Patria Case: The Austrian Connection

It’s been a while since pengovsky wrote up anything substantial on the Patria Affair, so a quick recap is in order. Not that there was nothing to write about, but with the family code, early elections brouhaha, the ruling coalition acting like a leper and literally falling apart, the Slovenian political landscape is in daily upheaval and it is hard to keep you posted on everything at the same time. Add to that the noticeable drop in frequency of pengovsky’s posts (things to see and people to do) and you can see the backlog just piling up.


Photoshop by yours truly. With appologies to Gene Hackman 🙂

But be that as it may, the Patria Affair is once again front-and-centre of the agenda. That leader of the opposition Janez Janša was indicted in front of Slovenian court along with four others is of course hardly news. What is news that several related cases are running paralel to that and since Janša trial is yet to begin, those cases are often interpreted as tell- tale signs.

Point Janša

The first Patria-connected case to have seen a verdict was the trial of Karl ‘Teflon’ Erjavec. Leader of DeSUS and defence minister in JanÅ¡a’s government was together with general Albin Gutman (then Chief of General Staff) accused of dereliction of duty for signing the defence contract with Finnish Patria where bribes were allegedly paid off. The prosecution case was argued by Branka Zobec Hrastar who also leads the case against JanÅ¡a so the verdict in the Erjavec/Gutman trial was of double interest. As you probably know, the prosecution lost and both Erjavec and Gutman were acquitted. This was seen as a major blow to the case against JanÅ¡a. If the two were to be found guilty, then – goes the conventional wisdom – winning against JanÅ¡a should be a walk in the park.

Technically, it’s not all that easy, but still. It looked like back to square one and then some for Higher State Prosecutor Branka Zobec Hrastar. As far back as October 2010 Zobec Hrastar was a subject of internal oversight ordered by (now former) General State Prosecutor Barbara Brezigar. Then, a couple of months after she lost the Erjavec/Gutman case, Janez JanÅ¡a filed criminal charges against Zobec Hrastar, accusing her of falsifying key evidence in the Patria case. Some saw this as a desperate move (along the lines of counter-suit) but in the light of the Erjavec/Gutman verdict, it spelled bad news for the prosecution. A month after that (July 2011) JanÅ¡a won a civil suit against Delo newspaper and got EUR 10,000 in damages. And two days later, Zobec Hrastar announced she is quitting her post. It looked like “point JanÅ¡a”.

However, things are not all that rosy for the presumptive successor to PM Borut Pahor. He may have won a suit against Delo, but the paper is appealing so that story is far from over. The Erjavec/Gutman case is also not over yet, since Zober Hrastar appealed that particular verdict. But the fun was only benning.

The Austrian Connection

Days ago, the Austrian State Prosecution indicted several people with regard to their end of the Patria Case. Notably, among the accused are Walter Wolf and Wolfgang Riedl, whom Slovenian prosecution believes to have played middlemen between Patria and Janez JanÅ¡a and his party (with several more people in between). Among witnesses whose testimony Austrian prosecutors will seek are also JanÅ¡a and Jože Zagožen (thought to be JanÅ¡a’s right hand man at the time), both of whom stand accused by Slovenian prosecution in front of Slovenian court.

The Austrian indictment is interesting because is fills in the blanks from its Slovenian counterpart (while the prosecution in Finland still has to file charges). Namely, Slovenian prosecutors claim JanÅ¡a and the rest of the accused demanded and accepted bribes in various forms in return for a favourable result on the defence contract for APCs. What remained unclear was where, when and how the alleged bribes were paid. JanÅ¡a and his SDS exploited this over and over, saying that prosecution’s claims of bribes being paid “on an unidentified date, in an unidentified manner on an unidentified place” didn’t amount to basically anything.

However, the Austrian prosecution now claims that monies (EUR 900,000 to be exact) were handed over in cash to Jože Zagožen by Wolfgang Riedl. Which, if proven to be true, could present a huge problem for JanÅ¡a, both legally as well as politically. 900 big ones being accepted by a man from JanÅ¡a’s inner circle is bad news no matter how you look at it and the illustrious SDS leader could very well be forced to feed Zagožen to the prosecution. If allegations turn out to be true, of course.

