Andrej Bajuk (1943 – 2011)

Former Prime Minister Andrej Bajuk passed away Monday night. He shot to prominence in spring 2000 when he was put forward as a challenger to PM Janez Drnovšek whose coalition with Slovene People’s Party (SLS) had just crumbled. The latter had just undergone what for all intents and purposes was a shotgun wedding with opposition Slovene Christian Democrats (SKD) – with leader of the opposition Janez Janša holding the shotgun. The painful merger realigned the balance of power in the parliament and and as a result PM Drnovšek called a confidence vote which he lost. A short political crisis ensued and after much political wrangling Bajuk was appointed the prime minister seven months before elections were due.

Andrej Bajuk with Slovenia’s first euro notes. Photo: Arsen Perić

A Ljubljana native he fled to Argentina with his parents in 1945 aged only two and worked his way up in life from there. He did not gain prominence in Slovene diaspora, at least not in a way that would leave a mark in his homeland prior to his entry into politics. An economist by profession, he was working for the Inter-American Development Bank before he returned to Slovenia to become the nominee for the prime ministerial position. Such was the rush, that he was reportedly unable to make proper living accommodations and was living in a hotel near the parliament for some time after returning to Slovenia.

Andrej Bajuk was to become a permanent fixture in Slovenian politics for the next decade. Things got off to a rocky start, however. Late in his ill-fated stint as PM (where he was often seen as Janez Janša’s straw man, with Janša back in the saddle as defense minister actually calling the shots) he went out on a limb in what for all intents and purposes amounted to a attempted legislative coup d’état plotted by Janša.

Summer of 2000

Just prior to that fateful summer the constitutional court finally ruled in a four-year-long case of which electoral system won in a 1996 three-way referendum (majoritarian, proposed by Janša; proportional, proposed by the National Council or a combination of the two, proposed by then-ruling coalition led by LDS of Janez Drnovšek). The court ruled that the majoritarian system won although it got only 44 percent of the vote. Three of the judges who ruled in that case went on to become ministers in Bajuk’s government which in August 2000, just months before elections took the position that Slovenia doesn’t have a legal electoral system and that elections should be postponed until a new system is passed by the parliament as per the court’s ruling.

Postponing elections is, of course, a big no-no in a parliamentary democracy, doubly so if they were to be postponed not until a given date but until a (legislative) benchmark is reached. What if it is never reached? During those few weeks Slovenia was on the brink of suspending parliamentary democracy. However, the political and legal minefields were navigated successfully, as the parliament took a position opposite that of the government and amended the constitution and wrote basics of the electoral system into it, thus circumventing the Constitutional Court as well as preventing the possibility of anyone else getting the idea of claiming that it is legally impossible to hold elections.

The schism

The rift between the parliament and the government, although both were ran by the same right-wing coalition proved to be too much for the newly-merged SLS+SKD (as the new party was unoriginally called) and late in 2000 a splinter group comprised of senior Christian Democrats established Nova Slovenija (NSi) and elected Andrej Bajuk as their leader. Contrary to some expectations the new party, although leaving much membership and infrastructure with the SLS+SKD, made it to the parliament with as much as eight percent of the vote.

From strength to strength to final defeat

Things were going just great for Bajuk and the NSi. Having spent four relatively comfortable years in the opposition and making their stand on a variety of issues, including (but not limited to) first forays into what a decade later was to become the great Family Code debate, the party scored a surprising victory in the 2004 European elections where it won most of the proportional vote. Despite the victory, the party won only two MEP seats (SDS and LDS won two as well, despite finishing second and third respectively), but for Bajuk it was killing two birds with one stone. His party made a showing that would serve it for years to come and he got ‘rid’ of Lojze Peterle, his main rival to Brussels.

Later in that year Andrej Bajuk returned to the government, this time as finance minister and leader of the junior coalition member. His record is mixed. He was in office at the time Slovenia adopted the euro and was officially the first person to withdraw common European currency from a Slovenian cash dispenser. Additionally, he did in fact run the portfolio at the height of Slovene economic expansion but it remains debatable how much of the expansion was due to his, his party’s and his government’s policies and how much was simply due to going with the flow of the pre-crash casino capitalism. Conversely – and with hindsight – he did precious little to cool down the overheated economy.

