The State of Muddy Hollows Play, part 2: Who The Fuck Is Robert Golob?

In Part Two of pengovsky playing catch-up (click here for Part 1), it is finally time to introduce Robert Golob. To outside observers, his name popped up suddenly in a series of opinion polls, scoring a cool fifteen-to-twenty percent from the get-go. And many people went “the fuck is going on in Muddy Hollows?”

Robert Golob, now former CEO of Gen-I, who upended political scene in Muddy Hollows.
Robert Golob (source)

In a nutshell, it is a function of a lot of people wanting someone, anyone, to sort out this fucking mess. Call it a reverse messiah complex. That is not to say that Robert Golob does not have his own agency and ambitions. Which he clearly does. But right now, he still lacks pretty much everything else. But the turntables….

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but what happens when PM Janša picks on a CEO of a (para)state-owned company, and dismisses him? Doesn’t matter if it is either out of revenge or some business interest he’s trying to placate, he just wants him gone. Expeditiously. That’s right, sometimes this particular CEO, who was just thrown out the door, comes back through the window. Only this time he is leading a political movement.

Oops!… He did it again

This, of course, is exactly what happened in 2006 and culminated five years later. All Zoran Janković wanted a decade and a half ago was to be left alone and take over Mercator using a, well, imaginative financial scheme. Nixing that and firing him from the company, Janša created himself a dedicated political arch-enemy who until recently spent every living, breathing moment opposing him. Often successfully.

And in a text-book case of an old dog having memory retention issues regarding new tricks, the Glorious Leader did all over again.

Robert Golob was perfectly happy as the head of Gen-I, an energy corporation with a 50% state ownership, that brought home a cool three billion euros yearly. All he wanted was to be left alone. He was also smart enough (or naive enough) to play ball with the current regime. Among other things, Gen-I advertised on Marshal Twito’s propaganda machine.

And yet, either he wasn’t loyal enough or the pile of cash Gen-I was sitting on was simply too sweet for the Party not to get their hands on, he was dismissed. Next thing he knew, the Glorious Leader was looking at poll numbers with Golob breathing down his neck.

Not exactly a new kid on the block

That is not to say Golob doesn’t have public executive and party experience. He did do two stints as state secretary (think deputy minister) for energy in the last two Drnovšek governments. He also had something of a prominent back-office position in Zoran Jankovič’s short-lived Positive Slovenia and later in Alenka Bratušek’s SAB. Finally, he is also very active and influential as the city councilman in Nova Gorica. So, not exactly a new kid on the political block.

Within a week of him being pushed out of Gen-I, he was seen as the most credible challenger to the regime of Janez Janša. At the very least, he was made to be seen as the most credible challenger, with some public opinion pollsters pitting him squarely against the Glorious Leader in a head-to-head match.

Which is kind of dodgy, as this is not how the political system in Muddy Hollows works. If Golob wants to go anywhere politically, he will need to think terms of a coalition. This will not be a winner-take-all political contest. Provided there even is such a contest in the first place.

KUL barely keeping their cool

Speaking of coalitions, the ruling coalition obviously did not enthuse over Golob, well, landing in the middle of the political flock. Character assassination was swift and brutal, spearheaded by very same propaganda factory Golob helped finance while he was still head of Gen-I.

But while the powers that be were firing at will, the coalition of four opposition parties (KUL) wasn’t happy with the development either. SD, LMŠ, SAB and Levica were finally starting to set aside their mutual mistrust and get comfortable around one another. No small feat given that they all sunk the Šarec government in 2020 and then blamed one another for doing it.

From their perspective the arrival of Robert Golob messes things up more than it helps their cause. So, the best response they could manage was a perfunctory “everyone is welcome to play”, and leave it at that.

And for a good reason, as it turns out. According to public opinion polls, Golob and his hitherto nonexistent political party can take over a big chunk of KUL’s voter base. Sure, SD and possibly Levica can survive a haircut of twenty percent of their voters, SAB and LMŠ are in a much more precarious position. Especially Šarec seemed rattled by it.

On Wednesday KUL seem to have decided that Golob will have put his money where his mouth is if he wants to play for the top spot. Šarec (proving beyond any doubt that Golob really is rubbing him the wrong way) even said that it is customary for a would-be PM to win elections first.

Happy together

Technically, Šarec is wrong here. Under Slovenian system, anyone can become a PM, if they can get themselves nominated and secure an absolute majority in the parliament. It is true, however, that most PMs in Slovenia have first won elections first. But this is not some age old tradition passed down for generations since time immemorial.

That said, and perhaps even more importantly KUL have agreed amongst themselves that the party that comes out on top gets first dibs at the PM spot. So, as far as they are concerned, they have set out the basic principles of collaboration. And just who the fuck does this Golob character think he his, waltzing in and thinking he can run the table?

However, should KUL win on election day, in a way where there is no one clear leader, things could get messy. I mean, if Tanja Fajon’s SD score 16 percent, and Luka Mesec’s Levica scores 14 fourteen percent, does SD really have that stronger a mandate to claim the PM post?

Should he stay or should he go

Under that scenario Golob could plausibly emerge as a compromise candidate after the election. But to do that, he’d have to stay on the sidelines before the election. And right now he is strongly signaling that he has no such plans.

But then again, the parliamentary election is three-to-five months out and Golob still has not formed his political party. True, that’s not really a problem for someone with his connections and resources. But if he just teases a party for too long, people are going to think he’s just a jerk-off and will go play with someone else.

So, while Zoran Janković did manage to form a party only six weeks before the election and 2011 and win (with the obligatory addendum that he then went on to fuck up a PM bid), the mayor of Ljubljana already had a political soap-box he used very effectively.

Here, there, everywhere

Golob, on the other hand, is still neither here nor there. For the time being, he remains party-less, but has formed an organisation creatively named Be The Change.

He also doesn’t seem to have a coherent political agenda. Quite the opposite, he appear intentionally nebulous about it. A bit of left-wing-friendly social issues, a touch of right-wing-friendly economic issues, no firm commitments and an obligatory lamentation of why can’t we all just get along? Miro Cerar is probably watching all of this and going “hey, that’s my shtick!”

At any rate, Golob has yet to take plunge. Or decide not to take it. During the last few weeks he toured the country and held local equivalent of town-hall meetings. While this is likely a get-to-know-me tour, it is also very likely a pulse-gauging tour, at the end of which he will decide whether to throw his hat into the ring or not.

And he does seem to have something of a back-up plan, in the form of Speaker of the Parliament Igor Zorčič. And yes, that was a teaser for the next part of the series…

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.