Slovene Democratic Party (SDS) and Slovene People’s Party (SLS) led by Janez Janša and Radovan Žerjav respectively today started a procedure for impeachment of President Danilo Türk. As you will remember, SDS, SLS and NSi went apeshit when The Prez decorated the last socialist interior secretary Tomaž Ertl with a medal for exceptional perfomance during Operation North

Do you wanna impeach me, punk!? Danilo Türk and Janez Janša (photo by Srdjan Zivulovic/Bobo)

Contrary to media reports this is not the first time impeachment proceeding have been initiated. In 1994 SLS tried to impeach PM Janez Drnovšek for signing the so called “Spanish compromise”, an agreement between Slovenia and Italy which enabled Slovenia to sign the Association Pact with the EU (in case you’re interested it had to do with the right of Italian and other EU nationals to buy property in Slovenia). And 1998/99 SDS tried to impeach him again, because Slovenian and Israeli security services signed a secret cooperation agreement (which may or may have not been a cover for an arms deal).

Slightly OT: Technically it is true that this is this is the first time the proceedings have been initiated against the President of the republic, but since impeachment procedure is covered in Article 109 of the Constitution and Section 8 of the parliamentary Rules And Procedures and applies to ministers, the PM as well as the President, this is yet another example of Slovenian media not doing their homework properly, since they’ve reported time and again today that this is the first case of impeachment in Slovenia’s history.

Be that as it may, the move to start impeachment proceedings can be initiated by thirty MPs (not a problem for SDS-SLS duo which have some 35 MPs between the two of them), but must be approved by an absolute majority of fourty-six MPs who voted in favour in a secret ballot (impeachment is one of the few instances where voting is not public and electronic). Should this unlikely event occur, it is then up to the Constitutional Court to vote on censuring the President. In accordance with Section 7 of the Law on the Constitutional Court The Court may find the accused guilty and can (but this is not a must) relieve him of his duty. It can also temporarily suspend him form office pending a final ruling. All decisions are taken with a two-thirds majority (six out of nine constitutional judges)

Charges against President Türk are absurd. SDS and SLS claim that Türk decorated a man who headed UDBa, the socialist secret police and is as such responsible for terrorist actions, murders and torture as well as high treason for failing to stop disarmament of Slovene army prior to 1990 democratic elections. This last one is the bee in Janša’s bonnet and there are precious few political opponents of his he did not accuse of the very same thing.

It must be said, for the sake of clarity, that UDBa was not a uniform entity but that there were actually flavours to it and that the chain of command was not at all clear. As most secret services Yugoslav UDBa went through several massive shake-ups, the last one being circa 1982 (two years before Ertl was made interior secretary), which created a mess out of it, since it created six republic braches of UDBa (one for each republic) which were answerable to federal UDBa in Belgrade. But at the same time they were also under political control of their native republics, which created a complex and often uneasy menage a trois, which was often made even more difficult (especially in case of Slovenia) when KOS, the military intelligence service, joined in on the fun and ran its own operations against any combination of the above three players (republic leadership, the local UDBa and Belgrade). As a result UDBa lost a lot of its edge, but was still – this must be said – a fully operational secret police.

So, fact remains that Matjaž Ertl was interior secretary between 1984 and 1990 which at the time meant that he controlled both regular and secret police. In today’s world this indeed doesn’t look good on one’s resume. Pengovsky said time and again that it was stupid of Türk to decorate Ertl and that the country could do without the whole brouhaha. So, it may very well have been wrong to decorate Ertl, but is it unconstitutional?

Obviously not.

It is within the Prez’s powers to decorate whomever he sees fit and he cannot be held responsible for transgressions of recipients of medals. Much less so if evidence against Ertl is circumstantial at best. Even if we accept the notion that Ertl systematically and directly violated human rights because Slovenian UDBa was under his command (a notion pengovsky is inclined to agree with), this does not mean that President Türk violated human rights because he decorated Ertl. Not to mention the fact that the latter for decorated for a specific action and not for, say, lifetime achievements.

It is also plainly obvious that impeachment proceedings will not clear even the very next hurdle. There is just no way for SDS and SLS to get the 46th vote, even if the disgruntled DeSUS votes in favour of impeachment simply to get even and vent off some steam. So what we are dealing here is a text-book case of character assassination, pure and simple. The Prez will probably come down to the parliament, reject the allegations, the parliament will vote the move down, but documents and “documents” which SDS produced (and will probably produce some more) will remain to be quoted, pasted, and waved by SDS and SLS from here to eternity (or, at the very least, to the next elections).

