Aftermath of the Hot Seat

Monday’s edition of Vroči stol (Hot Seat) apparently created quite a stir this side of the Alps. Vladimir Vodušek is generally thought to have achieved a new low in Slovene journalism and people are openly asking if the whole thing can go any lower. The answer of course is “yes“. The ultimate low will be reached when sleazebags like Vodušek will start feeling the tide turning and will turn rabid on their yesterday’s masters.

An artist’s interpretation of Vlado Vodušek :mrgreen:

I might be overreaching here, but I don’t think there is a journalist worthy of his/her vocation in Slovenia today who doesn’t think that Vodušek went above and beyond the call of duty to portray Prime Minister Janez Janša in the best possible light. The programme also showed in technicolor just how out of touch this government is with the 21st century. While appearnig on television and saying that things are such-and-such might have worked in late 70s, it sure does not work today. People are distrusting both politicians and media (bad political journalism includinng but not limited to Vodušek has played a part in creating this sentinment for the past decade and a half) and if the PM wants to get his story straight he better do it somewhere else than in a live TV studio, no matter how submissive the interviewer may be.

Vodušek didn’t make any friends with Monday’s show either. Even worse, as he is being ridiculed by rank-and-file journalists, Delo daily (whose editor-in-chief Vodušek grilled on the show a couple of weeks earlier) was more than happy to publish entire transcript of the show on its website, exposing Vodušek’s servitude in writing as well.

And just to top everything there was the ludicrous call-in poll which showed 83% support for Janez Janša over Borut Pahor – the usual comment out there was that it reminded the people of the times in Serbia when Slobodan Milosevic won the elections with 106% of the vote.

As I said – a new low was reached, but something tells me we didn’t hit rock bottom just yet.

The Gospel According To Janša

Monday night is comedy night on Slovene state television. Monday’s prime-time slot is occupied by Vladimir Vodušek and his programme Vroči Stol (The Hot Seat). The concept of the programe is usually to “grill” the visitor, mostly by Vodušek’s grueling questions where he would at first lay out his hypothesis, find little or no arguments for it, talk to himself about the lack of arguments and finally ask the guest wether he knows anything more on the matter than Vodušek does (which is not very much to start with). He would also employ a “devil’s advocate”, someone who would be willing to grill the unfortunate guest a bit more. The amount of grilling seems to be highly dependant on how close the guest is to the current government (the closer he/she is, the cooler the grill becomes), but at the very least Vodušek stuck to his concept. I’m giving him waaaaay too much leeway in terms of journalistic professionalism here, but what the hell… It is a captivating TV moment nevertheless.

Vodušek (right) burning a bonfire under Janša’s chair. NOT! :mrgreen: (source)

Unless of course JJ is in the building, as he happened to be yesterday evening. What we witnessed was not even an orchestrated interview but rather a public cocksucking (which went both ways, mind you, but it was mostly Vodušek who was giving head to JJ) which served no other purpose than to have the PM say things noone can refute – because there was noone in the studio to refute them in the first place. Which would not be a problem in its own right, had the interview been conducted by a competent journalist and had the format of the show not been skewed for this one occasion.

Janša was seeking to do some damage control because last week was not kind to him – and I suspect many of the weeks to come will treat him in exactly the same way. So he embarked on the counter offensive, claiming that he had nothing to do with sale of Mercator and that any claims by Zoran Janković (or anyone else) to the contrary are a complete and utter lie, because he as a prime minsiter isn’t authorised to conduct sales of state property.

Well, Janša is correct that he cannot agree on sales of state-owned firms but that doesn’t mean he didn’t do it. Evidence to the contrary is mounting, especially in the form of two high profile admissions (by Boško Šrot and Andrijana Starina Kosem) that Janša indeed gave the final nod to selling a controling share of Mercator to Laško and Istrabenz. He combined that with his new-found hatred for tycoons (Janša-speak for managers who have performed an MBO, securing the loans necesary with shares which they will have bought) and made a connection between them and the near-rampant inflation. Because the Gospel According to Janša now sayeth that the inflation is to be blamed solely on the retailers and managers who took out some 700 million euros in loans.

