Nataša Pirc Musar took over as the fifth president of Slovenia on Friday. Traditionally, the takeover is done on 23 December, the anniversary of the independence plebiscite. It is also the last full working day before December Debauchery gets turned up to 11 in Muddy Hollows, so the new prez can give the new office a spin.
Given that the president is the commander in chief, the entire ceremony was remarkably low-key. If it weren’t for a full guard of honour and a red carpet, you could well miss the whole thing. Especially since it was tucked away behind the miniscule Council of Europe Park, between the presidential building and the employee entrance of Cankarjev dom. In a way, this is typical for Muddy Hollows. The more important the occasion, the less pomp there is.
The constitutionally relevant part of NPM taking office took place a day earlier, during a special session of the parliament. The new president took her oath of office then and gave her inaugural address which – given that she has next to zero political mileage – was surprisingly well-honed.
All the right notes
Obviously there were professionals involved, but what NPM said last Thursday was equal parts her own political creed and strategic interests of the country. Not that there was anything controversial, innovative or revolutionary in her address, but she managed to hit all the right notes.
Which is saying something for a country that is chronically bereft of inspirational speakers, and even those who try usually end up looking like fucking phoneys (I’m looking at you, Borut Pahor).
So, to sum it up. Rule of law. Defense of the democratic order. Human rights. Staunchly pro-Europe and focusing on Western Balkans. Fight against disinformation. Climate change, energy and food security. These were the keywords of Nataša Pirc Musar’s inauguration address and appear to be the key areas of her (first?) presidential term.
As an aside, it is funny how this transfer of power at the nation’s highest office is stretched over two days. NPM became president the moment she took the oath. Which begs the question of who the fuck was in charge for those twelve hours.
Technically, she was, naturally. But she didn’t really have the keys to her office, did she? Obviously, if things were really dicey, the whole process would probably be sped up quite a bit.
A lot of democracy rests on unwritten rules and accepted traditions. So it wouldn’t be a bad idea to shorten this interregnum while we can.
Anyway, the one thing missing from NPM’s inaugural address were neighbouring countries and Slovenian minorities in them. This may have been an omission. It also may have been intentional, seeing as NPM had an early crash-course in minority politics days after her election.
Back then she blundered into saying how Slovenian minority in Austria is not facing any issues. And since Slovenian minority in Austria definitely is facing issues, they went apeshit. In the future, they said, they like her to check with them first before making public statements on the matter.
So yeah, once bitten, twice shy.
It will be interesting to observe, however, how NPM’s inaugural pronouncements will live up to the harsh realities of Muddy Hollows politics. One area where she is already departing from the tone set by her predecessor, is amplification of specific agendas.
Borut Pahor was notoriously non-confrontational, especially when it came to the more assertive political players. Pengovsky plans a longer blogpost on his legacy (or the lack thereof), but suffice it to say he usually dealt with bullies by taking their side. Pirc Musar, in contrast, seems hell-bent to work her agenda into nearly everything she says.
To give an example at random. On the day NPM took office, RTVSLO with its current Janša-loving leadership ran an interview the first female president of … (checks notes) … Croatia.
This was obviously meant as an insulting snub of the first female president of Slovenia whom Urbanija, Gregorčič, Grah Whatmough and the rest of the right-wing junta destroying RTVSLO viscerally detest.
Pirc Musar chose not to ignore the snub. But instead of a petty and butt-hurt reaction (which what the RTVSLO bozos were aiming for) she made it an issue of women in politics. Which, noice…
Going forward, however, NPM’s main focus will not be the ass-wipes at RTVSLO. Not that they are going to stay there for a lot longer, but that is a different blogpost. Rather, the one thing everyone will be keeping an eye on, is her relationship with The Big Bird. And she chose not to rock the boat too much. At least for now.
Passing on Tatjana Bobnar
After Tatjana Bobnar resigned amid the spat with PM Robert Golob, there was apparently a very real possibility NPM would take the popular ex-interior minister on as her national security advisor. This would be like taking a spoon, sticking it into Golob’s eye and turning it for good measure. Why spoon? Because it hurts more, you twit.
Anyway, in the end the new president pointedly chose not to appoint Bobnar. With this, she is signalling she doesn’t really want an open confrontation with Golob. At least not immediately.
This may have something to do with the fact that a constitutional revision in the parliamentary works. As part of this endeavour, the president will likely get some exciting new powers. And if NPM refrains from shooting first and asking questions later (something she is prone to, -ish), she could squeeze even more out of it.
Namely, the current political consensus seems to be that the prez will get to appoint judges to the supreme court, following recommendations of the independent judicial council. As parliament would be taken out of equation, the president’s role in judicial matters would be greatly enhanced.
However, NPM has designs on addressing one of the most glaring omission from the president’s powers. Namely, the head of state, the only official elected by a direct vote of the entire nation, cannot file for a challenge of a law they are constitutionally bound to promulgate.
It is often said that in Muddy Hollows, the president is just a figure-head. Nowhere is this more pronounced than the legislative procedure. They are required to promulgate whatever the parliament passes. Even if the law up for promulgation is nothing more than an pile of rancid legal chickenshit vomit.
Which is exactly what happened in 2006 when president Janez Drnovšek initially refused to promulgate an amended Asylum Act, which he deemed too restrictive. He put up some resistance and apparently even considered provoking a constitutional crisis by flat-our refusing to promulgate the law.
Rubber-stamp no more?
But after lawyers explained the constitution gives him no room to maneouvre, and his political advisers pointed out that PM Janša (at the time mid-way though his first stint in the post) would like nothing better than to impeach his ass for abuse of power, Drnovšek relented.
When Borut Pahor was faced with a similar situation in 2017, the precedent was set and he wasn’t going to lift a finger. Other than the one necessary to rubber-stamp the law.
Nataša Pirc Musar is obviously aware of this constitutional deficiency of her new post. And she would very much like to address it.
Given that she likes to present herself as a woman of action, it doesn’t require a giant leap of imagination to see where this could lead. And Robert Golob with his less-than-bulletproof ego would probably balk at any new powers for the prez if she rubbed his face in the dirt on her first day in office.
Coincidences and Florida swampland
Speaking of rubbing faces in dirt. It just so happened that news leaked on the day of her taking the oath of office, that NPM is a subject of a criminal investigation. Her alleged actions date back seven years, when she was president of Slovenian Red Cross. And if you think it is pure coincidence the story leaked on the day she became the Big Cheese, I’ve got some prime swampland to sell you in Florida.
Politics, huh? Whodathunk.
Wither status quo?
At any rate, the presidency of Nataša Pirc Musar is now underway. Her priorities and ideals will no doubt be tested to the core in the next five years. She will likely be hampered by her lack of experience in the top echelons in Muddy Hollows politics.
On the other hand, she has only entered the political cesspoll. This alone might shield her from over-reliance on status quo in a way her predecessor never could overcome. And pengovsky is not referring to the band here.