Zares (a.k.a. ZSMS part II)

Slovenia has a new political party. Zares (literally: For Real) is promising just a little less than kingdom come. Specifically: politics done in a new way. Which would all be fine and dandy, of course, if the core of the party weren’t made of people who have already twisted and shaped Slovenia and its politics.

Gregor Golobič, former gen-sec of LDS, now president of Zares (photo:

Now – as Winston Churchill already noted, anyone can rat (but it takes a certain amount of ingeniuity to re-rat). So forming a new party, albeit on the left side of political spectrum is nothing new. It has been done before. As a political scientist and analyst I warmly welcome the entrance of yet another player in the political arena for it spells interesting times ahead.

I do, however, have several misgivings about this new party and its platform. I must stress that these misgivings are mostly based on previous experience and history of several key players of the new party. But that does not mean that I’m condeming the party as incompetent from the start or that I’m not giving it a benefit of the doubt. It only means that – like any other player in the political arena – it will not get any breaks. Not from me, not from anyone else.

Probably the single most important person of the new party is its freshly-elected president Gregor Golobič. If you are following Slovene politics only for a short time or from afar (or both) you might not have heard of him, but this man is considered by many as one of the most brilliant political strategists this side of the border. He reached the peak as secretary-general of the Liberal Democrats under the leadership of Janez Drnovšek, where Golobič was seen by many as the guy who actually runs the show – basically LDS’s No.2 man (a claim he never really disputed). Think of him as Slovenian Karl Rove of the late 1990s.

The comparison with the loathed US Republican mastermind might even be well in place as Golobič was LDS’s gen-sec during a period of very strong “partitocracy”, where certain (economic, media and even political) fiefdoms were created and given – delegated, if you will – to would be Slovenian oligarchs. That trully was the period when (like today under Janša‘s rule) one could not achieve anything of importance if one was not at least heavily connected with key people in LDS. Now, it could be that Golobič did not directly control these “fiefdoms”, but being the “almost-top dog” makes him wholely responsible for the situation which – as it happened – led to the removal of LDS from power and its later near-demise.

Not that Golobič stuck around to witness the demise, of course. As soon as he saw that the party was about to enter a downward spiral, he bugged out and kept to the sidelines until last Saturday when he became the top dog of the new party.

The new party tries to drum up the hype of late 80’s, early 90’s when Slovenia was abuzz with new political ideas, when (to put it romantically) men were men, women were women and politicians were heroes (and three-breasted whores from Eroticon VI were three-breasted whores from Eroticon VI). It, in short, is trying to rekindle the flame of political invention which once burned within the Organisation of Socialist Youth (ZSMS), where the drive for democratic and social change in Slovenia actually began.

There is only one problem, though. These people (and Golobič in particular) are not kids anymore. If twenty years ago they were considered brats, pests and new kids in town (all at the same time), they are now established politicians with a more or less old-school liberal agenda. Twenty years ago these people have promised politics done in a new way. And today they are promising it again. Same old, same old.

On that note, let me just add that on-line media Vest is – according to Vuk Čosić, one of its creators, trying to drum up the same feeling of late 80’s (see comments to this post), and that a re-launch of Vest as we know it today took place only a couple of weeks before Zares held its first conference. A coincidence? 😈

As a political analyst I almost see it as my duty to dispell the notion that politics can be done in a different way. It can’t. You can bitch about it, curse it, do whatever you want, but in the end any politics will have to compromise, will become a purpose unto itself, arrogant, corrupt and ineffective. That’s why we have elections and a supposedly democratic system of government with at least a theoretical set of checks and balances. And while Zares and its people may promise to do it differently, it will end up doing it exactly the same way as everyone else did. As they once already did it.

But Zares also brings a shitload of new faces (both in the media spotlight and behind the scenes), one might say. I fear that most of these faces will be used, abused and then rejected as they will have outlived their usefulness when and if Zares gains momentum and power. Then there’s another possibility – that Zares doesn’t make it. In that case I suspect that Golobič would be quick on his feet to leave the party saying that the exepriment failed (perhaps adding that Slovenia isn’t ready for them just yet.)

