The Bane Coalition

It seems ancient history in the light of the covid clusterfuck, but it has been less than a week since Muddy Hollows has had a new government sworn in.

I know, right?! (source)

And while it seems impossible now, the former PM Marjan Šarec and his successor Janez Janša were actually on the same page for about five minutes, projecting a sliver of a possibility for a cross-party consensus on how to deal with the shituation.

And then it all went south.

Despite the incoming ministers shadowing their exiting counterparts, ostensibly to ensure a smooth transition, the days following the handover were… just fucking mental.

Janša’s first cabinet session started immediately after the swearing-in ceremony, at about 1 AM on a Saturday and some bright soul though it would be a good idea if the entire cabinet wore surgical masks seen above. Hilarity ensued.

NSi leader and the new defense minister Matej Tonin, who is in danger of developing a habit of speaking before thinking, let it slip that the masks were supposed to send a message but that the people present found them cumbersome and had taken them off after a while.

Other than the fact that they all looked a bunch of rejects for the role of Bane, the masked fiasco sent care givers around the country livid, as Muddy Hollows was (and still is) facing a severe shortage of surgical masks. And instead of addressing a critical need of frontline healthcare workers, the cabinet was goofing around.

Not that the situation is any better five days later, mind you. Only now the many millions of masks ordered by the country are now either stuck in Germany or… err… lost.

Then there the messaging of the new government with regard to fighting the covid-19 outbreak, which is all over the fucking place.

It started with the new PM Janša giving a long-winded and meandering press conference where it wasn’t really clear what he wanted to talk about other than he used to give this sort of press conferences 30 years ago, during the Ten Day War, with him and everyone else around him looking like they just shat a garage-full of Lego bricks.

But as it became apparent that the Glorious Leader is a tired old man, he turned to his colleague from, you guessed it, the Ten Day War with whom they have since parted ways, only to be brought back together.

Enter Jelko Kacin, the illustrious minister of information and official spokesperson for the fledgling independent country back in 1991, who has since held an impressive array of posts (including Slovenian ambassador to NATO), but was bored in his last paper-pushing assignment at the foreign ministry and was only too happy to take over as the spokesperson for the government’s anti-covid19 response effort.

Time, however, waits for no man and Kacin, thirty years older, clearly is no longer his younger and more energetic self. He has done little to streamline the messaging, which still remains all over the fucking place. Only now it has taken on an ominous undertone.

Even worse, just before Kacin took over, the “Covid-19 Crisis HQ” as the senior level of decision makers is known, opened its own Twitter account which – instead of becoming an point of reference – began spewing out SDS propaganda by the bucket-full, prompting Kacin to publicly disassociate himself from the account and claim it was hacked (spoiler: it wasn’t).

Speaking of messaging going in two directions at once, cabinet shenanigans with surgical masks also went against medical advice that masks themselves don’t really do shit for you unless you’re already infected.

Which was the point the new health minister Tomaž Gantar made a day after the inaugural cabinet session, only to be – as the grapevine would have it – dressed down for it by the Glorious Leader himself.

Not that it comes as a surprise to anyone outside the current coalition, but if the junior coalition parties were hoping to run the table on Janša once they gave him what he craved, well, they’ve got another thing coming.

That is not to say that the new government is wasting time. Quite the opposite. Ever since the previous government, as one of its last acts, declared an epidemic, Team Janša made haste to shut down public transport, further close borders, shut the country’s only airport and curb public gathering.

Admittedly, the general public is not heeding the calls for social distancing with gusto and the upcoming ban on gatherings of more than five people is the inevitable result.

On the other hand, the government is mulling a decree on limiting the number of people inside a supermarket at any given time, practically ensuring queues outside shops.

There are other measures being taken as well. Financial aid for business large and small is being introduced, taxes are being deferred, schools are closed for at least two weeks (though it would be no surprise if this were prolonged), as are most shops

All of this while Kacin and other people from the “Crisis HQ” insist things are getting better.

So much better in fact, that there is a concerted effort underway to paint the measures taken by the Šarec govenrment as ineffective, wrong or even non-existent.

While Šarec is pushing back on the narrative, the goal by the Janša government seems to be primarly to pin the blame on someone else once the number of casualties starts going up (as of this writing, there was only one covid-related death in Slovenia).

But there’s more. Things are apparently “getting better” do much that the newly minted interior minister Aleš Hojs (SDS) yesterday floated the idea of activating the infamous article 37a of the Defense Act which would grant the Army policing powers over civilians.

Which is exactly the type of situation pengovsky feared back in 2015 when a supposedly liberal government, frightened by that other gargantuan crisis, wanted to do something, anything, to show that it was still in control.

Yes, I’m looking at you, SMC.

And remember, all of this is happening without the country even formally declaring a state of emergency.

This crisis will eventually abate. When it does, there will be an inclination by whomever runs the government at the time, to keep most of the measures adopted (somehow, it’s almost always those concerning personal freedoms).

This is the main long-term concern. Crises come and go. Measures stay.

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.