2018 Parliamentary Election: Bells And Dog-Whistles

With only days remaining, the 2018 Slovenian parliamentary election campaign continues to underwhelm both in style and substance. There has been precious little movement in top positions in public opinions polls, but as time is running out nervousness is starting to set in, with subtle policy hints and dog-whistles giving way to veritable bullhorns in crude attempts to pick up an additional vote or two.


Best of the worst of campaign posters. (source, source and source)

Parties are promising everything and the moon to their voters. No commitment is too off-the-rails, no slogan is beyond the pale and no lie too bald-faced to serve the purpose. Sometimes it feels as if everyone involved just went off the rocker a bit. But given that between 20 and 45 percent of the electorate remain undecided (depending on which poll you look at), that is probably to be expected.

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WWZJD (What Will Zoran Janković Do)

One of the perennial questions of Slovene election cycles as of late is WWJZD. What will Zoran Janković do. For some reason the mayor of Ljubljana is still considered a force to be reckoned with in national politics and his shadow seems to loom large over for many on the right wing (and some on the left as well), often-times plunging them in a psychosis-like mental state where they being seeing everything that is happening as interventions by the Deep State/Udbomafia/Uncles-in-the-shadows/Lizard people [in a Slavoj Žižek voice] and so on and so on…. And this latest bout paranioia was not helped by Janković’s press conference earlier today where he said he will be somehow getting involved in the national elections


Zoran Janković (source)

You’d be forgiven for forgetting, but the mayor of Ljubljana still moonlights as president of Positive Slovenia (PS), a party which by virtue of himself as a charismatic leader, some very clever PR and a fair dose of tactical voting, narrowly won the 2011 elections, relegating Janez Janša and his SDS to a runner-up position. In what was a textbook episode of political foolhardiness, Janković however failed to win the prime-ministership for himself, paving the way for Janša 2.0 government. From there on, things only went downhill for Positive Slovenia which has ceased to be a forced to be reckoned with just as fast as it became one.

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Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum (Policy)

It takes a special sort of naiveté to look at the last ten days in Muddy Hollows and see it as anything but a shameless run for cheap political points. The matter at hand is the issue of one Ahmat Shani, a Syrian refugee who ended up in Slovenia where the state is refusing to process his asylum application and is now facing deportation to Croatia.


Ahmad Shami (source)

Ahmad Shami was a part of the 2015 refugee exodus which – despite numerous warning signs – caught the EU more or less unawares and scrambling for stop-gap solutions, hobbling the Schengen area and inducing levels of panic and overreaction not seen since, well, the eurozone crisis. But Ahmad Shami probably cared less about that than getting to safety and making sure his immediate family could follow in his footsteps.

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The Aftermath Of An Election

The ordeal is finally over. Borut Pahor was elected to a second five-year term, fending off a second-round challenge by Marjan Šarec, the mayor of a mid-size town in central Slovenia. But although Pahor’s victory was expected, he had to work harder and longer for it and won with by a much smaller margin that generally expected at the outset of the campaign.


The runner-up and the incumbent (source)

Still reeling from the clusterfuck after the first round when a number of of prominent polling agencies called the race for Pahor even ahead of the vote, the pollsters were more or less on target this time around. Most of final polls coalesced around 55/45 percent for Pahor but the final tally showed Pahor won in the end by 53 percent to Šarec’s 47 percent. That’s a mere six-point spread.

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A Reshuffle By Any Other Name

What turned out to be a resignation-happy week, culminated on Friday last with a collective fuck-you-we-quit by the trio heading the KPK, Slovenia’s anti-graft body. Goran Klemenčič, Rok Praprotnik and Liljana Selinšek announced their resignations in what they called a protest against the fact that – despite their best efforts – the powers that be are doing their best to ignore the systemic issues of corruption in Slovenia (full statement in English here)

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Samo Omerzel (DL) and Jernej Pikalo (SD) (source: RTVSLO)

The move opens a plethora of interesting questions, not in the least the fact that their successors must be appointed by the very man who (at least by the virtue of his position) oversaw the making of the clusterfuck that is TEŠ6 coal powerplant. That be Borut Pahor, of course, who as PM did nothing to stop the investment which soon thereafter spiraled out of control and went from a doctored 600 million to ass-whooping 1,4 billion euro without a single megawatt of energy being produced yet. But we’ll deal with that in the coming days. Mostly because there is shit going on in executive branch of the government as well.

Namely, after she ditched minister of economy Stanko Stepišnik and minister of health Tomaž Gantar bailed out of his own accord, PM Alenka Bratušek was faced with a miniature coalition crisis. Predictably it was Karl Erjavec of DeSUS who started making noises about how a proper cabinet reshuffle is overdue and that it should include head of SocDems Igor Lukšič who opted not to take on a ministerial position when Bratušek formed her government.

This flip-flop position was thus far very profitable both for Lukšič and his party. The SD is leading in every poll imaginable not in the least because Lukšič manages to avoid the daily bad press and lets senior party figures take the heat while he supports the government unless it is opportune not to do so. Seeing this, Karl Erjavec thought he might squeeze out a concession or two, saying that unless Lukšič doesn’t take on a portfolio, he himself will “think about him remaining a part of the government as well”. Naturally, no-one took him seriously and lo-behold! Erjavec has taken on the health portfolio as well, it was announced yesterday. Which makes for a fun combo: Karl Erjavec, foreign and health minister.

A rather less funny but far more intriguing combo is Uroš Čufer, who – in addition to finance – temporarily took on economy portfolio as well, thus joining two areas (supposedly) critical to turning the fortunes of this sorry little excuse for a country. Legally, this “pro tempore” solution can only be done for a period of six months (three plus three) and it seems PM Bratušek opted for it because Erjavec may still get what he wants, while Čufer will either go boom or bust in the same period. For “boom” read survive the banking stress tests and sell off at least some state-owned companies and for “bust” read none of the above.

At any rate, while no-one is calling it like that, an across the board cabinet reshuffle is in the air. Especially since the coalition will begin negotiating a new agreement, extending until next parliamentary elections in late 2015. Also, minister of infrastructure Samo Omerzel is in a bit of a fix these past few days over his company doing business with state-owned motorway company DARS and although only today the company stated that it bailed out on extending the deal, it may be to little to late. The PS is making noises that Omerzel should go for the same reason Stepišnik had to go – not because he did anything illegal, but because it was unbecoming. And on merit, they have a point. Politically, however, this can heat up things a bit and not just because the opposition is clamouring for his removal.

The thing is that not only is DL supporting their minister (obviously) but they would – if push came to a shove – probably make demands against other coalition partners as well. Which points to the conclusion that the Social Democrats will have to say goodbye to one of their own sooner rather than later. And that can only be minister of education, science and technology Jernej Pikalo. Not because he would do anything really wrong, but because he has the least clout of the three SD ministers in the Bratušek Government.

With Dejan Židan being the Number Two of the Social Democrats and the key senior government official in a recently launched anti-tax-evasion campaign while Anja Kopač Mrak is heading the labour, family and social department which is a can of worms few people want to touch let alone open in the first place. Which leaves Pikalo. His replacement would mean that each of the coalition parties had to throw one of their own under the bus and – in theory at least – everybody would be happy.

This, combined with new ground-rules being laid, the possibility of parties switching some portfolios among themselves and the fact that PM Bratušek is looking to replace three to five ministers within a year of her taking office is nothing short of a full-blown cabinet reshuffle. It’s just that nobody will be calling it that.

 

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