Red Wedding

The clusterfuck is complete. There will be a bloodbath.

(Jaša L. Zlobec, 1993)

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One wonders how the late Jaša L. Zlobec would have commented the current political situation. But the above quote, 20 years old and said in a different context by the ever-lucid and much-too-soon-departed former MP for LDS is more than just a fitting description for the imminent congress of Positive Slovenia.

Game of Thrones

It is now clear that barring a U-turn at the 11th hour, Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković and PM Alenka Bratušek will go head-to-head for party leadership and few people expect punches to be pulled. Only one of them will come out of the congress hall alive (politically, that is) and the result will have profound effects, both short- and long-term. But even though there can be only one president of the party, Friday’s setup is starting more and more to look like Game of Thrones’ Red Wedding. In the end, everyone dies.

Namely, the PS presidential struggle is actively entering the WTF section. First and foremost, it appears that every single junior coalition party is trying to have a say in it. Which is weird, but not completely unexpected. The weird part is that suddenly their opinions appear to count, media-wise. Karl Erjavec, Igor Lukšič and Gregor Virant seem to comment more on the situation in PS than they do on their own affairs. As if meddling in PS’s business somehow keeps the limelight off their own problems. Which it does. But they will die, too. Politically, I mean.

The three parties virtually manhandled Janković off the party helm in March February last year (in the wake of the damning anti-graft report), demanding PS get rid of Zoki lest they pass on a PS-led left-wing government. Their influence on the continuing of the Bratušek-led government has been pretty obvious ever since. But this time around, they’ve cornered themselves in: having entered the coalition on the sole proviso of Janković removing himself from the top of the party, it is widely expected of them to quit the coalition if Zoki wins on Friday. OK, so Janković doesn’t see why they would do something like that, but we’ll cover that particular disconnect with reality a bit later on.

They all die in the end

The thing with junior coalition parties is that with a possible Janković victory, they die either way. If they do indeed quit the coalition (as they should) and force early elections, the electorate will probably take it out on them, most notably Gregor Virant’s DL which just went south of 2% in public opinion polls. The coalition as a whole would fare poorly in such elections, too, and that would mean the SDS-led right-wing swoops back into power, Patria case be damned. On the other hand, if the coalition parties choose to maintain the coalition despite Janković emerging victorious, they would have only postponed the inevitable for a year or so and see themselves beaten to the pulp in 2015 elections. No wonder SD, DeSUS and DL have plenty to say these days on PS leadership.

But if PM Bratušek wins the party struggle, she will probably make them pay for making her job all that more difficult. Namely, every syllable Gregor Virant utters on the issue is making Zoran Janković more determined to challenge Bratušek. Because this is the one thing no-one seems to understand. With Jay-Z every action forces equal and opposite reaction and the more they want him out of the picture the more he wants back in. In this respect it is not unreasonable to say that the junior coalition parties have in no small part themselves to blame for the fix they’re in.

But that’s just the sideshow. The main event, the headliner, if you will, is scheduled for Friday afternoon. The build-up we’ve witnesses in the past few days and weeks suggests both Janković and Bratušek believe they’ve got things under control. Logic dictates at least one of them is terribly wrong.

Sun Tzu

The speed at which Bratušek and the PS Executive Council called the congress (technically, they rescheduled the event originally planned for October last year) suggests they wanted to give Janković as little time as possible to stage a comeback. And since there was no definite date for congress to be held, it would appear Bratušek and her people think they’ve secured a majority in the congress and want to get the leadership issue over and done with while the majority lasts. Like Sun Tzu said: battles are won and lost before they’re even started.

On the other hand, Janković believes in his ability to sway the crowds and the fact that he almost single-handedly built PS from the bottom up, winning the 2011 elections and almost reducing Janez Janša to tears. In a manner of speaking. Thus Janković believes he is a) entitled to the party leadership and b) is confident that majority of party members prefer his victor’s charisma over the occasionally stumbling style of Alenka Bratušek.