No maverick

That is not to say, however, that he did not leave a mark. Reportedly, his obstinante refusal to sell the largest state owned bank Nova Ljubljanska Banka (NLB) resulted in Jože P. Damijan quitting as minister for development after only 91 days in office, a record that is yet to be broken. Also, Bajuk was wary of introducing flat-rate tax, a cause championed by Janša and his neo-liberal economic advisors (Damijan being among them). He formed an ad hoc group headed by Marko Kranjec (who would later become the Governor of the Bank on Slovenia) and which proposed a simplified-but-still-progressive tax system as well as reducing taxes on profits and other tweaks of the Tax Code. The final result was much closer to Kranjc’s proposal to what Damjan wanted, so Bajuk can be (co-)credited with thwarting a project which would most likely send Slovenia down the drain the moment The Great Recession finally struck.

One of his pet projects was also blowing a hole in the seemingly unbreakable bond between SLS (the other coalition partner, which by then had already reverted from SLS+SKD back to its old acronym) and DARS (state-owned motorways company). The latter was widely seen to have been SLS’ turf with people flowing almost freely between the party (more exactly, the transportation ministry the party traditionally held), DARS and several big consctruction companies, most of them now gone bust as the crisis took the construction sector with it.

However, on the whole Bajuk was not a political maverick. It was intimated to pengovsky that he more often than not saw Janša as his boss rather than a partner and acted accordingly. Obviously this did not win him a lot of friends either within the party or without and opposition within ranks was mounting. By the time 2008 elections were nearing it was plainly obvious that Janša was moving to dominate the entire right wing, mostly at the expense of SLS and NSi. The former barely escaped the trap Janša had set for them and made it to the parliament, while the NSi was not so fortunate and did not pass the 4-percent treshold. Whether Andrej Bajuk did not see what was going on or was unable to do anything about it is still a matter of some debate, but after the elections results came in on election Sunday in September 2008, Bajuk did not try to cling to his chair and bid for time but did the honourable thing and announced his resignation as party chief immediate, visibly shaken at being demoted to the status of a political has-been in a matter of minutes.


On a more personal note and not so much in line with a would-be obit, I must say that pengovsky found Andrej Bajuk to be a generally agreeable person. True, he had his share of blunders and transgressions, one of them being his losing temper with a reporter for TV Slovenia who as a result was removed from covering business stories. But on the whole Andrej Bajuk was a joyful person and despite the fact that pengovsky did not agree with him ideologically and on many policy issues I can say that his politics was more or less consitent and that he was generally fun to be around.

Andrej Bajuk died aged 67.

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Kresal Resignation Edges PM Pahor To Operational Default

Well, fuck me sideways! Turns out pengovsky overlooked a bloody important aspect of Katarina Kresal’s resignation, even though he brought the subject up some time ago: the legal provision of the government having to have two thirds of ministers appointed at any given time lest it be declared inoperative. Two thirds? More than two thirds, in fact. Which is a bit of a game changer.

Borut Pahor and Katarina Kresal (source)

Namely, with Katarina Kresal out, the government of Borut Pahor is down to ten out of fifteen full-blooded ministers (those without portfolio notwithstanding). Since Article 11 of the Law on Government stipulates the need to have more than two thirds of sitting ministers (and not “at least two thirds” as pengovsky previously thought.) Pahor’s government will be one minister short upon the parliament formally taking note of Kresal’s resignation.

Open mouth, insert foot

With this in mind, pengovsky’s yesterday assessment of political shrewdness of PM Pahor pales somewhat (talk about putting a foot in my mouth!). It all boils down to the fact that it would be easier for the prime minister to have yet another beleaguered minister than no minister at all. With the September session of the parliament being laden with heavy agenda, yet another resignation was the last thing Pahor needed. And yet, this is exactly what he will have to do. Question is, are we any closer to early elections, then?