Hot long summer

Details of the Austrian indictment are being serialised by Delo newspaper (with a certain gusto, one might add). But other than fighting their own fight against JanÅ¡a, these articles are purely for entertainment purposes as they can neither be used as evidence nor can it influence the final outcome of the trial. Truth be told, it can influence the “court of public opinion” but it seems the public opinion is long divided and cannot be budget either way. So, everyone and his brother is eagerly awaiting beginning of September when the trial against Janez JanÅ¡a is set to begin.

Now, lets pause here for a second. JanÅ¡a will be tried in Slovenia. He will be asked to give evidence in Austria. He will also be increasingly getting ready for the elections the polls suggest he will win. This is an explosive combination, no matter how you look at it. A presumptive PM on trial spells big fat headlines at home and abroad. In this case the timing of the whole thing is incredibly important. If the elections are held before the verdict is pronounced in his trial, then Slovenia will be faced with a unique situation of having elected a PM while he will still be tried. Temptations for all kinds of Berlusconi-like tricks to win the “get-out-of-jail-free-card” will probably be coming in fast and furious.

Conspiracy theory

On the other hand, if the trial were to conclude before the elections, the possibility of JanÅ¡a being convicted is the element of unknown which can turn everything around. Obviously there’s no way to say how the trial will end (and the presumption of innocence stands, mind you), but if you want an outlandish conspiracy theory, then one could argue that the only reason the incumbent PM Borut Pahor is bending over backwards to prevent early elections is to see the Patria trial conclude first and hope for JanÅ¡a to get convicted.

There are a number of loose ends in this theory (not in the least that it doesn’t explain why JanÅ¡a doesn’t want early elections and that the losing side in the trial will most likely appeal the verdict, extending the trial way beyond elections), but it is an entertaining thought. What is even more entertaining is the fact that rumours have it that prosecutor Branka Zobec Hrastar might reconsider her resignation. Pengovsky has it on good authority that she had made up her mind to quit late last year, when the onslaught by Barbara Brezigar against her was reportedly in full swing, but only days ago the prosecution threw out JanÅ¡a’s charges against Zober Hrastar.

Anyhoo. Given the information available, pengovsky has a feeling the case against JanÅ¡a is rather flimsy. However, there’s always a chance of someone blowing the whistle. And provided there’s something to blow whistle about, Zagožen seems a likely candidate…

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How Many Trees Does It Take To See A Forest

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.

–Martin Niemöller

The murderous rampage of Anders Behring Breivik was anything but a lunatic act of a deranged madman. As days pass and more details emerge, it is becoming more and more clear that this was a premeditated crime with political and ideological background. To call his crime an ‘unpredictable act of a single lunatic’ is – whether you like it or not – turning a blind eye to a worrying trend which has all but became the norm in Europe: making politics of extreme right ever more mainstream. Just as all over Europe, the reaction in Slovenia that something like that can happen (and in Norway, of all places!) was one of shock, at least of disbelief, especially after the initial media-induced preconception that the attack was committed by some Muslim extremists was shattered by the image of a tall, blonde blue-eyed, well, Aryan.


(source)

However, as disbelief gave way to analysis, something intriguing was beginning to happen. As if on cue, the voices and opinions that could be loosely classified as right-wing or conservative started that this tragedy should not be (ab)used and politicised. That fearmongering, figthing the existing (political) enemies within and creating new ones are “nothing but post-9/11-like anti-freedom hikes only that this time they are being executed by the over-pious political left” (spiked.com). Instead, goes the argument, “this was an act of a right-wing nutjob” (WSJ) who claimed to be a Christian and a Conservative but was in fact anything but. That equalling Breivik’s actions to particular political positions is in fact “an attack on the freedom of speech because there’s a huge difference between words and shooting” (Žiga Turk, Slovene only. EDIT: In the comments Mr. Turk provided what he believes to be a more accurate translation)

