Minister of environment Andrej Vizjak is in a bit of a pickle. And by that pengovsky means he is in a big fucking mess. Namely, a recording surfaced in which Vizjak appears to offer a helping hand to Bojan Petan, an influential tycoon (think oligarch lite) and an overall shady dude, in the latter’s quest to obtain a majority stake in a government-controlled enterprise and thus avoid paying taxes.
The enterprise in question is Terme Čatež, a popular spa resort. Crucially, however, the conversation took place 14 years ago. So, not exactly the freshest of cuts, if you get my meaning. But even before this episode Vizjak was embroiled in enough shit to make this particular bag of canine excrement stick more than it might have done under different circumstances.
You see, Andrej Vizjak is, well, special. And not in a paralympian sense of the word. This dude has all the delicacy of a runaway buldozer. He also has none of the style of that particular piece of heavy machinery. As such, he is always straddling the thin line separating an asset from damaged goods.
And it seems that in the last couple of months he finally and irrevocably crossed over to the damaged goods section.
Friends will be friends
In short, the recording obtained by privately-owned POP TV had Vizjak persuading Petan to go with a certain scenario in acquiring a majority stake in the spa company. Petan was apparently reluctant to play ball, to which Vizjak pointed out that – as an added bonus – the tycoon would avoid paying a capital gains tax. In case things like that turn you on, N1 Slovenia has a nice little explainer, too.
But for the purposes of understanding trials and tribulations of Andrej Vizjak, both readers should know two things.
First, that at the time of the recording (some time in 2007) Andrej Vizjak was minister of economy in the first Janša government (2004-2008). As such, he wielded enormous influence on management of state-owned enterprises. And seeing as this was all happening pre-2008 financial meltdown, there was a still a fuckton of state-owned enterprises to manage.
Second, at that same time, prime minister Janez Janša (that is to say, Vizjak’s boss) was waging a very incendiary public and legislative campaign against business tycoons. And while things were obviously shady as fuck back then, it is only fourteen years later that the general public can see just how shady they were.
Running on borrowed time
So, while it may not have been strictly illegal – and even if it were, the statute of limitation has long since expired – this episode does further the narrative of Janez Janša running a hypocritical, duplicitous and corrupt government. Or governments, in his case.
However, in the case of Andrej Vizjak, things are slightly more complex than mere fleecing the very government these people were running. Namely, according to people with a good insight into Party history, one of the problems plaguing Andrej Vizjak since forever was, that he was primarily interested in the well-being of Andrej Vizjak, while the Party came only second.
Point is that while his usefulness factor apparently outweighed his liability factor every single time the Glorious Leader came to power, Vizjak is increasingly running on borrowed time. I mean literally everyone has an axe to grind with this guy. But some have more incentive to get rid of him (expeditiously!) than others.
Ever since the opposition started getting its shit together and – well – oppose, Vizjak was a prime target. Not in the least because in 2020 he bought a not-insignificant amount of shares of Petrol, the country’s largest oil and energy company, just as the government was about to repeal a price cap on petrol prices. And then his chief of staff was made a member of Petrol’s supervisory board. Which, you know, is all completely normal… for a government that thrives on a conflict of interest.
But while the opposition was moving to try and impeach Vizjak, the dude went ahead shot himself in both feet with a machine gun, as it were. He pushed the infamous Waters Act through the parliamentary procedure, only to see it shot down by the voters in a referendum. The result of that vote was a body blow not just for Vizjak but for the entire Janša administration. It still has to recover from it.
Consequently, the opposition shelved the move to impeach Vizjak. The reasoning being that the man is now damaged good to the extent that it makes more sense to let him spread the rot, so to speak, rather than expunge him from the crate.
Which is exactly the opposite of how Janša’s coalition partners saw things. I mean, these guys have enough on their plate as it is. Reportedly, the NSi was pissed off to no end with Vizjak for engineering the July referendum clusterfuck and wanted him gone. That – obviously – didn’t happen.
Curiously however, mere four months later NSi leader and defence minister Matej Tonin is seeing his coveted super-duper-transparent arms deals blowing up in his face. I mean, yes, the dude is so dense light bends around him but things are suddenly leaking with astonishing speed.
Then there’s SMC leader and cut-price Auric Goldfinger lookalike Zdravko Počivalšek. He is battling to keep his party, well, a party after the 2022 election and is simultaneously busy creating his state-owned tourism conglomerate (a.k.a. his post-elex golden parachute).
Now, given Bojan Petan (the dude Vizjak was caught talking to) owns a different tourism holding, could this be somehow connected? Is Vizjak running interference against Počivalšek on behalf of his buddy to the extent that Počivalšek is getting pissed off?
Obviously, this is pure speculation on pengovsky’s part but it is entirely possible that the the whole Vizjak thing is simply coalition in-fighting spilling out into the open.
Glorious Leader shifting focus
Then there Janez Janša himself. It took Marshal Twito several days to come out in some sort of defence of Vizjak. And it is understandable. I mean, the guy was either going behind his back in trying to cut a deal with Petan or he was doing it with Janša in the know, but was stupid enough to get caught. At any rate, as far as the prime minister is concerned right now, Vizjak is borderline radioactive.
That said, what little support the Glorious Leader did give to his embattled minister of environment, it came in fueling the conspiracy theory claiming recording was doctored. Party-affiliated outlets even found a sound engineer willing to say that into a camera.
The only problem is that the very confident assertion by that particular sound engineer was refuted by some of his industry fellows. They – quite rightly – pointed out that working with a compressed recording to begin with is a fool’s errand as there’s simply too much lost information to make a definite conclusion. And even if the recording does come from a couple of conversations, why were these conversations happening in the first place?
Not that any of this matters to Janez Janša, obviously. Bashing the media is his favourite past-time and if claiming the recording was faked shifts the focus away from his problematic minister, so much the better.
As for Vizjak himself, the only thing keeping him in the post right now is the fact that Janša cannot risk losing yet another vote in the parliament. And if this story refuses to go away in the next couple of weeks, expect Vizjak to be dismissed with Janša taking on the role until election.
After all, the parliamentary vote countdown clock is nearing T-minus six months.