Jože P. Damijan And The Quest For Content

Seemingly out of the blue, things got very frosty between Jože P. Damijan, the erstwhile centrepiece of the KUL coalition, and the liberal part of the opposition alliance. The one-time would-be PM went on national telly Monday night and en passant lambasted SAB and LMŠ parties as being devoid of content and without growth potential.

Jože P. Damijan explaining his plan for platform on Studio City programme. Pictured is also host Marcel Štefančič, jr.
Jože P. Damijan appearing in Studio City programme (source)

JPD then added he is now working on social-liberal platform that apparently will not become a new social-liberal party and yet at the same time maintained that a new party in that part of the spectrum is needed. Needless to say LMŠ and SAB went ballistic.

To be completely honest, pengovsky can’t quite make out what exactly JPD was trying to achieve by pulling his stunt on Monday night. Clearly, whatever platform he is working on is not yet ready. Then again, neither is his reasoning for developing the platform in the first place. But the damage was done and the frail collective egos of SAB and LMŠ were visibly hurt.

Flying off the hook

So, in terms of reading the room, Damijan didn’t do a particularly good job. And just in case there’s any doubt, SAB and LMŠ let it be known what they thought of the episode.
SAB gen/sec Pavlič layed out the party’s content…
…while LMŠ chief Šarec layed into Damijan hard.

SAB secretary general Jernej Pavlič pushed back, linking to the party’s platform, results and whatnot, basically saying JPD doesn’t know what the fuck he is talking about.

LMŠ boss and former PM Marjan Šarec, however, really flew off the hook. During a press conference he remarked sarcastically that the apparent lack of content wasn’t a problem for Damijan when he charged LMŠ a shitload of money for writing up an economic analysis. Ouch baby, very ouch.

The most pressing question of course is, why woud Jože P. Damijan go and do something like that.

The other question of course is, why the fuck can’t Marjan Šarec just let some things slide.

The answer to the latter is, presumably, that is just the way things are and that expecting Šarec to change at this point is useless. And while we’re on it, the episode only reiterates the notion that Šarec’s thin skin is probably one of the reasons he has been a former PM for over a year now.

The answer to the first question is slightly more complex, but is probably one of the reasons JPD never achieved formal PM challenger status.

Content über alles

The main issue Damijan danced around was alleged lack of content on the parts of LMŠ and SAB as well as DeSUS and SMC. Seeing as all four are members of European liberal group Renew (former ALDE), this could well be interpreted as a smack in the face of the liberal bloc in Muddy Hollows in general. Doubly so when JPD then proceeded so sort-of-kinda approve of Levica and SD for having more content than their liberal counterparts.

Which is a weird thing to say when a) you’re developing a liberal platform, b) will have to be working with most if not all of these parties in the future and c) you’re talking about Social Democrats, the party which has happily collaborated with Janša’s SDS in the past and is social democratic mostly due to name recognition and historic interpretation, and little else.

In all fairness, JPD is correct in saying there is a certain je ne sais quoi missing from the current KUL mix, that would enable them to take over the reins of power.

And judging by the latest embarrassing antics by the Glorious Leader on the EU stage and stupid authoritarianism at home (such as fining high school students for protesting distance learning and dragging them in front of a court), reins of power need to be taken over, stat.

However, as Karl Erjavec learned the hard way almost three weeks ago, at this moment in time the KUL opposition group can muster only 40 votes in the parliament.

Minority government, minority opposition

Make no mistake, that is way too many votes for PM Janša’s comfort. Add to that the fact that only 44 MPs opposed Erjavec one way or another, while six MPs abstained, and you begin to understand why Marshal Twito is getting unhinged.

Therefore, as things stand, neither the opposition nor the ruling coalition can muster a majority in the parliament.

Of course, individual voting results may vary. The new health minister Janez Poklukar was confirmed by a 50-31 vote. But that doesn’t mean Janša’s government has 50 votes in the parliament. It only means opposition parties are starting to pick their battles.

And this is the lesson Jože P. Damjan doesn’t seem to understand.

Platforms are fine. But they are only one of roughly three parts that make up “political content” (for the lack of a better word): the platform at the bottom, the legislative and executive action at the top and experienced people in the middle who know how make things happen.

If anything, KUL sorely lack the latter and are now trying to make up for it.

Opposition of the people, for the people and by the people

You see, a liberal platform is a no-brained under the current circumstances. Especially in Muddy Hollows where the illiberal PM will tolerate no dissent and even less criticism. The platform pretty much writes itself.

The legislative and executive action is, of course, trickier. But as things stand, the next big effort on this front will be the post-pandemic recovery, heavily financed by EU funds. Any recovery plan will thus have to be approved by the European Commission. Presumably this will include continuous oversight and reporting, as the tax euros are spent over the next couple of years.

At the very least, by the time the good people of Muddy Hollows get to pick their representatives next, the priorities will have been set. Given that Slovenia is reportedly being sent back to the drawing board over and over again (the government disputes that reporting), the final plan will likely be much more to the opposition’s liking. And even if not, the plan can always be amended, if the aim is to make it even more sustainable.

The one thing the opposition can make progress therefore, is in the field of human resources. To put it simply, it needs to have its people develop skills, gain experience and build specialised knowledge in various areas – first and foremost in legislature and governance.

One more party (or two more parties, if we include former minister of environment Jure Leben as a serious new contender in the field) will not achieve that.

Quite the opposite: if anything, Karl Erjavec’s failed PM bid has shown that both LMŠ and SAB can and will play ball, as they cast their votes for a candidate that they knew was likely to fail. And Erjavec didn’t really fail because of lack of content (inasmuch content was even important three weeks ago) but because he has a loyalty problem within his own party.

So, if Damjan had actually made a serious attempt at defining the issue, he would have seen what is obvious with the naked eye and requires no platform brainstorming: that DeSUS in its current form is not to be counted on, while SMC apparently decided that the Janša administration is the hill they intend to die on.

Not a member of any organised party…

This, of course, does open up a potential pool of voters to woo by the left-liberal parties. But SAB is already hard at work at sucking up (to?) DeSUS voters, and has been for the past six years, while the three remaining SMC voters probably won’t make much of a difference anyhow.

To put it another way (maritime metaphor alert!) the pool of voters JPD’s new party intends to sail in is dangerously shallow.

Then again, internecine bickering is the natural state of the political left-wing. To paraphrase Will Rogers, a Slovenian left-liberal does not belong to any organised political party.

Point being that there is no such thing as a perfect left-liberal party. Even more, as the perfect often becomes the enemy of the good, the crass manner in which JPD went about announcing his latest masterplan might have hurt his designs rather than helped them.

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.