Pengovsky believes these sentiments are genuine. They are also a symptom of collective denial. What we are seeing in Europe for some yeas now is the moderate (call them European) right wing parties actively courting hard-line voters, those whom they wouldn’t touch twenty years ago. As the general disillusionment with politics, politicians and their abilities to provide any sort of meaningful solution to socio-economic clustefuck of today grows, so grow the tendencies of right wing politicos to flirt with xenophobia, nationalism, anti-communism and other ghosts of European past. On that same note, let it be said, that at the same time the moderate left is increasingly moving to the centre, creating potentially just as dangerous vacuum on that side of the political spectrum. It’s just that no-one really courts the radical left. Mostly because they’re at each other’s throats most of the time.

At any rate, the move has been a short-term success for right wing parties virtually all across Europe. Belgium, France, Italy, Croatia, Finland, Hungary, Austria, Slovenia and Germany (to name but a few) all of these countries have to varying degrees seen the rise of nationalism and its becoming more and more mainstream on the right side of the political spectrum. Take Germany, for example. Last year pengovsky showed how Angie Merkel, who together with Monsieur Sarkozy is bankrolling the Greek Debt Tragedy, took a swipe at Germany’s very own multi-kulti without as much as batting an eyelash. Anders Behring Breivik on the other hand got a hard-on every time he was thinking of ways to destroy the concept. And he decided the best way to do it was to kill those who believed that multi-cultural society is essentially a good thing

The gunman had said his operation was not aimed at killing as many people as possible but that he wanted to create the greatest loss possible to Norway’s governing Labour Party, which he accused of failing the country on immigration. (BBC

Still think it wasn’t political?

Whether or not the killer is insane is of secondary importance. He did what others were preaching to him and others like him. Islam is a religion like any other, it has its good sides and bad sides, but we are being preconditioned into believing that anyone with a thick beard and darker skin is a potential suicide bomber and that every explosion out there is the work of al-Quaeda, although Osama bin Laden is slepping with the fishes for some time now. Multiculturalism and tolerance are easy targets for the pious, the moralistic and the greedy alike, because either “they don’t belong here”, “they don’t share our values and will destroy our way of life” or “they will take our jobs”. Marxism (or Communism, to be more precise) is no longer a threat to Europe or anyone else for that matter. Yet it is still constantly being used as the political Bogey-man, as if Soviet tanks were just behind the borders, waiting with their engines on. As a result, anything that remotely looks like socialism is attacked viciously. Like healthcare. Or the Norwegian Labour party summer camp. Words, therefore, are not something innocent, but can have brutal effect when used carelessly. And this is what the political right is doing all over Europe (and elsewhere) for the past decade or so. Radicalising its rhetoric and creating the air of emergency situation and even panic. This is nothing less than creating a state of fear. And then someone snaps.

When Breivik’s 1500-page manifesto was released, Slovene columnist Marko Crnković tweeted that having browsed through it he found nothing that he couldn’t see on any number of Slovene forums and news-website comments on an average day. Which is true. Jure Mesarič of blog Drugi Dom collected a handful of comments which went along the lines of “extreme liberalism with its ‘human rights’ is also to blame”. But perhaps the most telling example is a comment on a yesterday’s mighty fine post by drfilomena. Someone left a hefty comment accusing the good doctor of being everything from a communist onwards, putting together the rhetoric of Slovene right-wing parties and enriching with some extra-wonderful slurs of his own (I really couldn’t be troubled to translate). God forbid this person owns gun.

Given the above it is of course no wonder that the political right all over Europe is bending over backwards to put as much daylight as possible between itself and Anders Behring Breivik. Creating much fuss about every other aspect of the tragedy, they refuse to even touch the question of why and how the he got his ideas. True, Breivik is neither a true Christian not a proper Conservative. But the European (and, by extension, Slovenian) political right should ask itself whether it is still Christian and conservative and what it will do about the hate-speech, ever more prevailing in its rhetoric. Instead they paint this tragedy as an unfortunate one-off case.

