Nice One!

Like most other election campaigns, the current Slovenian one is full of big words, bigger promises, even bigger denunciations of political enemies and “the-world-will-end-if-you-don’t-vote-for-me” approaches. What is lacking, though, is a bit of heatly recklesness, something to burst the bubble, to give politicians floating two inches above groung a bit of a reality check. And although I took them apart a couple of months ago for exactly the above reasons, Zares party did pull of a rather nice political stunt on yesterday Tuesday.

20080605_sirca.jpg
Gotcha! Majda Širca to Janez Janša (source)

When he was still deep in the oppostition, Janša used a number of approaches to try to undermine LDS-led governments. One of the more effecitve ones was petition Nekaj je treba storiti” (Something Must Be Done) (Slovene only) in early 2003. Among other things, the petition decried the fact that “Slovenia is facing an unprecendented conentration of political, financial and media power in the hands of the government and its network and this concentration is already threatning the foundations the democratic balance. The parliament had become a voting machine, unwiling to listen to oppostition, let alone consider its proposals serioulsy…”

and it goes on to add that

“…The government must provide for a pluralism of opinions, criticism and control of its actions, and prevent political and other monopolies, even its own. Failure to do that will lead to a dictatorship”

Remember, this was written in 2003. During Tuesday’s debate on tycoons, however, Majda Širca, a Zares MP, proposed that the parliament passes an ammendment to the proposed resolution. The ammendment first noted that “Slovenia is facing an unprecendented conentration of political, financial and media power in the hands of the government and its network and this concentration is already threatning the foundations the democratic balance. The parliament had become a voting machine, unwiling to listen to oppostition, let alone consider its proposals serioulsy…” and went on to propose to the parliament to call upon the government to “provide for a pluralism of opinions, criticism and control of its actions, and prevent political and other monopolies, even its own.“.

Coalition deputies – surprise, suprise – voted against the ammendment, putting themselves in a rather curious position of voting against the very words they cried five years ago.

Now, to be sure, this is nothing more than a slightly childish PR stunt, but a very effective one. It shows that SDS is just about as arrogant as LDS was just before it was voted out of power. But truth be said, this was before Comrade Janša came to the parliament and told the opposition how and what to think.

Janša Talks And They Listen

Yesterday’s “tycoon” session of the Parliament was a quick excercise in cultural clash and marxism. As I noted yesterday, exactly four years ago then-opposition leader Janez Janša convened a special session of the parliament where he took appart the policies and apparent unwillingness of Tone Rop’s government at tackling the ever more apparent corruption, nepotism and cronyism in this country as well as the influence Rop’s and previous government were ecxersising over media.

20080604_jansa.jpg
Are you thinking what I’m thinking? 😈 (photo: Robert Balen/Večer)

That was before Janez Janša (now as PM) changed the law on national radio and television, increasing government influence over both institutions and even before Janez Janša struck a deal with Boško Šrot and Igor Bavčar to sell them a controling share of Mercator to Laško Brewery and Istrabenz to remove Zoran Janković as Mercator CEO and have his people named into Delo’s supervisory board and management team.

Today, Boško Šrot is trying to control the game (which will in the long term quite possibly prove to be his undoing), while Janša is crying foul and trying to once again prove that the fact that Boško Šrot and Igor Bavčar are – between them – worth some 3 billion as for a few weeks ago is actually the fault of previous governments.

Marx was right. History presents itself as a tragedy, and then repeats itself as a farce.

The special session was called by Janša’s Slovene Democratic Party. The mere fact that the ruling party is conveening a special parliamentary session to debate something that they promised to eradicate four years ago speaks volumes of this government’s incompetence, lack of ideas and – yes – panic. Therefore they’re turning to their usual tricks, which might even yield results. But there’s more. If anything, this session showed the way this government (in general) and Janša (in particular) feel this country should be run: Janša talks while others listen.

Janša’s address to the parliament was a prime example of the cultural clash I’ve tried to shed some light on Sunday. The debate was already raging for a better part of ten hours, with the level of dialogue dropping as the hours were passing. There were even accusations of glue-snififng, for crying out loud! And then, as if sent from heaven, at eight in the evening the Prime Minister descends upon the parliament in one of thosesurprise visitswe see Western politicians making in Iraq or Afghanistan. The opposition MPs have already spent the time alloted for the debate and there was noone to oppose the Prime Minister who apparently addresses the parliament at will (something Boško Šrot wanted to do, remember?).

And so Janša talked. He told the MPs that they should be more careful when uttering accusations of widespread corruption, because most of today’s escapades have started under previous governments. He denied that he sold Mercator to Laško and reiterated (as he had already done during confidence-vote session in November) that Delo is an anti-government newspaper. The fact that he spoke after the opposition had already spent their time alloted speaks of the fact that Janša did not want to hear any arguments against his twisting of fact.

