Right of the bat, pengovsky should note that there was no actual crime. Additionally, “cover-up” is doing a lot of heavy lifting here. But with three, nay, two days before the end of the campaign, the three leading candidates (and certain other also-rans) continue to be their own worst enemies.
Nataša Pirc Musar, Milan Brglez and Anže Logar have made an utter shitshow of explaining away the, shall we say, less-likeable parts of their respective political backgrounds. Be it personal wealth, leveraging access or simple party affiliation, they couldn’t come up with a line that would blunt these questions and force the media to move on. And then there is Miha Kordiš. Oh, boy…
Namely, it transpired that the Levica candidate was involved in some bureaucratic shenanigans to obtain special status for a pet project of his.
A couple of years ago, Comrade Couch Guevara bought a plot of land and organised a little community agricultural activity. Basically, people growing their own veggies and selling the surplus to reinvest in the project. So far so good. The problem arose when Kordiš decided to incorporate and claim special “social enterprise” status.
At the time, businesses applying for this partially exempt status had to commit to employing several hard-to-employ people. Which Kordiš promptly did. Commit, that is. He never actually employed them.
Luckily for him, this requirement was dropped months after he set up his enterprise, so it is not as if he actually broke any laws. However, the way he went about answering allegations of wrongdoing are much more damaging than the fact that he apparently set the company up in bad faith.
He even said as much when a POP TV debate host asked him about this, saying something to the effect that it was the only way to obtain the special status. The implication here being that he was willing to sign anything to get the “social enterprise” badge, without actually following through on the commitment.
The Kordiš Eyeroll
And it went from bad to worse from there. He should have tried to explain that he never was in breach of the law. And he truly wasn’t, because the media overlooked (perhaps intentionally) a later change in legislation. Instead, he kept rolling his eyes to the point of becoming a Twitter meme, went on and on about how he personally gave the people land to grow their own food, and generally behaved like an entitled asshole about everything.
But this turned out to be only half of the story. People not only grew their own food. but volunteered to sell and deliver surplus at their own cost. And while the revenue was properly reinvested, there are at least some reports of volunteers not being compensated for their costs. Which, you know, no bueno.
Point here being that had Kordiš actually thought the story through and explained what really needed to be explained, he would have been able to nip this line of questions in the bud. Instead, he came across as a patronizing late-19th-century Russian intellectual revolutionary, who knows best what is the true interest of the peasant-folk.
Pirc Musar, the corporate lawyer
No wonder he can’t break out of the low single-digits. Which is kind of a shame, because he did broaden the debate. He also brought some colour to it, even if he kept dressing in
anarchist trockyist black.
On the other hand, Kordiš was given a taste of his own medicine. He went after Nataša Pirc Musar with gusto, for her legal work representing a couple of corporations in labour disputes with union representatives.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with offering legal representation. It is what lawyers do. And she is apparently a damn good lawyer. But just as Kordiš was making a shitshow of explaining his social enterprise travails, so Pirc Musar made manure-filled theatre production of her perfectly legitimate work.
The obvious response for the independent candidate would have been to point out she successfully represented countless individuals, too. Especially those who found themselves at the business end of human rights abuses Janša government made under the guise of curbing the pandemic. This would have probably put paid to this particular line of attack, and swiftly.
Corporations are people, too
Instead, NPM started lecturing Kordiš on how legal representation is protected by constitution. And that it goes for corporations as well. Which is only a hop, skip and a jump away from saying that corporations are people too. Which is just about the worst thing that can be said in a presidential campaign.
Only in her case, it was the second-worst thing that can be said in a presidential campaign. She made an even worse mess of things when asked about how she and her husband, the would-be First Gentleman, came about their substantial wealth.
The issue came up in debate after debate, and the allegations were always the same. That back in the days of rowdy capitalism, Aleš Musar bought up companies for peanuts, bled them dry and transferred funds to offshore accounts. Then there were accusations of tax evasion and artificially lowering of her personal taxable income.
And while at least some of these questions were loaded (pun very much intended), it is not as if she shouldn’t have expected them. This is Muddy Hollows. If you are – in the words of Daffy Duck – comfortably well-off in Muddy Hollows, people will start asking questions and making conjectures. Maybe that’s unfair, but that’s the way it is around here.
Never ask me about family business, Kay!
Nataša Pirc Musar should have anticipated this turn of events, come up with a well-honed response and stick with it. Instead, she chose to explain as little as possible, and became stand-offish whenever follow-up questions came up. And when a push came to a shove, she really fucked up and said that she works hard herself and doesn’t discuss her husband’s business with him.
Cue The Godfather scene where Michael Corleone tells Kay to never ask him about his business. I mean, ferfucksake, how inept is this?!
None of the above amounts to any sort of illegal activity. It is iffy at worst, and an intentional misrepresentation at best. But she managed to make a real mess of it.