Question is, how many trees does one need to see a forest. Or do we have to wait until they come for someone else?

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Get Me The President (Of The Parliament)!

It is against the backdrop of Phone-hacking scandal, the impending suicide of America’s public finances and the inherent inability to EU leaders to stop digging themselves into a Greek hole, that the Slovenian political crisis is unfolding in its own peculiar way. The government (or rather, the coalition) is only semi-operational, but is trying to mask this by hyperactivity. The opposition hasn’t got a clue what to do after if will (presumably) take power, but is trying to mask this by churning out amateur-night recovery plans. And the parliament is in shit-how-do-I-get-re-elected-mode, but is masking this by declaring a summer break.


Pavle Gantar, soon to be ex-president of the parliament (source: The Firm™)

After Zares quit the coalition and Gregor Golobič and Majda Širca returned to the parliament to serve as MPs (ousting Cveta Zalokar Oražem and Vito Rožej respectively) a rather unique situation was brought about in which the President of the Parliament was a member of an opposition party. Pavle Gantar of Zares was elected to the post as a result of a coalition agreement and since Zares quit, it is only logical that he should vacate the post toute-de-suite. Really? Not so fast. Initially, there was some level of confusion over this, with Gantar reportedly not committing to resigning while Golobič was already announcing it. Whether or not both top Zares men were of different minds is at this point almost irrelevant as Gantar only a day or so later announced that he is resigning as President of the National Assembly (the parliament), effective 1 September this year.

President of the Parliament (similar in function to Speaker of the House in US Congress and UK Parliament) is nominally the second-most senior elected official in the country. If for some reason the President of the Republic is incapacitated or otherwise unable to perform his duties, the President of the National Assembly steps in to take over in care-taker capacity until a new president is elected. All in all a powerful position, even if we neglect the usual separation of powers blah-blah such as the fact that the President of the National Assembly swears in all judges of the lower courts and so on. In short, being the top dog of the parliament is not exactly peanuts.

Which is why Gantar’s resignation created a lot of hoopla within the coalition (or rather, what was left of it). Whatever hopes Prime Minister Borut Pahor might have harboured about Zares not being entirely serious about quitting the coalition, these have now crumbled into sun dust. Even though both Gantar and Golobič maintain that the move was purely a question of political hygiene, the fact remains that the ruling Social Democrats led by PM Pahor now have another hot political potato in their hand. True, Zares MPs have woved to support whomever SD put forward for this position, but at the very least the parliament is up for yet another super-heated all-encompassing debate in September, one which is bound to raise levels of adrenaline and bad blood in the Slovene ecosystem even further. And there’s no shortage of either to begin with.

It all has to do with the epic #fail of the government on super-referendum Sunday last June. Just prior to the vote on pension reform, PM Pahor was making unmistakeable noises about requesting a confidence vote should the reform be defeated. But after the referendum defeat, these noises became increasingly muted and after it became obvious that Pahor in fact backed down from his political machosim it was a question of political credibility for Zares and Gregor Golobič (who resigned as minister days before that fateful referendum) to complete the cross-over to the opposition. Having done that, both the party and its president, proclaimed all but politically dead by some long ago, seized the initiative and are – for the time being at least – calling the shots in Slovene politics.

This, of course, will not last forever. But a number of things are working in Zares’ favour at the moment, not the least of them being the nonsensical hyperactivity of the government and its president, going about just everything, from health reform to solving the Greek debt crisis and everything in between. It is obvious that most of this is just smokescreen, trying to hide the fact that Pahor’s government is in retreat on all fronts and trying to cut losses. Case in point being the much-hyped law on media, which failed spectacularly at the very first stage of the legislative procedure by means of an orchestrated effort to kill it by (at least) a part of MPs for Social Democrats.

