted and the bill forwarded to plenary vote in the National Assembly.

But

Now, mistakes happen and Dimic did apologise and promised to vote against the law in the plenary vote. But then again, she is the chairperson of the committee where this incident took place and pengovsky finds it hard to believe that a woman of her parliamentary experience would make a rookie mistake like that.

And since the “mistake” can be rectified in the plenary vote, it is just as plausible that she was a bottle for Ljudmila Novak’s message to Matej Tonin, that he shouldn’t fuck around too much, lest things really start happening.

The fact that Domovina.je, a NSi webzine posing as a news outlet ran an extra long piece on Dimic’s vote, trying to spin it as a costly misstep, reiterating why private kindergartens should get more public money.

In fact, they tried a bit too much. I mean, a thousand words to explain away a mishap? Looks like someone got the message.

Question is, will they heed it?

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pengovsky

Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.