Andrej Bajuk (1943 – 2011)

Former Prime Minister Andrej Bajuk passed away Monday night. He shot to prominence in spring 2000 when he was put forward as a challenger to PM Janez Drnovšek whose coalition with Slovene People’s Party (SLS) had just crumbled. The latter had just undergone what for all intents and purposes was a shotgun wedding with opposition Slovene Christian Democrats (SKD) – with leader of the opposition Janez Janša holding the shotgun. The painful merger realigned the balance of power in the parliament and and as a result PM Drnovšek called a confidence vote which he lost. A short political crisis ensued and after much political wrangling Bajuk was appointed the prime minister seven months before elections were due.


Andrej Bajuk with Slovenia’s first euro notes. Photo: Arsen Perić

A Ljubljana native he fled to Argentina with his parents in 1945 aged only two and worked his way up in life from there. He did not gain prominence in Slovene diaspora, at least not in a way that would leave a mark in his homeland prior to his entry into politics. An economist by profession, he was working for the Inter-American Development Bank before he returned to Slovenia to become the nominee for the prime ministerial position. Such was the rush, that he was reportedly unable to make proper living accommodations and was living in a hotel near the parliament for some time after returning to Slovenia.

Andrej Bajuk was to become a permanent fixture in Slovenian politics for the next decade. Things got off to a rocky start, however. Late in his ill-fated stint as PM (where he was often seen as Janez Janša’s straw man, with Janša back in the saddle as defense minister actually calling the shots) he went out on a limb in what for all intents and purposes amounted to a attempted legislative coup d’état plotted by Janša.

Summer of 2000

Just prior to that fateful summer the constitutional court finally ruled in a four-year-long case of which electoral system won in a 1996 three-way referendum (majoritarian, proposed by Janša; proportional, proposed by the National Council or a combination of the two, proposed by then-ruling coalition led by LDS of Janez Drnovšek). The court ruled that the majoritarian system won although it got only 44 percent of the vote. Three of the judges who ruled in that case went on to become ministers in Bajuk’s government which in August 2000, just months before elections took the position that Slovenia doesn’t have a legal electoral system and that elections should be postponed until a new system is passed by the parliament as per the court’s ruling.

Postponing elections is, of course, a big no-no in a parliamentary democracy, doubly so if they were to be postponed not until a given date but until a (legislative) benchmark is reached. What if it is never reached? During those few weeks Slovenia was on the brink of suspending parliamentary democracy. However, the political and legal minefields were navigated successfully, as the parliament took a position opposite that of the government and amended the constitution and wrote basics of the electoral system into it, thus circumventing the Constitutional Court as well as preventing the possibility of anyone else getting the idea of claiming that it is legally impossible to hold elections.

The schism

The rift between the parliament and the government, although both were ran by the same right-wing coalition proved to be too much for the newly-merged SLS+SKD (as the new party was unoriginally called) and late in 2000 a splinter group comprised of senior Christian Democrats established Nova Slovenija (NSi) and elected Andrej Bajuk as their leader. Contrary to some expectations the new party, although leaving much membership and infrastructure with the SLS+SKD, made it to the parliament with as much as eight percent of the vote.

From strength to strength to final defeat

Things were going just great for Bajuk and the NSi. Having spent four relatively comfortable years in the opposition and making their stand on a variety of issues, including (but not limited to) first forays into what a decade later was to become the great Family Code debate, the party scored a surprising victory in the 2004 European elections where it won most of the proportional vote. Despite the victory, the party won only two MEP seats (SDS and LDS won two as well, despite finishing second and third respectively), but for Bajuk it was killing two birds with one stone. His party made a showing that would serve it for years to come and he got ‘rid’ of Lojze Peterle, his main rival to Brussels.

Later in that year Andrej Bajuk returned to the government, this time as finance minister and leader of the junior coalition member. His record is mixed. He was in office at the time Slovenia adopted the euro and was officially the first person to withdraw common European currency from a Slovenian cash dispenser. Additionally, he did in fact run the portfolio at the height of Slovene economic expansion but it remains debatable how much of the expansion was due to his, his party’s and his government’s policies and how much was simply due to going with the flow of the pre-crash casino capitalism. Conversely – and with hindsight – he did precious little to cool down the overheated economy.