No need to go into too much detail (maybe some other time) but suffice it to say that a particular media baron wannabe had a particular interest to see the law killed as soon as possible and had apparently struck a deal with (at least par of) Social Democrats, to vote the law down, even though the government had approved the text of the law. The thing is that even though the MPs gave the man what he wanted, most of them will be outside of the parliament looking in some time within the next 16 months. But currying the favour of media owners is one thing (slightly OT: pengovsky predicts the SD will get screwed and that the favour will not be returned). It is quite another thing to sort out your own ranks and this is where PM Pahor is going from strength to strength in failing to do just about anything. The Capital Assets Management Agency is still going rogue, to the point of the PM actually calling in the anti-corruption commission to investigate, the project of Bloc 6 of Šoštanj Coal Power Plant just about got out of hand with costs now exceeding 1.3 billion euros (original estimates put the price tag at around 600 million) and the government still lacks four full-blooded ministers.

Add to this the urgent need to elect a new president of the parliament, possibly a referendum on the family code and you see that the situation is in total flux. Amid this a quiet by rather fast re-positioning is taking place. As said earlier, Zares is making the most of this and Gregor Golobič – having purged the party’s parliamentary group of unwanted element – is suddenly way more visible than he ever was as a minister. On the other hand of the spectrum, the Slovene People’s Party (SLS) distanced publicly flipped the bird to Janez JanÅ¡a and his SDS, saying they will address voters by themselves and not via some astroturf initiatives.

These moves may seem innocent enough and it remains to be seen how the big parties (SD and SDS) will respond. Will SD get their act together and will SDS be able to stick to the point once for a change and not go on all-out rampage? The September vote on the new parliamentary chief will be a good measure of things. At any rate, the fun and the drama are not ending any time soon.

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Slavoj Žižek vs. Gregor Golobič: 20 Years After

Pengovsky slacked on blogging yet again this week. Not that there’s no shit to report (this is where David Suchet goes: “Au contraire, mon ami!”) but there’ll be plenty of time to do that. However, it is only fair and just that some content be put between meat and tits and as far as opportunities go, you could do worse than Thursday’s debate betwixt the post-lacanian philosopher Slavoj Žižek and leader of Zares Gregor Golobič.


Žižek, Pelko and Golobič (photo by yours truly)

This post is not really a summary of the event. It is, rather, a series of thoughts that pengovsky would have uttered out loud were there a Q&A session. Luckily, however, there wasn’t one which means you, my dear readership, get to bear the full brunt of the storm, the only silver lining being that although moderator Stojan Pelko (until recently No. 2 man at the ministry of Culture) kept the debate going for a good two hours, pengovsky wasn’t taking notes for most of the time so whatever thoughts I may have had on several issues, they are now long gone.

Revolution

That the debate took place on 14 July is, of course, no coincidence. Žižek noted that revolutions (or any other social and/or political upheaval for that matter) can only be thought in hindsight and that the mother of all revolutions prevailed as late as two hundred years after it had started (in 1989) only to be defeated utterly and completely in the following twenty years. Bizarrely so, this is exactly the amount of time it took the 20th century to go from one revolution (or clusterfuck, depending on your point of view) to another. Doubly so for Slovenia, go Žižek and Golobič.

However, there’s a catch, sayeth yours truly. Until the 1988-1991 period of formation of Slovenia, revolutions tended to follow the out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new approach. But the 1988-1991 revolution (because in hindsight(!) that is exactly what it was) was performed by more or less the same group of people who partook in the 1968-72 social and student unrest in Slovenia. OK, give or take a few, but in general the statement stands. Could it be, that a revolution was “stolen”? Performed by people who had already had their go?

On one hand it is kind of hard to just say that, especially because it ended all-right. But on the other hand (and this connects to the next issue), there is this nagging feeling that 1989 was just a continuation of 1968. And that in fact it was not just a Slovenian version of the “European spring of nations” but rather a culmination of a much longer process which in fact took everyone (including those who would end up on top) slightly by surprise.