But this is where we enter the disconnect-with-reality territory. Ever since winning the elections, Janković was on the losing side of national politics. At first, he failed to form a government. Then he was forced to quit party leadership. After that, his October bid to stage a come-back was thwarted by postponing the congress. And now he seems to be the underdog.

The underdog

He said he will not be campaigning in the field, thus implicitly admitting time is not on his side. Instead he opted for a letter-to-the-members approach, but was beaten to the punch by Bratušek who sent her letter to party members first, thus setting the tempo and the tone of the game. Janković seems to be increasingly left to his own devices, re-launching his personal webpage, reactivating his Twitter account and using media access he has as mayor of Ljubljana. According to media reports he is also organising free transportation for his supporters to the congress. This is apparently within party rules, but media reports suggest this is not being done using PS assets.

Janković maintains this is not a fight of him against Bratušek, but rather a fight to return to the party platform from which the PM and her government deviated too much. In short, this is a fight between PS hard-line and soft-line. And yet, since both Jay-Z and AB came to personify their respective fractions, this is precisely a fight between the two protagonists. Sure, this is business, but in politics, business has long ago become personal. Especially since both of them said publicly they will quit the party if the other side wins.

Janković apparently thinks a lot of that is pure bluff. At least in terms of Gregor Virant, Igor Lukšič and Karl Erjavec threatening to walk out if he wins. Zoki may have a point, to an extent. There are noises about coalition parties not being serious with their threats. In fact, if Gregor Virant’s DL walks out, they might as well file to be erased (pun very much intended) from political party register because they will never again see the inside of the parliament. Igor Lukšič, for his part, said publicly the SD will not be the first to quit the coalition ranks, leaving Karl Erjavec (again!) in the role of the king-(queen-)maker. And Erjavec, as we know from previous experience, can be bought persuaded to go one way or another.

House of cards

But pengovsky’s bet is that all three parties will soon realise staying in the coalition will hurt them even more than leaving it as they would lose what little credibility they have left. If this is the bet Janković is making, he needs a reality check, pronto. Not in the least because Alenka Bratušek will most likely resign as PM if Zoki wins, taking the government and coalition with her. It’s all a house of cards, really.

The PM, for her part, has done fairly little campaigning, too. But then again, she has the party assets at her disposal as well as the support of a large majority of the PS executive council, most member of which presumably do her bidding. Also, being a PM and all she enjoys a broad media access as well with the added bonus of her appearing all statesmanlike (stateswomanlike, that is).

Additionally, Bratušek is winning over people who supported Janković’s 2011 bid. Pengovsky already wrote about how Milan Kučan‘s tete-a-tete with her was a message to Janković, but other people followed in Kučan’s footsteps, including Rajko Kenda, Spomenka Hribar, Svetlana Makarovič and – most notably – Miran Goslar, the very person who brought Janković in as CEO of Mercator and a man Janković often said has the highest regard for. Despite this Janković dismissed their calls to withdraw from the race “for the greater good”.

Ride of the Valkyries

“The greater good” in this case is not preventing Janez Janša returning to power. The leader of the SDS in this case really only serves as the bogeyman PS membership knows and is thought to fear instinctively. The true “greater good” is the fact that despite the Troika is no longer around the corner, Slovenia is still held virtually at gunpoint by foreign lenders as well as Brussels-am-Berlin. One wrong move and the yields on Slovenian bonds which have been falling slowly but steadily will shoot back up out of fear of already-sluggish reforms halting to a complete stop.

Granted, Slovenia secured its financing for a while, even returning to the euro market, but the accumulated debt gives precious little room for manoeuvre and unless the yields continue to drop (and the GDP somehow bounces back in the black) there is no way we can get out of this mess of our own accord. Analysts know this and they project early elections in case Janković wins. This, apparently would again draw a negative outlook for Slovenian bonds.

And you know what that means.

    The Gunfight At PS Corral

    There are many angles to the aftermath of the real-estate-tax debacle and the ruling coalition sought to close the fiscal one last weekend when they plugged a 200-million gaping hole in the budget. The deal, a combo of public-sector cuts and excise-hikes is not yet entirely done and is already drawing criticism from both labour unions and the Chamber of Commerce. But the dash to find two hundred big ones was soon eclipsed by what for all intents and purposes is turning out to be a showdown between PM Alenka Bratušek and Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković.

