I am disgraced, impeached, and baffled here;
Pierced to the soul with slander’s venomed spear,
The which no balm can cure but his heart-blood
Which breathed this poison.

-William Shakespeare,
The Tragedy of King Richard The Second


This is way too vile even for JJ. I can understand that he resorts to dirty tricks and that he is generally a mischevious bastard who will gladly sacrifise people and ruin their reputation and personalities to promote his own agenda. But Mitja Gaspari didn’t deserve this.

After successfully introducing the euro, President Drnovšek proposed Gaspari to a second term as the Governor of the Bank of Slovenia. Given Gaspari’s track record he should have passed the parliamentary procedure with flying colours. (For the uninitiated: think of Gaspari as the Slovene version of Alan Greenspan)

But lo! Behold! What happens? Only 21 days (yes, three weeks) after Gaspari and Janša together oversee one of the most smooth currency transitions ever recorded, so called “documents” appear out of nowhere, produced by the general no-goodnik Zmago Jelinčič of Slovene National Party, who usually serves as a stooge for whoever is in power at a given moment. There documents allegedly claim that Gaspari and his team forecasted much bleaker economic results to the ECB in the months leading up to the introcution of the euro, damaging Slovenia’s reputation. Janša took the cue, now suddenly saying that he’s not so sure about supporting Gaspari for the second run.

Bullshit. A political ambush if I ever saw one.

And it didn’t take long for Gaspari to tighten the noose himself. Unskilled in handling the media he tried to shake off one danger, plummeting headlong into another. Namely: Yesterday afternoon he called a press conference, saying that he never reported anything of the sort and that he never damaged Slovenia’s reputation. Which is precisely what Janša wanted him to say – that Gaspari was more concerned with introducin the euro (and maybe even cooking the numbers, JJ would have you think) than with doing his job properly and with due scrutiny.

Mitja Gaspari didn’t deserve that and I hope that enough protest votes will mount in the parliament later this month to defy Janša’s dirty tricks. Actually, I’d like to see Gaspari’s nomination rammed through the parliament and right down Janša’s throat.

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.

24 thoughts on “Backstabbers”

  1. Don’t know enough about the situation to comment intelligently (though if Gaspari really is Slovenia’s Alan Greenspan, then good riddance!), just have to say that the photo on JJ’s page of him being all chummy with Bush was plainly bizarre. Why would any politician, and especially the supposed leader of a developed, independent (well, used to be), progressive (well, maybe not so much anymore) nation like Slovenia, want to advertise a close, friendly relationship with one of the greatest war criminals in history?

  2. Well, perhaps the comparison with Alan Greenspan is not quite appropriate… I was just trying to point out that Gaspari’s track record should (in any normal country, that is) enable him to remain at the post – not unlike Alan Greenspan, who (if I’m not mistaken) served under Bush sr., Clinton and Bush jr.

  3. Oh, and as far as JJ and Bush posing for a photo-op is concerned: The fact Republican campaign strategists were highly active in Slovenia prior to Janša’s 2004 electoral victory might help in clearing things up 😉

  4. I have a question: do we have independent state functions in Slovenia? I mean politically independent, of course. And I mean in practice, not theoretically. Would you know?

  5. “”I can understand that he resorts to dirty tricks and that he is generally a mischevious bastard who will gladly sacrifise people and ruin their reputation and personalities to promote his own agenda.””

    I couldn’t agree more with this statement. He would kill to stay on top of the cake.

  6. @alcessa: There is indeed a big difference between theory and practice right now. Of the top of my head I’d say that right now the President of the Republic, the Constitutional Court and the Central Bank are still independent. To an extent that goes for judicial branch as well. But JJ is systematically trying to bring these functions into the sphere of his political influence.

    The row with Janez Drnovšek is well known, this year six (out of nine) constitutional judges are finishing their term and new ones must be approved by the parliament (where JJ has a majority) and now this shit with the Governor of the Bank of Slovenia.

