While I obsess over Zoki’s dealings with the government, an entirely different plot is unfolding in national politics. You already know about SOVA spy scandal, but a couple of things have happened recently which put the events of the past few weeks in a totally different perspecitve:
1. Matjaž Gantar resigned as a member of Janša’s Strategic Econonimc COuncil (SECO).
Gantar’s had a change of heart
Matjaž Gantar is one of the winners of Slovene transtition from socialism to capitalism. An enterpreneur and self-made man, he created one of the first so called “management companies” to which people entrusted their privatisation vouchers. Not being the first to do so, he picked a target population of farmers and peasants who were notoriously uniformed about what to do with the vouchers. But to actually reach his target population (and gain credibility) he aligned himself with SLS (Slovene People’s Party) which at the time near-monopolised farmers’ vote.
Gantar was thus always perceived as a right-leaning busniessman, unlike his opposite numbers in other financial institutions who were mostly pro-LDS.
2. Matjaž Gantar aligns himself with LDS
Resigning from Janša’s counciliatory body is a bobmshell. Going straight into the oppostition camp is a stab in the back. Picking a defunct, paralysed and almost clinically dead political party to align with is either tantamount to suicide or an extremely clever investment, not unlike buying undervalued stock.
Fact of the matter is that Gantar is first and foremost a businessman and a political animal only by necesity. But as investment funds craze is slowly comming to an end, he and his KD Group are looking for new means of securing a constant influx of cash. And there is only one way to do it. Buy a bank.
Gantar has had his sights on many a Slovene banks for a couple of years now. The 2004 elections and Janša’s rise to power promised to be a good omen. His affiliation to the political right was a plus, Janša’s former spokesperson Alenka Paulin was head of KD Group’s PR departement (she was named acting director of Slovene Press Agency on Friday, BTW), Gantar himself was invited to sit on SECO, he even lent a hand (and money) in government takeover of Mercator and Delo and they all looked chummy together. Fast foward two years, and he still doesn’t own a bank, as the prime target, A Banka, was snached just under Janša’s nose in late 2005 (methinks), and as plans for selling the largest bank Nova Ljubljanska Banka (NLB) to Belgian-owned KBC or anyone else were brought to a grinding halt by finance minister Andrej Bajuk.
So Gantar apparently asked around who would let him buy a bank. It seems only fitting that liberals would. Especially if it means access to a shitload of cash for a party which is struggling with a € 860.000 of bad debts.
3. Laško brewery sacked the Supervisory Board of Delo newspaper.
This was a complete surprise. Laško cooperated heavily with Janša’s government in taking over Delo newspaper. It started before Janša’s reign and while Tone Turnšek was still Laško’s CEO, but he soon retired to the company’s Supervisory Board and was succeeded by Boško Šrot, who is now largely believed to be behind Delo’s takeover.
Laško even allowed people affiliated with Janša’s party SDS to sit on the Supervisory Board, so the whole thing looked as if Laško bought Delo as a present for the new government. The new SB of course promptly installed Janša’s henchman Danilo Slivnik as paper’s CEO and he almost immediatelly went on a rampage, almost completely destroying what used to be quite a presentable paper.
But couple of days ago, as Laško completed its takeover (buying more than 94% percent of the stock), it immediatelly fired the entire SB, replacing it with its own people. That’s second knife in Janša’s back in just as many days.
4. Laško Tone Turnšek aligns himself with LDS
Turnšek is coming out of semi-retirement
OK, not a complete shocker, as Turnšek even ran on an LDS ballot in local elections, but nevertheless. He came out of retirement to align with a crippled party, which was instrumental in his creating the “soft-drinks” empire, but which he alienated (the party, I mean) in 2003 when he took over Ljubljana Union Brewery, contrary to the whishes of the LDS-ran government of Tone Rop (now a member of opposition Social Democrats).
Turnšek is also a member of “The Old Boys Network“, a informal and now largely defunct group of powerful CEOs who ruled Slovene economy until Janša came to power. This “network” was believed to be closely connected to former president Milan Kučan, Janša’s political arch-rival.
