Bratušek Budget Bruises Brought By Butthurt Bandelli

“I didn’t deserve this” said minister of development and European cohesion policy Marko Bandelli (SAB), butthurt as he announced his resignation on 13 November thus setting off a rocky ten-day period for the government of Marjan Šarec. And while the main event of the last few days were the 2018 local elections and some surprising results, the bad blood between various coalition members burst in the open almost as soon as the polls closed.

Marko Bandelli and Alenka Bratušek (source)

By itself, the Bandelli thing is a pretty straightforward case of the Dunning-Kruger effect in action. The erstwhile mayor of Komen, known for his colourful language and thin skin was a somewhat surprising pick for the non-descript post of assistant beancounter minister for EU cohesion funds. And indeed it turned out that the ambition got the better of him. In fact, we will never know whether Marko Bandelli would have made a good minister without portfolio in charge of EU cohesion funds, because the man turned out to be spectacularly inept at being a senior government official as such.

Had he remained in the parliament, Bandelli would probably have been able to wield considerable influence as one of the five heads of coalition parliamentary groups. Instead, he was lured into the executive branch and simply couldn’t resist the perks of the office. Not that a minister without portfolio gets a whole lot of perks. But the office does come with a driver and a nice car. With sirens! Oh, yes, the sirens.

Soon after he took office, Marko Bandelli was late to an official function. You know how it is. Ministers without portfolio in charge of EU cohesion funds are busy bees. So many papers to read and numbers to look over. Traffic was a bitch that day and Bandelli’s party boss slash minister of infrastructure Alenka Bratušek needs time to sort things out. And since an elementary school competition is not something a minister without portfolio in charge of EU cohesion funds is late to, Marko Bandelli did what any big boy with a big toy would do. He told the driver to turn on the siren and put the pedal to the metal

Mistake numero uno.

People started asking questions and when faced with media reports that he fooled around with official visual signalisation, the minister snapped and literally said that by law, he can do whatever he wants.

Mistake numero dos.

And then, just when we thought that he finally learned his lesson (as if cases involving Speaker Dejan Židan earlier in the year and minister of transport Patrick Vlačič back in 2009 weren’t enough), Bandelli hit it right out of park and sent an email.

Mistake numero tres.

Admittedly, the email had nothing to do with car sirens, but it wasn’t just any old email, either.

A letter surfaced in early November where Bandelli tried to flex some muscle in his hometown. Specifically, he told Erik Modic, a person in charge of EU funded projects in Komen municipality, that he shouldn’t run for mayor in local election and implied that if he did and got elected, Komen will have gotten overlooked when it came to EU funding.

Obviously, this generated a reasonably-sized shitstorm. In what can only be described as an abuse of office (or at least an attempt at one), Bandelli point-blank threatened a candidate for mayor he didn’t like. Not that these things don’t happen. But usually, people doing the threatening are careful enough not to put the threats in writing, lest they get leaked to the media.

However, in a case of galactic stupidity, Bandelli not only sent an email, he cc’d like a zillion people. Yeah, baby.

This would obviously have been enough for any self-respecting prime minister to send Bandelli packing. Turns out PM Marjan Šarec has a lot of self-respect.

Over the past decade, Muddy Hollows has become used to PMs mincing words, flip-flopping, backtracking and reneging on almost any given issue. Especially if it could rock the coalition or even bring down the government. Šarec, on the other hand, only needed a couple of days in between various legs of his jetting around the EU to assess the situation and come to the conclusion that either Badelli quits or he files a motion to the parliament for his dismissal. Point blank, no screwing around. He even wrote up a Facebook post accusing Bandelli of ineptitude . Which may or may not be true, but goes to show that PM Šarec does not shy from playing hardball.

Bandelli’s party boss Alenka Bratušek (SAB) was indignant. Not that she cares much about Bandelli, but being pushed around by a PM she provides crucial votes to is not exactly authority inducing. While it was Šarec who issued the ultimatum, it was up to SAB leadership to make Bandelli see the light and quit of his own volition (thus avoiding an ugly vote in the parliament). Alenka Bratušek was in fact forced to wield the hatched for Šarec and was mad about it. Now she wanted something in return.

Weirdly enough, she traded Bandelli in for a pension hike. Not another seat at the table or a plum job for a faithful party member or even more money for a pet project. No, she demanded a rise in pensions in the upcoming draft budget. Which was unorthodox, to say the least. But what might have been a pretty bold plan, backfired spectacularly.

SAB is in the middle of transformation into a single-issue party. And the issue they care about are senior citizens. This turf used to be the sole property of Karl Erjavec and his DeSUS. But Bratušek has been making huge inroads into that particular demographic. So much so in fact, that DeSUS saw its eleven parliamentary seats cut down by six seats and with SAB taking five of those. Karl Erjavec is not a happy camper right now.

His happiness levels decreased even further when Bratušek, reeling from the blow by Šarec, turned around and sucker-punched him with the move on pensions. As one does. Feathers started flying, DeSUS started making counter-demands and pretty soon Marko Bandelli, who on Monday will be relegated back to parliament as a mere MP, was but an afterthought.