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    Namely, only a few days after the Constitutional Court struck down the real estate tax (with one of the judges resorting to Hayek as he did so), the interpelation of interior minister and leader of DL Gregor Virant was on the books.

    Now, Virant is in his own set of omnishambles, apparently getting the soft treatment by the anti-graft commission over cheap(ish) airline tickets he was buying at Adria Airways. While the price of the tickets, which was the main sticking issue, apparently is not all that problematic, he first claimed he didn’t have anything to do with it, saying his wife handled the tickets, only to see emails emerge (via Dnevnik newspaper) that he did in fact handle at least some tickets himself. Which basically boils down to whether he lied or not.

    Virant and Janković playing hardball

    Be that as it may, his position as the kingmaker was becoming ever more fluid as a result. Which in turn caused a low-level rift between pro-Bratušek and pro-Janković factions inside the Positive Slovenia to explode suddenly. Namely, the way Virant played hardball with regard to government policies (derailing VAT hike as a way to mitigate the real-estate fallout, to pick an example at random) built up quite a lot of resentment within the PS. Which was a signal Zoran Janković was waiting for to make his move and reclaim some political ground he is consistently losing since the party threw him under the bus in March last year, not in the least because Virant made that a precondition to ditch Janez Janša and join a PS-led government.

    Thus Janković had a little chat with several PS MPs and lit a fire under the anti-Virant sentiment, inciting a bit of a revolt and persuading several MPs to support the SDS-sponsored bid to remove Virant as minister of interior. This was of course a direct challenge to PM Bratušek who faced a similar scenario last summer and autumn, when Janković attempted a comeback and announced he wants to settle the question of party leadership, considering himself to have only “frozen” his presidency.

    Tables turning

    But back then Bratušek was being bombarded from all sides. Public finances were going south, so was the economy, the Troika was getting ready to deploy its drones against Slovenia, the opposition was rabid over having lost power only months earlier and the government itself wasn’t exactly ship-shape.

    Today, the tables have turned somewhat. The government itself is still struggling somewhat, case in point being ministry of silly walks health where Alenka Trop Skaza lasted less than a month. But the interest on Slovenian debt went down somewhat, we appear to be out of recession (technically, at least, not that anyone noticed) and despite a major setback with the real-estate tax the government pulled its act together and cobbled up a 200-or-so million revenue plan mostly by cutting subsidies and raising excise on alcohol and tobacco. On the whole, in April 2014 PM Bratušek is much more in charge than she was in July 2013.

    On the other hand, Zoran Janković was starting to see the results of various investigations opened against him, with charges being filed in at least two cases pertaining to his activities as mayor of Ljubljana while in a third case, about a deal while he was still CEO of Mercator, he was indicted and will stand trial. Additionally, Janković feels – not wholly unjustified – that he was used by several key PS people, helping them to re-emerge politically, only to find himself being thrown under the bus when push came to a shove.

    But be this a case of bruised ego, an attempt to stay afloat politically at any cost or, as Janković claims, a perfectly normal, if loud, clash of different visions, fact of the matter is that the rift between Bratušek and Janković is apparently complete and – unlike the last time, when it was avoided by postponing the congress – this time around a full-blown gunfight between the prime minister and the mayor is almost inevitable. And unless one of them blinks until 25 April when PS congress is to be held, it’s bound to get real ugly.

    Who will draw faster

    The fact that Alenka Bratušek is preparing for a (political) shoot-out suggests that either she doesn’t give a pair of fetid dingo’s kidneys about the outcome and whatever happens, happens, or that the outcome of the congress is a foregone conclusion and that Bratušek will win hands-down.

