Remember, Remember, the Eleventh of November

Back to politics. President of the parliament Gregor Virant signed a decree yesterday scheduling presidential elections on 11 November. The fact that the first of expected two rounds of presidential elections will be held on St. Martin’s Sunday, when Slovenes, well, celebrate turning of must into wine – by drinking even more copious amounts of alcohol than usual – caused many a smirk around the country (“so, which of the two ballots do I fill out?”), but will in all honesty have only modest impact.

Gregor Virant doing the deed (photo by yours truly)

In fact, it is unclear at this stage exactly what will have an impact on the presidential campaign. If the trend of the ever more vicious campaigns is to continue, we’ll surely witness many below-the-belt punches, mudslinging and manipulations.

Officially, the campaign starts around 11 October and no candidate has yet formally filed his candidacy. Some weeks ago Zmago Jelinčič, leader of the nationalist party (now ousted from the parliament) withdrew his presidential bid, saying he refuses to be a part of the system which will be this country’s undoing. Again, this drew some cynical laughter, as Jelinčič himself was a member of the parliament for twenty-one nineteen years, from 1992 to 2011 and was very much an integral part of that very same system, knowing full well how to exploit it for his own personal and political gain.

But with Jelinčič out of the picture (although pengovsky would not be surprised if he were to re-enter the game at 11th hour), we are now left with five candidates: incumbent Danilo Türk, Milan Zver MEP, who runs on an SDS ticker and erstwhile PM Borut Pahor who runs on an SD ticket. Additionally, there are two no-name candidates, Marko Kožar and Monika Malešič. The latter made a couple of headlines earlier today claiming that she’s receiving death threats. This, we can more or less safely file under “attention whoring”, since both of them will probably poll between 0,1 and 0,4 percent. Cumulative.

As a side note, Gregor Virant and his Citizens’ List indulged in yet another case of political vanity. Some weeks ago Virant hinted that his party might consider supporting Pahor, which to an extent further alienated Pahor from the left side of political spectrum (where Social Democrats nominally reside). Then, days ago Virant said that they might produce their own candidate with the caveat that this person has not yet given his/her consent and, finally, yesterday he somewhat reluctantly said that they will not put forward their own candidate but will support one of the already running ones. Which basically leaves them with either Pahor or Zver. The thing is that Virant’s party is scoring somewhere between terrible and disastrous right now which is why the whole thing came off as a really bad bluff. Fact of the matter is that – politically speaking – the Citizens’ List has precious little weight left to throw around outside the parliamentary chamber. Practically none.

This leaves the three main contenders for the top political job in the country. According to the latest poll, President Türk is firmly in the lead with 45 percent of the vote, with Borut Pahor trailing at 30 percent and Milan Zver way back with 17 percent. Pahor made some gains recently, but that can mostly be put down to his increased media presence while both Türk and Zver are criss crossing the country, campaigning on the ground.

Ever since Borut Pahor entered the race it seems a given that a second round will be necessary to elect a president. Additionally, it seems safe to assume that President Türk will make it into the second round comfortably (provided there are no serious gaffes), which means the race for second place between Borut Pahor and Milan Zver will be much more interesting. Which makes for ample speculation room as to whom exactly the current PM Janez Janša actually supports.

While not exactly necessary, all three candidates will run with popular support, basically as independents with support of various political parties, collecting signatures and thus avoiding running on a strictly party ticket. Which makes one curious as to why the PM did not put down his signature in support of Milan Zver. True, Janša’s SDS (in cahoots with NSi) supports Zver on, well, corporate level, but given that a lot of high-profile SDS and NSi members put their individual names down supporting Zver makes Janša’s absence from the list all the more curious.

The eleventh of November is still quite a distance away, but it could very well be that it will be the one to remember.


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#prevodikomadov – the playlist

A lovely thing happened yesterday in Slovene twitosphere. Yours truly started a little shtick where one posted a Slovenian translation of a verse of a song, whereupon everyone else were to guess the performer and song title. The first person to guess correctly was then entitled to continue the thread, while his/her correct answer was confirmed via a re-tweet by the verse’s originator.

