In all likelihood, by tomorrow evening Alenksandra Pivec will no longer be minister of agriculture in the government of Janez Janša. Last Thursday the PM asked the parliament to dismiss the former DeSUS president from her post, following a request by the party leadership.
However, keeping in line with the DeSUS cringefest Muddy Hollows has been force-fed for the last few months, Pivec will continue as catetaker agriculture minister until such time the PM has found a suitable candidate to replace her. Which may take a while. Because of course this is what happens when a pair of gutless politicos want to oust an ambitious-yet-petty minister who is egged on by a scheming prime minister. (UPDATE: In the end, Pivec resigned of her own volition, which changes the dynamics a little bit. More on that at the end of the post)
Now led by health minister Tomaž Gantar (billed not as “acting president” but “temporary party representative”, more on that below), the party already put forward a replacement candidate. But despite DeSUS’s occasional theeats that they will pick up their toys and go home if Janša doesn’t play ball, the PM is slow-waking it and enjoying every second of it.
To put it bluntly, The Democratic Party of Pensioners of Slovenia is about to realise that the burning feeling they’ve felt in their joints over the past five months is not arthritis but rather a massive fucking hole they’ve been drilling into their collective knees since May this year.
What the actual fuck?
A staple of governments in Muddy Hollows, DeSUS has managed to be a coalition member in every single government over the last two decades, often providing the crucial votes needed to achieve majority. And now, they’re the middle of a very public slow-motion self-destruct sequence.
As some point soon after she took over the reins of the party, something somewhere went wrong. Looking back it seems that the speed with which Pivec was establishing her own power base within the party rubbed the Gantar’s and Jurša’s circles the wrong way. They felt she owed them and she was looking to get out of that debt post-fucking-haste.
Neither position is inherently wrong. But in trying to rein in Pivec, Gantar and DeSUS parliamentary group leader Franc Jurša demonstrated a distinct lack cojones. They wanted to remove Pivec as head of the party but didn’t really want to get their hands dirty. This allowed the soon-to-be-ex agriculture minister to try and control the timetable, shift the goalpost and keep hanging on by a thread.
And it all looked so promising for DeSUS after Pivec took over. Her clownish predecessor Karl Erjavec went incognito and when PM Šarec resigned, she made an unpopular but necessary move to join the Janša coalition, urged to do so by DeSUS MPs. And she seemed to get a good deal out of it, as the Glorious Leader agreed to every demand the three junior coalition partners made.
But what until then seemed to be a fairly easy-going Janša government (at least by his own standards), the pandemic turned it into a increasingly sociopathic regime that likes to play mind games with the people, run a very in-your-face double standard in terms of health and safety measures and is basically doing its best to enact a far-right populist agenda.
No wonder even DeSUS faithful were getting antsy. Because from their point of view, they were getting slammed for participating in the clusterfuck that is the Janša government was becoming and got very little in return.
It was about that time when allegations of Pivec’s repeated graft started being made. She was already on the spot for her involvement in the SRIPT affair where she allegedly overcharged for her services and failed to declare a conflict of interest. But this time around it was the little things, such as taking members of her family on a business trip (and then foolishly brag about it on Instagram). Or the episode where another business she toured for two days allegedly forged and back-dated an invoice to make it look she paid for her family. And so on, ad nauseam.
That’s it? That’s the problem?
Now, it wasn’t that Pivec was the first senior official to engage in some petty graft. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this sort of behaviour is almost part-and-parcel for people who will probably never again make so much money and/or wield that much power in their lives. Most likely, this isn’t even specific to Muddy Hollows.
What set Pivec apart from most politicos that were caught with their hand in a cookie jar were her repeatedly tone-deaf and arrogant responses.
Ranging from none-of-your-fucking-business to piss-of-I’m-on-vacay and finally ending with every-one-does-it-anyway, the way she handled the situation was a text-book example of a politician crashing and burning without any real outside intervention.
The other thing that set Pivec apart from the rest of graft-prone politicos was her adamant refusal to see the writing on the wall. This, combined with utter unwillingness of Gantar and Jurša to turn the push into a shove and remove her as head of the party (as opposed to look for procedural grounds to make her resign of her own volition), created a five-months-long shitshow during which DeSUS ratings nosedived, most likely pushing the party below the point of no return in terms of public opinion.
