SDS, the party of PM Janez Janša seems to be in a bit of a pickle. With its congress just around the corner, it started sounding alarm over a supposedly looming civil war and the spectre of communism haunting Slovenia (to paraphrase a certain German philosopher).
As both readers of this blog are well aware, alarmism and fearmongering are par for the course for the Party and its Glorious Leader. Still, toying with Parteiverbot and internecine violence is a new level of increasingly beligerent rhetortic of Janša’s party. So, what gives?
In preparations for its upcoming congress The Party released drafts documents to be adopted by the faithful. In a fairly clever move, there are actually four documents in this set, each aimed at a different demographic.
The main document is – presumably – their election manifesto which reads as a fairly boilerplate campaign text that could easily have come from any centre-right party. A bit of traditionalism with a sprinkle of social issues and not a hint of far-right etno-nationalism that has come to define the SDS and its leader.
Then, there’s a pie-in-the-sky-bullshit text by the SDS Youth Organisation (SDS Jugend? SDS Komsomol?) which acts as if it had nothing to do with the Slovenian branch of Generation Identity or other far-right extremists.
Ironically, the one document that should address SDS’s most faithful constituency (in fact, the most faithful constitutency of any political party in Muddy Hollows), could hardly even be called a draft. In SDS’s view, senior citizens don’t even merit a full page of coherent sentences.
Nice country you have there. Shame if something were to happen to it.
But then comes the doozy. The fourth document, titled Defending Democracy and the Constitutional Order is clearly aimed at the angriest and the largest part of the Party’s base and has a whole section dedicated to the “spectre of communism crawling across Slovenia”.
Basically, the gist of it is that if the left-wing party Levica is allowed to continue to exist, communism will re-emerge in Slovenia and the civil war will be rekindled.
There will be enough time to parse the text once the SDS congress passes the resolution(s). But the verbiage of “the danger of civil war being rekindled” (“...kar lahko vodi v obnovitev državljanske vojne.”) is telling.
According to the SDS, a civil war in Slovenia is always only a step or two away. True, they are warning against it but the choice of vocabulary is not a coincidence. Nice country you have there. Shame if something were to happen to it.
In all likelihood, this was a classic dog-whistle to the base. Rank-and-file will understand the signal and its implications, even if the reference to civil war doesn’t make it into the final version of the Party congress resolution.
Moreover, this might have been just a trial balloon, to see what the Party can get away with these days. And if they decide to drop the section, they will try to come across as more moderate than they really are.
Then again, given just how batshit crazy the Party and its leader are occasionally acting these days, one can never really be sure what (if anything) these characters are thinking.
Case in point the SDS moving to have a parliamentary debate on Levica’s platform. This actually builds on the yet-to-be-adopted congress resolutions which sort of indicates there won’t be that many changes between draft and final versions.
It is also presumably aimed at somehow censuring Levica and laying the groundwork to attempt and outright ban it.
There’s a lot to unpack here.
First, a parliamentary debate on the legitimacy and/or the legality of a parliamentary party is unheard of. In fact, Speaker Zorčič hasn’t even decided if he will allow the motion to go forward and is seeking legal advice from the parliamentary legal service on how to proceed.
The slippery slope here is obvious. If the SDS gets its way, then debating any part of a platform of any party (parliamentary or otherwise) is fair game and will be done a lot going forward. To wit, it is quite likely that the very next party whose platform would be debated and subject to potential censure by the parliament would be the SDS. Surely, they would cry foul if and when that happened, but that is where this course of action leads to.
The fact that the SDS and its leadership apparently don’t care about the long-term effects either means they plan change the rules of engagement if and when they can (i.e. re-capture the majority in the parliament) or – more likely – they don’t have the luxury and/or capacity for strategic thought right now. In other words, that they are in deeper shit than it seems.
Same old bag of tricks
Second. While attempting to debate an opposition party’s platform is a bit of a curve-ball, having a grand parliamentary debate with all the bells and whistles close to an election is standard SDS tactics.
They pulled the same shit with the manufactured Ultra “scandal” on the cusp of the 2004 election season, then tried to repeat the performance in 2008 and 2010/2011, with mixed results.
In 2018, the SDS ran a scaremongering campaig warning about the dangers of a “wave of immigrants about to engulf Slovenia”. It was the type of sordid affair that would make Nigel Farage proud, billboards included. That, too, had mixed results as the SDS did in fact win a plurality but got initially outmaneuvered by Marjan Šarec and LMŠ in forming the government (we all know how that ended) .
Fast forward to 2021, and the Party is trying to pull those two rabbits out of those two hats simultaneously and hopes no-one will notice they’re basically recycling their old tricks.
Third. By focusing on Levica, the SDS is actually signal-boosting the hard-left party’s message. Levica’s platform is nerd literature. It is also very much dated, as it was adopted back in 2017, a year after the party went through a painful unification process that nearly killed it. That platform has subsequently been supplemented, amended and watered down by various election manifestos Levica adopted for various election cycles.
Newton’s Third Law
But the point is that by focusing on some of the more outlandish parts of Levica’s platform (and let’s face it, parts of their platform are just fucking nuts), Janša’s party might have inadvertently generated interest for other, more sane and yup-that-could-work parts of Levica’s ideology.
It is, in short, a political demonstration of Newton’s Third Law. Every action has its equal and opposite reaction.