Capitalism

Secondly, both Golobič and Žižek were extremely harsh in their critique of capitalism. How can it be that the problems of capitalism are being solved by the very tools which caused the problems in the first place? Indeed, Golobič warned that Europe is being slowly but surely disassembled and if the trend continues, we will be lucky to escape another round of bloodshed this continent had seen way too much in its turbulent history. In this respect Golobič went after the recently published platform of Janez JanÅ¡a‘s SDS calling it the same old neoliberal nonsense they fed this country during their stint in power. In fact, the platform as it stands now, is anything but neoliberal. It is a handbook of economic alchemy which would on one hand lower taxes, increase public investment and decrease budget deficit, whereas on the other hand aims to introduce (by amending the constitution, no less!) a thoroughly communist concept of ownership being both right and obligation with everyone contributing to the common good according to their ability. Sounds familiar? Thought so…

In short, rather than taking us down the neoliberal road once again (which is what Golobič fears) SDS’ economic platform will – if implemented – destroy what little potential for economic recovery this country has regained in the past couple of years. Thus, Golobič is wrong. We shouldn’t be afraid of neoliberals. It’s amateurs we should fear.

And while we’re on the subject of neoliberals: pengovsky thinks that in this case Golobič somehow chose to ignore the big picture. Yes, solving crisis of capitalism with even more capitalism will inevitably lead to disaster. That this disaster is most likely to take the form of a more or less global conflict (I won’t use the word “world war” but feel free to think it) is almost a given, especially if one looks back at the history of the 20th century. In this respect Golobič is dead right. But criticising capitalism at this point is like kicking a dead horse. The moment for radical changes in world economic order was missed sometime in the second part of 2009. The situation we have today is not the result of capitalism in pre-crisis neoliberal form raising it head, but it is because no sensible alternative was provided. This seems a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy, because people who were in position to provide an alternative did not do so because their main impetus was to get back to the “business as usual”, although there is no longer anything usual about any business. But given that the world is so interwoven economically there is probably no way to just drop everything and start afresh. We might come to that. In fact, Golobič is correct when saying that everything that was done to solve the crisis just deepened it further and that bloodshed is almost unavoidable. But asking to – well – cut to the chase and getting it over with is perhaps asking a bit too much.

So, what do we need? Naively, pengovsky proposes a Slovenian “space programme”. Not in the “sending-a-man-to-the-moon-and-returning-him-safely-to-the-earth” kind of way, but a far-reaching programme or initiative that would have positive side-effects which may in the long run prove to be even more crucial than the project itself. One thing that comes to mind is the introduction of universal basic income, which although his party toyed with it at first, Golobič dismissed as a noble but unattainable idea in a recent interview. That may be so (although some serious calculations would be in order), but pengovsky is willing to bet that just by initiating procedures to completely revamp the system of social security, a lot of positive stuff could happen. What is needed here is some outside-of-the-box thinking, just for the argument’s sake if nothing else.

More state, less homeland

Universal basic income is of course an utterly anti-market idea. Neolibs tend to have a fit whenever they see something being state-ordained. That the state would cash out equally to everyone is of course their worst nightmare. That the state rarely becomes leaner after neolibs tinker with it, is something we’ll conveniently neglect. But as we said, while JanÅ¡a may tinker with neoliberal ideas, Milton Friedman and the faithful would probably scoff at JanÅ¡a’s economic legacy and die of shame reading his economic plans. However, all the buzzwords are there. The lean state. The tax cuts. The pro-business environment. And the homeland. In fact, Janez JanÅ¡a summed it all up in a recent reply to the good doctor on Twitter, where he said that homleand is priceless and doesn’t collect taxes. State is a legal framework, homeland is the content. And concludes that Žižek is mixing apples and oranges.

Making a fool of everyone present

What was it Žižek said that upset JanÅ¡a so much? Well, it was in fact one of his usual rhetorical bravuras which sent everyone into a frenzy. Namely, the pop philosopher said that he fears JanÅ¡a’s notion of more homeland and that this country needs more state and less homeland. This was predictably followed by a hefty round of applause. Similarly, at the very beginning Žižek countered those who label Golobič smart and corrupt, saying that he always thought of Zares leader as an honest but slightly stupid person (cue laughter). Sure enough, these and other soundbites had the intended effect: headlines were full of them the next day and Žižek was again lauded as the master of wit. However, what most of those present failed to see was that these rhetorical twists were only a manifestation of what Golobič said a bit later on, that the society today has no opinion leader and that on the whole people tend to follow rather than seek new paths. As if he had read the infamous Despair.com poster which says that “left to themselves, people tend to imitate one another”.