No maverick

That is not to say, however, that he did not leave a mark. Reportedly, his obstinante refusal to sell the largest state owned bank Nova Ljubljanska Banka (NLB) resulted in Jože P. Damijan quitting as minister for development after only 91 days in office, a record that is yet to be broken. Also, Bajuk was wary of introducing flat-rate tax, a cause championed by Janša and his neo-liberal economic advisors (Damijan being among them). He formed an ad hoc group headed by Marko Kranjec (who would later become the Governor of the Bank on Slovenia) and which proposed a simplified-but-still-progressive tax system as well as reducing taxes on profits and other tweaks of the Tax Code. The final result was much closer to Kranjc’s proposal to what Damjan wanted, so Bajuk can be (co-)credited with thwarting a project which would most likely send Slovenia down the drain the moment The Great Recession finally struck.

One of his pet projects was also blowing a hole in the seemingly unbreakable bond between SLS (the other coalition partner, which by then had already reverted from SLS+SKD back to its old acronym) and DARS (state-owned motorways company). The latter was widely seen to have been SLS’ turf with people flowing almost freely between the party (more exactly, the transportation ministry the party traditionally held), DARS and several big consctruction companies, most of them now gone bust as the crisis took the construction sector with it.

However, on the whole Bajuk was not a political maverick. It was intimated to pengovsky that he more often than not saw Janša as his boss rather than a partner and acted accordingly. Obviously this did not win him a lot of friends either within the party or without and opposition within ranks was mounting. By the time 2008 elections were nearing it was plainly obvious that Janša was moving to dominate the entire right wing, mostly at the expense of SLS and NSi. The former barely escaped the trap Janša had set for them and made it to the parliament, while the NSi was not so fortunate and did not pass the 4-percent treshold. Whether Andrej Bajuk did not see what was going on or was unable to do anything about it is still a matter of some debate, but after the elections results came in on election Sunday in September 2008, Bajuk did not try to cling to his chair and bid for time but did the honourable thing and announced his resignation as party chief immediate, visibly shaken at being demoted to the status of a political has-been in a matter of minutes.

Joyful

On a more personal note and not so much in line with a would-be obit, I must say that pengovsky found Andrej Bajuk to be a generally agreeable person. True, he had his share of blunders and transgressions, one of them being his losing temper with a reporter for TV Slovenia who as a result was removed from covering business stories. But on the whole Andrej Bajuk was a joyful person and despite the fact that pengovsky did not agree with him ideologically and on many policy issues I can say that his politics was more or less consitent and that he was generally fun to be around.

Andrej Bajuk died aged 67.

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Family Code: Let’s Party Like It’s 1975

On Tuesday evening the parliament completed the second (crucial) reading of the new Family Code which – among other things – was meant to allow same-sex weddings and child adoptions. Pengovsky covered the issue at some lenght including the compromise solution proposed by the govenrment which watered down some of the more controversial points of the new legislation.


The bizzare vote (screenshot by @kricac, source)

As both readers of this blog know, the new code was far from unequivocally supported. Indeed, the split did not occur along the left-right fault but rather along the division between traditionalists and progressives, where the former seem to be enjoying an advantage in numbers or at the very least in audiability. To put it blunty, the political right opposes the new  legislation vigorously and with gusto, while the left is divided between progressives who try to argue their case and traditionalists who support the law with noticeable lacklustre and would be just happy if the whole thing never happened.

It was partly because of this that the government sort of backed down on same-sex marriage and adoptions. Under the compromise solution gay and lesbian couples would not be able to enter wedlock but a partnership with the same legal consequences as marriage (including inheritance, which is a noticeable difference from the current law passed by previous government of Janez Janša). Furthermore, same-sex couples would only be allowed to adopt a child if one of the partners would be the child’s biological parent.

Compromise? Think again…

Hadn’t it been for the lukewarmness on the left, compromise would be utterly unnecessary as the right-wing opposition is fighting tooth and nail to defeat the code utterly and completely. Their cause is defended by a supposed grass-roots campaign headed by former SLS member Aleš Primc, who years ago led the campaign to ban medical fertilization of single women and succeeded (a refefrendum was called and the ‘no’ campaign won). Primc, following the shiny example of the NRA is using every possible means to draw attention and present himself as the ultimate defender of life, ‘natural laws’ and all things Slovene, to the extent of recently demanding that evolution and creationism be taught in schools side by side as ‘competing theories on the origin of maniknd’.

