When It Rains It Poors For Janša

MPs are gearing for a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Janez Janša tomorrow and the heat is on. Positive Slovenia nominated acting party leader Alenka Bratušek for the post and if things don’t change too much until tomorrow, Janez Janša will have been voted out of office in about 18 hours.


That things undoubtedly went south for Janša became obvious yesterday, when both SLS ministers, Radovan Žerjav and Franc Bogovič (who is to replace Žerjav at the helm of the party) tendered their resignations. In response, Janša tweeted about Žerjav that “the worst minister of economy this country ever had left the post”. A classic poor-me-fuck-you response by Ivan, the reason for which became obvious a bit later in the day, when Žerjav said he’s in favour of the no-confidence vote. This probably clinched the deal for Bratušek, since any vote without SLS on-board would be tricky, especially since not every MP of the hastily assembled coalitions (PS, SD, DeSUS, DL and now SLS) will vote for Bratušek and (by extension) against Janša.

The said tweet

Now, the problem with Janša’s tweet is many-fold: First and foremost and for the umpteenth time, this is no way for a prime minister to communicate. I mean, ferfucksake dude! I realise you’re convinced everyone is out to get you, but have some self-respect. Second: While it is true that there’s precious little to be said about Žerjav as minister of economy, it was Ivan who nominated him. OK, so there was a fair amount of horse-trading involved when Janša was forming his coalition, but it’s not as if anyone held a gun to Ivan’s head while he was picking ministers. Quite the opposite, one would think. Thirdly, tweeting in this fuck-you-very-much attitude makes him an ever more sore loser than he already is, especially after Žerjav replied via SLS’ twitter account thanking Ivan for the assessment of his work and wishing him all the best in the future.

Who knew: Žerjav is capable of sarcasm

But tomorrow’s no-confidence vote is not the only fall from grace which befell the stricken PM. Adding insult to injury, the Slovenian PEN club is set on ruling whether to expel Janša due to his “public statements in violation of PEN’s charter to defend freedom of expression”.

When it rains, it, well, poors

Despite writing his first book in 1992 (Premiki, Mladinska knjiga), Janša was made a member of PEN in 1988 immediately after his arrest by the Federal Army. At the time, the PEN club stretched its rules a bit, but since it was all for a good cause, no-one really minded. Well, a quarter-of-a-century later, the tables have turned and those same people who stood up for him are now standing up to him. Problem is, Ivan don’t take that too well. In fact, he blasted PEN saying it had degenerated into a den of informants of Yugoslav secret police (see here for Google translate)

Nor did he take it well when the Supreme Court (not to be confused with the Constitutional Court) denied him an injunction against the anti-graft commission. Janša disputed the report and sued to have the anti-graft report removed from the web pending the ruling. The Administrative Court denied the last request and when Ivan petitioned the Supreme Court to revise the decision, citing violation of his human rights (“I am at the peak of my political career”, he wrote), he was denied again and told that “his human rights were not violated in any way, shape or form, since being a prime minister is not an individual’s human right“. Ouch. Basics, of course, but… ouch.

Ivan response was predictable: “The decision was expected. The PM has no human rights. Bull mastifs do, if they belong to the right owner” (Google translate here). Lovely, innit? Bringing back the drummed-up scandal which basically wiped out Katarina Kresal and where every single charge was dropped, because there simply was no proof. But that of course did not stop Janša from bringing it up. And the list goes on. Recently, his daughter was in the media after the anti-graft commission concluded t she and son of Jože Tanko, SDS’ parliamentary chief landed jobs at the state-controlled gas company after undue pressure was exerted. Not a full week had passed when the Party-friendly media started clamouring that anti-graft’s commission second-in-command Rok Praprotnik had landed that particular job not on merit but because he knew the right people.

By now you’re starting to see the pattern, right? Whenever Ivan or the Party land in deep shit, they start throwing it around in every direction possible, hoping that some will stick one way or another. That they are brazen in mixing fact and fiction in doing that doesn’t bother them one bit. Thus they’ve launched an “anonymous letter” alleging the PM hopeful Alenka Bratušek plagiarised part of her masters thesis. This comes after a string of high-profile revelations of MPs, elected officials and managers stealing academic work of others and claiming it as their own. Or simply forging academic credentials. It’s not that the SDS would be the only party with such a credibility problem, but theirs were among the most problematic cases, as Branko Marinič was forced to forfeit his MP post after receiving a suspended sentence in a criminal case, while Alenka Koren Gomboc was forced out by a procedural trick by her own party, after a long running scandal. And today yet another SDS MP was faced with allegations that his masters thesis is not entirely his own. So when the “anonymous concerned citizen” found out Bratušek mistyped the title of an otherwise credited source, they made it into an affair of practically biblical proportions. Indeed, it seems nothing but bad news for poor Ivan. If if rains, it poors. Pun very much intended.


