Franci Križanič remains minister of finance in the government of Borut Pahor, the PM said during today’s press conference. He went to great lengths explaining why he went decided to ignore the Court of Audit which called for Križanič to be dismissed from office due to dereliction of duty.
PM Pahor pointed out that the Court’s call was merely a strong recommendation and that it was within his discretion whether to start the demission process or not. Furthermore he added that Križanič is the most burdened minister in these times of financial crisis and that he has performed well under the circumstances. Keeping the above in mind, continued the PM, combined with Križanič’s dedicated work in the part two years led to the decision to keep the finance minister on-board. Thus spake Borut Pahor.
Now what? Pengovsky believes this is a decision which will come to haunt the PM very soon. Regardless of everything this is a case of double standards. It doesn’t really matter if the coalition parties (and this includes DeSUS and Karl Erjavec, who was dismissed on similar grounds a year ago) claim to “understand Pahor’s motives”. They have the luxury to “understand” as this is a pool of hot water PM alone is in. True, Križanič’s job is probably among the least attractive in the country at the moment, but a year ago, during the protracted removal of Karl Erjavec the PM said that a new standard was set. Today, this standard doesn’t seem to apply.
Since Križanič is an old Social Democrats‘ hand who reportedly carries plenty of clout within the party, it is obvious that Križanič’s fate was primarily a question of relationship between Borut Pahor and his party. And with so many open fronts it is likely that the prime minister did not want to open one more. In the short term this means pacifying the party but enduring yet another round of mud-slinging in his general direction. Since the latter would most likely ensue regardless of everything, it may even seem prudent to keep Križanič on the team. But it is not.
With this rather important human-resource victory, the party, especially the faction Križanič belongs to, may get the feeling that it can play the table against the PM. And even though the PM is notoriously keen on compromise, he will not let challenges to his power continue indefinitely. Which means that a showdown within the ruling Social Democrats is inevitable and the closer to the 2012 elections this showdown happens, the weaker will SD be entering the election campaign. Next elections will be an uphill battle anyway, but with an internally divided party, success is virtually impossible.
Secondly, since it is likely that the Court of Audit do more of the same in the future (recommend ministers to be dismissed for dereliction of duty) the PM will be in an extremely tough position, especially if the minister in question will be of a different coalition party. What will the PM do then? Will he sack the minister, reiterating the appearance that different rules apply to ministers of his party than to ministers of other coalition partners, or will he waste even more energy and bend over backwards to explain how that (for now hypothetical) case is completely different than the two we’ve seen so far?
And lastly, the PM made it clear that the decision to keep Križanič as minister was his and his alone. This means that any possible fuck-ups Križanič might cook up in the remaining eighteen months will be the PM’s fault as well. And as readers of this blog know, Križanič is somewhat accident-prone. As of today Borut Pahor must keep finance minister Križanič on an extremely short leash. Whether this arrangement will work, is anybody’s guess.
There’s one other possibility, though. It could be that Križanič survived only temporarily and will resign later in the year, without immediate connection to the Court of Audit report. Since the minister is reportedly negotiating with Goldman Sachs to buy a stake in Maribor-based and state-owned bank Nova Kreditna Banka Maribor (NKBM), it might seem prudent to keep the top negotiator on the team for the time being and have him resign after the deal is made. But this is speculation, especially since there was no official word from Goldman Sachs on the matter. We only know what Križanič told the media. The question is, whether the finance minister was again overly optimistic and if so how long can the PM stand by his man.