So, what we are dealing with here is in fact not a policy disagreement, but an ideological question of – broadly speaking – permissive libertarianism versus staunch religious reactionarism. The two are obviously mutually exclusive, so it is no wonder that Primc rejected the compromise solution as a trick, allowing for same sex marriage and adoption some time later on. And, to an extent, he’s probably correct. The thing is that he and the political parties behind him (SLS, SDS and NSi) will be satisfied with nothing else than a complete withdrawal of the new Family Code and then some, if possible.

Welcome to the twilight zone

The ‘then some’ moment occured, of course. Not just with the aforementioned attempt to introduce creationism to schools. That was, pengovsky suspects, just a target of opportunity. What happened on Tuesday evening when the parliament was voting on ammendments to the Code was much more bizzare.

In what was probably a momentary loss of attentiveness  by the coalition, the parliament adopted an amendment by Janez Janša’s SDS stipulating that all unmarried couples, save those who already have a child, should register their union with the proper authorities if they want to claim benefits stemming from such a union.

For the uninitiated: Ever since 1976 civil union was instituted (the linked Wikipedia article is wrong, btw) married and unmarried heterosexual  couples in Slovenia enjoy the same benefits, mostly in terms of inheritance, social security, child care and so on. It does not matter if the couple is married or has formalised the union in some other way, if at all. The amendment overturns more than thirty-five years of established practice which was since followed by many a country all across Europe and is recognised by a plethora of other Slovene legislation.

Now, some people know of or have experienced situations where a compulsory registration of a civil union would solve or even prevent many problems such as impostors claiming to have been long-time partners of a deceased family member or similar. However, what it at stake here is the inherent right of an individual to live the way he or she chooses without being disenfranchised vis-a-vis the state. Or – if you want to look at it the other way – the state has no business prescribing the preferred form of a union between two individuals.

The amendment is a very telling representation of just how deeply ideological this debate is. On one hand we have a drive to expand the definition of a family and with it the circle of those who would benefit from that, regardless of the way, shape or form of the union, regardless of whether the union produced an offspring (biologically or otherwise) and – most importantly – regardless of the sex of people entering such union.

On the other hand we have a drive to curb the existing scope of the acceptable: an exclusively heterosexual union where the partners will be left alone and eligible for benefits only if they produce an offspring, otherwise they have to declare their union to the state. This in fact shouldn’t come as a surprise, since this is exactly what the government of Janez Janša did to homosexual couples, forcing them to “register” their union with the authorities but refusing to allow marriage. And this is the crux of it all. The right wing’s inherent drive is to reinstitute marriage of a man and a woman as the only allowed form of a union between two individuals. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see how the Roman Catholic church is itching to chip in the “before God, until death do you part” as a compulsory part of a marriage ceremony.

Hold on to your hats

Luckily not all is lost. Tuesday’s fiasco seems to have happened more or less by mistake. At the very least, this is what president of the Parliament Pavle Gantar claimed in his tweet (protected, unfortunately) this morning when he said that DeSUS MPs got a bit disoriented for a moment and voted in favour of the amendment instead of against.

Parliamentary rules and procedures allow for amendments originally introduced in the second reading to be re-amended in the third (and final) reading and apparently this is what is going to happen. Mind you, things will probably not go smoothly. First of all, the Liberal Democrats of Katarina Kresal, the most ardent supporters of the new Family Code are saying that they will not support the compromise solution, but demand that the original version of the Code be passed.

While one can understand the sentiment, this will probably not be possible, because it would mean scrapping the whole second reading and most likely make the traditionalists on the left very nervous, perhaps to the point of withdrawing their support of the new legislation. And secondly, even when (and if) the Code is passed, this does not mean the end of the road. What will most likely happen is yet another referendum bid.

One tractor referendum (click if you don’t get it)

Aleš Primc said time and again that he will go all the way in trying to defeat the Code. SLS said about as much the other day when they hinted at the possibility of calling a referendum on the issue. And with this the Constitutional Court once again steps onto the stage front and centre. The coalition will most likely argue that having a referendum on human rights of minorities (in this case gays and lesbians) is unconstitutional as their rights are not subject to popular vote but inherently exist. Furthermore, the new Code does not limit existing rights to any group of citizens, but only increases the scope of population eligible for existing rights (or introduces new rights, whichever you please).