Short answer: no. The September session of the National Assembly will indeed be crucial. First, there’s the resignation of Pavle Gantar as president of the parliament and the need to elect a new one. Then there’s the budget rebalancing act which aims to shave off 500 million euro in spending. Then there’s the fact that the three-month period during which vacant ministerial positions can be run by other ministers is fast running out. And now the resignation of Katarina Kresal which threatens to sink the government below the point of being legally defunct.

EDIT: President of the parliament Pavle Gantar tweeted that the parliament could convene in a special session to formally take note of Kresal’s resignation. Other than pushing the time-table a bit, this possibly has no effect, especially if Pahor puts forward a nominee for any of the vacant ministerial positions.

Keeping the count above ten

All of the above are critical. But in terms of short-term survival, all PM Pahor has to do is to nominate at least one new candidate for minister, keep the ministers count above ten and take it from there. The proper course of action would of course be to nominate candidates for all vacant ministerial positions but at this point in time this might prove to be a tall order even though ministers are appointed by a relative majority of votes. However, should this not happen and the PM remains with ten or less ministers, the fun starts.

Now, legal experts who like to see themselves all over the media go on and on about how this is an uncharted and legally murky territory and would like to have the above Article 11 amended to provide especially for the case of the government not having enough ministers mid-term. But fact of the matter is that the power to nominate the PM and the ministers resides with the parliament and should the government slip below 11 ministers, the procedure for electing a new PM should automatically kick in, with the president holding consultations with parliamentary groups on whom to nominate as new PM. And should no candidate get elected, the President of the republic could dissolve the parliament and call early elections. Things are really quite clear, it’s just a matter of following them through.

So, despite Pahor literally bleeding ministers we are still basically where we were two months ago. To fore early elections, one would need a behind-the-scenes agreement that the procedure to elect a new government will be “followed-to-fail”. Pengovsky just doesn’t see that happening. Janez Janša is screaming for early elections on Twitter but at the same time rules out any deal with Pahor whatsoever. This does not compute. If he really wanted early elections, he would have moved to call a confidence vote a long time ago. He doesn’t and thus he didn’t. Early elections are a non-option for SLS, DeSUS and SNS because they all risk of getting sidelined in the brouhaha that would surely ensue, whereas Zares appears to be fine with whatever happens. Their only problem is that they would like to see early elections preceded by fundamental constitutional changes, which – given the current dispersion of political power – is next to impossible.

Bottom line

Prime Minister Pahor is on the brink of “operational default”, so to speak. But he can still recover and limp towards regular elections some time in mid-2012. Odd are this is what he will elect to do. Question is, why?

On a more personal note: with all of the above in mind, my apologies for bitching about on Twitter how Radio Slovenia got its facts wrong in their morning news broadcast. Reporting was quite on the mark, but the subsequent mumbo-jumbo by legal experts was still unnecessary, as the procedures are clear enough even though they’ve never been employed.

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Katarina Kresal Resigns Over Audit Reports

Interior minister and leader of the junior coalition partner Liberal Democrats Katarina Kresal resigned from her ministerial post earlier today, following two damning reports from the Court of Audit and the anti-corruption commission over the leasing of the building of the newly formed National Bureau of Investigation.

Katarina Kresal in a pensive mood (source)

Kresal was in plenty of hot water over the course of the last three years, some of the ordeals were quite brutal. But she always somehow survived and even fought back. But she has only herself to blame this time around. While she was viled by the opposition (primarily, but not exclusively by the SDS of Janez Janša) for finally righting the terrible wrong this country has done to “the Erased” and dragged through the mud vis-a-vis the Canine Affair where she was guilty-by-association although no accusation or insinuation against her or her partner Miro Senica (a stellar attorney) was ever proven, the president of the LDS seems to have tied her own noose.


Having made the establishment of the National Bureau of Investigation a top priority soon after she was sworn in as the minister of interior, Kresal tasked state secretary Goran Klemenčič, her right hand man and the person who initially broached the idea of NBI to the public with making it happen. (slightly OT: Klemenčič was equally instrumental in starting to clean up the mess with the Erased and now, ironically, leads the very commission whose report caused Kresal to resign). The NBI was to be comprised of top notch cops and other professionals, with above-average pay and state-of-the art equipment. In short, top shit. So, where to house these super-cops?