We’ve come all this way and the vote hasn’t even been taken. One person who must feel slightly miffed about all of this is the super-minister Žiga Turk, who wrote up a 60-page response to the ill-conceived interpelation proceeding initiated by the SD. Pengovsky wrote back then that was one of the stupider moves SD made lately (and there were no shortage of them) but added that the stupidity was matched by Turk’s initial reply. Well, the full text only furthers the image.

The self-styled “humble engineer who sometimes just doesn’t get modern culture” went all out against SD, calling it a relict of the past, reeking of naphthalene and not even having come as far as Deng Xiaoping had in the 60s with his “it doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white” doctrine. A classic text which would make Dick Cheney and Karl Rove proud not only disputes everything SD holds against Turk, but extols some of those very same things on the grounds of market economy. Also, at first he claims to have fought vigorously for this budget which was slashed almost 20% due to austerity policies, but a bit further down admits that there’s nothing he can do if there’s no money. Well, it seems there’s lack of money and then there’s lack of money (if you catch my drift).

Also, he extols President Pahor’s political leadership while he was running the SD, while at the same accusing his government of being the worst there ever was (he must not have gotten the memo about Žerjav, though). All this did not stop him from taking credit for projects that were pretty much near completion before he took office. Indeed, there wasn’t such an ideology-heavy text in Slovenian politics since, well, since he was writing about “re-communisation of Slovenia” or indulging in Haidt’s pseudo-science. Again, a pattern. Who would have thought, eh? Too bad Janša will probably get voted out of office first, denying Turk from standing front-and-centre, telling those fucking Commies off. It would have been quite a sight.

Bring popcorn

Not that there will be any shortage of fun in the next few weeks. Bratušek looks poised to oust Janša, but that only means Janša is in a care-taker capacity until she forms a government. And that might prove harder than it looks, since SLS will not be joining that particular party and both SD and DL are making noises about early elections sans an interim government not being such a bad idea.

Tomorrow will be ugly. Bring popcorn.


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Thus Spake Zoran Janković

As expected, Ljubljana mayor and leader of the opposition Positive Slovenia Zoran Janković rejected the findings of anti-graft commission which released its bomb-shell report yesterday. Indeed, Jay-Z made his case today con mucho gusto. He maintained that no specific corruption was found in his case, stressed that he was at the commission’s disposal to clarify details if need be, that his personal assets have not increased unduly and that all of it has traceable origins. Obviously, he also ruled out the possibility of his resignation. As a bonus, the executive council of Positive Slovenia did not even take confidence vote, thus going the whole nine yards for Janković. And while we’re at it: in a confidence vote by council of his SDS, Janez Janša won 98,6 percent of the vote (281 out of 285). So, no surprises there. Yawn.

Zoki wrapping up his remarks. Photo by The Firm™

Now, it must be said that Janković did a slightly better job at explaining himself on telly this evening than Janša did last night. And that despite the fact that the anchor was the same one which kid-gloved Janša. Tonight she actually tried to press Jay-Z on a couple of points, but by the time he got on the air he got his story straight enough to go sail the programme like hot knife through butter (sail, knife, butter? Pengovsky, really? :-o) He whizzed through the numbers, made a couple of off-handed remarks about how he knows to crunch the numbers and reiterated that his assets have not increased, they’ve only changed in form (loans were returned, shares were bought, et cetera).

Playing Risk

Throughout the day Zoran Janković refused to concede a single point made in the report. And if one was very generous, one might even say Janković is correct. At least asset-wise. But what the commission states in no unclear terms is that Janković was repeatedly exposed to a high-level risk of corruptible behaviour and has indeed made this risk worse by his actions. Specifically, by having his sons every so often return part of the 8 million euro loan he effectively granted them by deferring payment when they bought his company Electa off of him and at the same time allowing the company to partake in financial transactions which included firms doing business with the city of Ljubljana or (indirectly) the city itself.

Janković maintains that no corruptive activities have taken place. Indeed, the report stops short of even hinting at such activities. OK, so Zoki is under criminal investigation for some of these activities since late September. But that’s not really the point, is it? What in pengovsky’s opinion the commission is trying to say is that not only must there be no corruption, but that elected officials must actively avoid situation where the possibility of such corruption activities existed. Janković responded by saying (more or less) this risk is always present. Which is true. But it would be awfully nice if this risk were as low as possible. For example, by not having the company your kids own do business with firms you deal with as mayor. It could be that everyone plays by the book but it don’t look very nice.

