Will Robert Golob Party Like It’s 2011?

By the time you read this, it will have been almost a year since Robert Golob wiped the floor with Janez Janša at the ballot box. But if the first couple of months were a case study in differences between the Big Bird and the Glorious Leader, a new and most unflattering comparison crept up lately. Comparing prime minister Golob to none other than Borut fucking Pahor.

Robert Golob chased by the shadow of Borut Pahor
The ghost of Borut Pahor past

It is a complete coincidence that pengovsky’s last post was on the political legacy of the King of Instagram. Or, rather, the lack thereof. But maybe this is not a coincidence. Maybe it is just the universe trying to point out the goddamn obvious. Namely, that if he is not careful, Robert Golob will piss away all the political advantage he has and end up chasing his own tail while the world around him starts burning yet again. Party like it’s 2011, anyone?

To be frank, 2023 is not 2011. Not even in Muddy Hollows, where time often seems to be going in multiple directions at once. But even if we include all the caveats, the fact remains that both PMs Pahor and Golob took office in a position to kick-start the mother of all reform packages. And then things started going sideways.

Post-electoral paralysis

in 2008, Borut Pahor took over a country that just entered a financial and economic crisis. This, right after Janez Janša spent most of the previous year telling everyone that everything is fine.

And last year, Robert Golob took over a country that had just entered an energy crisis and inflationary crisis. Obviously, right after Janez Janša spent most of the previous year telling everyone that everything was fine. Sure, he spent the year before that telling everyone that the world was about to end. But let’s not get distracted here.

While this comparison may be a bit rough around the edges, pengovsky is trying to make a fairly simple point. Both Pahor and Golob had their work cut out for them and they fucking knew it. And yet, in both cases some sort of a political paralysis crept in.

Granted, the underlying reasons are markedly different. Pahor was trying to be too many things to too many people. He was also desperate to make friends with Janša, as if he owed him an apology for beating him at the ballot box. And amid all of this, he and his party wasted precious time concentrating power and pussyfooting on the real issues.

Maybe try governing?

Golob, on the other hand, really attempted to start with a bang. But he was stymied by some very deft manouvering on the part of Janša and The Party. It is fair to say that of the nigh twelve months since the election, eight were spent re-litigating the outcome of the April 2022 vote. And the end result was always the same. The people really wanted Golob’s coalition to run the country.

But it is as if all the creative political energy of this government was spent during those eight months. Having won all the marbles, repeatedly, they seem a bit lost as to what the fuck are they supposed to do now.

This may sound crazy but perhaps they should try governing?

It will come to no great surprise to either reader that running a government is, in fact, not easy. Sure, you can run a quasi-authoritarian outfit where no-one questions your authority and your minions try to outdo one another in shows of unwavering loyalty (see Janša, Ivan Janez). But even then it is no picnic.

Things get infinitely more complicated still, when you run a left-liberal executive, where the coalition parties have, you know, an actual agenda. Often with differing priorities. In this scenario, there are astonishingly many ways for things to go tits-up.

And so, a year after the election (and about ten months since Golob actually took power), there is precious little he can show for.

True, the festering wounds caused by Janša’s democratic backsliding were taken care of by the early omnibus bill. Also commendable was the sincere push to overhaul and protect the public broadcaster RTVSLO. Admittedly, they relaxed a bit too soon and are now paying the price. But still, points for trying.

Shit happens

A combination of vanity, inexperience and external factors made Golob shift focus to EU and international affairs early on. The technical term for this is that shit happens. But crucially, Golob failed to delegate the domestic part of the show.

It is a hallmark of people insecure in their positions to insert themselves into every decision process. They are not necessarily paranoid micromanagers the likes of Janša. They do, however feel the need to be constantly in the loop and insist on approving most decisions. Which is why things stalled at home quite a bit when Golob was focusing on the EU, energy crisis and the Western Balkans.

And things haven not been the same since. Trying to regain some of the post-electoral magick, Golob started running off at the mouth, often making promises he couldn’t keep. Not that he was a very disciplined public speaker to begin with, but things got decidedly worse in that department.

Fear leads to anger

Moreover, the Big Bird constantly undercuts his ministers. As if he is afraid of them doing something useful and upstaging him. He seems simply too inexperienced to understand that he wants them to do useful stuff. He needs them to do unpopular but necessary stuff. Golob simply does not seem to grasp the fact that ministers mainly exist to take one (or several) for the team. But he must allow them to do so.

His tally to date, however is a police minister resigning in acrimony and a finance state secretary resigning in frustration.

By all means Golob should coordinate, keep his cabinet the same page and moving broadly the same direction. But undercutting the chief executors of his nascent reform package, like he did with the finance minister over tax reform the other day (and the way he does with health minister every so often), will destroy trust and increase fear among his senior team.

And we all know that fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. And hate leads to the dark side.

Play-time is over

None of this means that all is lost and that someone needs to put the administration out of its misery. After all, 2023 is not (yet) 2011 and Robert Golob is not Borut Pahor, who tried to maintain the illusion of a functioning executive long after everyone knew it was all over.

That said things are not peachy in Golob-land right now. Play-time is over and this government and this coalition need to get their shit together, pronto.

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Agent provocateur and an occasional scribe.