As hinted at in pengovsky’s last post, which – admittedly – was published shamefully long ago, PM Alenka Bratušek is apparently going to move for a vote of confidence in the coming days. That she is going to tie the confidence vote to passing of the 2014 budget, made most of the pundits declare this as eyewash, since the budget is usually hammered out during tense intra-coalition negotiations and if you make it that far, you’re pretty much home safe. However, in case of PM Bratušek, this is only half (of a third of) the story.
PM Alenka Bratušek (source)
As pengovsky noted some time ago, the budget is half-guesswork, half-black-magic and all politics. In case of Slovenian 2014 budget, this means steering between a drive to raise taxes, a rush to lower expenditure and a dive to avoid the troika (yes, it’s that time of the year again). What Bratušek and her finance minister Čufer did was apparently something in between, looking to raise additional EUR 500 million in a EUR 9 billion budget with a set of new property taxes and decoupling of income-tax breaks and inflation (where your level on non-taxed earnings rose automatically as the inflation rose). On the other hand, they’re trying to slash expenditures, even in the science and education sector while apparently allocating funds for infrastructure projects. Thirdly (and this is their primary short-term goal) they’re waiting for the final approval from “Brussels-am-Berlin” to start the bad bank, which is supposed to ease the credit crunch. Not that anyone is holding their breath. Translation: Surviving 2014 is the main priority, everything else (including any meaningful growth) is secondary.
It seems the coalition parties sort of underst-ood that and will support the budget despite heavy posturing, especially by DeSUS and SD. In this respect the confidence vote can be considered as simply more posturing. But if one takes a look at what PM Bratušek was and still is going through politically, the confidence vote is the long-overdue curved ball she desperately needed to throw.
Just take a look at the Gašpar Gašpar Mišič business. Her hand was forced in that particular mudfight and as pengovsky told the European Voice, it went against her politically, since she tried to block Gašpar Mišič’s appointment as CEO of Port of Koper, but failed. That alone damaged her position quite heavily, not to mention the rest of the coalition which was crying bloody murder over political appointments in state-owned firms (yes, there is a lot of irony in this sentence). That SD, DeSUS and DL were more into undermining her than actually giving a pair of fetid dingo’s kindeys over Gašpar Mišič is now obvious now. Namley in the wake of the appointment SOD, the state fund which owns much of the port, was clamouring for shareholder meeting where enough supervisory board members of the company would be replaced to have Gašpar Gašpar Mišič removed from the position. And yet, the man is still head of the Port of Koper. You do the math.
Furthermore there is the looming party congress for Positive Slovenia, now scheduled for mid-October, where the commentariat is going ga-ga over the remote possibility of Zoran Janković running for party chieftain yet again. In pengovsky’s opinion Zoki is not going to run, but that did not stop a group of party members to nominate him for the position. Of course, this means nothing if Janković doesn’t agree to the nomination (he has about a week to do so) and it is quite possible that he is trying to make life difficult for those within the party who are side-lining him. On the other hand, the party is going to have a mail-in elections, with results being declared on the day of the congress. This, apparently, was done to prevent Janković taking the stage at the 11th hour, swaying the crown in situ and make a killing. It seems Janković understands this and is only making a nuisance of himself. You know, just to sour the milk a bit. That he is officially still mum on the issue only further strengthens the point.
Thus tying the confidence vote to an agreed-upon budget is a rather cunning move. There is zero chance of coalition parties bailing out, while at the same time PM Alenka Bratušek and her government get a renewed oath of allegiance and at least temporarily closes ranks. Not to mention the fact that upon entering office, Bratušek said she will call a confidence vote within a year. What we have here, is in fact a neat little political hat-trick.
There is an art, rather, a knack tp calling a confidence vote. Former PM Janez Janša knew how to do it. And whoever advises Bratušek politicaly, is pretty good at this game, too.