Janez Lenačič, the (current?) Slovenian nominee for commissioner in the upcoming European Commission, had his first hearing in the Slovenian parliament yesterday. As the nomination process is wholly within the government purview, the parliamentary hearing is mostly a dog-and-pony show, intended to appease the grandstanding urges of MPs. Nevertheless, the non-binding vote finally brought to an end to the latest case study in how not to manage human resources.
To say that the entire episode was a shitshow deluxe would be a bit of an understatement. It is incredibly ironic how PM Marjan Šarec was ever so vocal about the bizarre spectacle of shambolic commissioner nomination Muddy Hollows endured in 2014 and yet ended up pretty much in the same place Alenka Bratušek and later Miro Cerar ended up in five years ago.
“I didn’t deserve this” said minister of development and European cohesion policy Marko Bandelli (SAB), butthurt as he announced his resignation on 13 November thus setting off a rocky ten-day period for the government of Marjan Šarec. And while the main event of the last few days were the 2018 local elections and some surprising results, the bad blood between various coalition members burst in the open almost as soon as the polls closed.
By itself, the Bandelli thing is a pretty straightforward case of the Dunning-Kruger effect in action. The erstwhile mayor of Komen, known for his colourful language and thin skin was a somewhat surprising pick for the non-descript post of assistant beancounter minister for EU cohesion funds. And indeed it turned out that the ambition got the better of him. In fact, we will never know whether Marko Bandelli would have made a good minister without portfolio in charge of EU cohesion funds, because the man turned out to be spectacularly inept at being a senior government official as such.
With the last of the committee hearings slowly drawing to a close, the newly-minted Slovenian PM Marjan Šarec will submit his entire cabinet for parliamentary approval later this week and presumably get his government up and running. Thus a protracted three-month episode which culminated in a five-member coalition and a minority government, supported by the left-most party in the parliament, will finally come to an end. But, in the words of the worst British finance minister of the 20th century, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of an end. But it is, perhaps, an end of a beginning.
Marjan Šarec impersonating a PM (left) and being one. (source and source)
While this blog was mum due to vacay, pengovsky did a few media appearances on the coalition clusterfuck. Financial Times, The Europeans podcast and The Economist were among the victims (although, to the latter’s credit, apparently my bit got edited out). N1, a Croatian private news network, even had their viewers endure a 15-minute interview where yours truly bumbles along in Croatian. The gist of all this attention was two-fold: how come Janez Janša didn’t get to be PM and how come Šarec did?
It has been ten days since election in Muddy Hollows and President Pahor convened the inaugural session of the new parliament for this coming Friday. This means personnel decision are looming and with no coalition deal in sight nervousness is starting to set in.
What we have seen in the past week or so were polar opposites in approaching the conundrum at hand: One side there is the presumptive PM nominee Janez Janša playing his cards as close to the vest as possible, while on the other side there’s the nominal runner-up Marjan Šarec who is producing all kinds of chatter about “coalition exploration”, “platform compatibility” and other buzzwords du jour.
The results were in on Sunday night and… well, it is a clusterfuck. SDS won a relative majority with 25% of the vote and just as many seats in the parliament but party leader Janez Janša will be shitting Lego bricks trying to put together a workable coalition. Far behind SDS in second place is LMŠ of Marjan Šarec with 13 seats. After that, the field gets crowded. Social Democrats (SD) of Dejan Židan and SMC of Miro Cerar have 10 seats each, The Left have nine followed by NSi with seven. DeSUS of Karl Erjavec and SAB of Alenka Bratušek have five each. Rounding off the pack are Zmago Jelinčič’s nationalists (SNS) with four seats. This is the most fractured parliament Muddy Hollows has had in ages, and putting together a coalition will be a nightmare, No wonder there is plenty of talk of a repeat vote in six months’ time.
However, upon closer inspection things get even more interesting. First, the fact that Zmago Jelinčič and his SNS have barely made it above the 4-percent threshold and remain vulnerable to either results of absentee votes or potential legal challenges in individual precincts. More importantly, and possibly with great ramifications for coalition negotiations, neither Alenka Bratušek nor Karl Erjavec were elected to the parliament. Which means both will have a critical interest in joining coalition where they will serve as ministers. Given that they control ten votes between them, this is a distinct possibility.