Smell a rat already? Not yet? Bear with me…
5. Little known Katarina Kresal is put forward as the new leader of LDS
From corporate lawyer to party leader
This (at least publicly) never-before-heard-of lawyer was named as a front-runner for president of LDS. Things became a little clearer as it emerged that she’s not just a partner in Miro Senica law firm, but also his real-life partner. Miro Senica is one of Slovenia’s stellar lawyers, earning a lot money and ink on well-publicised corporate and “transition” cases. He was always believed to be closely connected to powerful movers and shakers. I guess there’s no doubt about it now.
So… Those are the facts and their backgroud. And now for same brainwork…
PUTITNG TWO AND TWO TOGETGER
On one hand we now have a Liberal Democratic Party, purged of its social(ist) element (with some of its prominent members either joining the Social Democrats or forming an independent group Zares), which has suddenly arisen from the dead with a small but potentially deadly combinations of political veterans and ecnonomic heavyweights. Not only has this occured at what seems the height of Janša’s power, but it also seems to indicate that LDS has hit rock bottom and is bouncing back rapidly.
On the other hand you have the PM who failed to institute radical economic reforms, is now steeped in a spy scandal, and is desperate to pass at least one meaningful and long-term piece of legislation – the regional legislation – but will most likely fail at it, thus keeping the result of his reign at a total zero (not counting Slovenia presiding over EU in the first half of 2008, but we’ll call that a success as long as a catastrophe is averted).
The man needs a drink, for sure
Thirdly, we must not forget one of the few politicians who are actively pestering Janša right now (and I don’t mean The Prez). Ljubljana mayor and former (pre-Janša) CEO of Mercator Zoran Janković is also considered an economic heavywight and his political influence is considerable at the moment, especially if you take into account that a) he is close pals with former president Milan Kučan and b) Ljubljana’s voters are at the moment largely anti-Janša oriented .
Four: LDS is apparently calling in old favours and granting new ones. Turnšek and Senica have seen their heyday under the reign of LDS and the liberals in the party (the only ones to remain) have apparently reminded them of how to show their gratitude. At the same time Gantar was probably given firm assurances that he’ll be able to take over one of the larger banks, possibly A Banka.
And – last but not least – five: There is one person who at the moment remains at the political sidelines and is constantly denying any re-entry into political orbit. Former interior minister and a hero of independence war, former EU-affairs minister, a general political heayweight, once a close friend of PM Janez Janša and current CEO of Istrabenz Igor “The Bear” Bavčar.
“The Bear” just might be making a political comeback
So, try this on for size:
As Janša is losing his grip in economic and media areas, he’s desperate to cling on to power and is digging up dirt on everyone and everything, throwing mud in every direction, perhaps even trying to make an example of the ailing Prez. His tenure is more than halfway through (parliamentary elections are due in a year and a half) and his running out of time to create a politicaly legacy and clinch a (political) victory which will get him reelected – short of that, he aims to make everyone else look worse than him, starting with The Prez.
At the same time, LDS is drumming up some unlikely support, both from people who are dissapointed in Janša as well as from people who rode the gravy-train while LDS was in power. Installing a beautiful-but-inexperienced lawyer as a party leader only paves a way for Bavčar to take over party leadership sometime down the road. Suddenly, the party that was a political lepper nobody would touch with a ten-foot pole is threatening Janša’s rule by seizing his two most powerful weapons: radical economic reforms and control of one of the (still) most influential newspapers.
Should Borut Pahor of Social Democrats decide to run for President in autumn this year instead of waiting for parliamentary elections in 2008, and should he win (few people doubt that he would), a possible brawl for leadership of the political left would be averted, as Social Democrats, Liberal Democrats and both of their renegade fractions (group Zares and people around Zoran Janković, formerly known as “The Faction”) would unite under a common banner, with one goal only – to remove Janez Janša and his SDS from power. There would probably be no nominal leader of this coalition, as the true mastermind would probably remain in the shadows.
The way things stand now, my bet is on Kučan.
Seems like Kučan’s pulling strings again
So, the question is, does Janša know (it seems he does) and what’s he doing about it?
P.S.: Some people would call this post “speculation”. I’d call it “political analysis”. I could be wrong, of course, but the truth is that the future of this scenario depends mostly on Janša. If he finds a way to neutralise it, then it may all be back to square one…