But come what may, Janković is standing ground and will not yield an inch, let alone a yard. And that has its own inner logic. Ideally, a politician resigns when the burden of fighting off allegations prevents him from doing his job effectively. He/she clears up the mess and goes back in action squeaky clean. However, this being Slovenia and all, a resignation is viewed as practically the same as admission of guilt. Just ask Katarina Kresal. Janez Janša probably did the same math and came up with the same result. Which is why both leaders have not shied away from astonishingly unanimous support by their respective parties and have had other people denounce the commission for overreaching and/or not doing its job properly.

Mexican Stand-off

On this note: the outburst by MP for Positive Slovenia Maša Kociper who went squarely against the commission saying that it did not execute due process and that such things have been known to have been politically motivated. Now, we’ve become used to statements like this from the people over at SDS and fellow travellers. Indeed, we have heard them. Today and yesterday. Plenty of them. But apparently even Maša Kociper whom Janković tipped as his choice for the president of the parliament back in 2011, could not resist the urge. Which is a shame, really.

So, what we have here is in fact a political Mexican stand-off Slovenia style. Neither Janša nor Janković will resign, but their posses are screaming bloody murder demanding the other guy quits. Lovely, innit? Add to that the predictable but nevertheless disgusting manoeuvres by Janša and his team about how Slovenia will come to a standstill if his government is not allowed to continue (and that whoever brought it down better know what they are doing) and you see that Friday will be much fun indeed.

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Trouble In Paradise

It’s the silly season and it shows. News is slow and it mostly consists either of Olympics, the continuation of eurozone crisis or wildfires. That and the ever louder coalition quarrels. In fact, days ago things got a bit ugly. And then some.

Picture almost unrelated (source)

While it has become customary for politicos to scuffle on Twitter along the coalition/opposition lines, friendly fire is much less common. An example of the former we could witness today, shortly after Police Commissioner Janko Goršek (the top cop) announced that he was leaving the post on 1 October. What is most probably a case of you-can’t-fire-me-I-quit! was more or less expected ever since Janša 2.0 came into existence. Police is too important a system to be left unto its own devices, no? You gotta have party hacks reliable people running it, if your boss is on trial for corruption charges and was somewhat humiliated by appearing on a TV show whose anchor was arrested a day later on blackmail charges.

Never the less produced a lively exchange between interior minister Vinko Gorenak and his immediate predecessor Aleš Zalar (who was acting minister after Katarina Kresal resigned in August 2011). Zalar tweeted that with this Gorenak is probably ready for interpelation proceedings while Gorenak shot back whether Zalar might be helping the opposition in drafting the document. It went downhill from there, with Gorenak finally tweeting that he only deals with Zalar as a sort of a hobby. Which can come across rather kinky, if you look at it from the right perspective 😉

But this is just a sideshow, albeit one with nasty effects coming later in the year. The real shit was happening between Janez Janša‘s SDS and Gregor Virant‘s Citizens’ List. The two coalition parties entered a bit of a turf war over who gets to appoint whom in various state-owned firms with SDS aiming to share as few spoils as possible. Virant made his displeasure known and earned a retort on official SDS Twitter account saying that “Virant can not pass a microphone without uttering stupidites”. Which is a nasty thing to say to the president of the parliament, especially if he’s your coalition partner.

But the real shocker came a week later. Contrary to all expectations, the government rejected draft budgets for 2012 and 2013, instructing minister of finance Janez Šušteršič (number two honcho in Virant’s party) to go back to the old drawing board. This was complemented with an official SDS tweet asking how can the finance minister be absent for a budget session of the cabinet

Now… In all fairness, the government is fully entitled to reject any draft document. It is what it does. Rejects and accepts. Furthermore, it is unusual for a minister to be absent when his documents are debated. But it has happened before. That’s why we have State Secretaries. To stand in when minister is not available. Also, given that state finances across Europe at this time look more like guess-work than real accounting, the rejection could be considered just a change of plans. However, the fact that Šušteršič is the architect of this government’s austerity plan and knows more about finances than the rest of the government put together (and that ain’t saying much!) combined with the above tweet amounts to nothing less than a public political dressing down of a man whom pengovsky already said is probably earmarked as the fall guy when thing will go badly wrong.