    A number of not-so-subtle signs suggest the latter to be the case. First of all, only a day after this particular political zit exploded Bratušek sent a letter to party members, basically saying that enough is enough. But more importantly, several days before that former president Milan Kučan met with Alenka Bratušek. Supposedly, they were talking about whether or not to raise VAT after the real estate debacle. But subject of the meet is secondary to the fact that it took place. Namely, Kučan was long seen as a key Janković ally and allowing himself to be seen meeting the PM, acknowledging her both as head of the government as well as head of the party, first and foremost sends a message to Jay-Z.

    But Bratušek is sending a message of her own. She announced she will seek a vote of confidence and will not tie it to a specific measure, opting instead for a simple yes-or-no vote (not like the last time around), refusing the rebelious MPs, four or five of them, apparently, all of them from her own party, the luxury of a political cover along the lines of “I voted for the [insert specific measure] and not necesarily for the PM”. This, too, sends a message to Janković that she considers her position much stronger and believes she has a better set of cards in hand than Ljubljana mayor.

    The shootout

    Whether or not he gets the message, remains to be seen. Both he and Bratušek have until Monday to formally confirm their leadership bids and although rumours are aplently that Zoki will withdraw his bid at the eleventh hour, this is highly unlikely. Much more likely that he and Bratušek fight it out on open stage on 25 April.

    But if he wins, Janković will find the coalition going tits-up and see early elections called, most likely bringing SDS and Janez Janša back to power in one form or another. That much is a given.

    The Week You Wouldn’t Trade Places With Zoran Janković for All The Farms In Cuba

    To say that last week was bad for Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković is a gross understatement. The truth is it was just south of a disaster, a shambolic series of events which probably hasn’t ended yet and will one way or another have serious repercussions down the road.

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    Worried (photo: TheFirm™)

    It started with the National Investigation Bureau (NPU) filing an indictment against several people including the mayor over the Stožice sports complex affair, sixteen months after the cops raided Janković’s home and office. The case seems to have focused on what the NPU believes was a false contract between Sport Ljubljana (a city-owned institute running all sport facilities) and GREP, the Stožice developer. The contract, the cops claim, was signed only to give the appearance of GREP making it appear as if it had secured enough lease contracts for a consortium of banks to approve a 150 million loan for the project.

    The loan, albeit topping at 115 million was indeed granted, the project went tits up financially with retail part being only half-finished (the stadium and arena are fully functional) and all hell breaking loose some weeks ago when the NPU raided the house of defence minister Roman Jakič who signed the contract in question, having headed Sport Ljubljana at the time. Jakič, too, was indicted and had maintained he will resign, should the court accept the indictment as valid. Jay-Z, on the other hand, intends to do no such thing. Not yet, anyhow.

    But only a day later he lost another legal battle (well, the city did). A developer sued the city, claiming it had sold him land that wasn’t municipal to begin with. Some months ago both the NPU and the developer filed charges against Janković, but the court’s decision to invalidate the sale gives quite a bit of impetus to the whole thing. The immediate effect being the city will have to return a million euros it got from the now sale, as for the rest, time will tell. Ad then, just to top it off, Thursday last the cops descended upon the City Hall yet again, this time apparently investigating the much-advertised quid-pro-quo approach Janković employs running the city. Namely, he maintained from day one of assuming office that companies operating in the city and making a profit should give something back to the city. And so donations started pouring in. But while the NPU has no proof that donations went to places other than city coffers (NPU head Majhenič said do the other day), it was the manner in which donations were allegedly secured that bothers the cops.

    Namely, the mayor is under suspicion of tying these donations directly to big city contracts, awarding them to the company which promised to give more back to the city. In this, Janković claims no wrong-doing and viciously defends his approach. And indeed it seems as if the cops and the prosecution will have a hard time arguing their case on this issue. Corruption and bribery as criminal act is notoriously hard to prove and in this case the beneficiary of the “pay-offs” is apparently not an individual but the community. But, pengovsky is told, it is the alleged act of bribery that counts, not to whom the pay-off was made. Anyways, point is Janković is in a pretty substantial heap of manure right now and will have to spend a considerable amount of energy and resources to deal with it.

