A Hope And A Prayer

It may not seem like it but it has been nearly eight years and four governments since Muddy Hollows last had to deal with a no-confidence vote. And before 2013, the only other time a no-confidence vote was mounted was in 1992. In short, a no-confidence vote is pretty fucking rare in this neck of the woods. Doubly so when the effort is led by Karl Erjavec, something pengovsky still can’t completely get his head around.

The motion of no-confidence

Be that as it may, today Komeback Karl, supported by LMŠ, SD, SAB and Levica parliamentary groups, filed the fifth no-confidence motion in the history of democratic Slovenia. Wait. Fifth? Pengovsky, you dumbass, you said it only happened in 1992 and 2013!? Well, allow me to elucidate with references to specifics…

Slovenia has, what is known around here as a constructive no-confidence vote and was lifted directly from the German parliamentary system. Basically, a government can only be replaced by electing a new PM with an absolute majority, that is to say, 46 votes.

Ostensibly, this brings about some sort of political stability as a government cannot be toppled without an alternative PM waiting in the wings. Things get slightly more murky and less stable from here on, as the entire process calls for another vote in a fortnight, and if the new PM loses that one, things can still go tits-up, but you get the idea.

Bottom line, the 46-vote threshold implies a major shift in political alliances and is so steep that it was only attempted twice four times twice ...input error...

It’s complicated

This is where things get complicated for Komeback Karl. No matter how he turns it, the reinstated DeSUS leader is challenging PM Janez Janša with only 42 secured votes. And even that was something he had to work on, as it was his own MPs that apparently needed convincing that the whole undertaking would be worth it.

In fact, it was right up until the end that Erjavec was twisting the arm of Branko Simonovič, the DeSUS MP who in the end held out and issued a carefully-worded statement basically saying that he’s a “no” on co-signing the no-confidence motion but was less clear on whether he’ll vote to oust Janša in a week’s time.

You might think that Simonovič’s flip-flopping has to do with his seaside hut built without a permit but pengovsky really couldn’t comment.

Be that as it may, technically speaking, the main DeSUS honcho only needs 10 MPs to file a no-confidence motion, But it makes sense to secure the necessary votes from the get go as a show of strength. Therefore it was understandable for Erjavec to make one extra lap and see if Simonovič would budge or not.

But at the end of the day, it’s the actual vote that matters and in that vote anything less than 46 votes counts for nothing (more or less, see below ). Erjavec remains at least three or four votes short. This leaves him with a puzzle he’s unable to solve by himself and needs to peel off at an equal number of SMC MPs away from the party line and have them support the no-confidence motion.

Anyone can rat, but it takes some ingenuity to re-rat

Before you ask, yes, Erjavec could try and make a deal with leader of the nationalist party Zmago Jelinčič, who has made selling out into something of an art form.

But getting in bed with the nationalists (as comical as they are) may well be beyond the palatable for the left-wing opposition, especially since the KUL bloc includes Levica. Few things are certain in Muddy Hollows these days, but Luka Mesec not allowing himself to be caught dead in cahoots with Zmago Jelinčič is one of them.

Winston Churchill once observed that anyone can rat but it takes a certain degree of ingenuity to re-rat. And Erjavec was not (or, could not be) ingenious enough to make at least three SMC MPs do a repeat volte face, having already once reneged on their campaign

To be frank, the situation ebbed and flowed over the past month and at times it seemed as if the deal was within reach. But neither PM Janša nor SMC boss Zdravko Počivalšek (who has a vested interest in this government surviving) were going to take any of this lying down and engaged in some serious rear-guard action.

For example, word on the street has it that Speaker Igor Zorčič (one of the three MPs thought to be most likely to take the plunge) was promised SDS support in running for mayor of Brežice. If true, this tells you all you need to know about the mentality of the current political class in Muddy Hollows. From being the first in the line of succession to a mayor of a town with 6800 souls. Failing upwards, this is not.

The joy of secret ballot

Not that PM Janša can afford to relax and scratch his ass, even if there weren’t a pandemic on. Seeing as DeSUS has jumped ship (but not yet boarded another one), the prime minister is technically running a minority government. And for all their bravado, the Glorious Leader and his coalition toadies are quite nervous about the outcome of what will undoubtedly be a shit-show of epic proportions.

You see, after all is said and done, the actual vote of no-confidence is done by secret ballot. Much like in the actual election, the 90 MPs file to pick up their ballots, go to a voting booth where they check YES or NO on whether the PM should be replaced by the challenger.

And with the vote being secret and whatnot, there is no way of knowing who voted how. Maybe there are other disgruntled MPs in other coalition parties who have kept quiet and are simply waiting for the opportunity to present itself? And yes, “other coalition parties” in this case means the NSi.

While Erjavec made his move today, the actual vote will take place a week from now. And there are enough known unknowns and even uknown unknowns at play to make PM Janša jittery, despite his alpha-male shit.

Not much of a plan

In the past, Marshall Tweeto enforced party and coalition discipline by making MPs of dubious loyalty take a photo of the ballot or such. This was frowned upon for many years and is now specifically forbidden. As a result, the only way for the ruling coalition to keep its ranks closed is for SDS, SMC and NSi MPs not to cast a ballot at all.

This is a crude but effective procedural maneuver, as in this case a non-vote is effectively equal to a no-vote. But seeing as the government only has 41 votes in the parliament, it remains to be seen whether the nationalist party and the two ethnic minorities MPs (all of which have signed onto the confidence-and-supply agreement with Janša) will follow suit.

Bottom line, with a week to go, Janša has 41 votes in the parliament, Erjavec has one more, but the latter has to push the number to 46 and all that he seemingly has left is a hope and a prayer. Which is not much of a plan.

However, even if Komeback Karl doesn’t make it all the way to the end, the respite afforded to Marshall Tweeto will most likely be short-lived.

(N.B.: this is where we resolve the mystery of whether there were two our four no-confidence attempts).

History repeating

The 2013 no-confidence motion against Janša was fairly straightforward. The country was going to hell in a handcart, the Glorious Leader was bucking under the pressures of the financial crisis and was getting increasingly deranged and paranoid and the left-wing opposition struck a deal with DeSUS and DL (the now-extinct liberal party) to switch sides.

Kind of like today, where the country is again going to hell in a handcart, 1 in 650 Slovenians is dead due to Covid-19, the Glorious Leader’s only plan to handle the pandemic is “wait and see” while life has been on lockdown for months with no end in sight.

But then there’s 1992, when it took three attempts with three different candidates over a short period of time to topple the obviously rudderless government of Lojze Peterle.

Feels like 1992

This is why Erjavec’s no-confidence motion may serve a purpose even if it fails. It increases the pressure on the government to keeps its ranks closed and not do stupid shit. And since this is proving almost impossible with this government, a subsequent no-confidence motion is all but guaranteed, even if the KUL honchos won’t readily admit it, for fear of being accused of politicking in the middle of the pandemic.

Janez Drnovšek was first appointed PM only nine months before 1992 election. There is absolutely no reason former EU commissioner Janez Potočnik, whose name is being floated as a possible second attempt, couldn’t do the same.

After all, bringing down governments seems to be all the rage in Europe these days.

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.