Call me stupid, but I don’t know how a loan for an MBO adds to inflation, especially due to the fact that € 700 milion is not all that much if you want to buy a sucessful company. For example: Merkur (LJSE, MER), the last MBO performed, at he moment has € 784 million in assets. So if you want to buy a 51-percent share (which is what the management did) you need 350 million at least. Add to that a couple of smaller MBOs and you’re at 700 milion in no time. Only a year before the government was happy to see MBOs performed. It called it “relinquishing state ownership”. But now, after Laško brewery parted ways with Janša, the Gospel sayeth that it is morally and legaly wrong to buy companies with loaned money.

The Gospel says a number of other things as well, which show that JJ is in a bit of a tight spot, because yesterday he wasn’t only skewing the truth on live television (a favourite past time of any full-blooded politician). He was outright lying. He, for example said that Mag magazine (a right-wing magazine now owned by Delo) was a victim of a hostile takeover. Mag was never a victim of a hostile takeover – quite the oposite: Delo was forced to buy the magazine due to political pressure from Janša’s government.

If, however, Janša is reffering to Delo’s management installing a new, anti-government editor-in-chief not approved by magazine’s journalists, one can agree only to the extend where it becomes obivous that it was Janša who created this monster as he allowed Laško brewery to take over Delo in 2005 and install a pro-government CEO and editor-in-chief, regardless of the fact that the paper’s journalists disagreed with both of them. At that time Mag magazine and its journalists stood idly and watched. Now they got a portion of their own medicine. I’m not saying its right, I’m just saying that it was expected.

You want more? As of yesterday, there is no media freedom in Slovenia. The Gospel according to Janša says so! It says that if you read one paper you’ve read them all and that they all print the same anti-government propaganda. He even goes on to add that the fate of free journalism in Slovenia seems to rest in the hands of a low-circulations magazine (Mag) and a lone TV reporter – obviously Vladimir Vodušek (pause to observe the PM sucking journalistic cock. A sight not enjoyed every day). So – on Sunday we had more than just free press – we had press so free that it did not even believe how free it was and that the government had to comission a study to show to the press that it was indeed free. But on Monday the press was free no more. How can that be?

It is rather simple, actually. Things are not going all that well for Janša on the home front and he has to do something. Yet the only manouver he seems capable of at the moment is lashing out at everyone who does not think exactly like he does. And to prove that he is in the right, a call-in poll was being conducted during the show which showed that 83% of callers would vote for the ruling SDS and only 17% for the opposition Social Democrats. Given the fact that it was a call-in poll and that any other public opinon poll puts opposition SD way ahead of SDS, the only relevant result we can derive from this unscientific call-in poll is that 83% of people who called in are SDS supporters.

It is a sad day for the government when it starts believeing its own propaganda.

Slovenia All Stars Draft

Borut Pahor, the leader of the Social Democrats and self-styled (literally!) next Prime Minister yesterday cut another notch in his belt which (to put it colorfully) holds his would-be-primeministerial pants. Namely, he snached Mitja Gaspari from the arms of the rival left-wing LDS singining “an agreement on political cooperation” with him.

Photo by Matej Družnik (source)

You probably remember Mitja Gaspari as the not-so-lucky loser of the presidential elections when he lost second place to Danilo Türk by less than 3000 votes. Türk went on to win the second round and be elected President with the largest majority ever, while Gaspari was sort of left sulking in the corner, perhaps feeling that LDS on whose balot he ran did not do enough to support him (bear in mind that this party is only begining to recuperate from a disastrous breakdown following losing the 2004 election).

