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.
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.