They even went so far as to include resolution by the European People’s Party among the “evidence” (appendix 18). A party document! A resolution they themselves has proposed and which the EPP adopted in Bonn no-questions-asked. What the fuck is this?! How on Earth can a group of intelligent individuals refer to their own political statement as grounds for impeachment?!? Who’s the Stalinist now, biyatch!? (not that pengovsky didn’t know this was bound to happen)

This has nothing to do with protecting the constitution, but has everything to do with opinion polls. Today we are witnessing the lowest and the slimiest in Slovenian politics, where shit is actually made up just to bring people down a peg or two. Character assassination is something Janša and his SDS are very good at, as we’ve seen in the case of Gregor Golobič (who, it must be said aided an abetted in that enterprise himself). But it is one thing to throw shit at a party leader only to see him shoot himself in the knee. It is quite another to try to destabilise the highest political office in the country using any means possible. And I don’t mean just abusing constitutional provisions. I have a funny feeling that the parliament might debate this just about the time Janša announced the massive out-pour of his supporters to streets of Ljubljana, exercising his version of direct democracy.

Game, Pahor

As you know by now, during yesterdays parliamentary debate on his dismissal from office Karl Erjavec walked up to the podium and announced his resignation from the post of minister for environment and urban planning. He said that he realised that the whole thing was political and that he didn’t want to see the PM suffering any more than he has to and said that “we may see each other again”

PM Pahor and minister Erjavec, side by side (source: RTVSLO)

His resignation was as much a face-saving measure as it was anything else. It seems kind of hard to believe that it was only during the debate that Erjavec put two and two together and saw that he was being cut off because he completely fell out of favour with the rest of the coalition rather than because the Court of Audit proposed that he be replaced. What is interesting, though, is the fact that Pahor seems to have started developing some teflon abilities himself. There he was, in the middle of the parliament, saying why he had no choice but to replace Erjavec while the latter was sitting next to him, as if Pahor was Erjavec’s last best hope for survival.

The amount of manipulation and political cheek necessary for this kind of humiliation shows that Pahor is nevertheless made of stronger stuff that his opponents (and some partners too) would have us believe. Pahor was wringing hands, shifting from one foot to another and used body language as if he is uncomfortable with having to dismiss Erjavec. But given their early fallout during coalition-building this seems highly unlikely.

It was, rather, a case of Pahor having others do his dirty work for him, while he – although he started the whole shebang – tried to appear above it. Pengovsky may be reaching here, but it seemed as if Pahor was trying to imitate the style of the late Janez Drnovšek. He may not have succeeded entirely, but one must concede that he looked very prime-ministerial for the first time in a while.

This leaves only three questions: 1) Will DeSUS choose to stay in the coalition, 2) what will Karl “ex-teflon” Erjavec be doing from now on and 3) who will succeed him. The answer to 1) is more or less “yes” although a formal decision is yet to be taken. The answer to 3) is slightly murkier, as we’ve seen yesterday. Pengovsky raised the possibility of Pahor taking the portfolio temporarily himself some time ago and it is said to be be greater now than ever. The answer to 2), however, could prove to be fantastically fucked up. Word has it that Pahor offered Erjavec a job of advisor to PM, not unlike when he took Dimitrij Rupel on board. Should this trully happen, Pahor’s immediate cabinet would literally prove to be a political waste-management plant.

It would, in a endlessly ironic twist of event also bring a full circle to DeSUS’ political influence. Namely, when Janez Janša won elections in 2004 he invited DeSUS into the coalition and gave its then-president Anton Rous a job as an advisor to PM. All hell broke loose within the party and the membership replaced Rous with Erjavec who then became defence minister. And now, DeSUS president is again poised to become “just” an advisor to PM. It’s just that both party president and prime minister are different now. Game, Pahor.

The Succession Of Karl Erjavec

Slovenian parliament today debates the demission of minister for environment and urban planning Karl Erjavec. As you will remember Erjavec was rapidly losing friends within the ruling coalition (not that he was popular to begin with) and finally fell out of favour with PM Borut Pahor when the Court of Auditor ruled that Erjavec did bupkis on setting up a state-wide system of waste separation and recommended that Pahor dismiss him. Unsurprisingly Pahor grabbed the opportunity with both hands (and a leg).

Karl Erjavec and Miran Gajšek (sources: and The Firm™)

Erjavec of course thinks the Court of Audit does not have a leg to stand on. Pengovsky covered most of the dirty details here and here, but it emerged only a couple of days ago that Igor Šoltes, president of the Court of Audit let PM Pahor know in advance what their recommendation will be, which puts PM Pahor in a slightly awkward position since he insisted that he will decide on what to do with Erjavec upon receiving the Court’s recommendation. Now, technically there is nothing wrong with Šoltes letting Pahor know in advance (after all, this was just around Christmas and New Year holidays), but Pahor is sure to take some flak for apparently feigning ignorance.

