Procedural Hardball in No-Confidence Motion

Last Wednesday (and not yesterday, as pengovsky originally assumed), was supposed to be the day of the clash of the titans. Or, at the very least, a clash of the tits, given the current political class in Muddy Hollows. Instead, Kar Erjavec withdrew his no-confidence motion against PM Janez Janša.

Slovenian parliament did not debate the no-confidence motion against PM Janez Janša this week.
Original image via National Assembly (source)

Technically, Komeback Karl made his move on account of Covid-19 infections and exposures on the opposition side of the aisle. Seeing as he was already four votes short of a majority, going in with two people down would make the already long odds virtually impossible. However, there was a larger game afoot, as well.

To be fair, the whole no-confidence vote thing got shaky within hours of pengovsky posting his blog entry last Friday.

Covid-19 spy strain

Namely, it just so happened that secret service SOVA head Janez Stušek attended a session of the security services oversight committee while Covid-19 positive. This threw a major spanner in the works, as this committee is a pretty big fucking deal and membership is as much a matter of prestige as it is of actual competence.

Now, why and how exactly did the spook boos-man turn himself into a biological weapon and got in prolonged contact with one tenth of the parliament, is a separate question.

Given that subsequent testing showed no new infections in the nine committee members, this can of worms will likely remain closed, but if reports that Stušek was feeling ill the day before are correct, it would not be unreasonable to look into what exactly did the main spy in the country know about his illness and when did he know it.

Procedural aboutfuckery

Be that as it may, the question de la semaine was whether the parliament will debate the no-confidence motion and how to conduct a secret ballot if not all MPs can cast the vote. Seeing as neither side could be absolutely sure of the result, however, the situation soon escalated into procedural aboutfuckery that ended with Komeback Karl pulling the plug on the entire no-confidence motion.

To sum up, the issue was two-fold: Whether the parliament could postpone the debate and if not, whether the quarantened MPs could somehow cast a secret vote remotely.

The answer to both questions turned out to be negative. To be frank, the “remote secret ballot” severely pushed the limits of “there are no stupid questions” maxim, while Speaker Zorčič’s refusal to open and immediately suspend the session was just proof that the ruling coalition was just as unsure about the result as the opposition was.

Oftentimes, speakers of the parliament would go out of their way to indulge the opposition and show at least a sliver of bi-partisanship (or is that poli-partisanship in a proportional voting system?). Borut Pahor, for example, was notorious as Speaker for bending over backwards, mostly to the pleasure of one opposition leader Janša.

Speaker Igor Zorčič (SMC), however, would have none of it and put the kibosh on this approach. To be fair, he did not get to be (or rather, remain) Speaker because he knows how to play gentleman tennis but because he is supposed to keep all the coalition ducks in row. Especially now, when the Glorious Leader doesn’t have an absolute majority in the parliament anymore.

Action meets equal and opposite reaction

However, as is usual in politics, Newton’s Third Law applied. Almost as soon as Zorčič decided to play hardball and not wait for the opposition MPs Matjaž Han (SD) and Franc Jurša (DeSUS) to get better before continuing the debate, Karl Erjavec pulled the plug on the entire thing, announcing he will file the motion again sometime in the next two weeks.

Action was met with equal and opposite reaction and it seems Janša and his ilk, usually seen as masters of parliamentary procedure, were taken by surprise.

While gloating and pointing fingers at the aborted no-confidence attempt, The Glorious Leader and the Party faithful are, in fact, nervous. By keeping his powder dry Erjavec – at least in the short term – controls the agenda and keeps the issue of pandemic mismanagement front and centre for a few weeks more.

What is more, now that Speaker Zorčič has played the “no exceptions for infections” card, there is nothing from stopping Erjavec from re-filing the motion of no-confidence if and when a couple of coalition MPs have to quarantine. Not that it helps DeSUS leader directly (he needs 46 votes no matter what), but it does put additional pressure on the coalition and keeps them on the edge. And when people are on the edge, mistakes happen.

Karl Erjavec meets Sun Tzu

That is not to say that the opposition bloc is running a particularly tight ship. While they agree on the overall strategic objective of toppling Janša’s government, they are much less in sync when targets of opportunity arise.

Case in point being the hole minister of labor Janez Cigler Kralj (NSi) dug out for himself over an emergency tender for substantial amount of money that seemed to help a particular NGO with strong personal and business connections to the NSi. Pengovsky will write that one up soonest, but suffice it to say that not every KUL member enthuses over a no-confidence vote on the minister.

Sun Tzu once noted that every battle is won before it’s ever fought. Karl Erjavec’s attempts to bide his time, plan ahead and control the narrative are refreshing in the cesspool of knee-jerk reactions that is Muddy Hollows. But they also make the game much more complicated and Komeback Karl must be careful to not trip over his own two feet.

Glorious Leader, however, should be equally worried. Regardless of his Trump-esque posturing on Twitter, his margin of error is close to zero and the only thing sustaining his political fortunes right now is not his alleged political badassery but the simple fact that the opposition is still getting its act together.

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.