Alenka Bratušek Ousts Janez Janša as PM

Earlier today Alenka Bratušek was sworn in as Slovenia’s first female Prime Minister. In what was mostly lack-luster but long (10+ hours) debate which picked up only in the latter stages, the parliament voted 55:33 to have Bratušek replace Janez Janša as head of the government. Thus Bratušek became the first woman in the history of Slovenia to have been designated PM and only second individual to have ascended to the position in a “constructive no-confidence” vote. The last time the prime minister was replaced in this particular manner was in 1992 when Janez Drnovšek replaced Lozje Peterle.

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Alenka Bratušek signing her oath as PM-designate (source: rtvslo.si)

While momentous in its own right, this event is only the first step in a treacherous process of coalition negotiations between parties that have considerable history between themselves. Although technically ousted, Janša’s government remains in a caretaker role until a new government is confirmed by the National Assembly which must be done in 15 days starting tomorrow. Failing to do so in three attempts, her designation is voided and the procedure to nominate a new PM kicks is with president of the republic front and centre. In this case that would translate into early elections. And, truth be told, this is not an altogether unlikely scenario.

The key players in this particular game of political poker are Igor Lukšič‘s Social Democrats and Gregor Virant‘s Citizens’ List. While Bratušek announced that she – provided her cabinet is approved – she will seek a confidence vote in a year’s time, setting the stage for elections in early 2014, both Virant and Lukšič made noises today and in the past few days that early elections within a few months time are a viable option, especially if no deal on agenda of Bratušek government is reached.

While Virant is probably bluffing, Lukšič knows his current good fortune in the polls can not last. Also, if the SD enter the government, they will necessarily see their ratings plummet and within a year their current popularity will be but a distant memory. Therefore it is entirely possible that in the world of Slovenian cloak-and-dagger politics, Lukšič (or Virant) would engineer a disagreement which would allow them to derail coalition negotiations and still make it look as if they did everything they could. And since early elections would present Janša with a good chance for a comeback, he wouldn’t mind having them as soon as possible either.

This was the easy part, especially since even part of the SLS voted in favour of removing Janša. Hard work begins now. As of today and without SLS onboard, PM-designate Alenka Bratušek will need just about every vote she can muster and hope that (primarily) Lukšič isn’t in this simply to double-cross her at the very end.

 

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National Council And The Kangler Paradox

The new National Council met today for an inaugural session and gained plenty of airtime. Mostly because soon-to-be-ex mayor of Maribor Franc Kangler was elected but immediately evicted as councilman during what was later dubbed The 1st Maribor Uprising, which started the wave of protests still sweeping the country one way or the other.


Franc Kangler leaving the National Council chambers (photo: RTVSLO)

The National Council is a weird body and pengovsky has long maintained that there would be no harm in abolishing it. Its members are elected indirectly, via electoral votes with half of them representing local interests and the other half representing various trade, labour and industrial interests. And the public sector. It is in fact a classic corporatist body where representatives of particular interests are allowed a say on matters of national (public) interest. In fact, it is a prime example of the road to hell being paved with good intentions.

The National Council is not a proper second chamber. It wields certain powers, but it doesn’t automatically have a say in the every-day legislative process. Among other things it can use a holding veto, forcing the National Assembly (the parliament proper) to re-take the vote on a certain law and it can call a referendum. As such is quickly went degenerated into a place of lobbying and back-room politicking where even representatives of trade/industrial interests take votes along the party lines or hidden agendas, depending on the issue at hand. The fact that council members can be granted immunity from prosecution only adds to the shadowy clout of the institution.

Enter Franc Kangler whose election to the council was reportedly the result of some serious political horse-trading in the Maribor region while protesters outside the Maribor City Hall pelted the building with eggs and the newly elected council member had to be escorted home by riot police. Between then and now Kangler announced his resignation as mayor of Maribor (effective 31 December) but his membership in the council seemed a fait accompli.

But in what is usually a mere formality of confirming new councilmen, members of the National Council voted to deny Kangler a seat in the body on – wait for it – moral grounds. As a result, Kangler will apparently petition the Constitutional Court to overturn the decision and allow him to start his five-year term as a member of the 40-seat sort-of-upper chamber of the Slovenian parliament.

So, what actually happened? As stated many times on this blog in the past few days, the political elite is scared. Think soiled-underpants-scared. Pengovsky has it on good authority that parliamentarians are bewildered with what is going on in the streets, they are starting to realise they have a general legitimacy problem and are slowly starting to panic. As a result, they are making rash moves, trying to save their face, hoping they’ll not have to save their skin.

This was the prime reason they denied Kangler his council membership. Trying to put a daylight between him and themselves, they singled him out as the proverbial root of all evil and attempted to evict him at the very start, thus making themselves look good. Which only proves that they still don’t get it. They do not realise that Kangler is not the cause of the troubles but rather symptom of a much deeper problem of state-capture. Contrary to common sense, the Slovenian state was not captured by the economic elite (although it often seemed so) but by its political sibling. The people have had enough of it and Franc Kangler was only the straw that broke the camel’s back.

In their rash and voluntaristic approach, the newly minted councilmen proclaimed Franc Kangler morally unfit to serve on the body. Which may even be the case, but it is not their place, neither legally nor otherwise to say so. Fact of the matter is that Kangler was elected to the position, albeit with a legitimacy problem of galactic proportions. But legitimacy (or the lack thereof) is only judged with respect to the people (i.e. this nation’s sovereign) and not with respect to fellow council members.

Just as he was forced to resign as mayor, Kangler could have been forced to resign as councilman. Media and public pressure can do the trick. He has shown his fragility on the issue earlier today where he actively avoided journos and cameras. He clearly wasn’t enjoying any of this and odds were he wouldn’t last long in the council. But in their stupidity and short-sightedness, his fellow council members presented him with the perfect tool to get away with it.

What the council did today was illegal. Council members have no authority to judge appropriateness of a fellow member once he or she has been elected. But they did it anyway. As a result, Kangler will petition the Constitutional Court which will have no option but to confirm his mandate. Thus Kangler will in all likelyhood be reinstated as a member of the National Council, ironically coming out of this mess with more legitimacy than when he entered it because his council membership will have been confirmed by the ultimate guardian of the rule of law in this country.

In effect, the National Council created a situation where the rule of law (the lack of which is one of the key issues of the protest movement) will, ironically, be strengthened with Kangler in the council rather than with him outside the council.

Omnishambles indeed.

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