One option was the new building originally meant to serve as the new interior ministry. That particular project on the outskirts of Ljubljana was OK’d by Kresal’s predecessor Dragutin Mate (now Ljubljana city councilman and head of the local SDS branch) regardless of the fact that the building site was across the street of the largest gas storage facility in Ljubljana. It then also emerged that under Mate’s deal the ministry, which was to rent the new building for two decades (and thus pay it off), would be contractually obligated to buy additional real estate, driving the seemingly good price way up into the sky. Additionally, the rent apparently did not include equipment, which would have added substantially to the final amount of monies needed. But if this option was not good enough (or rational enough) for the ministry, then it certainly wasn’t good enough for the flag-ship anti-crime institution.

Enough blame to go around

So, Mate was unnecessarily spending away taxpayers’ money. The Court of Audit said as much in its report, saying that Mate did not follow proper procedures for public tenders and private-public partnerships. It should be an easy one for Katarina Kresal. By axing Mate’s pet project she definitely won some points on the transparency scale, only to lose them the very next instant. Namely, the ministry decided to house the NBI in a yet-to-be-finished building developed by Jurij Pogačar. The latter gained infamy in 2002 during the SIB Bank affair, when the city of Ljubljana (the mayor back then was Vika Potočnik) bought the SIB bank with assets of city-owned Energetika Ljubljana (the city energy company) headed by none other than Pogačar himself. I will not go into details, but the SIB affair was a huge thing back then which even helped bring about the dissolution of the LDS and after the bank tanked shortly after being bought by the city, Pogačar was under suspicion for abuse of office, but never saw trial.

Making a deal with Pogačar, who just happened to be her friend (or good acquaintance, if you will) was a bad call from the start. It was executed even worse. Both the Court and the Commission found that the building which now houses the NBI should have been leased-to-own rather than just rented, with the rent as high as to enable Pogačar to comfortably pay off his own leasing of the building and ensuring him a hefty profit to boot. Not only that. Turns out that the tender was virtually tailor-made to fit Pogačar and that (again) proper public tender procedures were not followed.


This thing happened in two waves. First, the Court published its findings on Tuesday, criticising both Mate and Kresal. Since Mate is long out of office, all eyes are on Kresal (although the SDS maintains Mate is in the report only to make Kresal not look that bad). The interior minister offers to resign, but prime minister Borut Pahor does not accept her resignation, instead instructing her to follow recommendations of the Court of Audit. However, by the time the anti-corruption commission published its findings, Kresal was out of ammo. The commission report was just as damning, if not more, for it officially found elements of corruption in the events around the NBI building and Katarina Kresal, having spent her ace in the sleeve (offer to resign), had no choice but to quit her post for real.

With this the political career of one of the few truly new faces of Slovene politics took a nose-dive. What transpired here was (yet again) lack of political mileage of the illustrious LDS leader who arguably did manage to stabilise the party’s ratings and even brought it back to power after only one opposition term (even though it was quite a fall from 30% to 5% of votes). When the canine affair broke out, Kresal went AWOL. She was nowhere to be seen or heard for almost ten days. By the time she finally got her act together, she was already tried and convicted by the public opinion with a little help of the opposition parties which helped fuel the mass hysteria. However, this time around LDS president should have done better to keep quiet for a day or so and – assuming she wanted to survive politically – deal with both reports simultaneously. Granted, it may not have been enough to just “offer to resign” in the light of two highly critical documents, but having played the card after the first report was published, she couldn’t have done it again only twenty-four hours later.

EDIT @ 11 August 0900 CET: The below should be taken with a pinch of salt as there’s one element pengovsky overlooked. For complete picture read the next post as well.

On the other hand, PM Pahor showed much more political skill than his soon-to-be-ex interior minister. Pengovsky is almost positive that the PM knew beforehand at least the contours of both reports and had therefore no problem with refusing Kresal’s resignation the first time around, knowing that she wouldn’t survive the next one. In fact, this is very much according to Pahor’s modus operandi. The PM always (at least) nominally supports his colleagues who in the end resign of their own free will rather than have the PM throw them out of the government. Even Karl Erjavec in the end resigned of his own accord, saying that the PM had suffered enough.