On the other hand, the right wing – with Primc as the probable primary plaintiff – will most likely argue that the the people have the right to decide what kind of a society they want to live in and that – if anything – this is exactly the issue one can and indeed must have a referendum on the issue.

The thing is that no one knows for sure what the court will decide. On one hand it seems logical that there can not be a referendum on human rights, especially rights of an defined minority within the society. However, things are not that simple. Recently, the court made it a principle to deny only those referendums which could result in a continuation of an unconstitutional state. Hence, a pre-existing and established unconstitutional situation must exist for the court to deny a referendum on a law addressing the issue. Which is sadly not the case here. This is not to say that a referendum on Family Code will be granted, but that the coalition faces yet another uphill battle and that the court’s decision – no matter the outcome – will be a landmark one, defining the issue of “acceptable” family for years or even decades to come.

 

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Pahor’s Coalition Crumbles As Erjavec Flips Him The Bird

Following Monday’s resignation of minister for local self-government Duša Trobec Bučan DeSUS leader Karl Erjavec once again threatened to quit the coalition. Only this time he meant it as the party’s executive council yesterday voted in favour of the move which – this must be said – only formally confirmed what was a “new reality on the ground” for some time now: that DeSUS was no longer a member of the ruling coalition.


Karl Erjavec doing the Top Gun thing (photo by Anže Petkovšek/Žurnal24)

As a direct result of today’s events minister of environment Roko Žarnić said he will tender his resignation, while the third minister of DeSUS “quota” Ivan Svetlik (labour portfolio) remains in his position, since Erjavec “disowned” him because it was Svetlik and his team who came up with the pension reform which DeSUS vigorously opposes and which will be put up for a referendum vote.

Minority government

Technically, this leaves the coalition of Social Democrats, Zares and LDS with 42 out of 46 needed votes to secure a majority in the parliament and in effect makes it a minority government. The government secure additional votes by wooing the three independent MPs, Franci Žnidaršič and Vili Rezman (both formerly of DeSUS) and Andrej Magajna (formerly of SD) although the latter is unlikely to cooperate since he went independent over the new law on RTV Slovenia (the law was later defeated on a referendum) and was a subject of a criminal investigation soon thereafter on suspicion of child pornography (no charges were pressed). Additionally, MPs for Hungarian and Italian minorities traditionally vote with the government, so unless new ground is broken, PM Borut Pahor can still secure a single-vote majority in the parliament. But for all intents and purposes, this is a minority government.

A minority government is not something one wishes for, especially during times of economic, social and what is shaping up to be a political crisis. Calls for early elections are therefore getting increasingly loud today. Leader of SDS Janez Janša already called on PM Pahor for the two parties to work together and vote for the dissolution of the parliament thus forcing new elections. On the other hand, leader of Zares Gregor Golobič proposed for leaders of all three coalition parties to step down from their positions in the government (which is effectively equal to resignation of the entire government) and elect a new government with a sole aim of attempting to win the referendum on pension reform. Obviously, both Janša and Golobič are playing an angle here but pengovsky suspects their true goals are exactly the opposite of their stated goals. To put it bluntly, I think it is Golobič who is trying to force early elections and Janša who is desperate to avoid them.

Pieces have fallen into place

Consider the timing. DeSUS has threatened to quit the coalition on so many occasions that nobody was taking it seriously anymore. But then it decided to walk out only a week after the National Assembly was back to the full complement of 90 deputies as the convicted Srečko Prijatelj of opposition SNS was replaced by Sara Viler. With this and DeSUS’ bailing out of the coalition it suddenly became possible for Janez Jansa to form a right-wing government, And if he were to convince all three independent MPs to support him, he wouldn’t even need minority MPs. Therefore, it all points to a conclusion that Erjavec’s move was coordinated with Janša and that what we saw on Monday was fully premeditated course of action.

Obviously, there are caveats to this logic, first and foremost being that Janša looks poised to win the next elections, be they a week or a year from now. However, at this moment he lacks one crucial element – an election platform. In fact, he and his party only began to initiate procedure which would eventually lead to forming a proper platform, but as thing stand now they’re not even close. Thus if elections were to be held any time soon, all Janša would have to run on would be his anti-government/anti-reform stance, which would make it very hard for him to explain how he intends to bring the country from the brink of an economic collapse.