Be that as it may, Erjavec was busy trying to mount some sort of resistance in the past few days. He appears to have rallied MPs of his DeSUS (pensioners party) who until a week ago were in disarray like a flock of panicked old hens (pun very much intended). However, it seems that for the first time in a while Erjavec had to make consessions to his own people, as DeSUS MP Matjaž Zanoškar refused to take Erjavec ministerial post, thus freeing a seat in the parliament for Erjavec. Indeed, it seems that regardless of Erjavec’s wishes his MPs will continue to support the coalition. The worst that can happen is that a couple from his flock switch to other parties, but that can only dent the majority Pahor’s coalition enjoys in the parliament, not sink it below the required 46 votes.

Thus speculation is rife as to who exactly will become Teflon Karl’s successor. DeSUS claims to have already picked a candidate but will not divulge his name just yet, hoping that Erjavec might somehow beat the odds and survive the vote. One of the more surprising names to have popped up yesterday was Miran Gajšek, currently Head of the Urban Planning Department in the administration of Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković. Gajšek definitely knows the field and he is only months away from wrapping up the biggest urban-planning project this city has witnessed in the last 25 years. Namely, some time in the next six months the city council will have debated and probably passed the new Spatial Plan, laying down the quidelines for Ljubljana’s development for the next two decades. In terms of achievement and knowledge of the field, PM Pahor could certainly do worse than picking Gajšek. But there’s one problem.

Eight years ago, while holding a similar position in the city of Celje, Gajšek was found guilty of abuse of power and sentenced to four months in prison with a two years suspended sentence. Apparently he issued a certificate of adhering to legal requirements to a construction company in Celje, although he knew full well that was not the case. He was tried and convicted and has already served his sentence which has also already been stricken from his record. After this had happened, Gajšek was invited by then Ljubljana mayor Danica Simšič to take the vacant post of Head of the Urban Planning Departament and he remained there even after Zoran Janković won the 2006 elections. Word has it that he is peforming his role very well.

Gajšek yesterday refused to comment on whether he would take the job, but it seems improbable that PM Pahor would consider him as a candidate given his run-in with the law. But if he were to nominate him, the amout of shit thrown both at him as well as at Gajšek would probably be beyond anything we’ve seen to date. Question of course is whether either Pahor or Gajšek can afford this at this time. Pahor’s ministers are incredibly accident prone as it is (strangely enough, this goes for his male ministers only) and he surely does not want yet another political liability, regardless of his professional expertise. And if Gajšek really wants to enter politics, he still might get his opportunity at the municipal level if vice-mayor Janez Koželj in charge of urban planning sees through his decision not to seek re-election, leaving mayor Janković a man short.

EDIT@1725 hrs: A couple of minutes ago Karl Erjavec resigned from office of minister of environment and urban planning. More on this tommorow.

Assumption Is the Brother of All Fuck-Ups

Called by Janez Janša’s SDS Slovene parliament yesterday convened a special session on allegedly unsecured loans obtained by Zagorje-based Ultra and alleged involvement of minister for higher technology and Zares leader Gregor Golobič (count one) and SDS’ anti-crisis reform package (count two). The fact that the chamber was packed on count one and severely lacking in presence on count two only serves to show what was more important to elected representatives of Slovene people: a witch hunt or the crisis.

Gregor Golobič had to do some damage control yesterday (source)

The story behind the Ultra Affair was detailed here so we’ll skip this part. As for the session itself, suffice it to say that things looked peachy for minister Golobič at the beginning. The parliamentary investigative committee has so far been notoriously elusive in tackling the job at hand, namely to find out whether Ultra got an unsecured credit line at state owned Nova Ljubljanska banka (NLB) and whether Golobič exerted undue influence to that end. The story was overplayed (especially by state television) and at one point in the last couple of days SDS MP Zvonko Černač even said that the committee’s aim is not to investigate Golobič personally, but rather to see what was happening with unsecured loans as such. The fact that the committee has Golobič’s name in its title suddenly didn’t matter any more.

Golobič was on a roll during yesterday’s session. He outright accused former NLB CEO Draško Veselinovič (the same whom Zares forced to resign for extending a credit line to Boško Šrot) of tampering with the document on Ultra’s credit line, but stopped just short of saying that Veselinovič falsified the chart which (incorrectly, as it was confirmed during yesterday’s session) shows that Ultra’s loans were unsecured. But the media got the hint and Veselinovič was feeling the heat immediately, threatening legal action pending review of transcript of the session.

However, it was threats of legal action that caused Golobič to scew up at the very end of the debate, forcing him to do some major damage-control and basically snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. During what turned out to be a very carefully choreographed debate by the opposition Golobič (unwisely) maintained that not only was Ultra’s credit line secured with more that enough collateral, but also that is was never rescheduled.

