Janez Šušteršič Enters The Badlands

Speculation time. Based on nothing more than his political prowess, sixth sense and a Chinese fortune cookie, pengovsky calls minister of finance Janez Šušteršič resigning or “being resigned” within three to six months. Moreover, Šušteršič will probably be in for a rude shock as his Citizens’ List (DL) will not follow suit, leaving the coalition the ruling coalition to churn on.

The last one to laugh… Gregor Virant and Janez Šuteršič (photo by Jože Suhadolnik/Delo)

The case for this is relatively simple. In the last couple of weeks the DL and its president Gregor Virant were browbeaten on many occasions. Shortly after assuming office, the government forced changes to the State Prosecution Act, transferring State Prosecution from the portfolio of justice minister Senko Pličanič (DL) to that of Vinko Gorenak (SDS). Some months later, finance minister Šušteršič found himself foot-in-mouth on the issue of bank recapitalisation, when he was forced to OK state recapitalisation of the largest (and state-owned) NLB bank despite his prior assurances that not a euro of taxpayers’ money will be spent on saving the terribly exposed banking sector. It was all sell-it-all-the-market-will-recognise-its-own until then, but when push came to a shove… well.. you know the rest. Slightly before that, the government in general and Šušteršič specifically got a bit of a bloody nose in a relatively hard riposte by OECD. The organisation whose member Slovenia longed to become for more than ten years (finally succeeding some two years ago) was utterly unhappy about government’s plans to bring state-owned companies back under the executive’s direct control as one of the membership conditions was to institute safeguards which would prevent direct political influence being brought to bear. Pahor’s government didn’t do an especially brilliant job on that either, but apparenty it was better than what Šušteršič had in mind. And finally, Šušteršič was the subject of a very public dressing-down last week when the government rejected his 2013 and 2014 budget drafts.

Now, it goes without saying that all of these fails were politically coordinated. While Šušteršič was the key architect of austerity Slovenian way, the idea was subscribed to by virtually every single member of Janša’s cabinet, trying desperately to be the best pupils in the “Merkel School of Economics”. According to media reports, the government is mulling a new austerity package, despite being painfully obvious that across-the-board cuts have failed both at home as well as internationally. Austerity, banking policy, government direct control over companies and budget drafts, these things don’t happen overnight. They are mulled, debated, sketched, re-drafted and finally submitted for approval. A lot of people from a lot of parties are involved with this. But now, as austerity is finally coming out of fashion, you can rest assured that it will all be blamed on the politically naive finance minister. But that will be only the pretext.

The real reason for an all-out against Šušteršič and Virant is the semi-silent turf-war that has been raging between DL and SDS for some months now. As pengovsky noted in one of the previous posts it’s all about who gets to sit on which board of which state-owned company. To victor go the spoils and SDS feels there’s only one party which fits the description (and it ain’t Zoran Janković‘s Positive Slovenia, if you catch my meaning). But the main difference between Virant and Šušteršič is that the former is very much adaptable and will go to great lengths to keep what he has acquired (politically). Even if it means having to sacrifice the man over whom (allegedly) he took a stand against Janković in the first coalition negotiations and ushered the second coming of Janez Janša.

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Trouble In Paradise

It’s the silly season and it shows. News is slow and it mostly consists either of Olympics, the continuation of eurozone crisis or wildfires. That and the ever louder coalition quarrels. In fact, days ago things got a bit ugly. And then some.

Picture almost unrelated (source)

While it has become customary for politicos to scuffle on Twitter along the coalition/opposition lines, friendly fire is much less common. An example of the former we could witness today, shortly after Police Commissioner Janko Goršek (the top cop) announced that he was leaving the post on 1 October. What is most probably a case of you-can’t-fire-me-I-quit! was more or less expected ever since Janša 2.0 came into existence. Police is too important a system to be left unto its own devices, no? You gotta have party hacks reliable people running it, if your boss is on trial for corruption charges and was somewhat humiliated by appearing on a TV show whose anchor was arrested a day later on blackmail charges.

Never the less produced a lively exchange between interior minister Vinko Gorenak and his immediate predecessor Aleš Zalar (who was acting minister after Katarina Kresal resigned in August 2011). Zalar tweeted that with this Gorenak is probably ready for interpelation proceedings while Gorenak shot back whether Zalar might be helping the opposition in drafting the document. It went downhill from there, with Gorenak finally tweeting that he only deals with Zalar as a sort of a hobby. Which can come across rather kinky, if you look at it from the right perspective 😉

But this is just a sideshow, albeit one with nasty effects coming later in the year. The real shit was happening between Janez Janša‘s SDS and Gregor Virant‘s Citizens’ List. The two coalition parties entered a bit of a turf war over who gets to appoint whom in various state-owned firms with SDS aiming to share as few spoils as possible. Virant made his displeasure known and earned a retort on official SDS Twitter account saying that “Virant can not pass a microphone without uttering stupidites”. Which is a nasty thing to say to the president of the parliament, especially if he’s your coalition partner.

But the real shocker came a week later. Contrary to all expectations, the government rejected draft budgets for 2012 and 2013, instructing minister of finance Janez Šušteršič (number two honcho in Virant’s party) to go back to the old drawing board. This was complemented with an official SDS tweet asking how can the finance minister be absent for a budget session of the cabinet

Now… In all fairness, the government is fully entitled to reject any draft document. It is what it does. Rejects and accepts. Furthermore, it is unusual for a minister to be absent when his documents are debated. But it has happened before. That’s why we have State Secretaries. To stand in when minister is not available. Also, given that state finances across Europe at this time look more like guess-work than real accounting, the rejection could be considered just a change of plans. However, the fact that Šušteršič is the architect of this government’s austerity plan and knows more about finances than the rest of the government put together (and that ain’t saying much!) combined with the above tweet amounts to nothing less than a public political dressing down of a man whom pengovsky already said is probably earmarked as the fall guy when thing will go badly wrong.