    Especially before the upcoming municipal elections this autumn. Which is why a theory was floated early on that the repeated visits by the local FBI are a form of not so gentle a hint to let it go and slowly fade out of the picture. The only problem is Janković doesn’t take hints. What is more plausible is that NPU felt they finally have enough to move on and are now fishing around for more things that might stick on the proverbially Teflon-skinned mayor. It all comes at a very awkward time for Zoki who is due to announce his decision on whether to run for mayor for the third full term (bur for the fourth time as he got elected twice last time around).

    The big announcement is scheduled for 9 May, Liberation day, when the City Council meets for a special session to celebrate the city’s single most important anniversary. The drama and flair suggest a monumental decision although Janković stubbornly refuses to give so much as a hint on which way he’s leaning. Even more, he’s apparently actively giving mixed signals – preparing the groundwork for a record third term and yet being completely unenthusiastic, even bored with the very idea.

    Because the outside signs are there. The 2014 city budget was increased 40% with respect to 2013 results, a shitload of infrastructure projects are planned and – as if learned a lesson with Stožice – most of those are city-financed, not some form of public-private partnership. A lot of other things, too, bear hallmarks of impending re-election bid. For example, plumbing is being constructed in a remote part of Ljubljana, which has been screaming for it for over three decades. New buses are on the shopping list. Stuff mayors do when elections approach. And yet, there seems to be precious little flair left. It wasn’t just regular visits by the cops. Positive Slovenia, the party which he formed almost single-handedly, has all but thrown him under the bus. Minister in the Bratušek administration considered close to Janković are being replaced one by one. Prominent MPs considered from his stock are either evasive, deserting him or facing their own investigations. Renata Brunskole and Matjaž Zanoškar being examples of the latter two. And to top it off, the “interim” Positive Slovenia leadership just signed the party up for ALDE membership in EU politics, linking it with the liberal camp, while Janković wanted the party to join the S&D, the so called Socialist Internationale.

    Thus it was as much a recognition of the fact that he was effectively muscled out of his own party as it was pure bitterness when he said the other day he’d never consider forming yet another party. Which begs the question in what form will he enter the race for the third term at the helm of the city (presuming he does indeed decide to run and that the indictment is either thrown out or the court doesn’t rule on it yet). Technically, the city council has no Positive Slovenia councilmen as all of Janković’s majority in the council was elected on the Zoran Janković List (LZJ) in 2010 and there’s no reason why Jay-Z couldn’t do it again. Provided (again) things on the legal front don’t deteriorate further for him.

    And although much of the panache is gone, the re-election of Zoran Janković is not as much a question of his “fitness for office” as it is the question of the opposition coming up with at least one credible candidate. Everything until now was more or less a joke with NSi‘s Mojca Kucler Dolinar being the most serious of generally laughable candidates for mayor in the past eight years. It will also be fun to see whether the PS will run their own candidate, against Janković. With this being the capital and all, it would be only fitting for the largest party in the parliament to come up with a credible candidate for mayor. But then again, even if their man/woman loses they’d have opened another bitter dispute with Janković.

    All in all, as far as Ljubljana mayor is considered, his is a pretty shaky position right now and you wouldn’t want to trade places with him for all the farms in Cuba. Strengthening it will require time, but it’s not like he could whistle on his way home.

    UPDATE, 19 FEB: Well, turns out Jay-Z’s woes are not nearly over. Today’s Delo reports (Slovene only) Peter Vilfan resigned as city councilman for LZJ. Vilfan, a former basketball star is also MP for Positive Slovenia and his resignation is no small matter in this respect (talk about MPs distancing themselves from Zoki). Namely, Vilfan said that despite his belief that Janković is a) innocent and b) the best mayor Ljubljana ever had, the prime reason for his resignation are mayor’s mounting legal problems with the added bonus being the fantastically fruitless debates in the city council.

    Well, while Vilfan put himself in the classical foot-in-mouth position (If he believes Janković is innocent of the charges, why resign?), he is at least correct on the last count 😉

     

     

    PM Bratušek Down A Minister. Just Not The One SDS Was Aiming For.