Žižek again showed how easy it is to take control of the masses, no matter if the mass is comprised of people who thing of themselves as critically minded individuals. In his most excellent book Generali brez kape (Generals Without Caps) jouralist Ali Žerdin recounts how Žižek did something similar twenty-odd years ago when Janez JanÅ¡a (then still an obscure scribe for Mladina magazine) was imprisoned in 1988, sparking popular protests which became focal points for all sorts of grievances Slovenes had against socialism and which started a chain of events which ended with Slovenia declaring independence three years later. Namely, Žižek was speaking at a gathering of the Human Rights Committee and said that the Communist Party was always using catch-phrases like “the time for words is past, now it’s time for action!” and that in his view showed that the Party had a legitimacy problem which it attempted to cover up by its hyperactivity at that time. So, Žižek proposed that the Committee hit the Party where it hurt and stated that “the time for action is past, now it’s time for words!”. Those present erupted in cheers and applause. But then Žižek delivered the final blow: “I must say I’m sort of embarrassed that you feel for a cheap trick like that” he said. Apparently many a face turned red.

Twenty years later we still have the same problem. Too many people fall for too many cheap tricks like that way too soon. And this, in pengovsky’s view is the ultimate lesson of Thursday’s Žižek vs. Golobič. Not whether leader of Zares is a credible person. Not whether capitalism is in it’s dying moments. Not even whether there will be blood. The lesson is that throughout the last twenty years the people of this country still count on someone else to take the hard decision and then criticise them for it from a comfortable distance, all the while falling for the same trick over and over again, learning practically nothing. Increasingly, the feeling is as if we’re stuck in 1991.

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At Some Point, Hanging In There Makes You Look An Even Bigger Loser

Pengovsky showed some time ago that chances of early elections being called in Slovenia are about two to the power of 2079460347 against. Nearly everyone is competing in who will issue a more urgent call for early elections, but when a push comes to a shove, everybody’s got some other business to attend to. Like running the country. Keeping the parliamentary seat. Pointing fingers. Or even crowd-sourcing. Anything but calling the damn elections.


(source, of course)

Exibit A

Prime Minister Borut Pahor was on the telly yesterday Tuesday evening, where he said, for example, that he came to the conclusion that his resignation would only push the country deeper into political crisis rather than bring about early elections, so he chose to continue as PM. He also said that a new round of discussion on pension reforms is to take place, despite the fact that he and his government received an epic beating in a referendum on pension reform a month ago.

He is also about to take over as acting minister for Public Administration instead of Irma Pavlinič Krebs who resigned her post and will be formally relieved next week and he is already facing unrest in the public sector unions. As if that wasn’t enough, the PM recently trekked half-way around the world to India to find a buyer for the limping national airline Adria Airways, is dealing with the Greek financial crisis and has recently confabulated with opposition leader Janez JanÅ¡a on how the political future of this country. A tall order by any standard, but when compared to the PM’s low ratings and mounting credibility issues, it become obvious that the PM’s ego issuing checks his body can’t possibly cash.

Anything to stave off the elections, apparently.

Exibit B

Of all the voices calling for early elections, those in Janez JanÅ¡a‘s SDS are among the most vocal. Indeed, there are also at least two sort-of-grass-roots campaigns probably aimed at expanding the breath and appeal of the largest opposition party. One group, calling themselves Active Citizens Group headed by sociologist Matej Makarovič (who among other things was the first president of SDS youth organisation) is positioning itself as a think-tank for the political right and is citing the do’s and the dont’s for SDS and sister parties in order to win elections. Another group, headed by SDS Ljubljana city councilman Žiga Turk is (was?) collecting online signatures to call early elections. To date they collected some 19,000 signatures which – although not a smallish number – is way below anything that could make members of this group gurgle with excitement.

