Police Raid Zoran Janković

Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković got raided by law-enforcement agencies early this morning. The CrimPolice knocked on his door at about 6 am, produced a search warrant and searched his place, places of eight other individuals and fourteen places of work. While Janković himself was apparently not detained during the course of the investigation, six people were. This includes his two sons (one whom was in hospital, where his wife was having a C-section) as well as Uroš Ogrin, general manager of Gradis G, the principal contractor in the Stožice Complex project (and several other construction projects in the city).


Cop cars in front of the City Hall earlier today (photo: The Firm™)

Officially, the primary focus of the investigation is the Stožice complex and the flow of money surrounding it. The commercial part of the complex still isn’t finished, allegedly because GREP (a company established by Gradis G and the other contractor Energoplan for the purpose of constructing the complex) can’t secure a final credit line of about 15 million euro in what is essentially a 350 million euro project. Specifically, the police suspect (among other things) money laundering, abuse of office and fraud.

Right now no charges are filed. They usually aren’t in cases like these. It will take the cops over at National Bureau of Investigation some time before they sift through the pile of papers they’ve confiscated but it seems inconceivable that the prosecution would not press the case all the way to the court. Regardless of how watertight the case against the mayor really is.

Because even though everyone was loath to look at the case from the political point of view, it is obvious that the ramifications of this case go beyond mere questions of legality of Janković’s actions. With him being the president of the largest party in the parliament this somewhat levels the political playing field in Slovenia, since his arch-rival Janez Janša is knee-deep in the Patria Affair. Somewhat being the operative word here as no charges are pressed as yet against Janković, while Janša is standing trial. Since the investigation was apparently opened a year and a half ago it would be unfair to say that the whole thing is purely political, but there are too many coincidences here to just brush them off.

First, as with almost every other big story in the last year, the whole thing broke while PM Janša was out of town. This time around he was in New York, attending the UN General Assembly, calling for a world without genocide (I’m sure everyone else went: Hey, why didn’t we think of that?). Second, this happened after the State Prosecution was transferred under the portfolio of Ministry of the interior, now ran by Vinko Gorenak of Janša’s SDS. And third, the fact that the raid happened on the same day Jankovič’s daughter-in-law was in hospital, giving birth via a C-section, reeks of intent to humiliate. These procedures are planned in advance and while pengovsky is not pointing any fingers, it looks as if someone was looking to add insult to injury.

But even if these are pure coincidences, fact remains that the spotlight is now firmly on Zoran Janković and this will be exploited by his political opponents in every way, shape or form. Indeed, it wasn’t long since president Danilo Türk was called upon to “publicly denounce” Janković, who was Türk’s first PM nominee after 2011 elections and whose party Positive Slovenia supports the incumbent president in his re-election bid. Funnily, no-one calls on SDS presidential candidate Milan Zver to publicly denounce Janez Janša due to him being tried in a court of law. And you can be sure Borut Pahor will try to jump on that particular bandwagon as well.

But while the right-wing will howl about how this is the beginning of an end of Jay-Z and the “entire left wing”, there is an issue that will have to be dealt with mostly by Positive Slovenia and sooner rather than later: as things stand right now, the party appears united behind their man. But in the past members of this party and other notable left-wing politicos claimed that Janša should resign the moment the court accepted the charges against him filed by the State Prosecution. With regard to their leader, the SDS maintains that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. As expected, they are not willing to extend this luxury to Janković. But Positive Slovenia claimed an altogether different criteria, which is definitely more in line with the concept of a modern democracy. Thus it will be interesting to see how they respond if charges against Janković are indeed formally pressed.

On the other hand, however, there’s always the possibility that Jay-Z will spare them the grief. Tonight he categorically denied any possibility of him resigning, but then again, you never know…

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[VIDEO] Fabiani Bridge

In late August, Ljubljana finally got a crucial piece of traffic infrastructure which completed the so called “inner road ring”. Fabiani bridge across the Ljubljanica River connects Roška and Njegoševa streets, cutting commute time between Poljane and Tabor neighbourhoods by a substantial margin. The bridge itself was controversial. Bridges tend to be. This particular bridge is a two-level construction with motor traffic on top and pedestrian and cyclist traffic below. Also, it is a four-lane bridge connecting a three-lane road to a two-lane road, which raised many-an-eyebrow. But it works.

However, the lower level of the bridge was just as controversial: a bicycle lane which starts on one bank and does not go in a straight line to the other bank was a point where mayor Zoran Janković and vice-mayor for urban planning Janez Koželj got plenty of flak. Also, the stairs on the left bank seem to be quite a challenge to negotiate. But as far as cyclists go, pengosky was in the neighbourhood recently and decided to have a look…


Has Janković Had Enough?

