When In Doubt, Cut Through It And Call A Referendum

For the past week or so, Slovenia has been blanketed by ice. A cold snap combined with heavy snowfall followed by nearly constant rainfall provided ideal conditions for an ice storm that defies anything within living memory. Trees feel, power lines had snapped and as much as a quarter of population were left without electricity at the peak of the storm, with blackout lasting for almost a week in some parts of the country.

The Glorious Leader cutting up firewood (source)

Transport was severely limited with motorways closed and rail services suspended, while electronic communications were disrupted occasionally. An engineer was killed while his crew were repairing a powerline in the Pohorje area near Maribor. In short, the country was plunged into a mini ice age for a couple of days, with first responders and the army doing an amazing job of protecting lives and property as well as restoring services. Special shoutout goes to the scouts (taborniki) of Postojna, one of the areas hit he hardest, who organised an emergency centre (aka hotspot) after the municipality administration failed to do so for a number of days, to dismay of many.

…meanwhile, on Planet Right…

But, as if existing in a parallel universe, an ice age of different sorts hit the Slovenian political right. For about a decade and a half, the right-wing food-chain was firmly established with Janez Janša on top, his SDS immediately below him and the SLS and the NSi competing for the role of monkey-boy. Usually, it was SLS which every now and then showed cojones and common sense, occasionally departing from the Janša line, but they always paid a price down the road. NSi, on the other hand, were the faithful bag-runners, asking “how high” whenever JJ said “jump”. Well, guess what…

That the NSi was growing a spine, did not go unnoticed by pengovsky. But this time around, the bets are apparently off as the quarrel is getting out of control, to the point of both parties claiming support from the members of the other party. The apparent casus belli was new law on archives proposed by the government and – gasp! – supported by Nova Slovenija. The thing is that ever since it got caught red-handed with “creative copying” of archive material, Janša’s party has been using a couple of pawns doing their dirty work for them. This meant that people such as Igor Omerza and Roman Leljak, self-proclaimed “history aficionados” who seem to busy themselves mostly with activities of UDBa, the former socialist secret police.

Blast from the past

A curious note: In 1988, when Janez Janša was in army prison during JBTZ trial, one Roman Leljak, officer of the Yugoslav Army Intelligence approached the Committee for Protection of Human Rights which wanted to see the four prisoners set free and offered to feed them inside info on the federal army. His contacts were Igor Bavčar (head od the committee) and – you guessed it – Igor Omerza. The two later decided Leljak couldn’t be trusted and severed contacts. Leljak went on to set up a magazine and run it into the ground and was later charged with and sentenced for fraud in two separate cases. But hey, I’m sure Igor Omerza today thinks highly of his fellow archive-gopher.

OMG, they’re EVERYWHERE!!!

Anyways, this UDBa theme was lately blatantly used to Janša’s political ends, as “exposing” became the leitmotif of his party’s politics, lately trying – via a parliamentary committee ran by SDS very own Eva Irgl –  to implicate former president Milan Kučan (after it had failed to implicate former president Danilo Türk years ago), suggesting he knew about the illegal activities of the secret service which had – according to Leljak – killed a member of Croatian Diaspora in Austria, one Stjepan Crnogorac. And while it was all a headline-grabbing, media-space-invading blitz, it soon transpired that Leljak’s was only a ploy for the SDS to assert that UDBa is in fact still running the country. As per latest blogpost by former interior (inferior?) minister and now MP for SDS Vinko Gorenak (Google translate here) who calculated that as many as thirty-seven (!) MPs siting in the parliament from 1992 onwards were UDBa agents or informants.

A quick round of maths: 90 seats in the parliament with six parliaments called until now, makes for 360 seats. According to Gorenak’s number, this would mean slightly more than 10 percent of all Slovenian MPs were/are somehow connected to UDBa. There is no indication as to how Gorenak arrived at this number. He tweeted that he had used old udba.net files, an alleged printout of UDBa database where a large portion of the population was identified by name and tagged either as an asset (operative, source), target or “not of interest”. Now, Gorenak used to be a high-ranking police officer in socialist times so he should know a thing or two about Yugoslav security services. Having held his Communist Party membership until the latter’s dying breath makes him doubly qualifies for this. Even more: having done name-by-name analysis, he could have very well told us which party has or had the most UDBa connected MPs. But he doesn’t. Something tells pengovsky not all “hits” would come from the political left.

But still, the former “member of a security apparatus of a totalitarian regime” manages to botch the whole thing up. Namely, the udba.net database was incomplete and at least partly forged. Not unlike the SDS’ “report” on president Danilo Türk, come to think of it. Anyways, point is, Gorenak is making up things as he goes, using compromised sources as he does it.

