Chemin De re-Fer-endum

As the world watches the Teutonic Vote unfold today there’s another, albeit slightly less dramatic ballot taking place as the good people of Muddy Hollows are registering their preference in a referendum on the second rail track of the Divača-Koper railway.


Now, pengovsky wrote this one up some-place else (here’s an awkward and sometimes unintentionally profound Google translation) so suffice it to say here this is the sort of infrastructure project politicos usually foam at the mouth for. You know: big constructions with big machinery and big price tags where a casual observer could be forgiven for thinking he or she waded into a Freudian clinic.

Speaking of Freudian clinics, the last debate on the national television almost ended in a fist fight as Egi Kozjek, a representative of one of the groups opposing the law on the construction of the second track tried to provoke a scuffle with government‘s point man for the project Jure Leben. The whole thing ended with Kozjek being forcefully ejected from the studio by the security guards and the host wrapping up the debate a couple of minutes ahead of schedule.

While unimportant in the larger scale of things, the fracas does show just shambolic the whole campaign was. You see the referendum was not about whether the second rail track should be built or not. It was about whether it should be built as per the plan provided by the government or as per any number of less defined plans provided by groups and political parties opposing the government’s plan. Long story short, it is – or rather, it was, since this will in all likelihood be pushed after the polls will have closed – about who gets to splash the cash around.

On that note, it should raise a whole lot of red flags when the political class is in broad agreement over an infrastructure project but is willing to decimate the other side to control the cash-flow. But such is the reality of the Slovenian political landscape. Power-plays are becoming ever more brutal and ever less sophisticated. It’s like no one gives a shit about appearances anymore.

But the whole referendum is a moot issue, anyhow. Not just because it appears the turnout will fail to reach the validity threshold (at least 20 percent of the entire electorate must vote against the law in order for a potential majority no vote to be valid) but also because this government will be out of office in nine months and will probably not even have the time to execute the necessary public tenders to break ground let alone start construction of the track. Thus the project will be handled by the next government (whatever its composition) and one can be rather sure the 960 million price tag of the project will not be revised downward. Nor will the project be put on hold, even if the opposition wins in a landslide. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Thus, there are no winners here, really. Only gamblers. The second rail track project will now soon be branded “irreversible” and will – as public infrastructure project do – run over budget and over schedule. If we’re lucky, it will not have been completely obsolete by the time it is completed.

Speaking of luck, the unintended result of the referendum outcome is that Cerar’s government, shaky and insecure ever since it took office, will not only complete its four-year term but will have also won a referendum to boot, if the unofficial tally of 53% vote in favour will be confirmed. In this day and age, sadly, this counts as an achievement.

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    Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.