On the other hand, Golobič and indeed the entire coalition (what’s left of it, anyway) would benefit from early elections for those very same reasons. While they would probably be up for some serious ass-whooping, but quite probably much less than they would be a year and a half from now. While this may sound stupid at first glance, the coalition has virtually zero problems platform-wise. Their problem lies in the unprecedented unpopularity of the government. Which is one of the reasons Golobič made his move yesterday.

But to have early elections it’s not enough for the parliament to simply dissolve itself as Janša would have us believe. For the dissolution to take place, several constitutional conditions must be met, chief among them being the inability of the parliament to elect a new government. Pengovsky covered the issue in this post, but just a re-cap: Once the PM resigns (or a new one is elected via a no-confidence vote), the parliament has three attempts to appoint a new government nominated by the PM-elect. In the first two attempts 46 votes are needed, while in the third attempt only a relative majority is needed. Given that Janša can muster 46 votes at any time, it is highly unlikely that a new left-wing government will be elected.

That, however, does not necessarily mean we’re up for elections any time soon. Also, Janez Janša might be tempted to take over as PM sans elections via a no-confidence vote. Not only would he thus avoid awkwardness of explaining why exactly did he oppose the government on social reforms, he would also be slightly better equipped to handle the Patria Affair, where he is (let us not forget) about to stand trial for aiding and abetting in corruption.

Wisdom and historical precedents dictate, that Janša skips the opportunity to take over the government, especially after the fiasco in 2000, when shortly before elections when Janša masterminded toppling of the government of Janez Drnovšek and a right-wing government was formed with Andrej Bajuk, only to lose spectacularely in elections six months later. But Janša is not known for learning from his political mistakes, so this will be fun to watch.

Slightly OT: Regardless of the way Janša becomes PM yet again, it would be oodles of fun watching how an indicted person gets elected to a top political office. Only in Slovenia, people! 🙂

Defending status quo long after quo had lost its status

PM Pahor is not keen on stepping down of his own accord, as this would imply that a) he had run out of options and b) he admits to making bad calls in the past. The same goes for his party, which found itself between a rock and a hard place: it has an utterly unpopular leader and no one of note to replace him. But sitting this one out is not an option, so sooner rather than later things will begin moving in that department as well. They might be tempted to try and wait until the referendum on pension reform. But that’s a good two months away and a lot can happen between now and then so that is probably the worst course of action they can take at this moment. As things stand, status quo can simply not be defended.

And this is a lesson which Karl Erjavec will apparently learn the hard way. He quit the coalition over pension reform. Again, there is plenty of historical precedent on quitting a coalition and history teaches that every (and I mean every) party which went down that road was later punished for it on election night. Slovenes simply don’t like rats. Period.

How will it play out?

In the final analysis it turns out that – as is often the case in politics – black is white and white is black. Given the fact that we’re up for three more referendums between now and the summer – pension reform, black market labour and possibly access to top secret archives – there will be plenty of opportunity for the parties to take it out on one another and thus show what exactly is their position (or lack thereof) on various issues.

Early elections are an option, but a remote one. An interim government is far more likely, but who will form it remains an open question at this stage. As things stand now, pengovsky would place a wager on Janša at least attempting to form what he would probably call a national unity government. But that can change, so watch this space…

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The Prez Was In Surgery. Why Wasn’t Anyone Told?

President Danilo Türk underwent a surgical procedure on Tuesday, removing malignant tissue from his prostate, the Office of the President said earlier today. According to the statement the procedure was successful and the President is expected to make a full recovery, returning to his duties next week.


The Prez was under the knife (source)

Wishing good health and speedy recovery to The Prez, pengovsky is somewhat troubled by the post festum announcement of presidential medical woes. The issue in itself is nothing new and has been debated time and again: to what extent is the public entitled to know medical details of their elected officials?. Slovenia has a patchy history on this. First Slovenian president Milan Kučan was relatively free of medical problems (at least those we know of) and during his two-and-a-half terms in office was admitted to hospital only once, due to kidney stone problems. Before Kučan, the first Slovenian Prime Minister Lojze Peterle had his appendix removed while in office.

More known and widely reported was medical condition of the late Janez Drnovšek. In 1999, while still PM, Drnovšek was admitted to hospital and had a cancerous kidney removed. Three years after the operation he ran for president and was elected to the office despite confirming that he was “of slightly weaker health”. His embracing of alternative medicine to combat cancer caught international attention and his changed lifestyle was an inspiration to many in Slovenia and abroad. Nevertheless, Drnovšek died of cancer in late 2007, shortly after leaving office.