Running on empty

But it’s not really about the truth. It never was. The shenanigans are meant mostly to cover up the fact Janša is losing his mojo and is primarily concerned with his staying out of prison rather than plot his return to power. And although the not-guilty verdict for Patria officials in Finland gave Janša some breathing room (the collective orgasm of the political right upon the verdict was a sight to see), it is the Slovenian court which sentenced him to two years in prison. Janša appealed the verdict. Point is, SDS is running on empty idea-wise and in such a situation it is always cheaper and more immediately pleasing to send someone to dig through the archives and when the state wants to regulate usage of archive material (like anonimisation and pre-checking for sensitive content), to raise hell and declare anyone who doesn’t agree with you as UDBa collaborator.

Which is what more or less happened to NSi. They are now painted as turn-coats, collaborators with the communist regime, accessories to murder, even. All because they supported a government law which sets down some basic rules on arhive usage (where a free-for-all reigned before that). Now, the Christian-democratic NSi may be a great many things. And although pengovsky considers them a “natural” element of the political arena, their key positions are about as agreable as a three-day-old egg sandwich. But collaborators with the socialist regime, they are not. And yet, their move made Janša start the procedure to hold a referendum on the issue.

Call me a referendum

That’s right. Should Janša and his SDS collect 40.000 signatures, a referendum on this law must be held. All because Janez Janša doesn’t have the foggiest about what to do politically. He’s in a tight spot: he no longer runs the entire right-wing bloc, but can not afford to admit it because this would undermine his position within the party as well. Not to mention his standing with partner parties in the European People’s party. I mean, seeing PM Bratušek hit it off with Kanzlerin Merkel must have been hard enough for Janša. Now imagine Angie hooking up with Ljudmila Novak of the NSi?! With both their parties being of christian-democratic denomination, this is a viable option and Janša’s worst nightmare. Especially now, three months before European Elections.

And this is the second part of the equation. If all goes according to plan, the referendum would be held on the European election day, 25 May. This, the SDS argument goes, would mean a higher turnout of the Party faithful on the archive issue which would translate into a better result (possibly victory) in the European Elections. On a purely mechanical level, there is some merit in this line of thinking. But it also shows that neither Janša nor the SDS give a rat’s ass about UDBa or the archives unless it promotes their purely political agenda.

From SDS’s point of view the NSi was problematic in the EU elections since forever, because they always punched above their weight. But ever since the top of the Roman Catholic Church was beheaded by the Vatican (courtesy of the 800+ million gaping hole in Church’s finances plus other beauties), the SDS is no longer the party of choice for the largest religious institution in Slovenia. The latter is, apparently, now re-focusing on a more natural, albeit weaker political appendage.

Enter the SLS

Nor has the SLS remained at the sidelines. They’ve initiated a bid to derail the real-estate tax, an instrument the Bratušek administration forced down the parliament’s throat amid great pains in order to close the 2014 budget. But since the SLS is mostly farmer- and suburbia/rural oriented, where relatively large dwellings and swaths of land are not uncommon, the party has a clearly vested interest in this tax never becoming enacted. And it looks as if they will be successful in this sad enterprise (financial stability of the country be damned). But that’s a story for another time. Point is the SDS had to play catch-up and tried to hijack the anti-real-estate tax platform from the SLS. Unsuccessfully.

Which is why it came as no surprise that NSi and SLS were/are pondering a united list of candidates in the EU elections. Should idea bear fruit (which is by no means a given), a lovely irony would have taken place, since Janez Janša lobbied very hard for ChristDem SKD (precursor to NSi) and SLS be unified into a single party, only to see SLS+SKD break ranks over election system in 2000, causing a split in the newly unified party and finally, formation of NSi by several prominent SKD members including Lojze Peterle and the late Andrej Bajuk (both PMs some point). The relationship between NSi and SLS has been uneasy ever since, but it appears enough water had flown under the bridge for two parties to make at least some sort of amends. And Janša seems unable to stop that. Which is telling enough.

As a result, his options are dwindling fast and he seems to be down to re-visiting his glory days, with ever fresh interpretations of the events leading up to independence, engaging in anti-communists witch-hunts (neglecting the fact that his own party is teeming with ex-Commies), playing spy-games with dead people, accusing everyone else of being UDBa collaborator, even head of SLS Franci Bogovič, which is downright preposterous, restarting a bid to change (lengthen) the national anthem and – a classic – calling a referendum.

Fighting dead things

During the ice-storm, Janša was apparently confined to his “official residence” in Velenje. There he had a picture taken of himself, being all manly, cutting up a fallen tree with a chainsaw. The caption read “fighting the nature, cut away from the rest of the world”. Which may or may not have been an intended over-exaggeration, but the symbolism is telling.

The nominal leader of the opposition cutting up a dead tree and calling it “a fight”. This is what he’s come to.

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.