He did not want to hear that it was his deal with Boško Šrot and Igor Bavčar that allowed both to climb the final (or in Bavčar’s case – all) steps to ammasing an incredible fortune of billions of euros in a country where average salary does not exceed 900 euros. He did not want to hear that both Boško Šrot and Andrijana Starina Kosem blew the whistle in Mercator-Delo deal and that Delo was hijacked by Danilo Slivnik-Peter Jančič duo (CEO and Editor-in-Chief respectively) who temporarily turned Delo into a Slovenian version of Völkischer Beobacther (this proud title now belongs to Slovenski Tednik). He did not want to hear a zillion of other things, big and small he should face criticism for. Instead he had the last word, denying any oppinion to the contrary. Just as we demonstrated in this post.

And in the end – yesterday’s session also showed that this country is ran by a bunch of people with an 70s-apparatchik-mindset whose only connection to the 21century are fancy suits and mobile phones. The largest party in the parliament called a session so that its president could tell the parliament off and instruct it how to go about its business and en passant state a case for another term in power. And the reason is – as in any good Communist scenario – that although this government has had some successes in tackling the economic and social issues , they’ve only scratched the tip of the iceberg, since previous governments left the country in shambles and we must practically start anew.

People with a bit of a penchant for history will remember the phrase The revolution goes on. It sound frightnigly familiar.

Polls, Tycoons And Delo

After a bit of a lull we have had a couple of new polls these past few days, when pengovsky was busy writing up the cultural clash. So what’s the score? Not all that suprising and on the whole things are not changing all that much. Pahor’s Social Democrats are still leading the polls and Janša’s ruling SDS is still unable to close the gap although it came close a couple of times. Careful observers will notice that percentages of some parties in certain polls vary wildly from their usual pattern, but do not be alarmed – we’ll discus it in one of the future posts, although I think you can pretty much find an explanation by yourselves. What is interesting, is the fact both parties seem to have entered an obivous downward trend…

20080603_ankica.jpg

…but this might change in the near future, as the right wing parties reached for some heavy artiliery today and convened a special session of the parliament, where they will debate some of the more controversial MBOs this country has seen in the last couple of years. Laško Brewery tops the list, naturally, followed closely by Istrabenz and Merkur as well as Terme Čatež, where an MBO is still underway. The list is very selective however, and while the coalition MPs will most likely spit fire and sulphur especially at Boško Šrot, the opposition will probably admit in passing that errors have been done in the past but claim that it is this government which enabled takeovers the size of Istrabenz and Laško, worth somewhere in the vicinity of one and two bilion euros respectively.

The session will obviously achieve nothing and is only convened because coalition parties are turning to their old and proven tricks. Namely: exactly four years ago, Janez Janša, then leader of the opposition, convened a special session of the parliament, where he sucessfully took appart the doings of the LDS-led government and its PM Tone Rop (now of Pahor’s SD). Well it wasn’t so much Janša’s sucess as it was a failure on Rop’s part who just wasn’t prepared and did play his cards right. And so Janša & Co. are doing it again, playing victim once more, although they are the ones in power, although it is true that at times they seem powerless to do anything. But we can put that down to incompetence rather than lack of power.

On the other hand, the opposition is not helped by the fact that Boško Šrot is having problems at Delo. Apparently he is having Janez Markeš, Delo’s Editor-in-Chief, replaced as of today. The unofficial version is that Markeš leaned Delo too much in the direction of Zares while Boško Šrot wants his newspaper to be more in favour of Pahor’s Social Democrats. Despite the fact that they usually describe the two parties as offsprings of the same political father (Milan Kučan, naturarlly), the right was quick to use this information, claiming that the opposition controls the media. The trick of course is, that opposition by definition cannot control the media (the latter can, however, be pro-opposition), but at the same time the government by definition must not control the media (which is exactly what this government had done until Janša-Šrot split).

However, I wouldn’t put it past Boško Šrot to say something like “stop supporting Golobič and back Pahor, or else…”. The man had several fits of megalomania recently, the last and most innapropriate being the one where he refused to attend the session of the Commerce Committee where he would be able to explain his view of Laško-Delo-Mercator deal with Janša. Instead, Šrot said that he would only address the plenary session of the parliament…. Err… What? Waddayoumean address the plenary session? Even the Prez must ask permission to address the Parliament, while you’d like to do it at your convenience? No go, Boško…

Anyway – Šrot is replacing Markeš, but my bet is that everyone involved in Delo takover now wants a share of the goodies and it suddenly turned out that the cake just ain’t big enough. Birdies from Delo, however, in part corroborate the story about Zares/SD switch.