And of course, let us not forget the glorious fuck-up years ago while Janez Janša was Prime Minister, when he had his hernia operated. Then, as now, the media were informed post festum, but the fun began when his spokesperson (some say deliberately) made a typo and wrote that the PM had ligament (Slovene: kita) instead of hernia (Slovene: kila) surgery. However, “kita” is also slang for cock (or penis, if you prefer) and you can imagine the roaring laughter that echoed for weeks on end.

And while we’re on the subject, rumours are circulating of Janša being of ill health. Whether or not that is true and if true, what is the exact nature of his medical condition, no one save Janša and those closest to him know. Which brings us again to the question: How much should the public know?

For better or for worse, I think that there is indeed a limit to that. True, there is a certain logic in politicians presenting a clean bill of health before assuming and during their time in office. It’s nice to know that the people we trust to run the country as physically capable of performing the task. If a person in office has a debilitating illness, or a condition which is impairing him or her from doing the job effectively, then the public has the right to know and the politician in question most likely has to step down (hat tip: John Morrow on Quora)

But good health is no guarantee whatsoever that they will execute their office in the public interest. Case in point being President Drnovšek who (in my opinion) was one hell of a president after he changed his lifestyle on account of his disease. I’m not saying he was a bad president before that or even that he was a bad prime minister (his track record remains unbeaten), but fact of the matter is that his presidency has had a profoundning and extremely positive effect after he “turned alternative”.

But there are legal and political issues to consider as well. In case of president Türk’s surgery this means there should be at least some kind of announcement made. True, Slovene president does not have nuclear codes, nor are we at war (save with ourselves, but we don’t need a president for that). But despite everything, the President still is the Commander in Chief. Furthermore, the Constitution stipulates that in case of temporary or permanent incapacitation of the President, his powers are transferred to the President of the Parliament.

I imagine President Türk was under narcosis during surgery which means that for the duration of the procedure the powers would have been transferred to President of the Parliament Pavle Gantar. Hopefully, the necessary paperwork was filled out, but a public announcement was definitely lacking. Some would say that it’s not such a big deal, given the fact that the president’s powers in Slovenia are limited and that it’s a more or less routine procedure. But what if – Bob forbid – something went wrong?

Despite his limited powers, the President has some relatively important duties and obligations regarding the functioning of democratic institutions. For example, he nominates candidates for judges of the Constitutional Court. In fact, it was only yesterday when his nominee for a vacated post at the Constitutional Court Rado Bohinc was not approved by the parliament meaning Türk must go through the entire selection process again. What if he were unable to and the public were to find out through this that the presidential powers were transferred to Gantar?

I realise this looks like nitpicking but normally President Türk is such a stickler for constitutional details that this is quite a serious slip-up on his part and the part of his office. Again: I assume the powers were formally transferred but in the name of transparency, accountability and all the of-the-people-for-the-people-and-by-the-people shit, it would be nice if they would let us know that the Commander in Chief is going under the scalpel.

The same goes for the Prime Minister. Agreed, the PM wields more executive and less formal power, but in his case there is not even a clear line of succession as there is no formal Vice-PM (or something). Technically, the PM can decide which of his ministers can run the daily government business, but should the PM become incapacitated, there is no-one with parliament-mandated powers to run the executive branch. And the situation in Slovenia at the moment is so fragile that PM Borut Pahor reportedly cannot afford to be out of the country for more than three-or-so days.

However, most of these constitutional nuances are lost on general Slovene media. They are more concerned with why The Prez went to Innsbruck, Austria to have the surgery when he has professed his faith in Slovene health system. Well, that’s bullshit, methinks. The Prez can have him self opened up wherever he damn pleases, if he pays for it out of his own pocket. Which he has done in this case. And were he to choose a Slovenian hospital (apparently only Celje hospital is capable of performing a similar robotic surgery), he would be accused of jumping the queue.

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Fun Times! :D


(source)

After the Archivegate fiasco, Janez Janša and his SDS took a noticeable (and predictable) dip in the polls. It was just too obvious for anyone but the most hardened SDS supporters to believe that the whole thing was just an honest mistake. But the effect will probably not last beyond a couple of months, although it is highly likely that this will become the proverbial gift that keeps on giving, at least whenever Janša will question the credibility of his political opponents.

