It seems that the only gauge of the state of the, errr, state these days is the yield on Slovenian bonds on international markets. Whenever it starts nearing seven percent, media and the political right-wing go apeshit and start blaring big fat headlines about impending doom. And whenever it starts dropping, the left-wing goes talk-to-the-hand-cause-the-face-ain’t-listening-biatch. But fact of the matter is that the yield on various Slovenian bonds is going up and down like a cork in the water. And that ain’t good.
Which is part of the reason government of Alenka Bratušek is on a charm offensive these past few days. With limited success, might I add. AB went on CNN the other day and apparently she didn’t do a particularly good job. That seems to be the prevalent opinion of the commentariat, anyways. Truth be told, PM’s performance was somewhat lacking, both in substance and in style. While she was mostly ridiculed on account of her thick accent, the problem was that she repeated the same old mantras of Slovenia not needing outside help in dealing with our problems. While that may be true (indeed, the OECD report released this week suggest so, as does an otherwise gloom report by the European Commission), Bratušek failed to shock & awe.
You talkin’ to me?
But it is important to remember Bratušek wasn’t taking to the home crowd. In fact, she wasn’t really talking to Richard Quest either. For what it was worth, she was talking to foreign investors. At the very least, to moneymen buying Slovenian debt. And from what pengovsky hears from abroad, she did an OK job. And just to put things in perspective, while the local economic honchos were reportedly impressed with the way the new finance minister handled the OECD, the non-natives (a.k.a. the real world) were apparently left unfazed, to put it mildly. (full disclosure: pengovsky is quoted in the linked article). On the other hand, The government did manage to sell some 900 million of debt today (after failing to sell 100 million days earlier) and won a little breathing room to put together what everyone is waiting for: an actual plan.
In that respect it is somewhat ironic that Bratušek is continuing with the basic outline set up by Janša’s administration, meaning bad bank and state sovereign holding company, augmented by further cuts in the public sector. Moreover, parliament is apparently close on enshrining the fiscal rule in the constitution, the very thing which sent both left and right to the barricades a year ago. And that’s now, when the reasoning behind austerity was completely and utterly debunked. On account of an Excel error, mind you!
Where is Janša hiding?
Speaking of Janez Janša, he went below radar, more or less. (Self)demoted to being a mere party president, forfeiting his MP seat as well as ex-PM benefits, he is running around courtesy of the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy, giving lectures on human rights. Last week it was Iceland, next month it will be Berlin. Strange animal, this institute, mind you. Apparently, they take on interns to send spam. Also, their website bears strangely close resemblance to English pages of both SDS and Janez Janša. Or is that the other way around?
At any rate, Janša is apparently up for re-election as Party leader and with less than a month to go, he has yet to officially announce his bid. While former minister of infrastructure Zvonko Černač already said Janša is running, the man himself remains mum. And for a reason, pengovsky imagines. Sentences were passed in the Austrian branch of the Patria Affair and the court in Vienna concluded bribes were paid in that particular arms deal. Initially it was reported the Austrian judge said in her ruling that without a doubt Slovenian politicians were bribed. SDS went full throttle against this line of reporting, issuing a steady stream of denials, either directly or via friendly press. Be that as it may, Janša has a lot to worry about in that department.
The downfall of Žiga Turk
Speaking of SDS-friendly press, former minister of education, science, sports and culture Žiga Turk quit all party functions (but, it seems, not the party itself) citing an increasing gulf between his own convictions and party directives. Which was quite a bombshell, since Turk was widely perceived as the austerity hawk who went about dismantling as much of public sector within his purview as possible. He was also seen as the second most prominent man in the SDS, right after Janša. Maybe he became too strong and that was part of the reason that Party-friendly press tore him apart and practically labelled him a traitor to the cause.
This is not the first time Janša brought down a would-be political heir when the latter became too strong. Something similar happened to Milan Zver who was removed to Brussels as MEP soon after he started showing signs of independence. That’s the way Janša operates. He picks men (politically) lesser than himself, builds them up and then brings them down at the very moment they could have made a difference in the Party. This is also an indication that Janša is by no means leaving politics. At best, he went underground hoping to be missed. His only gamble is that he will stay underground for so long that the political landscape will have changed to the point of making him obsolete.
Speaking of being obsolete, President Borut Pahor is increasingly starting to look like Commandant Eric Lassard of the Police Academy series. Namely, last week his office tweeted about Pahor keeping a goldfish in his office. Yes. In the midst of the crisis, when the country is just a panic-attack away from a bankruptcy and the troika descending, the president is busy fooling around with a goldfish. And drawing criticism from animal welfare organisations to boot, since at first he was keeping the poor thing in a bowl of unfiltered water. His office has installed a proper aquarium since then.
OK, so Pahor did partake in the charm offensive, visiting France today and going to Germany next week. Which is yet another proof of the fact that the prez and the reality are further and further apart. The “Franco-German train” he so vigorously promoted while he was the prime minister and was clamouring for Slovenia to get on-board, apparently still exists in his mind. But only in his mind. Which is bad enough. What’s worse is that Pahor is visiting France first, giving precedence to “mon ami” Francois Hollande, brother socialist who didn’t support Pahor in last year’s presidential campaign, despite Borut claiming otherwise (Slovene only).
Thus President Pahor snubbed Angela Merkel who (despite not being a particular favourite of pengovsky) still runs the country which just happens to be Slovenia’s largest export partner. Instead he went to see this guy who snubbed him. Looking for some tough love, are we? Anyhow, that’s just diplomatic gaffes. For all his experience in foreign relations, Pahor apparently is no stranger to them.
More worrying is the fact that the president – if his website and Twitter account are anything to go by – to date failed to make any kind of statement on the bombing of Boston Marathon, let alone offer condolences to victim’s families. It was up to Foreign minister Erjavec to save the face of this country.