Slovenian parliament constitutes for a new term today, kicking off a power-transfer process at the end of which Janez Janša will be looking at the PM’s office from the outside in. When that milestone is reached, Robert Golob of Gibanje Svoboda party will become the tenth person in history with an Outlook footer that says “Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia”.
Golob spent the past weeks busily getting all of his ducks in a row. He concluded a coalition agreement with Tanja Fajon of SD and Luka Mesec of Levica. In the process he probably saved the former’s ass and gave the latter a chance of a lifetime. Somewhat surprisingly, SAB and LMŠ leaders Alenka Bratušek and Marjan Šarec get to play along, too.
But first things first. In order to get to the 15th government of Muddy Hollows, a few things need to happen first. And it all begins with the 90 MPs recognising themselves as such.
When civics get to be fun
This may sound silly, but it really is not. Under the constitution, the parliament is the collective representative of the sovereign. That is to say, the people. And so, in a bit of a circular argument, the newly elected people’s representatives must first recognise by a majority vote the fact that they are, in fact elected and that they do, clearly, represent the people. Who ever said civics can’t be fun?
While we are on it, this is the exact point where Slovenian constitutional order is at its most vulnerable. If for some reason the new parliament failed to constitute itself (say, because one side of the aisle disputed the results and would command exactly half of MPs), pandemonium would follow.
Today however, this scenario was unlikely. Not because the Glorious Leader would be above disputing election results (he isn’t) but because of the sheer advantage the new coalition enjoys in terms of numbers. With a 53 MPs in a 90-seat parliament, Golob’s coalition could not realistically be thwarted in taking control of the legistative body and in the end no serious challenges were mounted.
That said, it is entirely possible that the newly minted opposition will try to have some fun with rules and procedures and force the parliamentary greenhorns into making an early and embarrassing mistake or two. You know, just to bring them down a peg.
No, wait, scratch that. It is not just entirely possible. It is a fucking certainty and has in fact happened while pengovsky was writing this post.
The moment the new parliament was seated, the fresh-off-the-grinder opposition filed around thirty draft laws into the parliamentary procedure. Including a new law on RTVSLO. As both readers will remember, new RTVSLO legislation is among Golob’s top priorities.
Obviously, the opposition knows their draft proposals do not stand a snowballs chance in hell of being passed. They are just squarely aimed at drowning the new ruling coalition in paperwork. That and demonstrating just how masterful the SDS and NSi are in using parliamentary procedure and other shenanigans to their advantage.
Bogging down the new parliament
Rules state that a bill must complete the procedure in the parliament (either being passed or rejected) before a new bill of a similar nature can be taken into consideration. So, this is literally about bogging the parliament down before it even got to serious work.
That said, two can play hardball. While it would not be a particularly pleasing sight, the new ruling coalition could decide to fight fire with fire. They can take the SDS version of the law, maybe even fast-track it and then just amend the fuck out of it. As is literally change the entire text of the law, until there is nothing left of the SDS version but the filing number for the document.
If Golob and his ruling coalition decide to play hardball, that is. Sometimes – and very much to their detriment – high-minded newbies, still flying high on their election victory, don’t want to play hardball.
For there is, again, a substantial number of political newbies in the National Assembly. Foremost among them, Urška Klakočar Zupančič. She was just appointed the first female Speaker in the history Muddy Hollows. For her, the ascendancy is a bit of a fuck you to the outgoing regime on a personal level, too. A sitting judge until about a year ago, she was publicly harangued by Janša’s henchmen for criticising the Glorious Leader in a closed Facebook group.
Bowing to political pressure, the court put her on disciplinary leave but ultimately found no wrongdoing. She quit nevertheless and will now be second-in-command in the country’s leadership structure, nominally surpassing even the PM-presumptive and her party boss, Robert Golob.
How’s that for a glass ceiling broken? And expect more of this when Tanja Fajon takes over as foreign minister.
Incidentally, while the parliament that ended today had about 24 percent of women MPs, the new parliament will have almost 39 percent of female representatives, the most to date.
Useful dog-and-pony show
But the real fun will start only after the parliamentary leadership will be elected and committee chairs are appointed.
Golob said time and again he wants to move fast with appointing the government. But he also said he wants to restructure the portfolios and divvy them up more effectively. He also came up with a couple of new designations (see below). However, for any of that to happen, the parliament needs to pass an update to the Government Act, specifying the number and policy areas of new ministries.
This will obviously take some time. But only after that law is passed can the parliament begin the hearing process, examining the suitability of nominees for ministerial posts.
While this is mostly a dog-and-pony show, with coalition MPs exalting the nominees and opposition MPs pointing out just how incompetent the candidates are (regardless of their actual in-competence), there is an occasional stumble every now and then.
Shit happens, people bite off more than they can chew and sometimes their past comes back to haunt them in unpleasant ways. So, it would not be a complete surprise if Robert Golob would have to make one or two last-minute changes to the senior level of his future administration.
To give an example at random, out of the people nominated to date (not every post has yet been matched with a name), finance minister nominee Klemen Boštjančič seems the most suspect. Not because he wouldn’t necessarily know about public finance, but because he was at the head of Adria Airways, the now-defunct Slovenian airline, during its terminal stage.
The people who most definitely will not stumble in parliamentary hearings, and are basically ministerial shoe-ins, are coalition party leaders. And some other well known personalities.