And badly wrong they will go. As you know, Slovenia’s credit rating was cut down recently to just a notch above “junk” which means that we are more or less fucked. Even the former happy-go-merry market fundamentalists the likes of Jože P. Damijan who made a name for themselves by advocating flat-rate tax during Janša 1.0 have come to their senses and are now opposing across-boar-austerity, instead advocating the Krugman-Roubini gospel of jump-starting the economy as the government’s top priority.

There’s trouble in paradise and I ain’t talking an Ernst Lubitsch film, if you catch my drift. Members of the self-styled “coalition to save Slovenia” are slowly but surely going for each other’s throats while the world around them crumbles to pieces. That SDS went after Virant yet again only days ago only further proves the point.

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Janez Šušteršič, Meet Reality

Reality seems to have caught up quite fast with finance minister Janez Šušteršič. The man who headed the government macroeconomic office (the aptly named IMAD) during the first Janša administration and refused to pick up the pieces after Jože P. Damijan, the would-be wonder boy of Janša 1.0 jumped ship after only 91 days in office, was forced to fork out EUR 381 million to recapitalise Slovenia‘s largest bank, the state-owned NLB.

Janez Šušteršič and NLB (source & source)

Well, to be honest, the state directly recapitalised the bank with EUR 320 million, while the remainder was coughed up by para-state funds KAD and SOD which is almost the same as if the state gave the money, only it looks better on the balace sheet. KAD and SOD entered the clusterfuck that is the NLB at the eleventh hour, after Belgian KBC bank refused to partake in the operation (after initially agreeing to the deal) and has thus seen its share in NLB shrink from 25 to 22 percent. The funny thing is that only months Šušteršič claimed that not a single euro from the budget will be used to recapitalise NLB. Which means the realisation that no-one will touch NLB with a ten-foot-pole must have come as a rude shock to our austerity-oriented finance minister.

In fact, given the ferocity with which Šušteršič and the rest of the sell-them-all-market-will-know-its-own gang were championing the “market approach” means that what we have witnessed vis-a-vis the NLB was nothing less than an about-face of epic proportions. In other countries, ministers get heavy flak for much less.

OK, fact of the matter is that NLB at this time is about as attractive as three-day-old road-kill and Šušteršič was basically looking down the barrel of a gun, faced with either pumping cash into NLB or hanging it dry. And we’ve seen what letting a bank go bust does, right? But there’s more: Not only did NLB need 380+ million of Tier 1 capital, it also has about three billion of bad loans on its books. And while Šušteršič maintains that most of these loans can and will be repaid, that is more or less eyewash. The bank will never see this money returned, because there is no way for companies who took out these loans (by far and large during the first Janša tenure, when the government encouraged expansionary economic policies) to return them. They don’t have anything to return them with. No competitiveness, no markets, no income, no way to pay the labour force, not even state contracts to offset the above and – finally – no earnings to finance their erstwhile debts.

So, yes, NLB will probably have to suck up losses of about three billion euro. Or about 8,5 percent of entire Slovenian GDP. That’s a lot. And that’s just the biggest bank. Other banks have bad loans on their books as well. Thus the finance minsiter and his boss, the prime minister can assure the country and the world, until they’re blue in the face, that Slovenia will not ask for a bailout of its banks. But the reality is that there will be a call made to Brussels sooner rather than later.

And if the U-turn on NLB recapitalisation wasn’t reason enough, the moment this country asks for a bailout will also be the moment when finance minister Janez Šušteršič will have to ask himself whether he’s fit to continue in this government. In other words: a request for a bailout should be accompanied by a letter of resignation.

The reason for this is painfully simple. Šušteršič positions on the issue, indeed his entire economic platform was about removing the state as a majority owner in key companies. This plan fell apart on the first rock it hit. Yes, NLB needed to be recapitalised and yes, the state is not necessarily a bad owner (although NLB was mismanaged time and again by politically appointed management). Having a the biggest bank in the system limp forward is preferable to letting it sink. But Šušteršič’s political positions which won him the mandate as an elected official, are in direct and blatant opposition with his actions. The two can hardly be reconciled which means that Sloveinan finance minister has a huge credibility problem. And a finance minister with a credibility problem is not something to be looked kindly upon. Just ask Franci Križanič.

But Šuštešič’s biggest problem is not his (lack of) credibility, but the fact that he is, unbeknownst to him, probably earmarked as the fall guy if things go badly wrong. This, at least, would appear to be case since Positive Slovenia announced it will start interpelation proceedings against the finance minister. Technically, an interpelation does not have to end with a vote on minister’s dismissal (although it often does). Instead, it is an instrument of ministerial accountability per se, forcing the minister to explain and defend his or her action.