Šarec, turning out to be one cold motherfucker, asked Bratušek and Erjavec to strike a deal on pensions, knowing full well no deal was forthcoming. In fact, he seems to have counted on both parties engaging in some petty one-upmanship about who cares more for the senior citizens. This prompted another social media intervention where he told Bratušek (who blasted Erjavec while he was abroad) to take it down a notch.

The end result, probably intended all along, was that both Bratušek and Erjavec came across as petty and childish. In the end, the pension hike was decided by the finance minister (an 18 million increase, spread over five brackets, if you’re interested). Bratušek didn’t respond well to the budget bruises and staged a dramatic late-night press conference on Wednesday, prompting speculation about SAB walking out of the coalition. This would of course trigger early parliamentary election and cost her an influential government position in addition to SAB’s five seats in the parliament. Bratušek obviously doesn’t want that. Thus, out of government-trashing speculation, a feeble threat to “think about not supporting the draft budget it if pensions are not raised” was born.

While Alenka Bratušek boxed herself into a corner, PM Marjan Šarec did the maths, realised once again that Bratušek has in fact to no place to go (he underscored that by basically saying that if his government is not to last then well, fuck it) and put the draft budget on the table without changes.

In a development that surprised a grand total of zero people, the entire complement of SAB ministers supported the draft. That sound you hear is Party of Alenka Bratušek deflating.

Oh, and what or Erik Modic, the guy Bandelli tried to threaten and bully into not running for mayor of Komen? He won in the first round, with more than 60 percent of the vote.

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.

2 thoughts on “Bratušek Budget Bruises Brought By Butthurt Bandelli”

  1. Question: Are there any left or center-left parties that aren’t “polluted” by the former aparatchiks and ex-commies who grabbed all the money and power after independence?

    My best friend remains loyal to Janša in spite of his tilt toward far right racism and fascism or his obeisance to Orban (and possibly Putin) because he appears or claims to be against the leftist remnants of the Kučan regime who supposedly control the economy from behind the scenes. It’s an emotional anti-left position from growing up in a family crippled by the post-WWII Communist regime.

    In contrast, I’m hoping for a center-left alternative that would balance an adequate social safety net against a responsible and reasonably regulated free enterprise environment (i.e., dogs can eat dogs as long as they guard and feed the weaker animals without exploiting them)

    Almost thirty years after independence, are there any politicians or parties without links to the Mercator, Sava, Serbian mafia, etc., conglomerates of Slovenia’s postwar period who might possibly be interested in or capable of breaking the stranglehold the old guard supposedly has on the economy and opportunities for investment/corruption (e.g., the new stadium?) or development? Is there a new generation coming into power or just the children of the old guard preserving their families’ privileged status?

    I know you probably try to remain a detached and cynical observer in the name of objective reporting, but I wonder if you have seen any hint that some individuals or parties might actually be trying to combat corruption and inefficiency in the government, civil service, or health care establishments? Does anyone offer some hope for Muddy Hollows? Any persons or parties who offer you hope for the near or distant future?

  2. To answer backwards: yes, yes and maybe (although not likely).

    The problem with the “new guard” is that it mostly sees itself as being entitled to what the “old guard” have been doing, only more effectively/brutally. In this respect, the last ten years of economic hardship have been quite welcome as it has forced the usually suave movers and shakers to play rough and by necessity less opaquely. To put it bluntly, since there was less bacon to bring home, the fights for it have become more visible and techniques less refined.

    There also is, I believe, a heightened public awareness of the need for strong anti-graft and oversight bodies. Not that the current iteration of the anti-graft commission (Štefanec et al.) is anything to write home about but the blame for that should be (and is) put squarely at president Pahor’s feet.

    Thirdly, the Millenials are about to fully enter into the job market and realize (even more than us, late GenXers did) that baby-boomers and early GenXers have gamed the system. And have been doing that for a while. This may not bring about a whole lot of solidarity in the short run but in the long run an upending of the welfare state is inevitable. Be it universal basic income or some other form of a safety net that compensates for the inevitable ascent of the gig economy will be debated as soon as politicos realised there are votes to be gained that way.

    There will, of course, be no revolution. Mostly because the the young’uns are not predisposed to do one. At least not 20th century style. But it has been my experience that lately nothing changes for a long time until a lot changes in a very short period of time. Having said that, to change things, a degree of intrepidity and a fair amount of luck will be required.

    I believe the current administration does have the potential to at least start moving things in the right direction. If nothing else, because no one expects great things of them (as opposed to the previous government of Miro Cerar whom everyone expected to move mountains and the poor thing obviously underperformed). Additionally, the junior coalition parties, despite more or less loathing each other have literally no other place to go. Hence, barring a meltdown, the Šarec government can potentially survive until the end of 2021 (to see off the rotational EU presidency) and then I expect them to pull out the knives and go for each others jugulars.

    Having said that, I would not be at all surprised if the half-wits running the current show were to somehow fuck it up, despite Šarec starting to look more and more Drnovšek-like in terms of handling things and policies.

    As for political preferences… Well, politics is getting more and more tribal all over the world. So I am not at all surprised that there’s is a lot of “sticking with my guy despite…” Recent local elections were quite instructive in that department.

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