    It basically comes down to relationship between the Prime Minister (JJ) and the President (Janez D.) – the latter appoints candidates for both Constitutional Court and the Central Bank. So this year’s presidential elections will be extremely important.

    @rollo: Thou hast said it, my brother…

  7. In the German weekly Spiegel, an obviously government-sceptic reader expressed his opinion along these lines: Let us do away with the government, let us (i.e. via the Parliament) appoint groups of specialists on the basis of the abilities required for solving concrete problems and let them do their work: analysing important topics (like health system) and offering solutions. The money we save by not paying for politicans can be invested into something sensible.

    I wonder whether specialists and/or bureaucrats could replace politicians without damaging the democracy itself…

  8. That’s the worst option possible. Experts making political decisions, because they’re ill equipped to do politics, which (as they rightfully say) is the art of possible. But the point I’m trying to make is that there are other ways of doing politics.

  9. I’m not sure I understand why this should be the worst option.
    Putting it simply, this would mean you have people whose only aim is to find solutions for certain problems and whose interactions are thus limited to cooperation, but would to a greater degree exclude manipulation, influencing and, most of all, self promotion. Loads and loads of potential there, don’t you think?

    I’m not talking about bureaucracy (they would do as the executive) and I’m really asking, not stating.

  10. To put it simply: expert solutions are not always in the public’s best interest – take for example the flat-tax debate.

    On the other hand, when experts start making political decisions (i.e.: the power to make decisions is vested in them by the voters) they become politicians and cease being experts.

    And the worst combination is an expert holding public office, still thinking as an expert. Chances are he/she will achieve little and screw up a lot. Because you by definition cannot exclude manipulation, influencing and self promotion. These are inherent to politics (and to science too, but on a lesser scale)

  11. Hmm:

    – of course these experts would have to include as many segments of the population as possible/relevant into their research and solutions. Like, conduct some real statistical surveys and use the population data as a variable or similar.
    – experts wouldn’t get the power to make decisions: they would present results and it is their propositions that would be put to vote, not their personnae (a bit like in Switzerland, with their direct democracy).
    – many public offices would become obsolete.It is not really so that decision-making is by default a fast process only because you have a minister for a certain area. So you can as well choose a group of experts.
    – people holding the few really necessary public offices would then have to be politicians, I agree. But their power would be quite diminished due to circumstances, so the usual little dirty games would become quite uninteresting / wouldn’t hurt anyone.


  12. What you’re proposing is in essence the Repbublican mantra of “less government”. But someone has to be held accountable for decisions that affect the public, and this decisions are by definition political (politics should be understood in the broadest sense possible – as a method employed to achieve a goal within a society)

    And the more developed a society gets (or, of you will, as the number of relevant segments of population increases), more decisions have to be taken for which people much be held responsible. And in a democracy (or poliacrhy to use a scientifically correct term – the closest thing to an ideal democratic model) only elected officials can take decisions and be held accountable.

    re: Switzerland. Their referenda do not supplement decision makers. In many ways Slovenia sports much more direct democracy in that area than Switzerland: different days for different referenda, “positive question” approach (In Slovenia the question is “Do you support…”, whereas in Swtitzerland the question is “Do you oppose…”)

    As far as bureaucracy is concerned, you are of course correct. Bureaucracy begets bureaucracy. But believe it or not bureaucrats are themselves experts (or are at least suppose to be) whose role is basically insure that the letter of the law is followed in all public matters. Their decisions are not political, but expert (it kinnda hard to qualify bureacracy as a science, although I studied precisely that)

    Re: few public offices. This idea in my mind opens the dangerous possibility of few people ammasing a lot of power. The basic idea of a democratic state is the idea of “checks and balances” – one branch of power being constantly checked by the other two. And the difference in their functioning implies difference in organisation, which implies quite a number of elected officials and high-ranking civil servants.