Ghosts Of Independence Past

However, the leader of the largest opposition party remains on the defensive. It just so happened that parallel with the Archivegate claims of Janša’s involvement of illegal arms sales resurfaced (yet again) with people who claim (or are claimed) to have been in on it saying that Janša took cuts (or at least knew of cuts being taken) from arms sales to Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Now, this is highly complex subject and features Janša, his fellow political travellers and a number of other former high ranking Slovenian politicians, including former presidents Milan Kučan and late Janez Drnovšek.

At some point pengovsky will probably (have to) write a blog-post on the issue, but I admit this is a daunting task, as books have been written about it and still it remains unresolved. The thing is that twenty years after independence, wherever there’s a shady arms deal, Janša is not far away. He is definitely not the only one, but he is one of the few names that pop up every single time. And right now the question-de-jour is whether or not he had a part in what seems to be a 10 million euro difference in cash between what buyers from Croatia and Bosnia paid to Slovenia and the amount that was officially registered by defence ministry while Janša headed the department.

It should be noted that throughout the last two decades, give or take a year, Janša denied taking any illegal activities and that he was never convicted of anything (whether or not he was charged with anything escapes me at the moment). It should also be noted that of the four parliamentary inquests, none filed a final report, thus only adding to the confusion with partial information being leaked and interpreted in a zillion different ways. But one thing seems certain. Twenty years on, Janša is looking increasingly lonely in professing his innocence. People are starting to point their fingers and they point them dangerously close to Janša.

Meanwhile in the Batcave…

On the other hand the dark magic that is being called “handling the crisis” and which is being practised by the government of Borut Pahor seems to be making at least partial headway. Nothing dramatic yet, but those same polls which noted a dip for Janša, saw a slight bounce in the government’s ratings.

Somewhat more surprisingly, however, the reform legislation – at this point the pension reform and the law on menial work – seems to have a fighting chance in the upcoming referendums. In fact, according to polls by yesterday’s Delo newspaper, a majority of voters support the law on menial work (reforming the area of student labour), while those opposing the pension reform have only a couple of percentage points’ lead over those who support it. And that’s before campaigning started for real.

Much work remains to be done before PM Pahor and his coalition can claim another crucial referendum victory, and some would argue these are not really reforms but more of a patch-me-ups, plugging only the biggest leaks and not really kick-starting the economy. In all honesty pengovsky wouldn’t mind seeing a bit more substantial pension reform, but until we get a working model of basic income, every reform will be limited to plugging leaks. Not to mention the fact that the ruling coalition again suffered a minor hear attack due to controversial (and harmful) plan to build bloc 6 of Šoštanj coal power-plant, where the costs have apparently risen for additional 300 million euro, at the moment totalling at 1.5 billion euros.

In other news…

Combination of perceived political and economic gridlock on one hand and the inherent inability of a capitalist social order to correct errors caused by its own design flaws together with reaping all the “benefits” of wealth distribution which comes as a result of a transition from a socialist to a capitalist society, is a bitch. But one is still amazed at how the above leads highly intelligent and academically accomplished individuals into having the most wonderfully absurd ideas.

The latest one, launched by Žiga Turk, formerly minister of development in Janša’s government, currently a Ljubljana city councilman and a fellow twitterer, who floated the idea of a “reset”. Days ago his thinking was beefed up by two other former ministers, Matej Lahovnik who served as minister of economy in governments of Tone Rop and Borut Pahor and Marko Pavliha who served as minister of transport in Rop’s government, former head of the Government Institute for Marco-economic Analysis and Development Janez Šušteršič and Rado Pezdir, the bad boy of Slovene economics (and I mean that in the kindest possible way).

Together they expanded on the idea of “resetting Slovenia”, basically saying the whole country and most if not all of its subsystems are FUBAR and that we’re better off starting all over again. Only this time we’ll do it right.

Now, I’m oversimplifying things, to be sure. Their text is substantial and it has been already taken apart by Drugi Dom and the good doctor (all links in Slovenian). But on the issue of fixing problems of capitalism with more capitalism pengovsky said all he had to say some time ago. But as things stand now, this is a valid issue in a public debate.

At any rate, the entire quagmire that is Slovenian political landscape just got a bit more murky and opaque in the past week. Fun times! 😀

 

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