    Late last night, after a 15+ hours of debate, the parliament voted to reject the bid to oust finance minister Uroš Čufer. The motion was filed by SDS of Janez Janša and the two basic charges against Čufer were that he backed the Bank of Slovenia plan for a “controlled liquidation” of Probanka and Factor banka, two small sort-of-investment banks which were mainly vehicles for financing ventures of their owners (although Probanka had a small contingent of “ordinary” customers) as well as the fact that he dismissed Andrej Šircelj, an SDS MP, from the board of the yet-to-become-operational Bad Assets Management Company, a.k.a. bad bank.

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    Two ministers: one in resignation, the other one not so much. (photo: Aleš Černivec/Delo)

    Now, the move-to-oust, or “interpelation” as it is known around here was filed some time ago and it went without saying that the SDS, which was alone in this venture with NSi and SLS watching carefully which way the wind blows, threw at Čufer everything they could get their hands on. Which mostly meant lecturing him at how he should run state finances.

    Which is all fine and well, after all this is a democracy of sorts with a relatively well-thought-out system of checks and balances. The same goes for the interpelation instrument. However, what we witnessed yesterday was not so much a case of oppositional oversight as it was a degenerated filibuster where the goal was not to prevent a measure being passed but to drag the proceedings for as long as possible, hoping that somewhere along the way the coalition would drop the ball and fail to produce a majority vote. In fact, this was nothing short of a shit in political tactics. Namely, about a week ago we’ve seen practically the same approach when the parliament debated the 2014 and 2015 budgets. In a multi-day session which culminated in a Thursday all-nighter, the final vote was cast on Friday at 6 in the morning.

    The good old days of touch and go

    Now, all-night-sessions are not unknown in this part of the world. When shit was hitting the fan while Yugoslavia was disintegrating and the whole Slovenia situation was touch-and-go we used to see them regularly. In fact, one could argue that all-night sessions of the parliament or another high-ranking body were the hallmark of the era. And it seems as if the opposition is trying to bring back the aura of emergency and instability.

    Not that there was any lack of urgency to begin with and until the budget was passed, the Bratušek administration sure as hell couldn’t be filed under “stable”. But ever since Janez Janša was toppled he was looking for ways to undermine the current government in any way possible. True, the ruling coalition is perfectly capable to undermine itself (as we’ve seen time and again in the past months) but it would appear there’s some movement in the right direction.

    One could argue that Bratušek and Čufer achieved with this budget what Janša and Šušteršič couldn’t. Namely, get at least half a nod from the EU and effectively take threat of the Troika descending off the table at least temporarily. And as demonstrated in the previous post, for Janša the equation is simple: no Troika, no return to power any-time soon. And a derailed budget or a toppled finance minister are not to high a price to pay, apparently. Not to mention inevitable relegation of Slovenia to protectorate status in case the Troika materializes.

    Again: Slovenia is not out of the woods yet (not even close) but a hint was given we’re on the right path. And that is not good news for Janša.

    It’s about management, stupid

    But as someone recently told pengovsky, this country doesn’t have as much of a financial problem as it does have a leadership management problem. Both in government and in business. Which is one of the reasons we find ourselves in the shit we’re in. Case in point being minister of economy and technology Stanko Stepišnik, who was forced to resign yesterday evening over a repeated issue of his tools-manufacturing company Emo Orodjarna applying for and being awarded government grants while he was in office.

    Now, there’s a caveat to this: until recently, there was a strict prohibition of companies (co-)owned by public officials applying for tenders with the institutions their owners worked for. I.e.: a company a minister or a member of his family owned (at least partly) could not apply for a grant within his ministry’s purview. Some years ago there was even a complete prohibition for such companies doing any business with any government institution, but that was struck down as unconstitutional. But even this watered-down prohibitive clause was too much for some and was reduced even further by the last Janša administration (albeit at the behest of the SLS) and now stipulates only that people with a conflict of interest should remove themselves from the decision-making process.