  13. (First of all: thank you very much for taking time and responding at such length and so comprehensively, though you are obviously NOT dealing with an expert of any kind :-), but rather with someone struggling to translate her multitude of ideas in German into understandable English)

    I am convinced that the principle of “checks and balances” is necessary, but there are many possible realisations of it: an independent, functioning judiciary (at least the constitutional part of it) with real power does not sound bad, does it. One would definitely need a parliament with its representatives, but as to corresponding political parties there is an interesting phenomenon occurring, at least in Germany: as far as the more important topics are concerned, it gets more and more difficult for the (larger) parties to represent opposing or contrasting (left-right, whatever) views. One could say sometimes that everyone is of the same opinion (because often, there is only one really acceptable (though complex) solution) and they are trying hard to make it sound like a different proposition on the surface. What I mean is: often it is the sheer weight of a serious topic (health, taxes, climate) that simply necessitates some degree of expertise and serious thinking rather than finding a good opposing view. (On the other hand, the Great Coalition does spend much time bickering around…)
    Ok, and of course we need a government, but maybe just some humble people who do their work and forget all about having to be charismatic persons everyone will love and/or fear. Just doing some real work.

    I have to agree about the population and the topics to be decided upon: it is definitely true that it is impossible for people themselves to decide on every single issue. And one would have many of those issues to deal with (the Communist ideal of equality of all people being done away with). But maybe one could find a solution to that.

    We all know that lobbyist play an important part in decision-making (in EU, Germany, I think also in Slovenija), so maybe something similar, but transparent could be invented.

    Maybe not.

    I only got intrigued by the idea of a state that is brought forward by experts and some necessary but humble civil servants.

  14. “Republican campaign strategists were highly active in Slovenia prior to Janša’s 2004 electoral victory”

    Do tell more. Who was involved?

  15. @Jean: Well, it’s mostly hearsay, since the role of Republican campaing advisors was never publicly confirmed (nor was it denied, for that matter), but apparently the US was very keen on seeing a pro-Washington prime minister (which Tone Rop wasn’t – as you remember he did everything he could to avoid sending troops to Iraq) and they made a lot of resources avaliable to Janša in pre-election period. Not sure about the monies, but Republican advisors were almost definitely at hand (maybe even in situ)

    It is also general knowledge that our current Foreing Minister is closely aligned with the current Bush administration (some say that his Fulbright scholarship at the height of Cold war was no accident), so Rupel was instrumental in securing US support for the new government – signing the Villnius statement was probably just the first step in that enterprise.

  16. @alcessa: let me try to answer differently. Experts are specialists in their respective fields. But someone needs to direct them to attaining the goals which will (supposedly) serve the common good. As the common good benefits all (or at least most) people, it is thought (in a democracy at least) that people should decide what that good actually is.

    As direct democracy is rather impractical (hasn’t really been practiced since the Greek city-states), people do that via their elected representatives, who have a mandate to decide on behalf of the people for a given period of time.

    So on a larger scale of things politics is mostly about financial and human resource management.

    But the concept of a technical government (rather then a strong government) is also rather impractical. Because as a ruler one sees things differently (i.e.: sees a forest rather than just particular trees) and therefore must sport certain ledarship virtues, not in the least to explain (persuade, force) to people why measure A is much better than measure B.

    Serious issues do of course need serious scientific backing. But it is the politicians who are empowered to change things (or leave them be), not the scientists.

    Of course it would be nice if the CO2 levels dropped, and experts can tell you how to do it, but they will seldomly be concerned with other ramifications (social, geostrategic, economic) of a certain, more or less, radical measure. Experts see the problem and find a way to fix it – often causing problems for other experts. From this point of view experts are not unlike bureaucrats, don’t you think? They create work for each other 😀

  17. Well Pengovsky, I don’t know, really:

    I don’t think experts are unable to “see the wood because of all the trees”. I would even argue with you that real experts would prefer achieving a goal to positioning themselves favourably in the focus of public perception.