So, how does this play out?

With Katarina Kresal out of office, she will probably be returning to the parliament. She was, after all elected as an MP first. This means that LDS veteran Tone Anderlič, who served as MP in every parliament since 1990 will loose his seat as he was not elected directly, but got into the parliament only after Kresal was appointed minister and Draško Veselinovič (of NLB infamy, who was next in line for her seat) waived the position. This was, by the way, was a fact completely lost on Rosvita Pesek, the TV anchor on state television which interviewed Anderlič earlier tonight. More importantly, Anderlič is also the president of LDS party council, whom Kresal will ask for a vote of confidence to continue to lead the party. We’ll see if an old party hand like Anderlič will be able to look beyond his removal from the parliament or will he do everything in his power to ensure a no-confidence vote against Kresal who, ironically, was re-elected as party leader by a large majority during the recent LDS convention.

Even more ironically, the situation we have now is not very much unlike what Gregor Golobič of Zares proposed months ago: that coalition party leaders return to the parliament as MPs and let someone else run the government with full support of the coalition (hat tip to the good doctor). As of today (more precisely, as of mid September, when the parliament will officially take note of Kresal’s resignation) prime minister Borut Pahor is the only party leader to serve in the executive branch. Every single one of his counterparts in the legislative branch. Janša, Golobič, Kresal, Erjavec, Žerjav, Jelinčič and Žnidaršič (yes, there’s a new party in the works), they are all MPs. Which makes Pahor a bit alone in the government. This means that a year-or-so before the elections, the balance of power has tipped very much in the parliament’s favour and the PM might find himself in a position where others are dictating the terms, especially with him running a minority government and all.

Early elections still not an option

In fact, resignation of Katarina Kresal could very well turn out to have been her one saving grace. With her out of office, right-wing opposition lost an important target which they attacked every time they needed to paint the ruling coalition as a bunch of ruling and inept morons and especially trying to create a wedge between PM Pahor and the rest of the coalition. Just as Gregor Golobič was all over news ever since he re-entered the parliament (he was barely touched by the media unless it was about the Ultra affair), so will Katarina Kresal get the chance to speak on everything from budget rebalancing act to Palestinian declaration of sovereignty. And within a year, the NBI building might be just a faint memory, especially due to the fact that opposition leader Janez Janša himself is to stand trial in little less than a month’s time over Patria affair.

In the wake of today’s events most of the parliamentary parties called for early elections. Even the ruling Social Democrats hinted that maybe they could come to some sort of an agreement. But this is all bullshit. For the time being, LDS remains a part of what is left of the ruling coalition, unless there is a coup in the party. And – even more importantly – even though Kresal is out of office, priorities of individual parties are the same as they were two months ago.

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London? Yes, London!

Looking at the rampage and looting in London, I can’t help but think of the Ljubljana student riots last year. Compared to what is going on in the British capital, rioting in Ljubljana was a walk in the park, but remembering how appalled pengovsky was after chairs, stones and bottles were being throw above his head into the parliament building and riot police, I can relate to the many Londoners’ outrage at the senseless violence that engulfed the city.


Now, it should be clear that – as far as pengovsky gets it – there was a legitimate reason for protests which then spiralled out of control into thuggery and violence. The police shooting of a suspect in Tottenham, regardless of whether it was justified or not, is never peanuts. And if the community feels that police handling of the situation was to an extent racist, this is not something to be brushed aside.

Secondly, one doesn’t have to be a rocket scientist to put the rioting next to the recession which is apparently following the worst possible scenario. I submit to you that something along the lines of what we’ve seen in the past few days would be virtually impossible prior to, say, 2008. People, who did not benefit from the economic upswing of the past decades have zero incentive to care about anything save their immediate benefit when times get dire. Add to that the dose of revenge and a bleak future ahead and you can see how we come to a situation where the very fabric of the society disintegrates on 24/7 news. (hat tip to @multikultivator for the last two links)

However, having said that, I should point out that while the initial protests might have had legitimate grounds, anything beyond that point deserves nothing but some well directed police brutality. Minorities and/or socially excluded groups, that’s one thing. A lot needs to be done in that department all over Europe, London included. But teenagers and twenty-year-olds going out to have fun without any regard for property, dignity and fellow man (video via @AdriaanN) deserve nothing but a twice over with a baton and a long session in the courtroom.

