Government Change During An Epidemic

As the coronavirus shit is hitting the fan and the number of cases probably going into triple digits in the next couple of days, Muddy Hollows is gearing for a government change.

Janša and Šarec sharing the stage (source)

After SDS leader Janez Janša was sworn in as PM on Tuesday last week, he put forward his list of cabinet nominees. The vote on the entire cabinet will be held tonight and – given the situation – the whole process is expected to move swiftly.

The people who will make up Janša’s cabinet have spent the entire week enduring parliamentary hearings, presenting their policy initiatives and visions for the portfolios they’re about to take over and were, as a rule, approved by the relevant committees.

As a general rule, parliamentary hearings of would-be ministers are little more than a dog-and-pony show, as the committees do not have veto power and can only give recommendations on whether or not a candidate is appropriate for the job.

True, sometimes a candidate does such a piss-poor job that the PM-designate replaces them before the parliamentary vote. (See Kodelja, Tugomir). Sometimes the committee will not support a candidate but the PM will press ahead regardless and the candidate will get the appointment in the end (see Milnar, Angelika).

Every so often, however, the parliamentary hearing will provide for a rather spectacular foot-meets-mouth scene which will hobble the would-be minister from the get-go, regardless of the final outcome of the vote.

This is what happened to NSi leader Matej Tonin who is poised to take over the defense portfolio who landed in a fair amount of hot water after he let is slip that he is mulling incorporating members of paramilitary units directly into the Army and have them help police the border in the face of the perceived migrant threat.

Tonin later walked back the statement considerably, but stopped short of taking it back completely. As a result, his tenure at the ministry will be under close scrutiny from the get-go and his ability to initiate policy changes and start addressing the shortcomings faced by the Army (lack of personnel being one of them) will be severely limited.

Not that Janša government 3.0 will have a whole lot of time to do policy in the first place.

Even without the virus rampant, time for this coalition was going to be scarce. Now, it seems as if Janša’s third term as PM ended before it even began.

Working our way backwards on the timeline, the endpoint is the June 2022 election. Give or take a few weeks, the voters will go to the polls in about 27 months.

in 15 months (1 July 2021), Slovenia takes over the EU Council rotating presidency, reportedly the main motivator for Janša to take over from Šarec and when that ends (1 January 2022) the parties will immediately switch to election footing and start doling out political sweets to the voters like there’s no tomorrow.

In about 12 months, all hell will break loose as the government will in all likelihood realise it is nowhere near ready for the presidency and it will be all hands-on-deck to get that particular ball rolling.

This means that March 2021 is more or less the cutoff point for any meaningful legislation the incoming government might want to pass during the rest of this term.

The cutoff date is effectively moved forward because parliamentary procedure (normally three months, but that can be shortened) and suddenly you realise that whatever this government wants done, they better do it before this year is out.

Janez Janša seems to realise that, as he reportedly asked his new coalition partners to come up with whatever legislation they want passed, before October this year.

And now, with the coronavirus running around and stirring up all kinds of fuckery, Janša’s time-frame for getting shit done is getting all the more narrow. In a few weeks it will practically non-existent.

Janez Janša badly wanted to run the government in time for the EUCO presidency. Apparently he wanted it so bad he barely negotiated with his coalition partners over policy and even personnel issues.

But life comes at you fast and Janša’s third stint as PM will be defined not by having another go at being a glorified secretary but by handling the Covid-19 outbreak and its social and economic aftermath.

Luckily, the outgoing Šarec government did manage to get its shit together and the outgoing health minister Aleš Šabeder, virtually invisible ever since he took over from Samo Fakin, is working overtime and more than earning his kip in the past few weeks.

The outgoing and incoming government are also said to be coordinating closely, with future ministers shadowing their departing counterparts with the aim of close-to-zero idle running when changeover does take place this weekend.

And, most importantly, the two PMs, Šarec and Janša held a joint press conference on more than one occasion, giving the impression of seeing past their differences, coordinating moves and keeping on message.

This, combined with a noticeable change in tone by the SDS attack dogs and Party propaganda, had an immediate and calming effect on lower levels of the executive pyramid, allowing health services to focus on their jobs (as overwhelming as they are) and not worry about potential political pressure.

And today, eight days after the first case of covid-19 infection was detected in Slovenia, The Prez finally decided to pull his head out of his ass and joined the party.

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"Spoštovane državljanke in državljani. Znašli smo se v položaju, ko smo zaradi pojava širitve korona virusa še bolj odvisni eden od drugega. Zato si moramo pomagati. Najprej in najbolj si bomo pomagali tako, da bomo dosledno spoštovali navodila in priporočila pristojnih oblasti in služb. Vsi za to poklicani opravljajo zelo zahtevno delo po svojih najboljših močeh. V mojem in našem skupnem imenu jim izrekam veliko hvaležnost. Naše posebno spoštovanje gre ljudem, ki zagotavljajo, da življenje v teh popolnoma posebnih in spremenjenih okoliščinah vseeno poteka kolikor toliko normalno. Pomagali si bomo tako, da bomo skrbeli zase in za drugega. Pomagali si bomo nenazadnje tudi tako, da smo, kolikor je mogoče, človeško prijazni v vseh okoliščinah. Tovrstne krize preizkušajo človeški značaj. Zdaj moramo vsak zase in vsi skupaj pokazati v nas najboljše in najbolj plemenite vrline. Pogum, srčnost in solidarnost. Veliko navodil nam pravi, da si ne segamo v roke, da se ne objemamo, da pazimo na medsebojno razdaljo in podobno. To je potrebno upoštevati. Vendar pa je ves ta moj nagovor namenjen temu, da na vse druge načine ohranimo in okrepimo občutek za skupno in skupnost. Z današnjo razglasitvijo epidemije se aktivirajo vse sile zaščite in reševanja. Vsi napori delovanja države in družbe se usmerijo v obvladovanje nastalih razmer. Nihče ne ve, koliko časa bomo mi in ves svet potrebovali za okrevanje. Tudi, ko bomo enkrat premagali neposredno nevarnost virusa samega, se bomo soočili z njegovimi posledicami. Ne le Slovenija, cel sodobni svet nima izkušenj s problemom, ki ima toliko neznank in take razsežnosti. Mnoge naše odzive bo treba premisliti povsem na novo. To bo terjalo od nas vse naše znanje, izkušnje, odločnost, modrost, predvsem pa medsebojno spoštovanje in razumevanje. Za naše vsakodnevno ravnanje pa bosta zlasti pomembni mirnost in razsodnost. Vprašajmo se torej, kaj lahko vsak od nas in vsi skupaj naredimo, da si pomagamo in premagamo težave. Odgovornost do sebe in občutek za skupnost sta zdaj odločilnega pomena. Kot vaš predsednik vas poznam dovolj, da iskreno pravim – težko bo, morda bo celo zelo težko, a skupaj bomo uspeli. Srečno, Slovenija.”

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.