Igor Zorčič just started his second iteration as speaker of the Slovenian parliament. He was appointed to the post as part of the coalition deal Janez Janša cobbled together in 2020. And he remains in the post in 2021 (at least for now) after quitting the SMC days ago, with Janša’s coalition, now deep in the minority government territory, unable to muster the votes to replaces him. This is serious political survival shit.
Things have been picking up pace in Muddy Hollows for some time now. They really accelerated days ago, however, when Janja Sluga, Brane Rajić and Igor Zorčič quit the SMC and joined forces with Jurij Lep who quit DeSUS and formed a group of independent MPs. The ruling coalition (what’s left of it, anyway) wanted its post back for itself and nominated NSi’s Jožef Horvat to take over. Turns out they were a vote short.
Now, it needs to be said that under normal circumstances, speaker of the parliament quitting his party (and with it, the ruling coalition), would immediately be followed by the said speaker tendering his resignation. But neither are the circumstances normal nor is Slovenia a normal country right now.
Everyone loves treason
It also needs to be said that for all his ability to hang on, Zorčič is not really an inspiring Speaker. Too often he looked the other way when Marshal Twito disparaged opposition MPs. Too often he simply rolled over for whatever the government demanded. And he has done too little to assert the power of the parliament during the pandemic, exactly the time when an independent legislative body was and is needed the most.
Therefore, whatever newfound love the opposition has for him is transactional at best and disingenious at worst. The same goes for Sluga and Rajić. Especially since the trio had has ample opportunity to grow a spine over the course of the last couple of months.
And while Speaker Zorčič now lives to see another day, his independent status does not offer him the same kind of clout as coalition membership did. Not to mention the fact that Janša and his ilk will now lump him together with the opposition, the latter will eye him (and his fellow independents) suspiciously. At least for a while.
To put in the words of an ancient Roman politician, people love treason but hate the traitor.
In any case, the respite Zorčič got may only be temporary. PM Janša and his minions may try to replace him again and if they do, they will be better prepared.
Alternatively, things may go to hell in a handcart for the Glorious Leader, with the side effect of depriving Zorčič of his coveted post.
Many pixels will be used in the coming days over why two invalid ballots were cast, denying Jožef Horvat a majority and what that spells for the future of Marshal Twito and his regime.
The short answer is, not much.
The long answer is that one of the luxury of a secret ballot is the fact that it is, well, secret and that there is no sure way of knowing who chose to deny the Glorious Leader his victory. When the parliament will be voting on government legislation, no such luxury will be extended.
That does not mean no horsetrading will be done. Quite to the contrary. The nationalist party leader Zmago Jelinčič probably already updated his price list while the remnants of the DeSUS parliamentary group are likely to revisit their own unofficial confidence and supply agreement with PM Janša.
But seeing as most of the parliamentary votes are public, any transgression will be noticed immediately. And most of these people will think twice before risking the ire of the Glorious Leader.
Hell, it took Zorčič, Rajić and Sluga over a year to accept what was painfully obvious from the get-go: that one does not work with Janša, one only works for Janša, mostly in the form of trying to rationalise and explain away his illiberalism.
This is not over yet
Even though Marshal Twito suffered a humiliating defeat in the parliament, he will not simply give up, despite the talk about early election.
The man does not recover from slights easily and continuously wants to settle old scores and exact revenge. In all likelihood, this will be the case here as well. Not to mention the fact that right now is probably the absolute worst time for him to move towards an election.
Make no mistake, a snap vote would be good for Muddy Hollows right now. But unless that shift in the balance of power picks up pace and the opposition secures more votes, there is no way the opposition can force an early election.
Not that votes of the newly formed independents can be counted squarely as opposition votes anyhow.
As thing stand, one of two things must happen in order for Slovenians to go to the polls early: either the prime minister resigns or loses a vote of confidence, and the parliament is unable or unwilling to appoint a replacement candidate.
In short, while the Zorčič episode is yet another black eye for the Janša government, Muddy Hollows is nowhere near a snap election.
But then again, a week is a long time in politics.
(note: this post was corrected to reflect that this is Zorčič’s second and not third iteration as Speaker)