And badly wrong they will go. As you know, Slovenia’s credit rating was cut down recently to just a notch above “junk” which means that we are more or less fucked. Even the former happy-go-merry market fundamentalists the likes of Jože P. Damijan who made a name for themselves by advocating flat-rate tax during Janša 1.0 have come to their senses and are now opposing across-boar-austerity, instead advocating the Krugman-Roubini gospel of jump-starting the economy as the government’s top priority.

There’s trouble in paradise and I ain’t talking an Ernst Lubitsch film, if you catch my drift. Members of the self-styled “coalition to save Slovenia” are slowly but surely going for each other’s throats while the world around them crumbles to pieces. That SDS went after Virant yet again only days ago only further proves the point.

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The Butt-Grabbing Presidential Candidate

This one should really be filed under “bizzare” but hey… Elections will usually lure out a share of attention seeking loonies and this time around it’s no different. Case in point being Ladislav “The Singing Major” Troha who announced his bid today. But the one who actually grabbed headlines was Fani Eršte. Media described her as “an no-name candidate” whose platform consists of tackling issues of Roma population, welfare, social inequality, health and foreign nationals.

The Fani (source)

However, among Ljoobljanchans Fani is anything but an unknown quantity. A homeless person, she is a permanent fixture of many a crowded place and subject of many legends. Among other things she is said to have had her own late night radio show years ago but also to have been forbidden entry into every casino in the city because she always won. I don’t know how much of this is true. Probably not even a little. But I do know something.

Some years ago, while yours truly was still DJing chez Cutty Sark, Fani grabbed my butt.
How’s that for my claim to stardom? :mrgreen:

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Get The Funk Out!

Positive Slovenia is again dogged by MP problems. After it transpired that durng Cold War the gentleman journalist Mitja Meršol, MP did some legwork for Yugoslav secret service on the side, the party was again faced with a problematic MP. This time it is Borut Ambrožič who while writing his M.A. thesis on asbestos allegedly copied (well, stole) large portions of another student’s B.A. thesis.

Borut Ambrožič, still-sitting MP (photo: Leon Vidic/Delo)

Thus Ambrožič joins an ever longer line of Slovenian MPs cutting one corner too many. Specifically he finds himself in the dubious company of Branko Marinić (SDS) and Ivan Simčič (DeSUS) who have had their own educational misconduct uncovered in the past couple of years. Marinić was found guilty of swapping identities when taking a German exam (someone else tried to take the test for him) while Simčič was discovered to have falsified his high-school graduation certificate (the statute of limitation expired by the time this was made public and no charges were pressed).

Admittedly, there seems to be a lot of trigger-happy copy-pasting going around these days. But unlike former German defense minsiter Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, former vice-president or European Parliament Silvana Koch-Mehrin or former Hungarian President Pal Schmitt, Ambrožič didn’t see it fit to resign his post.

In this he followed rather sorry examples of Marinič, Simčič and even Meršol but with one important caveat. This time around Ambrožič was urged to quit by his own party. Which is almost a first in Slovenia. In 2006, during Janša government 1.0, an SDS MP Pavel Rupar resigned his post after a highly publicised corruption scandal (which also included his ex-lover). But as of late, it is the politicians academic credentials that have become, well, game, for journos to take pot shots at. What sets Ambrožic case apart from every other case in Slovenian politics thus far is the fact that Ambrožič was asked by PS leader Zoran Janković to quit (well, probably told to quit, but not in so many words), but he refused.

You see, under the constitution an MP is not bound by whatever instructions the party or anyone else may have for him. In short, they are free to decice for themselves what to do politically and how to do it. This, of course, includes the execution of their mandate. It is logical for it to be so. MPs are representative of the people. Plural, in both cases. No matter how many or how few MPs there are, all of them together and every one of them individually act as representatives of the entire population. Sure, most of the votes are taken along the party or coalition lines, but whenever a push comes to shove, an MP can decide to defy party policy.

Which is something Ambrožič was keen to give the appearance of. But in reality, he did everything wrong. He denied any wrongdoing although the case against him appears solid (computer analysis shows the original B.A. thesis was copied by as much as 97%). When pressed, he claimed that it was all a media campaign against him directed by sinister forces. And when his arm was being twisted, he said that it was for the party to decide what to do. Which is of course pure bullshit. The party can not recall him. Nor can the voters (barring new elections, of course). What Ambrožič pretends not to understand is that the responsibility for his political actions rests solely with him. “Pretends” because he is fully aware of the fact that he can not be forced to quit, but shirks away from making a decision because that is what he thinks guarantees political survival.

And this is the point. MPs are not elected to not make decisions. Exactly the opposite. This doesn’t mean their decisions are sound or even logical, but they are there to make them. Of their own accord or via party directive. Again, it doesn’t really matter (not in this case, anyhow). Even Branko Marinič and Ivan Simčič understood that when they chose to weather it out and not resign. They did, however, both enjoy at least tacit support from their respective parties. Ambrožič, on the other hand, is making it his business to be everyone else’s business. The party doesn’t want him any more which means that he should at least have the decency to leave the PS parliamentary group, if he can’t muster the courage to quit for real (or prove his innocence and shove it down his former party’s throat). Bottom line, he wants decisions to be made for him, so he doesn’t have to.

And this is the basic test of any parliamentarian. You can’t make decisions? You’ve no business in the parliament. If not for copy-pasting his thesis, it is for inability to take decisions that Ambrožič should definitely get the fuck funk out of the parliament.

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