Now, according to the parliamentary Rules and Procedures, a certain amount of time is allotted to every side in the debate. At the end of the debate only Golobič and SDS MP Andrej Vizjak (former minister of economy) had some time left and they entered a heated exchange, where Vizjak repeatedly challenged Golobič to prove that the NLB document is false, while Golobič repeatedly replied that it was for Vizjak to prove that the document was genuine and (to amusement of many) made some chirpy remarks about Vizjak’s MA.

Slightly off-topic: Vizjak holds an MA in economics, while Golobič (although clearly überintelligent) only graduated years ago and took some serious flak for it upon becoming minister for higher education. But when the parliamentary VP presiding over the session repeatedly addressed him as magister Golobič, the latter replied that he does not hold an MA, which is a good thing, considering his opponent.

However. Only minutes later Golobič was caught off guard. He spent most of his debate time, while Vizjak had two minutes or so left which he used to present a new set of documents, showing that Ultra indeed did reschedule the credit line on two occasions and accused Golobič of lying. With only twenty seconds left to respond, Golobič flat out rejected the claim and threatned legal action against Vizjak. The problem is that the documents turned out to be genuine. Game Vizjak.

After the debate Golobič called a press conference and did some major damage control, saying that he did not now about the documents and retracted his statement about rescheduling Ultra’s credit line. To his defence, this new batch of documents is dated after he left Ultra and re-entered politics and he had apparently assumed too much when asked the company (in which he holds a 7% share) about their credit line. But as Soap so eloquently put it some time ago, assumption is the brother of all fuck-ups. Either that or Golobič knew about the documents and assumed they wouldn’t surface. Either way, assuming too much, Golobič went all out and built quite a strong case for himself, but walked straight into a trap at the very end, which hurt him from the credibility point of view. And as he has a lot to make up for on that issue, the whole thing looks like a substantial fail.

On the other hand it must be said that on the whole Golobič succeeded in defeating the most serious charges of corruption and exerting undue influence. His accusers changed the story substantially and have scaled down the size of “problematic” credit line from 21 to 5 million euros whereas the document Vizjak produced prove beyond any reasonable doubt that these five millions were properly backed up by collateral and that Ultra had access to credit under the same (or, at the very least, similar) conditions than any other company. That much can be concluded from the documentation available at this time. It seems that just about everybody in this affair went out on a limb, assumed a lot and stumbled plenty

However, things do not stop there. Just today the investigative committee officially named Golobič the subject of its investigation (until now he was “merely” witness) and will as such be entitled to being present, together with his attorney, at all sessions of the committee. From here on things will get increasingly legalistic. Suits and counter-suits will be filed. Golobič himself filed some already. Draško Veselinovič is mooting one against Golobič and these are probably only the beginning. At any rate, it is now clear that SDS is after Golobič personally rather than after clearing up how unsecured loans were granted.

Oh, and in case anyone is interested, the parliament debated SDS anti-crisis reform plan as well and instructed the government to take a look at it. And opposition leader Janez Janša said that the main problem this country has is that there is no consensus on how to handle the crisis. Which, for all intents and purposes, is true. The devil, as always, is in the details. Which, apparently were of little interest to most of Slovene MPs.

Make the Call

Oops! Looks like finance minister Franci Križanič got into another bad fix. Apparently he placed a call to the dean of the Faculty of Economics Dušan Mramor (who, ironically held the finance portfolio during the 2002-2004 government of Tone Rop) and reportedly asked some awkward questions about the composition of a committee where Katja Božič (Križanič’s subordinate at the ministry) was to defend her Ph.D. According to media reports Križanič asked why Jože P. Damijan (minister for development in Janša’s government, still holds the title for the shortest serving minister) is sitting on the committee. Mramor obviously didn’t flinch and thus protected autonomy of the university. He also dully informed all members of the committee as well as university’s rector about the phone call.

Minister of finance Franci Križanič (photo by Jure Eržen/Delo)

Križanič later defended himself saying that he only made an informal inquiry with his colleague at the faculty and when asked about it, the university’s rector Stane Pejovnik agreed that no undue influence was exerted. Looking from the outside however, this looks exactly like pressure being brought to bear and one can not help but think that if someone else rather than Mramor were dean.

Regardless of his motives (Damijan is by some accounts not the type of person one would want in any committee, much less in one’s Ph.D. committee), Križanič should have known better than to make that call. No matter whether he was bringing pressure to bear or whether it was just an honest mistake, Križanič is becoming increasingly accident prone. As such he could soon become too big an embarrassment for PM Pahor to handle and – as we have seen in the case of Karl Erjavec – once the cup is full, the smallest of drops can create a flood of bad moments.

Time for someone to translate The Seven Principles of Public Life into Slovene