In any case, Zares does not bring about a promise of a political revolution, let alone instant advent of better days. To do anything, it will have to be in power. And that requires adheering to rules of classic politics. And just to illustrate my point – in an interview in 2004, Golobič said that “when someone who claims to be clean and incorruptible comes to power, this spells a rampant corruption and clientelism ahead” (in Slovene only)

As the Serbs would say: Ne možeš da jebeš, al’ da ne udješ (you can’t fuck if you don’t stick it in)

Published by


Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.

23 thoughts on “Zares (a.k.a. ZSMS part II)”

  1. Everywhere, sooner or later, it appears a new party or a new leader who promises a “new way” of politics, but at the end they all end doing the same kind of political business. We should ask politicians good policies, clear compromises, one strategy for the country-or the city-, not empty commitments and nice words. This kind of “new politicians” try to get electoral benefits from the disappointment of people with conventional politic. Anyway, politics, as any business, has its rules, and if you want to play you must accept them. With time maybe you can change something, but who promises a lot of reform and just delivers a few is who finally results more disappointing.

  2. How very true… I would actually rather support a party which would do politics the old-fashioned way. I have a feeling that it is time to go back to the basics.

  3. As a political analyst I almost see it as my duty to dispell the notion that politics can be done in a different way. It can’t.

    This whole paragraph (hell, post) summed up my entire political outlook better than I ever could. Bravo.

  4. @pengovsky
    I was wondering what Pengovsky will do next after he dismissed Zares as DOA several weeks ago. 😉 Zares a.k.a. ZSMS Part II is much better, not to mention that nowadays I’m ready to bow to everyone who does not disqualify late 80’s ZSMS as a communist youth transmission.
    Before making my comment I must admit that in terms of insight Pengovsky’s political analysis are among the most interesting – printed media included.
    I respect the fact that »misgivings are mostly based on previous experience and history of several key players« and that not much can be done about it.
    But still – for the record:
    »(…) as Golobič was LDS’s gen-sec during a period of very strong “partitocracy”, where certain (economic, media and even political) fiefdoms were created and given – delegated, if you will – to would be Slovenian oligarchs.«
    Which one – Triglav to Nada Klemenčič, Mercator to Zoran Janković? A very good point on this issue was made not long ago in Finance by Igor Lauš (a presence of an authoritarian leader as a condition for oligarch’s rise) /cannot make the link, because momentarily their server is down/.
    “(…)That trully was the period when (like today under Janša’s rule) one could not achieve anything of importance if one was not at least heavily connected with key people in LDS.”
    During the last years I found futile to argue against this sort of argument even with obvious examples which complicated the simplicity of the equation. So, assuming that we – the politicians of any kind – are/were all the same bastards doing the same wickedness I prefer to point out and to insist on the main and huge difference, i.e. the auto perception of the mischief, from which no power/politics cannot be totally immune. That is the (lack of) attitude I had in mind in the quoted section of my interview from 2004. BTW: it also explains why the present ruling party is down just after two thirds of the first term.
    To defend my case from another side: if the equation is true, how come then, that old LDS with Drnovšek won 3 consecutive general elections? Nobody (even Rove etc.) can fool so many people (23 – 35%) for so many (12) years.

    And, yes, most important: “back to the basics” (yes, same old…) – that’s exactly the idea of Zares’s (what about Indeed ?) new politics, “not a political revolution, let alone instant advent of better days.«

  5. @Gregor Golobič: A challenge, to say the least! 😀

    Firstly: Regarding my first post about Zares – it depends on how you look at it. If one – like I do – conceeds that politics can not be done in a “new” way, that there is no apolitical politics, then the content of that post is still very much true. Even more so – the fact that Zares did become a proper political party in effect proves that initial concept of a society proved to be inadequate, to say the least. Add to that the fact that the post in question was posted on March 10th and that today is October 10th (seven months later) and you can clearly see why some of us have eyed Zares with suspicion.

    On that note let me add that I am not privy to inside political sources on national level and your name was confirmed as a part of Zares relatively late in the game.