#prevodikomadov trending on

The whole thing was being run under the hasthag #prevodikomadov which roughly corresponds to “lyrics translation” and it started trending relatively quickly, securing the top position in Slovenian Twitter trends fairly soon. And while pengovsky came up with the idea and the hashtag, it should be noted that @loudanvicked helped craft the final rules of the game and that the whole thing would get out of control hadn’t he, @DavorinPavlica and many others helped curate the whole thing.

It all started with this innocent take on Shout by Tears for Fears

and ended some 360+ tweets (and counting) later. Granted, not all of these tweets included an actual verse. Some were merely guiding (curating) tweets, others were the same solutions by multiple users to the same verse, still others RTs of correct answers. But since I really can’t be bothered to sift through the entire CVS file, let’s just take things at face value and proclaim @DavorinPavlica as the most active user of #pravikomadi (myself excluded for obvious reasons).

Here’s Davorin’s take on Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin

And while we’re at it, a special shoutout goes to the one and only Boštjan Gorenc – Pižama, the top-tier stand-up comic and most excellent translator of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice saga. This is how @Pizama sees Under the Bridge by Red Hot Chili Peppers in Slovenian:

And since bizarre picks are bizarre, a hat tip to @jkmcnk for floating this special gem of Slovenian electro-pop: Fredi Miler – Vedno si sanjala njega

And here’s the complete #prevodikomadov playlist, as submitted by 0020 hrs this morning. Seventy-two songs, in order of appearance:

Tears for Fears – Shout
A-ha – Cry Wolf
Deep Purple – When A Blind Man Cries
Snoop Dog – Aint Nutt’n But G Thang
Lewis and the News – Power of Love
Blur – Girls and Boys
Jimmy Reed – Big Boss Man
Korn – Twisted Transistor
Pixies – Where is my mind
Bad Religion – Generator
Bob Dylan – Motorpsycho NIghtmare
Johnny Cash – A Boy Named Sue
Led Zeppelin – Whole Lotta Love
Dire Straits – Sultans of Swing
Bruce Springsteen – Lucky Town
Beatles – Day in life
Led Zeppelin – Dyer Maker
Chop Suey – SOAD
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Under the Bride
Rolling Stones – Sympathy for the devil
Pink Floyd – Money
Flogging Molly – What’s Left Of The Flag
Kylie Minogue – Can’t Get You Out Of My Head
Zaz – Je Veux
Bob Dylan – All Along The Wathctower
Liza Minelli – Cabaret
Taio Cruz ft Flo Rida – Hangover
Deep Purple – Hush
Fredi Miler – Vedno si sanjala njega
Rage Against the Machine- Killing in the Name
Bonnie Tyler – Total Eclypse Of The Heart
Jerry Reed – Tupelo Mississippi Flash
Sum 41 – We’re All To Blame
Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb
The Doors – The End
Bruce Springsteen – Tougher Than The Rest
Amy Winehouse – You Know I’m No Good
Mick Jagger – Wired All Night
Buffallo Springfield – For What It’s Worth
Monty Python – Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
Prodigy – Smack my bitch up
Azra – Pametni i knjiski ljudi
Slayer – Can’t Stand You
Survivor – Eye of the Tiger
The Andrews Sisters – Bei mir bist du schön
Jet – Are You Gonna Be My Girl
Sting – Roxane
Arctic Monkeys – When The Sun Goes Down
George Michael – Praying for Time
Michael Jackson – Beat It
Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed
KUD Idijoti – Punk`s njet mrtav
U2 – Zooropa
Beatles – Ain’t She Sweet
Alice In Chains – Down In A Hole
Grand Funk Railroad – Heartbreaker
Zabranjeno Pušenje – Zenica blues
Pink Floyd – Time
Amon Amarth – Twilight Of The Thunder God
Procol Harum – A Whiter Shade of Pale
Radiohead – Green Plastic Trees
Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart
Outasight – Figure 8
The Temptations – Papa Was A Rolling Stone
Lou Rawls – You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine
Maja Keuc – I’m a Tree and You’re a Baloon
Stereophonics – Maybe Tomorrow
Pink Floyd – Hey You
Status Quo – Whatever you Want
Bjelo Dugme – Hajdemo u planine
Rednex – Cotton Eye Joe
The Arcade Fire – Rebellion (Lies)
Sunrise Avenue – Hollywood Hills
Radiohead – Karma Police