Despite the above, Pivec did have some help in creating the omnishambles.
Not only did she get rid of the people she suspected were not completely loyal to her (apparently encouraged to do so by PM Janša himself), her blasé attitude towards allegations against her was propped up by the SDS media network, with various Party propaganda outlets all of a sudden realising they positively love the same agricultural minister they’ve spent the past year bashing, and by the Glorious Leader’s various minions.
Case in point being foreign minister Anže Logar who took a selfie enjoying a drink with her during yet another tour of a winery and posted it on Instagram. He also added a phot of the drinks tab, effectively mocking media revelations of her not paying her own bills.
What followed, however, was a parade of incompetence in handling the situation that should have and indeed could have been resolved quickly, with comparatively minimum political fallout.
As things stand, however, the entire DeSUS is now a laughing stock, the party barely registers in the polls and the situation still hasn’t reached its nadir.
Basically, the whole thing boils down to Tomaž Gantar and Franc Jurša, the two men who, next to DeSUS president Aleksandra Pivec, wield the most power in the party, not having the cojones to drop the axe on Pivec.
After her leadership of the party went sideways in many directions at the same time and the two men – who rarely see eye to eye – have recognised that Pivec is becoming a liability rather than an asset.
The duo set about removing her as party leader and by extension as a minister. But rather than rallying the troops, forcing a vote to remove her and presenting Pivec with a fait accompli, they seemed to think that all they needed to do was to ask politely.
When that didn’t work (not that anyone was surprised, given how she responded to media allegations), Gantar and Jurša tried to get Pivec removed via half-baked procedural maneuvers and votes. Obivously, none of that worked because none of that had the effect of actaually voting to remove the president.
Instead, the two men allowed themselves to get bogged down in procedural questions, where Pivec showed an uncanny ability to shift around and move the goalpost, constantly changing her conditions to “go quietly”.
In the end, the one-time allies reached a sort of a deal where Pivec indeed resigned as party leader but vowed to run for president at a party congress to be held in late November. Gantar, on the other hand, said that he will not run for party president even though he signaled his willingness to do so earlier.
He also apparently agreed to forego the title “DeSUS acting president” and ended up with “DeSUS temporary representative”, which – let’s face it – sounds a lot less sexy.
As a result, DeSUS demanded that PM Janša move to dimsiss Pivec. But the Glorious Leader is not above adding insult to injury, especially if a junior coalition partner is concerned. You know, just to remind everyone where they belong.
In asking the parliament to dismiss Pivec, Janša could have simultaneously put forward her replacement. You know, because it’s important to have key ministries running at full steam (an argument the Glorious Leader used when he walked back the resignation of Aleš Hojs).
Instead, the PM will wait for the parliament to dismiss Pivec and will only then nominate state secretary Jože Podgoršek (her second-in-command at the ministry) to take her place. And after he does that, the nominee must go through a committee hearing and only can can the parliament schedule a vote on the new minister.
Therefore, a process that could have been over in about a week could now last more than a month.
It sure looks like PM Janša is positively taunding DeSUS. What’s left of it, anyway.
Namely, if the PM really starts dragging his feet, Pivec might actually make it to the congress while still at the ministry, which could very well help her re-election bid.
Because, after five months of concerted effort spearheaded by Gantar and Jurša, a plethora of scandals and pending anti-graft investigation, Pivec is still there, almost exactly where she was in the month of May. The only difference is that DeSUS is more or less kaput.
Jesus Christ, what a shitshow.
UPDATE: About an hour-and-a-half into the debate on her dismissal, Pivec announced her resignation as well as relinquishing her DeSUS membership. This will now give credence to rumours that Pivec is manouvering to join Marjan Podobnik’s SLS.
But since the Slovenian People’s Party is but a mere shadow of its former glorious self, Aleksandra Pivec is politically dead. That’s it. Finito.
However, even as a political corpse, Pivec still has her uses. Namely, as we’ve learned in the curious case of Aleš Hojs, the only way for a minister to resign is for them to notify the prime minister who then has to appraise the parliament of this development.
Which is why the debate on Pivec’s dismissal continued even after she stated loudly and clearly that she is resigning her position. Procedure, huh?
And finally, this obviously begs the question what happens if the PM again refuses to open the envelope with Pivec’s resignation letter.
After all is said and done, the Glorious Leader still controls the timeline.