    And when it transpired that Stepišnik’s company did in fact apply for a government grant at Stepišnik’s ministry, it was all perfectly legal, since Stepišnik did in fact remove himself from the decision-making process. And yet, it failed to dawn on him that simply is not the way things should be done. It took further revelations of his company applying for additional tenders and – this clinched it – apparently falsely stating there are no possible conflicts of interest in one of the tenders for Stanko Stepišnik to finally realise he is in an unsustainable position.

    However, since Stepišnik was an MP for Positive Slovenia before assuming ministerial duties, he is bound to return to take his parliamentary seat, making the situation no less more agreeable. Now, arguably, Stepišnik’s resignation is a good omen as it is the second minister in Bratušek administration to resign over a similar conflict of interest (Igor Maher having done so after only 12 days in office) and it shows this government does have a sense of appropriateness. Also, Stepišnik was widely tipped to be let go once PM Bratušek wins the vote of confidence, so there’s no real harm (political or otherwise) in him being replaced.

    The necessary vote of confidence

    But it does show that – despite the fact some people were mocking Bratušek for tying it to passing of the budget – the recent confidence vote was much more crucial than most people thought. It finally gave her the leg to stand on politically and rallied the coalition around her, at least temporarily. And it appears finance minister Čufer is one of the cornerstones of her political credibility. Which is why she took the somewhat unusual step of the PM addressing the parliament and defend her minister during an interpelation.

    This, of course, did not go unnoticed and you can be sure Čufer will find himself the target of much more elaborate attacks and insinuation than just a case of a disgruntled opposition MP who – due to a legal provision, mind you – lost his 6k EUR monthly paycheck in the bad bank which came on top of his 4k monthly MP salary.

     

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    Mutiny On The Bounty

    Oh, boy… Contrary to what pengovsky predicted two months ago, Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković on Wednesday did in fact agree to run for president of Positive Slovenia, throwing a huge wrench in what was already a barely functional political environment. A shitstorm of epic proportions ensued which unmasked a huge rift within the party and threatened, well, omnishambles. These were temporarily put off by what for all intents and purposes was a below-the-belt move by party executive committee to postpone the congress until shortly before parliamentary elections. Which amounts to an in-party mutiny and drives a wedge between Zoran Janković and the party he founded in 2011 led to victory in parliamentary elections only seven weeks later.

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    Zoran Janković vs. Alenka Bratušek (not an actual representation of roles ;))

    Janković went all in on Wednesday and said he will stand in party elections, thus going head-to-head against Bratušek who confirmed her running some time ago. He also rejected speculations he would back down at the very last moment and went on to state that he sees no reason why junior coalition parties would quit the coalition if he were to return to the helm of PS. Well, maybe he didn’t, but Lukšič, Virant and Erjavec sure as hell did. But more on that in a moment.

    PM Bratušek was on an official visit to Serbia on Wednesday and refused to comment on Janković move, but come Thursday, she was all like Cary Elwes in Robin Hood: Men in Tights and published a written statement saying that time for play is over and told him to bring it on, saying she will quit as PM if she loses party elections (Google translate here).

    The stage was set for a showdown of epic proportions. Janković’s move was either motivated by one of those Tom Cruise moments or by the notion that he has little left to lose and decided that if he has to go, he will take the party with him. The former would go against him being suicidal, especially since he did hint at a possible “third option” a couple of weeks ago, namely, his retirement some time soon. He wasn’t really serious about it, but the mere mentioning of it suggest that he did take it into consideration.

    Additionally, he apparently calculated the junior coalition parties have attached themselves to enough gravy-trains to continue in a Janković-led coalition rather than to quit their respective honey-pots, regardless of their insistence in Spring that Positive Slovenija is only acceptable as a coalition partner sans Janković. Furthermore, he figured (not entirely unreasonably, it must be said) that most of PS senior figures are somehow indebted to him politically. Lastly, he figured that he could easly sway the vote in the party Congress his way. Well, turns out he was right only on the last count.

    immediately after his announcement on Wednesday all three junior coalition parties said that Janković as PS president means gave over for the ruling coalition which – by extension – meant early elections within a matter of months. The only coalition party that could reap some sort of benefits from this scenario are the Social Democrats which have seen a steady streak of top ranks in public opinion polls. Thus, even if DL and DeSUS would back down on their demands, the SD would almost certainly call it quits. Which why all three junior parties were watching each other, which would flinch first. With the congress only 17 days away on Wednesday, a proper flip-flop on the issue would be hard to execute.