    But to continue: I must admit that I haven’t read Igor Lauš’s article (I hope you can link to it – I couldn’t find it), but if I understood you correctly and he indeed (zares, ha! :)) says that an authoritarian leader is necesary for rise of the oligarchs, then I’m sure you understand how a number of people can see the 12 years of LDS rule as a sort of authocracy. At least the incumbent PM and his circle do. But personally, I wouldn’t go that far…

    I deliberatly used the term “fiefdoms” (SLO: fevdi) and “would-be oligarchs”, which in my opinion adequatly describe the state of Slovene economy. It is a matter of historic record that these fiefdoms (media, retail, banking, what-have-you) began during the rule of LDS. One could argue that the process was a normal “consolidation” of a market economy, but I think that with hindsight it is obvious that several big mistakes were made. I am mostly familiar with the situation in media, so I would limit proving of my point to that particular area – if a case by case proving would become necesary.

    Let me once again stress that I can – for the sake of the argument – accept the fact that these fiefdoms and other mischiefs, as you call them were unintentional (although I’m far to cynical to think that power can be attained and held without backing in economy), but it doesn’t make the then ruling LDS any less responsible for the situation.

    Yes, “auto-perception of mischief”, is a welcome thing, but it came relatively late in the game, wouldn’t you agree? I know that it is very easy for me to be smart about it now, but that’s what analysts do – we are being smart with hindsight 😉

    Again – I for one am not cutting Zares any breaks, especially due to the fact that the core of the party are political veterans who jumped ship when (as I already said) LDS was entering a downward spiral. But having said that I am giving this new party a benefit of the doubt. I do like the fact that after DeSUS (the pensioners party) and SMS (the youth party) – both of which should be made illegal in my opinion – there is finally a party which is trying to position itself on a classic left-right political continuum.

    And last but not least, you have – if I may be so bold – proven my point about policits that can’t be done in a new way. There’s only one way. You of all people should know that.

    Perhaps you could paraphrase Jim Morisson and say that “new politics is old politics done twice as fast and half as good” (replace politics with music to get the original quote). Instead you chose to paraphrase Milan Kučan’s Independence Speech when you said that “Today is time for reality, tommorow is a start of a new dream”. I guess it didn’t come out exactly the way you wanted it to, huh?

    Oh, and just to answer your question about LDS winning three consecutive terms – I don’t think that is so difficult to explain, even with the rampant partitocracy and clientelism (to use Drnovšek’s terms – I believe he used them in his last speech as president of LDS): I’m pretty sure Karl Rove would manage to get George W. a third term, if he could. But as you and I both very well know, the US constitution luckily limits the numbers of terms served to two 😀

    Having said all that, I would like to thank you for taking the time to comment on my post and for complimenting my work on this blog (at least I think you meant it as a compliment ;))

  6. OH, I nearly forgot: regarding the role ZSMS played in late 80s.

    I take it that its positive role as a massive generator of change is undisputable. Any interpretation to the contrary is grossly erroneous.

  7. @pengovsky
    I’ll be back later – in accordance with the title of this site…
    btw: DOA (otherwise a superb clean shot) was not mentioned in the first post about Zares but in the meantime.

  8. Wow Peng, looks like you really rubbed one out this time.

    @GG: Since this is like ZSMS 33 1/3 , who will play the equivalent role of Anna Nicole Smith?

  9. @GG: Point… What’s the usual line? Rumours of my demise have been grossly exaggarated… 🙂

    @crni: :mrgreen: There are a couple of really neat lines from that movie that could fit in nicely with the situation…

  10. @Pengovsky
    There is a huge difference between would-be oligarchs and real ones. The same is true when it comes to autocracy and the Drnovšek’s »regime«. The battle “for the feelings of many people” was lost long time ago (it is kinda lost by definition), but it’s crucial for the political scientist to differ between quantitative and qualitative distinction of both regimes. The attitude I have mentioned yesterday is the criteria of other quality. And, yes, Drnovšek warned about the problem at the end of January 2002 when the old LDS was at the historical height – that is just the time when the notorious three-breasted sirens sing their lure songs most captivatingly.
    Not btw: One week before in an interview for Mladina I had made a prognosis, that LDS have passed its zenith. So it’s not true that “Golobič, (…) as soon as he saw that the party was about to enter a downward spiral, he bugged out and kept to the sidelines (…).” I mucho stucked around for a long time (till the eve of 2004 election). Equally incorrect is the allegation “(…)that the core of the party /i.e. Zares/ are political veterans who jumped ship when (as I already said) LDS was entering a downward spiral.” No, at the beginning of 2007 that ship was laying down on a hard bottom, claiming that the miracle of good-old-days is soon to come…just don’t touch anything, cos it’s perfect!
    Finally: three consecutive terms are not so easy to dismiss. Slovenia is not USA; Presidential elections are not the same as parliamentary ones (especially in our very “sophisticated” version of proportional system…); and no Rove can spin GWB one more turn – no matter of the constitutional limits.
    Compliments, though.