Altough both groups try to present themselves as grass-roots movements, they are anything but. Both of them boast former ministers as leading members, some of whom are speculated to return to the cabinet if and when Janez Janša wins elections. But apart from a slight transparency issue this is not really important.

What is more than obvious is the fact that – just as the ruling coalition – the opposition has a general credibility problem which it is trying to rectify by generating “civil society” clamour for a change at the helm of the country. Namely – if all were well and good in this world, the opposition would win the next elections without breaking a sweat, especially with as unpopular a government as we have now. However, the polls show that Janez JanÅ¡a’s overall strategic objective of winning 50+ percent of seats in the parliament will remain wishful thing. Which is why he needs a credibility boost. Ad-hoc civil society support groups are one way of doing it.

A more effective way of gaining some credibility is by presenting a viable election platform. Which is exactly what the SDS did yesterday. Or did they? Well, not really. What they presented, was actually a draft platform, a patchwork of ideas some of which sound more plausible than others. Just a teaser: on one hand, the SDS would (predictably) lower taxes dramatically while increasing infrastructure investments on the other but it would also put a ceiling in public debt to 45% of GDP (currently, Slovenia’s public debt is at 38% percent of GDP).

That this platform is a work in progress is also shown by the fact that SDS is crowdsourcing ideas on a dedicated website. This is not the first time they resorted to this trick. In fact, even while still in power, JanÅ¡a’s government launched a site that sought people’s views on the future of Slovenia. Little came out of it. Ditto for a similar site launched by the incumbent government. And, just to further make the point, Ljubljana branch of SDS made the same move, releasing draft platform six months before elections and crowdsourced input with limited success.

Six months ago Janez JanÅ¡a announced the need for the Second Republic. Just as the notion was starting to fade, he announced a draft election platform. Neither is anything to write home about, so it is safe to assume that both were primarily aimed at creating buzz rather than substance, although yesterday’s document offers several concrete although self-conflicting measures.

Point being that SDS made precious little progress in terms of preparing for elections. Given that their motion to change the constitution which the parliament is debating right now actually decreases rather than increases chances of early elections, the conclusion is that Janez Janša is in fact in no hurry to get to election day.

Exibit C

Two MPs for Zares quit their party group yesterday and switched to independents. Vili Trofenik and Alojz Posedel were the odd men out almost from the very start, not in the least because they often departed from the party line, most notably on the question of mayor/MP conflict. This brings Zares’ MPs down to seven, making them a slightly less of a force to be reckoned with, although they are still the third most powerful party in the parliament.

Bleeding votes is never a good thing, regardless of how Gregor Golobič tries to play down the move by both MPs. But in all honesty, the switch was at least suspected if not outright expected, not just because Golobič is back in the parliament, making a nuisance of himself to everyone who had it fairly easy, both within Zares as well as in other parties (case in point being Golobič’s entry into the Twitter-sphere, where he immediately made waves).

It mostly has to do with the expected lifespan of this parliament. Posedel and Trofenik have no interest to see it come to a premature end as their chances of getting re-elected are (save a political miracle) practically zero. So parting of ways was imminent.

Verdict

We are nowhere near elections. Even if the PM ties a confidence vote to the budget rebalancing act in September and loses, elections are possible in beginning of December at the earliest. And it seems that the more necessary the confidence vote is, the less probable it is becoming. Until yesterday, the minority government of Borut Pahor had merely thirty-three votes in the parliament (SD and LDS). It could more or less count on two out of three votes of the independent MPs. Now, that count is up to four. This means the count now goes up to thirty-seven, making it nine short of an absolute majority. Adding two votes of minority MPs, this can be further extended to 39 and with that PM Pahor suddenly has enough wiggle room to make it all the way home, since both opposition SLS and SNS (five votes each) have declared their opposition to early elections. In addition DeSUS of Karl Erjavec also has zero interest in early elections, which means the primer minister is in the position to shop for votes on any given vote.

The only problem is that this is no time to play political games and spend energy on political survival. In this situation, hanging in there makes you an even bigger loser.

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