I loved it! And if I missed or miscounted anything, feel free to correct me in the comments section 😀

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Getting Fired For Actually Doing Something?

Finance daily ran a story yesterday about PM Janez Janša is set to kick interior minister Vinko Gorenak and justice minister Senko Pličanič out of the government come Autumn. While the government communication office denied the rumours (PM Janša remains mute on the issue) the story might actually have legs given its proximity to last week’s scare about the vote of confidence.

In foreground: Senko Pličanič, left and Vinko Gorenak, right (Photo by Matej Družnik/

At any rate, a government reshuffle is quite embarrassing this early in the term of the current administration, but is also far from problematic. In fact, it has become something of a tradition for a Janša administration. Early on during his 2004-2008 stint at the top job Janša had to find a replacement for Jože P. Damijan, who resigned his post as development minister after only three months in office, reportedly due to falling out with then-finance minister Andrej Bajuk over (non)selling of NLB. Slightly off-topic: in hindsight it appears Damijan had a point back then and lost no time rubbing it in the face of his former boss (Google translate here)

It should also be said that neither Pličanič nor Gorenak (offically) have any knowledge of PM’s alleged bad blood, with Gorenak writing up a rather heavy rebuttal (again, google translation) but, interestingly, avoiding the finer points of Finance story. In fact, a lot of it is actually a classic non-denial.

But the gist of the story is somewhere else entirely. A week or so ago PM Janša appeared on Vroči Stol (Hot Seat) programme hosted by Vladimir “Vudu” Vodušek. What was basically a farcical re-run of a similar event four years ago would probably be forgotten soonest , had Vudu (now owner of a financially embattled Info TV cable TV station) not been arrested the very next morning on charges of extortion and blackmail, unofficially of a CEO of a hardware company. It was all highly embarrassing for the prime minister, who – according to the Finance story – went apeshit over not being told that Vudu was a target of a criminal investigation. And this is where things get interesting.

The only thing is that the PM is probably the last person on earth who can be told of an ongoing criminal investigation. In a democratic state politics stays out of police work. It takes the widest berth possible. Which is why Janša’s (again: alleged but not denied) reaction is highly symptomatic of how this administration sees this country: as a top-to-bottom controlled organism with no horizontally or vertically independent sub-systems and with the head knowing everything and making all the important calls. There’s a word for that and it ain’t democracy.

Minister Gorenak maintains that he never spoke to Janša about the investigation. Which is fine, even though one can understand the sentence as if he himself did have prior knowledge of the investigation (which he shouldn’t have, as the police is under his portfolio but not direct control). Which would – bizarre as it sounds – mean that interior minister Vinko Gorenak did something right for a change and is looking down the wrong end of a gun-barrel for it. Go figure. Not that he would be sorely missed, but still…

And as for minister Pličanič, he too is apparently getting the short shrift for doing too much rather than too little. According to media reports the past six months have seen (some sort of) results solely in the areas of financial austerity and public administration, the former being the portfolio of finance minister Janez Šušteršič while the latter is the domain of minister Senko Pličanič (both, incidentally, of Gregor Virant‘s Citizens’ List)

What Pličanič apparently didn’t understand was that he was meant to do as little as possible save perhaps a token effort here and there. He really should have gotten the message when the State Prosecution was detached from his portfolio (justice) and joined with internal affairs (ran by Gorenak). But as things stand, he seems to be poised to play the sad role of collateral damage.