But that’s where it should stop. I realise a lot of people are hurting and are enraged. But I must say I got the heebie-jeebies when I heard on the BBC that some people were thinking of bringing in the army. Please, don’t. You don’t want tanks on your streets, no matter how mad you are. As Bruce Willis put it in The Siege: “The Army is a broad sword, not a scalpel“.

I come from the part of the world where there was – not so long ago – plenty of army on the streets of its own accord. Indeed, even after Slovenia won the independence it took a while for the armed forces to retreat from the civilian life fully. The army, no matter how well meaning, doesn’t play by civilian rules. And it’s much easier to bring it to the streets than to take it off of them.

This thing will get sorted out. Maybe Dave and Boris will even be out of a job over it. But it should be solved using civilian means.


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Virtually all over the map (both geographically and otherwise) political forces that be have a huge political credibility problem. That in itself is hardly news. In Britain Tories and Labour alike are tripping over each other, trying to run away from Rupert Murdoch with whom they were schmoozing beyond any good taste only months earlier. In the US, Democrats and Republicans were playing chicken over country’s finances and en passant produced a needless crisis. In France, bombing the shit out of Ghadaffi was equally complemented by a would-be presidential challenger who has a problem keeping his fly closed and in Germany going after multi-kulti was the obvious answer to a lack-lustre economic recovery.

The list, of course, goes on and on. Hungary went from a government of fucking liars to semi-autocratic, press-muzzling and dangerously nationalistic rule. Italy and Belgium, we won’t even mention, while Slovenia went from deliberatly harmful to depressingly incompetent. This was all exasperated by the fact that the electorate, having succumbed (or adopted, whicever you prefer) to consumeristic dictum in all walks of life including politics, demanded ever quicker solutions for ever bigger problems without giving up much of the ever more comfortable life in return. In short, clusterfuck.

With the decline of political parties’ credibility, grass-roots organisations and pressure groups began gaining on prominence. Ranging from corporate special interest to NGOs, from environmentalist initiatives to labour unions and religious organisations, democracy was becoming increasingly horizontal.

The good old days

Slovenia, as always, is a bit of a special case. Civil society saw its heyday in the late 1980s, when existing mono-party channels becoming painfully insufficient to run (if not rule) the society. Things were happening which the ruling Communist Party – which appropriated for itself the role of the societal avant-garde – was unable to comprehend, let alone control. But since the Party in Slovenia on the whole opted for reform instead of oppression (although it wasn’t as clear-cut as the sentence might suggest), Slovenia of the time was replete civic organisations of virtually every flavour. You name it, Slovenia probably had it, chief among them being the Committee for Protection of Human Rights, which for all intents and purposes can be described as a text-book case of a grass-roots organisation. In terms of civil society, late 80s in Slovenia were as good as it gets.

With the advent of the nation-state, most of these initiatives either transformed into proper political parties or disbanded, their raison d’etre spent. But individuals from either of the two types were popping up in the political arena faster than you could say ‘multi-party elections’ and starting in 1990 it seemed that the civil society in Slovenia was non-existent in the traditional sense becuase it was in fact in power.


Fast forward fifteen years (give or take a few) and the situation was beginning to take shape it has today. Political parties, although still the only legitimate player in the political arena are fast losing the initiative in virtually every aspect and are for some time now looking to various supposedly non-political players for ideas and support. This, of course is nothing special. Think-tanks, lobby groups and NGOs do have a place in a democratic society and rightly so. In this respect, Slovenia is only coming up to speed with the rest of the developed world.