Truth be told, in the last week of the campaign she did manage to kind of get her act together. She now points out she pays all her taxes and then some, that she does a lot of pro bono work and is generally trying a more mellow approach. But the story is now firmly out there and will come up time and again, especially is she makes it to the second round.
Pay for chess play
The same goes for Milan Brglez, if he makes it to Round Two. The SD and Gibanje Svoboda candidate was also the boss of the Slovenian Chess Association, and it just so happened that a large sponsorship was agreed around the time he became the Chess Boss.
Which would have been all fine and dandy, if it weren’t for the fact that the sponsor was the state-owned Slovenian Railways. And the allegation that the deal was dependent on Brglez becoming the king on the board.
Once again, the issue here is not so much anything illegal but the sheer unseemliness of it. Although things like these are regular occurrence in sports (and, apparently, chess). If someone is able to secure funding, this someone gets to run the show. Precisely because they can secure funding.
But things like these inevitably have an air of pay-for-play. And getting play by securing para-state pay is a very SD thing to do. Which is why Brglez was keen to put as much daylight between this issue and himself as humanly possible.
And it may well be, as he claims, that he had nothing to do with the whole thing. That the deal was in the pipeline before he even became Chess Association head honcho. It is also beyond doubt that the deal and the entire finances of the association were given an all-clear by the tax authorities.
But the catastrophic way in which Brglez went about explaining himself, sure made an impression. Pengovsky asked about Brglez in his regular Ljubljana watering hole and the invariable response was “oh, the chess sponsorship guy”.
Which is unsurprising, given that the SD and GS candidate’s response usually consisted of a lot of umm’s, ahhh’s and well’s, half-finished sentences and plenty of hand-waving.
Even if there wasn’t anything untoward about this whole chess sponsorship (and it looks like there really wasn’t), Brglez made sure it looked as if he has something to hide.
Anže “Kumbaya” Logar
Speaking of hiding things, Anže Logar made damn sure his picture will appear in the next edition of the political dictionary, next to “avoiding the subject”.
The SDS candidate spent the entire fucking campaign doing precisely that. Billing himself as an independent, he used a lot of oxygen pretending he has no knowledge of all the authoritarian shit Janša and the government he himself was a part of, did or tried to do.
Case in point one of the most pressing issues Muddy Hollows is facing right now (bar, perhaps, the energy crisis). When a Večer newspaper journo asked him about the right-wing takeover and destrucition of editorial independence of public broadcaster RTVSLO, Logar said he favours tolerant dialogue.
When the journalist followed up with a question about termination warnings a slew of RTVSLO journos got for publicly supporting their colleague, he said he favours tolerant dialogue.
And when the journo repeated the question, Anže “Kumbaya” Logar answered that- you guessed it – he favours tolerant dialogue.
And so on, ad nauseam.
Just asking questions
In fact, it was next to impossible to get any sort of position or policy statement out of Logar throughout his campaign. It was only when pressed that he even acknowledged that he is, in fact a member of the SDS. And when someone mentions that he is no ordinary rank-and-file memeber of the Party, but rather the chief of SDS Council and a member of the Party’s
politburo executive committee, he just agrees quickly and changes the subject.
Other than the art of avoiding the question, however, Logar also mastered the art of helping his competition to trip over. For most of the campaign, he was quiet as a mouse, pretty as a flower and minding his own fucking business. But whenever Kordiš, Pirc Musar or Brglez would stumble, he would be right there, wondering aloud if maybe there isn’t more to these stories than meets the eye. You know, just asking questions and shit.
And to be honest, it worked. While Kordiš, Pirc Musar and Brglez saw their numbers take a dive (albeit to a varying degree), Logar’s ratings remained stable throughout the campaign. His numbers vary wildly depending on the pollster. But if we take a look his performance on a per-pollster basis, he is incredibly consistent.
The lesson here is that Logar’s gambit of presenting a more mellow version of himself hasn’t really worked. He is still more or less within the range the SDS established at the parliamentary election in April. His only hope is that if he makes it through to the second round (and odds are that he will) that his kumbaya shtick will resonate a completely new pool of voters. And that this pool will be large enough to put him on top over either Nataša Pirc Musar and Milan Brglez. Which, not to put too fine a point on it, is more a hope than a strategy.
The campaign is now entering its final stretch. At least in the first round. All of a sudden, candidates are taking positions and issuing statements like there’s no tomorrow. And for all but two of them, there will be no tomorrow.
But regardless of the result , the top three presidential hopefuls (and Comrade Kordiš) ran a fucking mess of a campaign with garbled messaging, next-to-zero improvisational capacity and an approach that made it look like they all have something to hide.
One only hopes that whomever comes out on top will be a better president than they were a candidate.
A spirited campaign, however, this was not.