Sanja Ajanović Hovnik, minister of public administration in the Golob government spent the better part of the last two weeks fighting accusations of wasteful spending and abuse of office. And the more she tried to explain the story away the more it stuck, making her situation increasingly fucktangular.
The Big Bird realised soon thereafter that the weeds are much deeper than originally thought and that the situation requires some ninja level moves. Just how sacking Irena Šinko and Uroš Brežan, two other members of his cabinet, qualifies as a ninja move is beyond pengovsky. But it is what it is. At any rate, it is time to break out the political strife scale.
The scale itself is funny as fuck. Obviously, otherwise this scribe would not write a whole blogpost around it. But beyond that it is actually quite helpful in realising just how whackadoodle and inconsistent Golob’s calls are when it comes to HR decisions.
Sanja Ajanović Hovnik was (and presumably still is) part of Robert Golob’s inner circle. Confident, capable and cunning, she was the person PM turned to when the Tatjana Bobnar situation exploded into his face. She who took over as interim interior minister and apparently did a decent enough job.
So much so, in fact, that by some accounts Ajanović Hovnik was this close to taking over the interior portfolio full-time, leaving public administration to some other poor bastard.
However, she was also this close to deliver on one of Robert Golob’s many reform pledges. The public sector wage system is a fucking mess. It has been for some time. And surprisingly enough, Ajanović Hovnik was actually making progress on that front. Not that everyone was happy about it. Least of all labour unions. But Golob was nearing the point where he was willing to take anything and call it a win. So she stayed where he needed her most.
And just as the (presumably) final round of negotiations was about to take place, news broke that the minister took a long-ish trip to New York to attend a conference of some sort or another. She also took some of her staff with her and they ended up spending some 33k euros, most of that on plane tickets.
The labour unions were all over that story like Rebecca Welton over Ted Lasso’s biscuits, making more than one person think that the leak was primarily meant to weaken the minister’s negotiating position.
Which, although pretty hardball, would be a legitimate move. I mean, 33 big ones is not an eye-watering amount of money. But it is also a sum that the good people of Muddy Hollows can easily translate. Say, into a mid-range family car. Government officials spaffing away the equivalent of a Škoda Kodiaq on a single trip? Now that has to be fucking enraging, right?
However, as any junior PR assistant knows, in cases like these, there is never only one story. And just as the Big Bird laughed away initial allegations against her, Sanja Ajanović Hovnik was hit with much more serious allegations of rigging a public tender to benefit her former business partner.
Now that is resignation-level shit, even in this sorry excuse for a country.
All of a sudden Golob had a real problem on his hands. And for some unfathomable reason he chose to deal with it by throwing two other members of his cabinet to the dogs.
Only that the reason is not really unfathomable. Just fucking stupid. Or, to be more precise, whoever thinks that Golob can sugar-coat the inevitable departure of Sanja Ajanović Hovnik with a wider cabinet reshuffle should be fired on the spot for incompetence.
The grapevine had it that Irena Šinko (agriculture) and Uroš Brežan (spatial planning and natural resources) were among the expendables from the get-go. They are part of the GS quota but not members of Golob’s inner circle. As a result, their potential dismissal shouldn’t ruffle too many political feathers. In theory, at least.
But in the words of
Abraham Lincoln Richard Feynman Benjamin Brewster, in theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not. And so in trying to solve one problem, the Big Bird created at least one more.
It would seem Golob assumed both ministers would roll over and submit resignations on his say so. Which would have been convenient (but see below). Indeed, Uroš Brežan was incommunicado until Golob told the press that the minister resigned. Irena Šinko, on the other hand, said that she is happy to wait for the parliament to dismiss her.
And that, right there, is a big fucking problem for Robert Golob. Specifically, one he and his team of hot-shot political operatives should have seen coming a mile out.
