Janez Janša 3 (With A Vengeance)

President Borut Pahor officially nominated SDS leader Janez Janša as PM candidate yesterday, after the latter secured the support of NSi, DeSUS and vast majority of SMC, thus claiming a majority in the 90-seat parliament. Pengovsky fully expected the efforts to form an alternative coalition to fail with the clock running out on them, but not for the want of trying. It was just that the path to forming a stable coalition had been so narrow both mathematically and politically, that it just didn’t seem worth it.

With apologies to John McClane…

However, it turned out that there was enough incentive on all sides to turn enough blind eyes to just about every paradox plaguing this particular political gangbang that a deal was struck just as the first (and crucial) constitutional deadline was about to expire, following the surprise resignation of PM Marjan Šarec.

Thus it would seem that Muddy Hollows is gearing up for a third government led by Janez Janša. While his 2011-2012 stint ended as an abysmal failure amid public outcry over his handling of the crisis as well as never-fully-explained-away accusations of corruption, his 2004-2008 term was by far the pinnacle of his political career, crowned by the rotating six-months presidency of the EU council.

In fact, the accepted wisdom at the moment is that it was Ivan’s ambition to preside over EUCO yet again. And if you’re wondering whether a senior politician can really be so hot on what is essentially a glorified secretarial job, the man put the gig in his fucking Twitter bio….


But for “P of the EUCO” to become a reality again, Janša needs willing coalition partners who will bear with him until June 2021 at least. Which is why the fact that none of the three junior coalition party presidents have had up-close-and-personal partnership experience with either Janša or his party may come in especially handy.

The coalition

Both readers will remember that the current situation was brought on by soon-to-be-ex PM Marjan Šarec with his abrupt resignation about a month ago. While Šarec blindsided virtually everyone with his move, he apparently didn’t cover all his bases (or, as it turned out, any of his bases) and did in fact let the chips fall where they may.

This put his coalition partners in a tight spot and while all of them sought to put on a brave face and claimed they’re ready to face the voters if need be, the reality was that most of them were in no condition to mount another campaign.

Zdravko Počivalšek of SMC and Aleksandra Pivec of DeSUS were especially not keen on going to the ballot box as the polls were showing their parties scoring dismal results. Additionally, they were looking to establish themselves as independent leaders, having taken over the respective party leaders only recently, Počivalšek in October, Pivec literally a week before the shit hit the fan.

Specific to Pivec, however, is also the fact that DeSUS parliamentary group is somewhat maverick-y oriented and the newly minted leader couldn’t simply impose her will on the five MPs who are the party’s only real manifestation of political power.

To put it another way, if DeSUS MPs saw it fit for the party to join the coalition, Aleksandra Pivec could either play along or risk becoming a party leader without a party to command.

That said, however, none of the three leaders of the junior coalition parties, Zdravko Počivalšek (SMC), Aleksandra Pivec (DeSUS) and Matej Tonin (NSi) have had dealings with Janša as a coalition leader.

For what it’s worth, Pivec’s and Tonin’s predecessors (Karl Erjavec and Ljudmila Novak, respectively) knew full well what it means to be in bed with Janša. In fact, back in 2008 NSi even failed to make the parliamentary threshold as the SDS took over the vast majority of the right wing electorate and for a while squeezed its junior coalition partner out of national politics.

But with fresh (more or less) faces running the smaller would-be government parties, a deal was made possible, even though it most likely isn’t worth the paper it is printed on.

The deal

Namely, the coalition agreement is chock-full of the usual bullshit this sort of document usually contains: lowering public expenditures while promising a shitload of pork to just about everyone who has to sign off on the paper.

To cut a long story short, either the new finance minister (presumably Andrej Šircelj of SDS) is going to have an aneurysm trying to balance the sheets or someone is going to walk out of the deal.

One of the more pointed criticisms of the Šarec government (mostly from the direction of SDS and NSi) was that it was ratcheting up budget expenditure like it’s going out of fashion.

And yet, here they are, agreeing to new social programmes, expanding the bureaucracy and beefing up the security apparatus, all of which will cost a shitload of money this country hasn’t really got.

Then there’s all the increased spending on security and even the cockamamie idea of reintroducing the army conscription, all of which would add pressure on public finances. All the while claiming to strive to reduce public expenditures.

So, when you delve into details, the coalition deal is not worth the paper it is printed on. But even so it provides a benchmark against which this actions of Ivan’s government will be judged. Especially as far as his coalition partners are concerned.

Pandering to the base

But while not following the agreement might cause a rift and a potential collapse of Janša’s coalition, there is equal danger in following it. And not just because these policies can break the country’s finances if the going gets tough (see The Great Recession) but because Janša’s base didn’t sign up for any of this lefty socialist shit.