    Also, it is always a good question just how much all those representatives in parliaments really do know about the positions/topics they are supposedly fighting for and how much it is simply a political Kalkül and the will of their leaders who have other problems than some good old problem solutions.

    I’m talking about… party members as “defense experts” for their party, people who mostly have no idea whatsoever (or not nearly enough) about their national Army, it’s real power, equipment and ability etc. etc. But with some success they may get to decide about its moves and actions. This is just an example.

    I’m also talking about people (voters) who have already internalised the principles of democracy to some degree and find it unsuitable having to face all those power and image battles of their political leaders, having to live through and shoulder all those bad or suboptimal results and decisions they never wanted in the first place.

    A leader? Should be the most clever person around. And not the most power-hungry one.

    I am also convinced that mixed TEAMS of scientists and experts can work out and elaborate on any ramifications whatsoever, provided this is what is expected of them. What they are paid for. I don’t think politicians tend to do that. And yes, those experts should create work for their colleagues. This way, the complexity of the world would be tackled with, rahter then reduced to some sad, bad models, toys abused for something else.

    Erm. Time to go to bed, no?

  18. Bed, yes… might clear things a bit. In my head at least….

    But still… To an extent you are right, of course. The problem with most of today’s (Western) democracies is that the political elite is too self-involved to always act in the best interests of their respective societies. Which (sadly) almost inevitably opens the door for populism rather than expert solutions.

    We have a great example here in Ljubljana. With the advent of populist mayor Zoran Janković people’s expectations run high. He promised the expert (i.e.: managerial) approach to tackling the problems of the city but has already run into a political blocade. Of course the question is, wheteher he’s to blame if he doesn’t play the game.

    He is, in my opinion. Politics is a legal (and legitimate) arena for promotion of one’s agenda. It is (to put it crudely) an area where different agendae are up against each other, sometimes in total opposition, sometimes creating a sinergy. And if a person in public office is unable to implement his agenda, then he/she is to blame.

    Your first paragraph encompases the entire experts vs. politicans dillema. To achieve the goal you have to position it favourably with the public opinion. Again, I bring out the flat-tax debate, which faced massive public outcry, although quite a number of experts supported it (as did numerous “defence experts” for the political parties of the current coalition)

    As for the mixed teams issue: again… yes, of course. But who will task them witch such an asignment? The voters directly? Who will choose the people who will work on the problem? You see, the solution to a given problem is not an issue here. Because if a solution fails then the experts have the privilege of saying “Oops!” and starting all over again. The elected representatives of the people do not have that privlige (or at least, not indefinitely). Experts are not voted on. Politicians are. They are the only ones who can be held accountable.

    And if experts were to become subject of a vote, they would become politicians as well. If they are given a carte blanche to implement solutions as they see fit without the possibility of being held accountable, that’s dictatorship. A scientific dictatorship, but a dictatorship nevertheless.

    And finally, yes, there is a lot of cronyism going on. That is why I believe experts should be dealing with specific issues, acting (ideally) as support for political elite, letting the politicians decide where and when they will listen to the experts. Again, it all comes down to accountability.

    If voters are not happy with the decision taken they can vote agains a politician (or his party) in the next election. Whereas experts are experts precisely because they have the luxury of not being accountable to the voters and don’t have to abide by the rules of the political game.

    Leader who are just power-hungry have a short political lifespan. Leader who are just smart are not real leaders, because they do not know how to fend off the other power-hungry wannabes. So a real leader is both power-hungry and smart. And possibly modest enough to know that he/she in the end only has a temp-job. But he/she is still a politician. Methinks.

  19. Pengovsky, the debate is not over yet, as far as I am concerned (I could explain that experts should be chosen the same way employees are chosen, e.g.), but I would like to stop here, as much as I like it. I take it you have things to do and places to go, too… 🙂

  20. You know what they say… Things to see, people to do… 😉 But I enjoy this debate immensly, so if you feel like continuing at one point or another (be it here or via mail) I’m game 😀

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