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Vote of Confidence: How PM Janša Just Screwed Entire Slovenian Politics Dry

Speculation was rife in Slovenia today that PM Janez Janša will tie a confidence vote to tomorrow’s vote on initiating procedures to enshrine the fiscal rule in the constitution. In less than twenty-four hours the country found itself in the middle of a political cliffhanger, since the government does not have the necessary two-thirds majority to change the constitution. It was obvious from the outset, however, that the whole thing was nothing more than an elaborate bluff, it’s primary goal not being mustering the votes necessary but rather a disciplinary measure, smoking out this government’s “internal opposition” and bringing them back in line for much more crucial votes which this government faces down the road.


Namely, the government of Janez Janša enjoys a stable majority in the parliament. The coalition has 52 votes (53 if you count the overly-indulging former PM Borut Pahor) and can pass legislation virtually at will. In fact, this is exactly what it is doing, as the parliament only this week passed 20-or-so laws, most of them under emergency procedure. Not that there was any real emergency, but the government asked for multiple quickies and the MPs who support it complied no-questions-asked. Such is the discipline within the coalition and there really is no need for Janša to test whether or not he has the support of the parliament.

That Janša was entertaining the thought regardless shows only that he is willing to (ab)use legal instruments to further his own grip on power. Tying the vote of confidence to a 2/3 majority would create a legal and political clusterfuck of epic proportions because it would mean the fall of a majority government without a viable alternative coalition to replace it. Which would probably suit Janša just fine as he thrives in an uncertain environment and would most likely end up on top again, even stronger. Truth be told, he most likely already got what he wanted and thus screwed the entire Slovenian politics dry.

Namely, earlier this evening an 11th hour compromise was reached, putting the vote on fiscal rule off until September, which places the debate conveniently close to presidential elections. And let us not forget this is not the first time he pulled a stunt like that. Back then he did it a week after Danilo Türk was elected president, this time around he tricked others (namely, president of the parliament Gregor Virant) into placing a debate a few weeks before the elections, possibly hijacking the debate entirely.

As an added bonus, he also forced the hands of Karl Erjavec (DeSUS) who was immediately ready to jump ship saying that he’s willing to be a part of any coalition and of Radovan Žerjav (SLS), who openly toyed with the idea of yet another early elections, excluding up front the possibility of someone else heading the government under the same coalition. Both Žerjav and Erjavec will pay dearly for their political amateurism. Additionally, Igor Lukšič of Social democrats made a bit of a blunder, saying that “if the going really gets tough”, the SD will support the fiscal rule. Well, the going got tough long ago and Janša now has Lukšič by the you-know-whats as well and the newly minted SD leader will have to spend a lot of energy to get out of this particular fix.

Right now, fiscal rule is the least of Slovenia’s problems. While not peachy, national finances are a far cry from that of Greece, Spain or Portugal (public debt in Slovenia right now is about 47% of GDP). This country has other problems: banking sector is cause for immediate concern with pension, labour market and health reforms coming in close second, as detailed here by Edward Hugh of Economonitor

That after six months in office Janša tackled none of the above (even the banks are on hold until Autumn) only further strengthens the point that the whole point of today’s exercise was purely political with the ultimate goal of not relinquishing power, but tightening the already firm grip on it. After all, why would someone who six months ago went to great pains to clinch the PM spot, suddenly just give it up. Especially since he has this huge millstone hanging around his neck…


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Phone Hacking Slovenian Way

If you by any chance thought Slovenia is some sort of rump quasi-democracy with a crackpot neolib government, then you have the wrong idea, mister! In fact, this sorry little excuse for a country has everything big guys have, although you’re allowed to go pas assez cher, mon fils.

In fact, in certain aspects we’re very much like the United Kingdom. Not only did we have an allowances scandal, we have a finance minister who is forced to do an epic U-turn on matters of state finances and as of recent, just like United Kingdom we also have out very own phone-hacking scandal.