But Gaspari was one (well, the only one) of LDS’s remaining assets. A victim of Janša’s devious backstabbing, Gaspari is considered to be more or less politically clean – although, truth be said, he did (or was forced to) cut some corners early in his career as a finance minister and later as the Governor of the Central Bank. For this (and for the fact that he is considered to be an economic gradualist) he is roundly hated by more fervent of reformists (the Young Economists as they are known here).

Be that as it may be, Gaspari makes the left part of the voting body generaly feel good. And with Borut Pahor co-opting him, the latter has gained some much need firm ground in economy. Curiously enough, by doing so, he emulated Janša’s co-opting the Sexy MotherFuckers (a.k.a. The Young Economists, organised into Slovene Macroeconomic Forum (SMF) and somethimes lovingy called by their pimp-name). Which can of course be interpreted as a lack of economic background by Pahor and his immediate team.

There are subtle differences, though. While Janša was advocating hasty reforms and bought a pre-packaged economic platform (together with hate speech aimed at anyone who didn’t approve of reforms), Pahor is apparently intent on making Gaspari a super-minister who will coordinate economic, social and financial portfoilos, a sort of Slovene version of Wolfgang Clement.

Furthermore, Gaspari’s turning from one party to another is a huge blow to LDS which as of yesterday has little to show to the electorate save an admittedly attractive president (sorry, Borut!) and a star-studded but out-of-the-spotlight team of economists. This was more than obvious yesterday when party president Katarina Kresal said that “a change of government is in this country’s best interests but if thinking that one can rule alone is a huge mistake” (source). Which of course would be correct had LDS been at a par with the Social Democrats in the public opinion polls.

While I am the first to agree that Borut Pahor and his Social Democrats are quite likely to get too cocky too soon (probably even before the elections which might very well cost them the victory), the trend as it stands now is obvious: we are at the height of political consolidation, where both main parties (opposition SD and Janša’s rulling SDS) are in the market for any of the remaining players who would bring aditional votes, while the rest of the political spectrum are either left gaping, are overly self-involved or increasingly working on their platforms – case in point being Zares (remember them?) which is today held it’s platform conference. Oh, and by the way: Lea Iskra, assistant to Borut Pahor in his Brussels office, was working for the campaign of France Arhar, a conservative candidte for Ljubljana mayor supported by Janša’s coalition. I’m not saying that she shouldn’t switch jobs or even alleignances – I’m just trying to point out that people is general are feeling a showdown in imminent and most of them feel they need to pick sides.

Slovene political parties are digging in and drafting every free player available. An all-stars game is yet to be scheduled, but the Left and the Right team are already in the gym. So, who wants courtside tickets? :mrgreen:

A Zokism

This one was waiting to happen… Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković has joined the ranks of politicians who on occasions wouldn’t even make it to the qualifying round of a spelling contest. While never short for words, Zoki tends to mumble a bit while speaking. But this time around it got the better of him and Janković joined the distinguished company of Janez Janša and George W. Bush, supplying us with the first-ever “zokism”…

Just to give you a bit of background on this video – the municipality finally went about fulfilling a long-standing commitment to build a home for elderly people in Trnovo. But then it transpired that the next-door neighbour has appropriated a piece of land belonging to the municipality and was now demanding money to give it back. At first the mayor and his people tried talking him out of his folly, but this person wouldn’t budge as he could apparently already demand the 60 k€ he demamnded for a speck of land. Or as the mayor put it:

The end result (apart from fumbling the word?). The city took this person to court, won, got the land and sued him back for a lot more than just 60.000 euros, trying to make an example of him.

So, can anyone guess which word was the mayor trying to pronounce? In Slovene and English, please 😈

P.S.: For all of those who are covering Slovenian EU presidency and are based in Ljubljana: Mayor’s office has opened a press centre on the ground floor of the town hall. Its use is free of charge and all you require to enter it is some sort of press ID. It sports phonelines, computers with internet access and a Wi-Fi hotspot if you want to use your own laptop.

EDIT: Hummmm….. It seems that the video about Janša’s stuttering is gone from Youtube…. Well, I never…. 😉