Now, PM Janez Janša already called starting interpelation this early in the term “nonsense” and at least technically backed Šušteršič up (again, a lovely case of double standards as his party filed an interpelation against Katarina Kresal less then three months after she took office in 2009). But since DL and SDS found themselves on opposite sides on quite a number of issues in the past few days (mostly stemming from the “red star issue”) Šušteršič can be sure that he’ll be made to pick up at least part of the tab.

It seems that the finance minister started this term knowing what his priorities are and falsely assumed that these are other people’s priorities as well (we’ll neglect that these priorities are dubious at best). When challenged about past economic policies of coalition parties in a recent interview with Mladina weekly, Šušteršič answered that he doesn’t care about who did what in the past but is rather interested in what this government will do. And this is the gist of it.

Šušteršič naively assumes that somehow it’ll be different this time around. He really should know better than that. The prime minister is the same. Most of the coalition parties are the same. Most of the key players are the same. Even the problems are the same. How then could results be any different? Remember: I’m not saying that either state or private ownership are inherently bad or good. But the speed at which stated goals of this government and its financial minister have disappeared into thin air is somewhat breathtaking.


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Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum

Once upon a time in a land far away
lived a monster, who one day woke up
and screamed: Where the fuck am I living!?
(adapted from a jingle by Radio Študent)

Interior minister Gorenak (source, author unknown)

More Google translate, this time a post by the minister of the interior Vinko Gorenak (SDS) who despite last week’s ruling by the European Court on Human Rights continues to deny that the Erased in fact exist, calling them “so called erased” and maintains that most of the 25.000 are just trying to cash in on the situation and that those few who have indeed been wronged should have their rights restored based on case-by-case evaluation. He also says that this restitution would include material compensation. Which is weird, since the position of his party has long been that the Erased are not entitled to any sort of compensation and in 2009 SDS even put forward a constitutional amendment to that effect. I guess he didn’t get the memo.

However, bad grammar aside, he apparently was in the loop when the latest talking points were being distributed. As of a couple of days ago, the line that SDS and (presumably) NSi are taking is that the only problem in town are compensation claims and that the whole thing is to be blamed on the political left wing. Translation: because Gorenak’s predecessor Katarina Kresal went about fixing what (among others) the Slovenian constitutional court told the state to fix long ago, it is now the left wing’s fault that state will have to fork out some money.

Further to that point, Gorenak repeats what his party boss Janez Janša said days ago, namely that despite the finality of the verdict the state doesn’t have enough money to cover its basic needs, let alone compensate “people who were sitting on the fence, while those who might have been wronged should be looked at individually, all the while keeping in mind the state’s financial situation“. Meaning that after everything else is paid for, the victims of the single largest violation of human rights in the history of democratic Slovenia will get what’s left. After having been screened for “traitors, malingerers and speculators”, of course. In other words, minister of the interior, whose portfolio since recently also includes state prosecution, publicly stated he just doesn’t give a fuck about a ruling of the European court of human rights. And nothing happens. Really, where the fuck am I living?!

Obviously, this perverted attitude towards democracy, human rights and the rule of law does not end there. As the state just reduced pension benefits granted mostly to retired WWII war veterans, policemen, judges and so on, and some 25,000 people (funny, how numbers keep repeating) saw their pension reduced by as much as 20% it is probably only a matter of days until some bright soul in the government spins this as if the Erased are to blame. As in: “no wonder we have to reduce pensions as we have to pay huge compensations to people who sympathised with the occupator, and you can thank the left wing and Katarina Kresal for it.

So, let’s get the story straight (again). When the erasure happened (26 February 1992) the government was run by PM Lojze Peterle (Christian Democrats). His government was comprised of every single political party from both sides of the spectrum save the liberal ZSMS which was later renamed in transformed into LDS (and then split into Zares and LDS). And while Igor Bavčar, lately of Istrabenz fame and Janez Janša’s war buddy was indeed the interior minister at the time of the erasure, he was nowhere near being a member of LDS. Back then he was a member of Democratic party, one of two parties created after SDZ (one of the first parties in Slovenia) broke up. No LDS, no Milan Kučan, no Janez Drnovšek and certainly no Katarina Kresal. This is not about whether the left or the right wing is to blame. The Republic of Slovenia is to blame.

When Janez Janša, Vinko Gorenak and the rest of the current administration came to power six months ago swore to “uphold the constitutional order, act according to my conscience and that I shall do all in my power for the good of Slovenia“.

If this the above is how Gorenak et al. perceive constitutional order, the good of this country and if that is what their conscience dictates, then the lunatics have truly taken over the asylum.

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