Cultural Clash

Many thanks to everyone for a very learned debate on Wedensday, most notably to the good doctor and St. Luka, while Aja deserves a special mention. ARF was correct, however – I was going somewhere with it. Not that it was a tough nut to crack 🙂

If you follow this blog long enough you’re bound to notice the following pattern: Almost regardless of the topic, the debate among Slovenes will end up at one of the following: Partisans/Collaboration, WWII in general, post-war killings & Goli otok, Comrade Tito & Communism. Or, more usually, an explosive mix of the four. The longer the debate, the more personal it gets and it usually engulfs even the coolest of heads, sudenlly creating two more or less disticnts camps and digging a seemingly impassable rift between the two.

20080601_cc.jpg
“Defend Slovenia – Vote SLS” – 19th century patriotism at the turn of 21st century (source)

It is what we lately tend to call the cultural divide, or – more locally – the cultural clash. Not exactly conforming to Wikipedia definition, cultural clash is a recurring theme in Slovene society, the cultural divide seems to conform to Marxist statement of history repeating itself – first as a tragedy and then as a farce. The cultural divide has had many incarnations in Slovenia, the “original” one being that of a rift between “clericals” and “liberals” in late 19th and early 20th century, when Slovenian political landscape was being shaped. It is not just your usual clash between old and new, conservatives and liberals, traditionalists and avantguarde, small-mindedness and cosmopolitanism. It is all of these things, but there’s more. It is a clash between two different perceptions of “what is right”.

In today’s terms it is a clash between 19th and 21st century. On one hand we have the traditionalists, who believe that this country lacks identity and patriotism and – in general – think in terms of a nation-state, on the other hand we have the progressives which are quite content with relative lack of Blut-und-Boden patriotism in this country and acknowledge the fact that identity, ethnicity, nationhood and citizenhip do not necessarily correlate with each other.

Naturally, this extends into politics as well. While there are notable exceptions to the rule (especially the smaller parties tend to elude a simple definiton), the division between progressives and traditionalists increasingly follows the lines of political division between left and right. And as at the moment political right hold the upper hand in the balance of power, we can observe not only a tendency to defend the achieved status quo, but also a drive for restoration of a provincial 19th century mindset, which includes, but is not limited to building our traditions, being patriotic, saluting the flag (especially in schools), maintaining the old even at the expence of new and – above all – looking up to them (the traditionalists) for guidance on what is right. You can see it everywhere.

You can see in the way a noted right wing intelectual who discretist a particular theatre play not because it is bad as such, but because there is only one way to do this author’s plays.

You can see it way a prominent architect and a high ranking official in charge of cultural heritage who will not allow any changes to existing Ljubljana stadium – not because it is bad – but because it was renovated by Jože Plečnik in 1930s and you don’t touch Plečnik.

You can see it in the way a “culinary critic” spits fire and sulphur in a newly founded right wing magazine on an upscale restaurant in Ljubljana because there’s only one way to do a sea-bass.

You can see it in the way the Foreign Minister denounces those journalists who voice oppinions others than his own and rewrites history along the way.

You can see it in the way the Prime Minister takes appart media that do not report his version of the truth and ostricises them for voicing their concerns internationally rather than solving it at home.

You can see it in the way this government and its political satellites are deepening the border dispute with Croatia and are swearing on all that’s holy that they will never give up an inch of sacred Slovene land.

What you can observe here is a complete lack of dialogue. Traditionalists feel that no dialogue with progressives is necesary, since they are the chosen holders of Single Truth. Anything beyond this spectrum simply does not exist and the fact that some people (or groups of people) do voice dissenting oppinions, disqualifies these groups immediately. It is not a simple case of “my way or the highway”. It is a case of denying the very legitimacy of a possibly dissenting opinion.

And so – although they claim the opposite – the cultural clash is in fact caused by traditionalists, but fueled by the progressives, as the latter try (usually in vain) to open up a constructive dialogue with the former. Which is exactly what happened late 80’s when the Communist party was “the traditionalists” and almost everyone else was “the progressives” and despite the paintfully obvious fact that the progressives of the perios were offering different answers to paintful questions, the Party maintained that it is the sole holder of The One Truth, until it crumbled under the weight of its own nonsense.

And the very same thing is happening now. It’s just that a few of those who have tried to open up new fields of dialogue in late 80s are now more than content ignoring any other opinion but their own, therefore claiming that it is the other side which is engaing in cultural clash. And thus progressives become traditionalists once again. It’s just that these particular traditionalists have a reactionary agenda, revolutionary modus operandi and an inflamatory rhetoric.