Inflating the number of ministries to twenty allowed Robert Golob some creativity and generosity in accommodating parties of KUL coalition. Not only SD and Levica, but also LMŠ and SAB. Namely, in a somewhat surprising move, the future Big Bird tapped Marjan Šarec and Alenka Bratušek for defence and infrastructure portfolios, respectively.
In a way, this is unprecedented. Šarec and Bratušek both failed to make the parliamentary cut but were granted a new lease on their political lives. But in another way, this is also a very inspired move, showing that Golob is a much more savvy politician than many make him to be.
By co-opting two former PMs into his government, he has secured a treasure trove of advice, should he ever need any. At the same time he showed respect for their status as ex-PMs by giving them a prestigious (Šarec) and system-critical (Bratušek) portfolios. He also acknowledged that LMŠ and SAB played a small and important part in securing his victory at the polls.
Most importantly, however, he has just laid the big piece of the puzzle that will lead to a three-way merger between GS, SAB and LMŠ. In this, Golob will likely succeed where Šarec so stupidly failed.
Back in 2019, Alenka Bratušek and then-leader of then-SMC Miro Cerar begged Šarec (the top liberal dog in the country at the time) to go for a join liberal (ALDE) list at the upcoming EU elections. LMŠ was riding high in the polls then and attaching SAB and SMC to the ticket would have brought even more votes. Critically, it would also have laid the groundwork for a merger of the three liberal parties. Šarec arrogantly refused and soon thereafter things began to unravel.
Robert Golob seems to have learnt from Šarec’s strategic blunder. He is pampering his merger partners beyond what anyone thought likely. He is careful to talk about a merger and not a takeover. And he is doing it well in advance of the autumn presidential and local elections. The latter is especially important as LMŠ and SAB each bring their own local networks to the table, something Gibanje Svoboda is sorely lacking at this point.
Finally, with a three-way-liberal merger, GS will also co-opt LMŠ’s two MEPs, instantly gaining a European presence as well. Suddenly, going out of his way to accommodate two ex-PMs doesn’t look all that silly on Golob’s part anymore.
The other not-so-silly thing is Luka Mesec carving out a special ministry for himself. At first glance, ministry for solidary future sounds like something from an Alan Ford comic. But in reality, Levica leader got away with murder.
He managed to land a position with a very vague job description, cherry-pick policy areas he is most interested in and slapping a fancy sticker on them. This includes housing, economic solidarity and long-term care.
Seeing how these policy areas reach into other two portfolios earmarked for Levica (culture, and labour, welfare and family), Mesec has managed to set himself up as some sort of uber-minister with many fingers in many policy pies. He will get to share in the spoils of success, but if none is forthcoming, he will still be able to point at other portfolios as culprits. This kid learns fast.
SD learning fuck all
On the other hand, the SD seems to have learnt fuck all. While many people thought of Levica as being the most likely to screw up and turn it all into a dumpster fire, it was actually the SD who refused to be the adult in the room.
Namely, with the asswhooping the SD got, party leader Tanja Fajon had to fight a quick, although not entirely unsurprising rear-guard action. But the disgruntled faction around MP Jani Prednik, egged on by people in former SD leader Igor Lukšič’s orbit quickly realised a weakened Fajon could be squeezed for concessions six ways to Sundays.
Even so, shit started flying. Not everyone in the party was down with hot-shot international law expert and SD candidate Dominika Švarc Pipan landing the nomination for justice minister. Some people (see above) felt they were not getting their due and started scheming against Švarc Pipan, who took to Facebook to air some dirty laundry.
Mouths to feed and egos to nurse
All of this is, of course, very SD. The party has many mouths to feed and even more egos to nurse. That and the fact that SD has always leaked like a sieve. You will be hard pressed to find a ranking SD member not willing to trash-talk their comrades. There be some gossipy motherfuckers in that party.
In the end, however, things for SD went more or less the way pengovsky predicted. With four ministerial posts secured (foreign and EU affairs, economy including tourism and sports, justice, and cohesion and regional development), Tanja Fajon should be able to mollify various factions within the party and stay on as the Big Cheese.
Digits to step on
The only real fly in the SD ointment right now is Emilija Stojmenova Duh switching parties. A high-profile researcher professor of engineering quit SD, a party she only recently joined, and went over to GS in order to be nominated as minister of digitalisation.
This means that the bullshit office without portfolio NSi coaxed Janša into creating for an ex-Uber lobbyist, will now become a ministry in its own right. It will probably end up inserting itself in various projects on various other ministries. Which virtually guarantees toes will be stepped on.
Should be fun.
A week of running the show
While he addressed the inaugural session of the parliament, president Pahor said he will formally nominate Robert Golob for PM on 23 May. Assuming things happen at a brisk pace, this would put Golob on track to meet his self-imposed 3 June deadline for swearing in of the government. Even if just barely. But democracy takes time and if it takes a week longer to cross the t’s and dot the i’s, so be it.
Sure, every week Janša’s government remains in place is one week more they can (and will) wreak havoc. But it is not as if Golob and his administration will not have their hands full from the get-to.
Their to-do list is already longer than a Leonard Cohen song. And that is before we even consider the fact that pretty soon they will have to make some big decisions, with Finland and Sweden joining NATO and what not.
They say that any new government gets about a week of running the show. After that it is mostly about putting out fires and trying to get some work done in between.