Under Muddy Hollows basic rules of engagement (that is to say, the constitution), ministers serve at the pleasure of the parliament. Not at the pleasure of the prime minister. And if/when the PM wants to get rid of a particular minister, the parliament must vote on the dismissal. That, of course, includes a debate. And a debate means questions. And questions could make things really awkward for the PM.
Because if there ever was a competition in bullshit sacking reasons, reasons for sacking Šinko and Brežan that are being floated around over the last forty-eight hours would win second place. Because they are such bullshit.
Brežan is supposedly being let go for lack of expediency in post-flood reconstruction effort. Given that it has been less than two months since the deluge hit Muddy Hollows, this sounds wholly disingenuous.
I mean, it can take up to 45 days to have your phone fixed under warranty and this guy is supposed to rebuild half the country in about the same time? After waterways management has been neglected for three decades?
Also, the government finalised the sum of damage the deluge wrought literally on the very same day Golob announced he wants Brežan gone. 9.9 billion euro, in case you’re interested. But just how is that expedient while Brežan isn’t? Dude, c’mon!
The same goes for Šinko, whose firing offence is supposedly the mishandling of a produce recall by the Food Safety Administration.
Okay, so the body which goes by the extremely sexy acronym UVHVVR in Slovenian is indeed within the purview of the agriculture ministry. But surely there are lesser punishments for an incident which was reported only after the affected produce was sold out and where (luckily) there was no fallout.
It seems excessive by itself. But when you compare it to Sanja Ajanović Hovnik being in much deeper shit (entirely of her own doing), and still enjoying at least tacit support of the Big Bird, reasons for dismissing Šinko and Brežan strain credulity.
There is, obviously, another explanation floating around. Namely, that Šinko and Brežan butted heads with the Big Bird one too many times. Consequently, that they are being let go for insubordination rather than incompetence.
Undersexed and overworked
This sounds a bit more plausible, until the rumour peddlers add that the head-butting is supposed to have occurred on the issue of animal welfare legislation as well as wild game and invasive species regulation.
All of which are causes near and dear to the heart of Mrs. Big Bird. Tina Gaber caused quite a shitshow over the summer with her campaign against removal of nutrias. The non-indigenous water rats were fucking up the delicate ecosystem of the Ljubljana Marshes, but she found them cute and made a ruckus. And before that, she reportedly almost convinced the PM to stop efforts at controlling the brown bear population, before Brežan talked him out of it.
To be completely fair, pengovsky doesn’t think this sort of pillow politics has anything to do with the dismissal, either. The Big Bird may be in love with his own image but he did not get to where is he is now by thinking with his, well, cock.
However, this interpretation is simply too sleazy to not get the attention of the perennially overworked and undersexed Slovenian journalistic class. Which explains why they ran with it without thinking twice.
Which leaves us with two basic options. Maybe the PM really thought Šinko and Brežan were expendable to the point of being used as cannon fodder/diversion tactic to help out his beleaguered public administration minister. Or maybe pressure from various interest groups was simply too great.
Agriculture is money (and lots of it). And rebuilding the flood-hit areas will also mean a fuckton of public money being spent left and right. It could very well be Šinko and Brežan were in the way of people who have the PM’s ear. And maybe Golob tried to do these people a solid while solving the Ajanović Hovnik conundrum in one fell swoop.
Either way, it is not really working out, is it?
In fact, the whole maneuvre already backfired in a spectacular fashion. And shit has not even started hitting the fan.
Just plain ridiculous
So, where does the political strife scale come in, I hear you ask?
Reader, it demonstrates how ridiculous ouster of Šinko and Brežan really is, compared to Ajanović Hovnik keeping her post.
The latter went from “controversial” to “beleagured” in a couple of weeks. On the other hand, the former duo (pun very much intended) went from maybe “colourful” to “embattled” and “former”, respectively, within 24 hours. On the thinnest of excuses, at that.
The one good move of the week
And all of this before we mention the fact that Robert Golob has apparently found himself a competent new minister of health. A good thing, too, as he was already running out of time.
But I guess we’ll have to take a look at Valentina Prevolnik Rupel some other time.