Days ago Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković for the second time this month dropped a hint in the passing which none of the news media seems to have picked up. Namely, that this will be his last term as mayor of the capital. At the start of a new school year Zoki, while cutting the ribbon at the new building of Ljubljana Waldorf school said that any further expansion projects will be overseen by the new mayor. While there were a few gasps in situ nobody made a big deal about it. Ditto two days ago, when upon unveiling the concept of a new housing project, he announced the new head of City Administration (to take over soonest) and told her that she will have to see that the next mayor will provide funds for the project as well.


Tired? Fed up? Bored? Or just having fun… (photo by yours truly)

Now, Zoki being Zoki, this could mean absolutely nothing. He can change his mind in split second, again full of zest and vigor and carry on as if nothing happened. On the other hand, he does seem a bit, well, fed up. Also, things are not going especially well for him. After being subjected to a year-long tax audit, his case was now referred to the state prosecution which will decide whether or not to press charges. No points for guessing what the decision will be.

The list goes on. In some circles he is constantly being mentioned as a possible “technocratic prime minister”, a sort of Slovenian Mario Monti (but much less sombre), but in pengovsky’s opinion those are just wet dreams of people who still think in terms of getting to the power first and thinking about everything else second. Janez Janša and his government are a fine example of this approach and the disaster it brings about.

All things considered, it seems extremely unlikely that Janković will (again) resign before his term is up. But if he really intends to make this his last term as mayor, political parties in the capital should start getting their asses in gear, because right now not a single one of them can produce a person with enough clout to cover all the bases in the city. Autumn 2014 may turn out to be plenty of fun.

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The Return of the Jay-Z

Zoran Janković is to be sworn as mayor tomorrow and I still owe you a run-down on his victory on mayoral by-elections on 25 March, so here it goes: While the result was a virtual no-brainer, the whole episode is slightly more interesting than it may seem at first glance. As you very well now, the sole reason for these by-elections was the fact that Janković was elected MP on 4 December parliamentary elections and had to relinquish his position as the Big Kahuna of the coty. After being outmanoeuvred by Janez Janša and had the premiership snatched from under the nose, Janković was faced with quite a dilemma: whether he should continue as MP and a nominal leader of the opposition, or whether he should leave the parliament and try to – as schizophrenic as this may sound – succeed himself as the mayor of Ljubljana.

Just to make sure everybody’s on the same page, pengovsky would like to remind both readers again that these were mayoral by-elections which had no effect on the composition of the city council itself with Zoran Janković List having an absolute majority of 25 out of 45 councilmen, so there was a theoretical possibility of a cohabitation. But in all honesty, the result was never in doubt. Ljubljana is Zoki’s turf and with the political right being continuously unable to mount a serious challenge to win since 1994 municipal administration reform which established Ljubljana as a single entity, the question du jour was not if Jay-Z will win, but by rather by how much. In the end the metre stopped at 61%, which is a) a repetition of his election results in 2006 and 2010 and b) still pretty awesome.

Having said that, additional and equally important issues were raised by these elections: a) why can’t the political right put up a decent fight in the capital and why it tried in vain to do so, b) what’s with the left side of the spectrum and c) what will Janković’s move from National Assembly to the City Hall mean for him and for the parliamentary opposition.

The Empire

As you know, right wing parties put forward two challengers to Zoran Janković. Mojca Kucler Dolinar, a joint SDS/NSi candidate and Matjaž Glavan, who stood for SLS. While Glavan scored a neglible 1% which is in line with that SLS got in municipal elections in 2010, Kucler Dolinar scored marginally better than she and Zofija Mazej Kuković did year and a half ago when they ran solo for NSi and SDS respectively.

But the real question is why did Kucler Dolinar run for mayor the second time knowing she’d lose. Pengovsky tried to answer this in his post running up to the elections (hoping for a reward down the road), but there are other factors to consider as well. Most of all the fact that for all intents and purposes Mojca Kucler Dolinar is now a spent force. She lost to Janković twice in a row and although one could claim that she did pretty well, she came nowhere near forcing Janković into a second round, let alone endangering him directly. This does not exactly do wonders for her political career as she has little to show for in terms of achievements. Also, word has it the joint SDS/NSi ticket was her idea but that the SDS had to formally extend the invitation since Kucler Dolinar’s NSi was strongly opposed to what they probably saw as a lost cause.

Bottom line: whatever political ambitions Kucler Dolinar might have had before 25 March are now probably up in smoke. She was probably hoping to re-enter national politics (she served as a higher education minister in the first Janša administration) but given lack of success on her part and the minute role NSi is playing the current Janša set-up, her chances are virtually nil. Ditto for any master plan she might have had to take over the party.