  11. @GG I guess I will be your internet bitch for a second…I understand, new technology, getting old; in the good ol’ days we actually stood around, waving flags. These days kids just sign petitions online and all that… The article by Igor Lavš can be found here:

    IMHO 2002 was way too late to realize what a mess you guys have made. I have left the country in 2000.

  12. @GG: If we start nitpicking about finer points of a fledling democracy, then yes, there are more-than-subtle differences between Russian oligarchs, Croatian tycoons and Slovene “would-be oligarchs” (I will not use the term “old-boys”, because it denotes a slightly different bunch of people).

    I do however maintain that economic and media power was concentrated in a closely knit network of a handful of individuals who were (be it by persuasion, by necessity or by acquaintance) heavily connected to LDS.

    We could go on ad infinitum about the reproductive rate of elites in Slovenia or even about the “six-handshakes-theory”, but the fact of the matter is that at its zenith LDS was basically omnipresent. At the very least it seemed so – and we both know that appearances are often much more difficult to overcome than actual problems. Case in point being this post of mine.

    I do agree that LDS hit rock-bottom in early 2007 (and is making a rather rapid recovery, don’t you think?), but the problems within the party started waaay before that – shortly after 2004 parliamentary elections, when Ljubljana branch of LDS split into two fractions. It all went downhill from there.

    So – if you really want to nitpick – I wrote that first came “(…)removal of LDS from power and its later near-demise.

    Not that Golobič stuck around to witness the demise, of course. As soon as he saw that the party was about to enter a downward spiral, he bugged out and kept to the sidelines until last Saturday when he became the top dog of the new party.(…)”

    So first came the removal of power and then came the near demise which (writes I) you didn’t stick around to see. And here you are, saying that you “mucho stucked around for a long time (till the eve of 2004 election)”.

    Which of course confirms that you left before the demise of the party began. I just might have used a bit too colorful language and the meaning got lost.

    I do concede that one could argue that the term “jumping ship” is not accurate enough, but to solve that one we would have to hold an entire debate on causes and effect of dissolution of LDS. So suffice it to say “a heterogenous group of prominent individuals saw where LDS was headed but was all of a sudden powerless to stop it”. Which basically amounts to the same thing – it’s just a matter of how you spin it.

    But this really is nitpicking, no? I mean – you’re right (and I don’t think I said anything to the contrary) that at the end od the day it is all about quality of governing. That is where LDS sort of lost its track and became to self-involved, too arrogant and idea-less. Again, at the very least it seemed so from the outside.

    And just as miracles were expected from the post-Drnovšek leaderships of LDS (Tone Rop, for all his qualities is no good at managing a crisis, whereas Jelko Kacin was simply beyond comprehension), miracles are now expected from Zares. I’m not saying you can’t deliver – it’s just a matter of whether you can deliver what people want.

    Perhaps I’m over-reaching here, but I do strongly believe that people want politics to stop snowing them with bullshit which includes promises of politics done in a new way.

    And that is the main quarrel I have Zares. Indeed 😉

    As I said – I’m more than willing to give Zares the benefit of the doubt (not that it matters a pair of fetid dingo’s kidneys what I do) and I eagerly await your political platform upon which I will be able to position you political continuum (although my scarce and possibly out of date info places Zares in the strongly liberal column)

    But regarding the three consecutive mandates of LDS government: I never dismissed that as something unimportant. Au-contraire! I think it was (politically speaking) an astonishing achievment, especially in the period of economic, social and political transition. It did, however, bring about a lot of political baggage which you have to deal with now.

    I would disagree about George W. though… If he were to run again, he would face either a Clinton (a woman, at that!) or a black man whose middle name is Husein.

    But thanks for the compliments (and vice-versa, of course (bows slightly) and especially thanks for link to the interview in Mladina. It was very insightful. I remembered that I’ve read it when it was published, but it takes on a whole new meaning today.

  13. You made some good points there. I looked on the internet for the subject matter and found most persons will go along with with your site.

Comments are closed.