For the last eight years, ever since he was evicted from the PM’s office the last time around (and on-and-off before that) Janša was systematically radicalizing his base. And with the advent of the Age of Trump he stopped even pretending that he was not stoking fear and anger in lieu of actual policy initiatives. His Twitter feed is testament to that.

But if he really wants his coveted EUCO presidency in 2021, the Glorious Leader will have to play nice to his coalition partners, at least on more contentious issues.

His base, on the other hand, wants quick and decisive action on a number of hot-button issues, including defunding public broadcaster RTVSLO, bringing the judiciary to heel and in taming the obnoxious media in general.

Which is why Janša will have a really hard time walking the thin line between keeping the base happy and not doing crazy shit that would blow up the coalition.

That said, if the past 24 hours are anything to go by, we will soon see the PM-presumptive test the limits of incendiary rhetoric his coalition partners will tolerate. Odds are he will get away with more than he reasonably should. Because, you know “it’s just words” and shit.

Now what?

Janša is expected to be sworn in as the PM for the third time some time next week, presumably on Tuesday. He will then have two weeks to come up with his cabinet.

Its broad contours are already known and include Počivalšek and Pivec continuing as ministers of economy and agriculture, respectively while Matej Tonin is said to be taking over as defense minister. Anže Logar, currently SDS no. 2 man (always subject to change) will reportedly take over as foreign minister.

If everything goes according to plan, the new government could be sworn in and operational by the end of March.

But sometimes not everything goes according to plan.

Things to watch out for

First thing’s first: the PM-presumptive needs at least 46 votes in the parliament.

It is already known that while at least one SMC MP will not be supporting Janša, there are others from non-coalition parties who will (notably, both minority MPs, an SNS MP and presumably Marko Bandelli, a discontented SAB MP).

However, maybe someone will have a bad case of the jitters and will cast an invalid vote. Or maybe there are people not on radar right now who plan to blow a hole in the presumed 50+ strong majority.

Granted, chances of something like this coming to pass are miniscule, but seeing as the vote is by secret ballot, there’s always a possibility of a fuck up.

The other thing to watch out for is the reshuffle in the parliament as some ministers will resume their MP status. Specifically, this goes for Miro Cerar who is rumoured to have been offered the post of Speaker should he play ball withing the new political makeup.

Namely, Cerar, former SMC leader, said in no unclear terms that he has no intent of joining a Janša-led government. Careful observers will note that he did not say that he won’t be joining a Janša-led coalition.

It will be interesting to see if the former PM and soon-to-be-former FM will keep his pride, after being dragged through the mud by Janša many times over the course of the last six years or whether he will sell his convictions and split hair semantically for a few years more in senior echelons of politics.

Incidentally, if Cerar decides to return to parliament as an MP, he will oust Jani Moderndorfer who was his replacement MP and whom pengovsky once dubbed The Great Survivor of Slovenian politics. I guess his number is about to come up, although he may yet live to see another day should Cerar decide that he will not be mixing with the parliamentary plebs.

And last but certainly not least, the dynamics between NSi and SDS will be of great interest. Namely, despite this being a nominally centre-right government, the coalition agreement is heavy on left-ish policies, no doubt in an attempt to appease DeSUS and SMC.

NSi, on the other hand, seems to have gotten precious little out of it. And even pretty run-of-the-mill stuff for NSi, such as public funding of private education (long story, it includes a catholic school and a constitutional court ruling), were thrown out at the very last minute, apparently at the request of DeSUS.

Therefore, it will be interesting to see if they will feel that supporting Janša is worth their while.

At any rate, while more experienced and definitely more stable (at least on paper), Janša’s third government will also be his most desperate for a good performance. And given that this particular partnership is largely untested it could have unintended consequences.

John McClane, for example, did make it out alive of his third installment, but he was completely washed up by the end and his subsequent outings were only a sad performances of a character that should long ago have been retired.

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.

2 thoughts on “Janez Janša 3 (With A Vengeance)”

  1. Please stop using “Ivan” for Janez. Maybe your other reader understands your in joke—Ivan the Terrible maybe?—but I don”t and it confuses me whenever it appears. Thanks.

    Please write more often about this government. The (re-)rise of another mini-Trump tweeting divisive rhetoric is depressing.

    Are there likely to be any moves to end the endemic corruption that started with the takeover of all major enterprises from Sava to Mercator after separation freed the politically-appointed or connected directors and managers to “buy out” the ownerships?

  2. Ivan: Sorry. I’ll do my best. But his name really is Ivan 🙂

    As for corruption, I sincerely doubt it, thought I suspect the centre of shady deals will now be in and around infrastructure portfolio, with the second Koper-Divača railway, the second Karavanke tunnel and whatnot.

    And, yes, I’ll try to write more often. Thank you 🙂

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