SDS came out of this mess virtually unhurt. From their point of view it doesn’t really matter who made the initial offer, fact of the matter is that by having Kucler Dolinar as a joint candidate they made at least a pro-forma challenge to Janković while not throwing away a name and a face they’ll have to send into battle in two-and-a-half-year’s time.

But even then they will still be faced with the same dilemma: Why can’t they win in Ljubljana? Well, the marginally younger, more urban and slightly more left-wing orientation of the population helps, but the reality is that the political right has been re-active. In other words, they always campaigned on »not doing stuff like the previous administration did it«. And had Zoki not burst on the scene in 2006, that might have just been enough. But he did and it wasn’t. As a result, they (as well as most of the other political parties) are hopelessly aping his platform which is broad enough to have encompassed most of the challenges this city will be facing in the next decade or so, as well as trying to beat him at his own game of setting goals and achieving them (or at least coming close enough). And when that doesn’t work, they fall back again to »promising not to do it like the previous guys did it«. It’s a vicious circle, which will only be broken if and when Janković (again) decides to quit the mayorship. Be it to return to the national lever, be it for good.

The Rebels

On the other hand, things are not exactly dull on the left, either. The suprise of the day was a relatively strong showing by Vito Rožej of Zares, who scored slightly above four percent of the vote, which was quite a feat for a party which barely registered with voters across the country only months ago in parliamentary elections and did only marginally better in 2010 local elections.

But before people start opening bottles of Dom Perignon ’58, we should make a few things clear. To an extent Rožej did get his four percent on account of being a relatively fresh but recognisable face on the scene (he did serve as councilman in city of Kranj and as MP in the previous parliament). Then again he was also active in the campaign for the Family Code, which must have helped. But most importantly, he had the good luck of SD, DeSUS and LDS opting not to enter the race with their respective candidates, so it is safe so say that Rožej got a fair amount of their votes as well. Just so we’re clear on that. No champagne yet, I’m afraid.

And while we’re on it: some of those votes must have gone to the lone ranger on Ljubljana politics Miha Jazbinšek, who scored a record 6 percent of the vote.

The return of the Jay-Z

So, the one last thing that remains to be answered is what will the return of the Jay-Z mean for the situation on the parliament? In the short term, nothing good, really. Sure, Janković didn’t exactly loiter in the parliament and his people had to do without him on occasion. But the fact that he will be physically gone will have its repercussions. If one is to judge by the situation in his city council group upon his leaving, Janković will have to make damn sure that MPs for Positive Slovenia don’t lose focus, motivation and go for each other’s throats. Because once the Big Kahuna is gone, a lot of small and mid-sized Kahunas will try to impose themselves unto their colleagues, despite the fact that the parliamentary group is headed by Janković’s former vicemayor and still-serving Ljubljana councilman Jani Möderndorfer. He will have his work cut out for him once Zoki is gone.

As for the left wing in general, things will become much more interesting. It is no secret that litlle love is lost between Janković and leader of SD Borut Pahor. That much became plainly obvious after the SD gave a cold shoulder to Zoki when he tried to rally all left wing parties some days ago and everyone save the Social Democrats and SMS-Green Party attended. The SD implicitly accused the re-minted mayor of trying to take over the left and impose himself unto others and they might have even been correct to an extent. But fact of the matter is that the SD finally started settling in-party scores and is locked in a bitter power struggle between Borut Pahor and Igor Lukšič, with the latter pulling no punches (and having no reason to, sice Pahor sidelined him early in his premiership for no apparent reason).

If Janković really wanted to unite the left under a common banner, he should have waited a couple of weeks, two months at best, for the shit to hit the fan witihn SD and for the defeat on the Family Code referendum to really sink in and he’d have almost all of the left eating out of his hand. But as things stand, he jumped the gun again (just as he did immediately after his election victory) and came out more or less empty handed.

But be that as it may, with Zoki in the City Hall as of tomorrow, a new centre of political power on national level is starting to emerge and it could very well be that the end result will be a situation not unlike in Austria, where nothing happens on the political left unless the all-powerful Vienna mayor Michael Häupl OKs it. And – funnily enough – Janković always said how he considers Häupl to be his role model. I guess he meant it…

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Janković Gets Nod, Family Code Given Cold Shoulder


Janković won, but the Family Code lost

Just a quick update: Zoran Janković was – as expected – re-elected mayor of Ljubljana with 61 percent of the vote. On the other hand, the new Family Code was rejected with a 54 percent vote against. Given that the final poll by Delo daily put the YES campaign ahead with a 60/40 vote, the end result was not completely expected, although – in hindsight – one should have known better, really. Especially given the low turnout, which barely reached 30 percent in the referendum vote.

More on both issues in the coming days, of course.