    OT: since a fallen government would most probably result in The Troika descending from Brussels-am-Berlin, the election result would matter about as much as a pair of fetid dingo’s kidneys, but I’m sure few people even considered that.

    So, this was miscalculation numero uno, not unlike the one Janković made in 2011, when he was negotiating a coalition on his own and wouldn’t cave in to personal vanities of other party leaders. It was this clash of egos that ultimately cost him his premiership and that nearly caused a total political breakdown today. Namely, his running for party president also flew in the face of those who threw him under the bus in late July. He was challenging them as much as he was challenging PM Bratušek and somehow thought his move alone would sway those still on the fence to his side. But again, since Bratušek upped the ante a day later and told him in no uncertain terms that she will only play this game is she heads both the party and the government, a lot of people suddenly stood to lose quite a lot if the government would indeed fall. Not to mention the prospect of yet another election or that of a Brussels intervention. Janković was forcing them into a battle no-one really wanted to fight. Miscalculation numero dos.

    And yet, if the battle were to be fought, Janković would probably win hands-down. In this, he was correct. It goes beyond saying that the one thing Alenka Bratušek lacks is charisma. She is a technocrat. A bean-counter, if you want to be unkind to her. If she were pitted against Jay-Z on open stage, she might as well throw in the towel (which reportedly she thought of doing immediately after Zoki’s announcement). For Janković on stage is a sight to see. Regardless of whether one likes him or hates him, one has to admit that he can work the crowd. Especially if the crowd wants to be worked. And congress delegates aren’t exactly a hostile bunch. No-one expected the PS congress to be like the 14th congress of the Yugoslav communists, when the Party fell apart.

    This, apparently was a fact recognised by PS ExCom which on Thursday afternoon decided to pull the rug from under Zoran Janković entirely and postpone the congress until some time before elections. Since there is no definitive date for those, the congress is as good as canceled.

    But as things stand now, Zoran Janković chipped off yet another piece of what little authority Alenka Bratušek has in Slovene politics. To an extent, one can understand him. He was increasingly sidelined by his own party and no doubt saw it as going beyond the terms of his mutually agreed “freezing of party leadership”. Not the sort of person to take being left out of the loop lightly, he tried to engineer a spectacular come-back.

    That he was wrong to do so, can be gauged by the simplest of methods: several prominent SDS members were supporting his bid, saying that a party leadership should be contested in an open manner. Which is all fine and well, but SDS is approving of developments in other parties only when it suits them and they too saw Janković returning to head the PS as a short-cut to early elections which they would probably win.

    With these developments, the separation of Zoran Janković and Alenka Bratušek is complete and the upside for her is that no one in their right mind can now claim that hers is a puppet government controlled by Zoran Janković. In fact, it was all a bit like Admiral Roebuck versus M in Tomorrow Never Dies (at 4:10). And although the pundits say she missed her chance to establish herself as a political leader, she has only now opened the possibility to do so.

    Namely, both JZ and AB remain candidates when the congress finally convenes, but by then Slovenia will either be under a Troika administration or will have fixed its finances enough to start breathing again which would give Alenka Bratušek a leg to stand on politically. Curiously enough, in all this conundrum the only support (if you can call it that) she got was from the European Commission which said that now is not the time to experiment politically. Translation: they need an operative government to work with/dictate terms to.

    As for Positive Slovenia, things do not bode well. The ripple effect will no doubt be felt down the party ranks and some serious work will have to be done to repair the rift in the coming months. If that is at all possible. The very fact that congress was postponed means that party senior figures have not (yet?) won the hearts and minds of rank-and-file members. Some time in the future, there will be hell to pay. It isn’t entirely clear who will pick up the tab, but it should be noted that the mutiny on the Bounty was eventually put down.

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