Robert “Big Bird” Golob And His Flock

In an event that surprised a grand total of zero people, Robert Golob was appointed The Big Bird on Wednesday evening. The only thing that was a bit uprising was a shorter-than-expected debate on the National Assembly floor. Even though the show kicked off at 3 PM, Golob was sworn as the new PM-elect early enough to (presumably) take a shower and have a quick bite before he made the rounds on late-night news programmes.

Robert Golob during his swearing-in ceremony in National Assembly.
Rober Golob during his swearing-in ceremony (source: Matija Sušnik/Nat’l Assembly)

Both readers will remember from pengovsky’s earlier writings on government-forming in Muddy Hollows that Golob’s swearing-in debate and ceremony was only Act One. The dude now has to present his cabinet (that is to say, his – well – flock) and have them sworn in as well. Then, and only then, will Golob take the reins of power from Marshal Twito.

In his inaugural address to the parliament, Golob outlined the basics of his agenda. Although it is an ambitious agenda, the ambition lies not so much in the content per se. What the PM-elect is aiming to work on once his administration is in place is in fact pretty run-of-the-mill late-capitalism holy-fuck-the-planet-is-on-fire agenda. It would not be out of place in any other EU country and is wholly in line with the European Green Deal.

Low-key inaugural address

What makes Golob’s agenda special is, on one hand the low-key way in which he presented it to the parliament and on the other, the fact that enacting even a part of this agenda would upend significant tracts of society in Muddy Hollows.

Which is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just that several of his predecessors have had their balls crushed for less. But the Big Bird laid it all out in a way that the magnitude and the knock-on effect of the announced reforms probably didn’t yet register with everyone.

In fact, the only thing that got some sort of a response was Golob’s planned repeal of Janša’s tax cuts. Obviously, the business sector went apeshit, despite the fact that The Glorious Leader blew a gaping hole in the budget with his spending spree over the last year.

However, other – and seemingly much more fundamental things – seem to have glided just below the radar. Usually, pension reform (that is to say, raising the retirement age) would have sent the labour unions to the barricades. Health-sector reform in Muddy Hollows primarily means cutting out a shitload of middle-men, a bit of low-level corruption and a shift in organisation culture. Finally, going off burning liquid dinosaurs means, well, the end of the world as older white men know it. And yet, none of these strategic objectives drew as much as a squeak.

Is Golob fucking serious?

Maybe that is because special interests hope Golob is not serious about any of that (although according people in the Big Bird’s orbit he is fucking serious about all of that).

Or it could be that the realisation has finally sunk in that all of the above needs to be done and it is better that the new guy takes the blame for the inevitable pain that is about to follow.

Or, maybe it just was the matter-of-fact way he said it, hoping it wouldn’t draw unnecessary attention.

If it was the latter, Golob definitely succeeded, at least in the short term. Pengovsky fully expects all hell to break loose when these platform planks start turning into actual policies.

Then again, it could be that the opposition was distracted by an internal power-struggle that seemed to have cracked the until-now-solid-as-fuck shield of SDS-NSi unity.

NSi goes off the reservation

Namely, when chairs and vice-chairs of various parliamentary committees and groups were hashed out, the NSi blindsided the SDS and moved to snatch one extra committee chairpersonship. In exchange, the party of Matej Tonin relinquished three vice-chair posts on various other committees. But a committee vice-chair is – to paraphrase Cactus Jack Garner not worth a bucket of warm piss and the SDS didn’t really see a trade-off.

Still, the newly-minted coalition was quick to exploit this fissure in the opposition and immediately voted to approve the new committee allotment. Jelka Godec, the new SDS parliamentary group leader went ballistic, threw a temper-tantrum and said her MPs will take up no committee positions whatsoever and refused to even nominate their vice-Speaker.

Presumably, someone explained to her later that committee vice-chairs, while basically useless, can still serve a purpose, so she climbed down from that particular tree. Still, The Party insists on not appointing a vice-Speaker in protest, though pengovsky fails to see what exactly is that supposed to achieve.

Wedge issues

However, other than potraying the SDS as a party of entitled whiny snots, this little episode of power politics does show a couple of other things as well.

First, that there is an active push by the ruling coalition to drive a wedge between NSi and SDS. What is more, the NSi seems to welcome that particular wedge. At the very least, there is a faction within the NSi that welcomes that wedge.

Given that the current NSi parliamentary delegation consists both of MPs with hefty mileage as well as people who techincally still serve as ministers in the Janša government (and will do so for at least a couple of days more), the dynamic of the NSi will be something to keep a close eye on.

Second, the brouhaha about committee chairs shows that the coalition can play procedural hardball as well.

Procedural hardball

The SDS opened fire on that particular front when it successfully gummed up the parliamentary works literally in the first minute of the new parliament. The outgoing government filed as many as thirty-seven different pieces of legislation. These cover a broad array of issues, including those that Golob said up-front he wants to fast-track once he gets his administration up and running. Needless to say the government-proposed changes run exactly opposite to what Golob is trying to achieve.

Rules and procedures state that a draft law on a certain issue must first finish its legislative path (that is, be debated and voted on), before the parliament can take up another draft law of a similar nature. Which is why with this manouvre the SDS, for example, managed to stave off a brand new law on RTVSLO at least until December.

There is very little the Golob coalition can do about that other than wait it out and snap into action the moment the parliamentary docket is un-clogged. But apparently it is also willing to engage in some tit-for-tat, if nothing else to show the SDS they are not the only ones who know how to read the parliamentary rules and procedures.

But to be frank, the scoreboard in this particular discipline still shows SDS having an advantage.

Advantage, SDS

However, the moment Golob’s Gibanje Svoboda party submitted a change to the Govenrment Act, needed to make the changes happen, the SDS moved to call a consultative referendum on the matter, again gumming up the works.

Since a consultative referendum is called by a majority vote in the parliament, there is no fucking way this is ever put to the people to decide. And even if it were, results of a conslutative referendum are non-binding. But the SDS did manage to put a freeze on Golob’s government redesign for at least a month.

You see, the parliamentary rules state that the relevant committee must vote on such a motion no earlier than thirty days. This provision is, in fact, a relic from the before times, when referendums in Muddy Hollows were a dime a dozen. But still, as a result, Golob is now forced to submit nominees for his government under the old portfolio distribution. Point, SDS.

Weekend committee hearings

That said, the parliament kicked-off committee hearings of ministerial nominees as early as this weekend. While somewhat unusual, such a step is not unheard of, but it does betray an urgency on Golob’s part.

You see, the Big Bird is eager to gather the flock and get his show on the road, pronto. Not in the least because the regime of Marshal Twito, although not long for this world, is apparently hell-bent on using all the minutes on its “Rule Slovenia” plan, and continues to pass measures big and small like it plans to rule for four more years.

The sooner these jokers are out of office, the better.

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.