And, finally, four. By singling out Levica, the SDS have tpped their hand as to whom they fear most. Either because they don’t understand (and can’t be bothered to try to understand) where Levica is coming from and what motivates them, or – conversely – because they understand Levica and their ideological zeal all too well and see their activation potential as the main threat to SDS’s own electoral result.
Taking all of this into account, PM Janša and the SDS seem as if they didn’t think these moves through.
Sure, it might all be just a gimmick. If the “civil war” thing magically disappears from the final Party congress resolution and the parliamentary debate on Levica doesn’t take off, it will have at least given the SDS something to whine about until the election. But the downsides to this tactics are so many and so obvious that clearly not a lot of effort was made to put together this game-plan.
Then again, it could be that PM Janša and the SDS didn’t have a lot of other options anyway.
Red meat for the base
There are two ways of looking at the Party going cray-cray. One, they’re trying to expand their base by appealing to voters who may not be fully onboard with their batshit crazy rhetoric and politics, but who somehow still break into a cold sweat whenever someone mentions communism.
Or, two, the existing base of the party is being fed red meat because the rank-and-file are getting antsy, and for a good reason. The results of this government (pandemic or otherwise) are middling at best, and the Bonanza heralded by the Glorious Leader is failing to materialise, and life is hard, and no-one likes them and, … (breaks into uncontrollable sobbing) ...
On balance, the second scenario seems more likely.
That’s mostly because an embarrassing fracas within the Party burst out in the open recently, just as the Party was rolling out its 1930s-meet-Joe-McCarty bullshit. Or maybe, the spectre of communism and the veiled threats of civil war were put out there because troops needed to be rallied and red meat had to be thrown to appease the base.
Be that as it may. Following yet another failed attempt to oust Speaker Zorčič, questions were being asked as to who exactly didn’t do their homework before moving to vote on the issue for the second time. Questions were also being asked as to who exactly fucked up during the actual secret ballot.
The answer to the first question is obvious. The blame lies squarely at SDS parliamentary group chief Danijel Krivec. He really should have made sure he had all the ducks in the row before he moved forward with another vote against Speaker.
The answer to the second question will probably never be known. After all, the ballot is secret.
However, the mere fact that SDS heavyweights Jože Tanko and Branko “Gizmo” Grims have been accused (without evidence) by tabloid press close to the Party of possibly being the two recalcitrant MPs, indicates some serious fist-fights within the SDS.
Tanko and Gizmo as would-be traitors?
Both Tanko and Gizmo are inherently loyal to the Glorious Leader. True, on occasion Tanko didn’t toe the party line. In 2018 this cost him his long-time leadership of the SDS parliamentary group. But even the demotion didn’t shatter his devotion (cheesy rhyme alert!) and was always there when Marshal Twito needed some commotion (wtf, pengovsky!!)
To wit, a couple of months ago NSi leader Matej Tonin felt he could take a victory lap on Twitter (for no reason, he just does that sort of shit every now and then). Immediately, Tanko cut him off at the knees, tweeting that Tonin’s bragging is only possible because Janša provided the cash in the budget.
That’s Tanko effectively telling Tonin to sit the fuck down.
But painting Branko Grims as the would-be traitor was even more outlandish. I mean, this joker is the pillar of SDS’s far-right fundamentalist wing. He hasn’t met him a Q-Anon bullshit he doesn’t subscribe to, a Trumpian conspiracy theory he doesn’t believe in and a white supremacist he doesn’t like.
Which is why Gizmo was wounded to the depths of his dark soul by allegations that he might have cast one of the invalid votes, allowing Speaker Zorčič to live to see another day.
In fact, in denying this, Gizmo went so over the top that he even claimed he lifted his ballot for everyone to see before casting is, so that the cameras inside the National Assembly chamber would capture his (supposedly secret) vote.
Just one problem: the cameras were off-line during the vote.
But still, painting Gizmo and Tanko as traitors to the Glorious Leader is a huge stretch.
If the allegation is true (highly unlikely), then Janša might as well call it quits and get the fuck out of office because he will never again find henchmen as loyal as these two motherfuckers.
If, however, the allegations are not true (very likely, especially given the outlet that floated them), then we are witnessing some weapons-grade ratfuckery inside the SDS. Given that the Glorious Leader isn’t really known for tolerating factions, that can only mean he is losing a grip on things.
Which kind of makes sense. He’s botched the handling of the epidemic. Been handed his ass in the parliament more than once. Screwed up royally on the European stage over and over again. And on top of that, he still has a government to manage and an EU Council to run for the next six months.
Not to mention his unhealthy Twitter habit.
Point being that Janez Janša’s paranoid micro-managerial style of running this shitshow simply isn’t suited to the situation he and his government are in. As a result, operatives further down the foodchain are left rudderless, since there is no clear second-in-command to pick up the slack and fill in for the Glorious Leader.
This, of course, is ideal breeding ground for factional score-settling within the Party.
Nature has a sense of irony
That is not to say that the Party is going the way of the dodo anytime soon. As long as Marshal Twito remains the chairman, the SDS will continue to traffic in etno-nationalism, euro-scepticism, illiberalism and other assorted far-right politics and pull decent percentage points in doing so.
But PM Janša will find it increasingly difficulty to rally the troops and keep various factions of the party at bay. Not because he would have forgotten how to maintain party discipline but because the cost of him cutting loose and getting rid of people who don’t always toe the party line is getting higher and higher. Especially since the replacement crew is making a piss-poor job of executing orders.
So, yes. A civil war is looming. Just not the one SDS is fantasising about. Nature, it would seem, has an acute sense of irony.