However. In addition to the above, political parties instead of trying to harness the flow of ideas that was at last being generated by re-emergence of the civil society started hi-jacking it. And in this the political right in Slovenia has built up an impressive lead. While a couple of think-tanks have emerged both on the left (most notably the Liberal Academy, widely connected to LDS and lately Forum 21, created by former President Milan Kučan) and the right (such as Jože Pučnik Institute) the right mostly went about artificially creating “popular” movements, either to gain legitimacy or to have them say and do things that were unbecoming to a mainstream political party. In short, we’re talking about astroturf initiatives (hat-tip to Cornelius for this one)

One of the earlies examples of political astroturf was (and still is) Aleš Primc, former member of Slovene People’s Party (SLS) who took to baricades when the law on in-vitro fertilisation was debated and which proposed that single women without a pre-existing medical condition were eligible for IVF. Until then IVF was the last resort for couples which failed to conceive children any other way. The political right saw this as an attack on everything that was holy, natural and traditional and Primc’s initiative was used to go below and beyond the level of what was considered an acceptable debate at that time (way back in 2001).

The same, but worse

Careful observers did not miss the fact that those same issues (holy, natural and traditional) were raised again recently as the Family code was debated and passed and is now awaiting the fate of a referendum bid initiated by – you guessed it – Aleš Primc. The only difference between today and ten years ago is that the right wing parties of today are using Primc’s rhetoric of a decade ago, while Primc is saying everything they think but can’t say today.

Much more civilised but no less artificial are various initiatives of “concerned citizens” who recently took it upon themselves to cut short the life of the incumbent government of Borut Pahor. The self-styled “resetters”, a group of more or less high profile individuals including Gregor Virant, Žiga Turk, Janez Šušteršič, Marko Pavliha, Matej Lahovnik and Rado Pezdir first called for “a reset of Slovenia”, later upgraded that with a web petition to call early elections and got around 19k signatures to date. All fine and dandy even you don’t agree with them, but with one caveat: four of those individuals are former ministers. Turk and Virant served during Janša’s government, Pavliha and Lahovnik served under PM Tone Rop, with Lahovnik returning for another stint under Pahor, but both of them becoming bitter opponents of the current government (Pavliha over Arbitration Agreement, Lahovnik over TEš6 power plant). Janez Šušteršič and Rado Pezdir, however, were connected to Slovenian Macroeconomic Forum (a proper think-tank) which provided Janez Janša with a ready-made neoliberal economic platform prior to his 2004 electoral victory. To sum it up – nothing remotely grass-roots here, only people with their own political agendas.

Ditto for the Group of Active Citizens, headed by Matej Makarovič who last month brought together Tone Jerovšek, Borut Rončević, Lovro Šturm, Matevž Tomšič and Andrej Umek and pointed out the need to return to the roots (sic!) of “Slovene Spring” of 1988-1990. Of six individuals three served as ministers (Šturm, Jerovšek and Umek) while the other three are professors at some of the newly formed Slovene faculties which came into being with in the last decade. But a special mention goes to the leader of this outfit, Matej Makarovič (whom pengovsky fondly remembers as assistant lecturer during his days at the social sciencies faculty) whose forays into the political include being president of the SDS youth organisation and later being named honorary president of the same. Again, rather than true grass-roots, this congregation is pure astroturf.

Laying waste

And last but certainly not least we come to the the Assembly for the Republic, currently headed by (surprise, surprise) Gregor Virant. This assembly was created before the 2004 elections to drum up additional support for Janez Janša. While it never presented itself as a genuine grass-roots organisation it did not fulfil its initial promise to watch over the government regardless of the outcome of the elections. As Janša ultimately won the 2004, the Assembly for the Republic almost died off, briefly re-appearing in 2006 to support France Arhar in his unsucessful bid for Ljubljana mayor (Zoran Janković won with a landslide) and then went dormant until 2008 elections where it acted in Janša’s favour much more directly but to little avail. The left wing won the elections and Borut Pahor was appointed Prime Minister, while the Assembly for the Republic went dormant yet again, only to re-surface recently as early elections were mulled.

Astroturfing in Slovenia of course does not end there but goes on and on and on. And it will continue to do so since political parties (mostly right wing) have long taken their fight outside the parliament and onto other venues, civil society being one of them. To an extent this is to be expected in a country as small as Slovenia, but what they fail to see is that they are in fact laying waste to the society as a whole. And at the end of the day, when they find out their ratings don’t match their expectations, their only reaction is to serve us with more astroturf.

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