The incriminating text message. Interestingly enough, the background is red (gasp!) (source)

Interestingly enough, about a month ago, an article appeared on community (fairly good Google translate), detailing vulnerabilities of several Slovene mobile operators and provided proof of concept about hacking the entire GSM grid individual phone numbers and the possibility to fake text messages and phone calls.

Days ago several members of Christian democratic NSi, a junior coaliticon party, received abusive text (SMS) messages calling them traitors and saying they’ll burn in hell for their position vis-a-vis the red star symbol. As both readers of this blog know, it has been the semi-official position of this government that the red star is a symbol of the tyranical communist regime and occupator Yugoslav army which fought to quash the fledling Slovenian state in the 1991 War of Independence. As such, the goverment went, the red star should be outlawed or at the very least excluded from the collective memory and remembance, especially from any and all official celebrations of Slovenian statehood.

Nevermind the fact that the Partisan guerilla fighters liberated Slovenia in 1945 under the red star banner, making the one of the few home-grown armed forces to defeat the Nazi and Fascist armies, hell-bent on erradicating Slovenes from the face of the Earth. Nevermind the fact that under the red star banner Slovenia was able to claim Primorska region as its sovereign territory, previously held by Italy as booty for switching allegiances in World War I. Nevermind the fact that under the red star banner, Partisan units were considered a part of Allied forces in World War Two, helping hundreds of US, British and other airmen, downed on their sorties during bombing campaigns over Nazi Germany.

Never even mind the fact that today Heineken brewery is using a red star as a part of its logo or that Crvena Zvezda (Red Star) football and basketball clubs from Belgrade are doing the same, as are countless other companies around the world, including (but not limited to) Texaco, Macy’s and even the State of California.

And last, but ceratinly not least, the only military compound in the capital Ljubljana was recently renamed from Franc Rozman Stane (commander of Partisan forces, killed in an firing-range accident in 1944) to Edvard Peperko who was the first military casualty of the Battle of Trzin (outside Ljubljana), one of the largest fire-fights between the JNA (federal army) and Slovene paramilitary Territorial Defence in 1991. The fact that defence minister Aleš Hojs, who decreed the renaming is a member of NSi, which troubled itself to defeat the (admittedly ill-concieved) designation of a new Ljubljana avenue after the late Josip Broz Tito only adds gravity to the issue. Which is why plenty of hoopla was raised when days ago prominent members of NSi received those abusive text messages. But the twist is that Jernej Vrtovec, Matjaž Longar and Andrej Cimperšek got these texts either from each other’s phone numbers or (in case of Vrtovec) from their own alternative number.

Obviously all hell broke loose, Vrtovec, Longar and Cimperšek denied the possibility of simply sending texts to one another and a police investigation was launched while Telekom Slovenje conducted an investigation into phone hacking allegations. Well, guess what: turns out their phones were not hacked but rather various web-services were used to emulate any given phone number. That such a feat is possible in the first place speaks volumes of the security measures within this specific cellular network in the first place (edit: apparently, this is something local mobile operators can not block. Thx @gbozic). But even more importantly this sheds new light on a similar incident months before last year’s elections.

Back then Melita Župevc MP (previously, of SD now of PS) SAID a call was made to her mobile phone using her own phone number. Given the fact that Župevc was at the time head of the parlimanetary inquiry on financing pro-SDS free “newspapers” prior to 2008 elections, she cried murder, claiming that she was being threatened and pressured. Almost immediately she became the laughing stock of the political right wing, with some even insinuating she’s delirious and hallucinating. And when their phones get allegedly hacked, they raise living hell as if it never happened before.

This government, despite facing a daunting task of handling the financial, economic and social crisis brought about by the 2008 crash, is making it its business to rewrite history and chase ghosts. Not only by banishing the red star wherever it sees one, but also by renaming army instalations which held the names of prominent Partisan leaders and screaming bloody murder when someone (perhaps even one of their own) does unto them what they laughed at when it was done unto others.

In fact, if you think Slovenia is a rump quasi-democracy with a crackpot neolib government, chances are, you’e not that far off.

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