Thus Spake Zoran Janković

As expected, Ljubljana mayor and leader of the opposition Positive Slovenia Zoran Janković rejected the findings of anti-graft commission which released its bomb-shell report yesterday. Indeed, Jay-Z made his case today con mucho gusto. He maintained that no specific corruption was found in his case, stressed that he was at the commission’s disposal to clarify details if need be, that his personal assets have not increased unduly and that all of it has traceable origins. Obviously, he also ruled out the possibility of his resignation. As a bonus, the executive council of Positive Slovenia did not even take confidence vote, thus going the whole nine yards for Janković. And while we’re at it: in a confidence vote by council of his SDS, Janez Janša won 98,6 percent of the vote (281 out of 285). So, no surprises there. Yawn.

Zoki wrapping up his remarks. Photo by The Firm™

Now, it must be said that Janković did a slightly better job at explaining himself on telly this evening than Janša did last night. And that despite the fact that the anchor was the same one which kid-gloved Janša. Tonight she actually tried to press Jay-Z on a couple of points, but by the time he got on the air he got his story straight enough to go sail the programme like hot knife through butter (sail, knife, butter? Pengovsky, really? :-o) He whizzed through the numbers, made a couple of off-handed remarks about how he knows to crunch the numbers and reiterated that his assets have not increased, they’ve only changed in form (loans were returned, shares were bought, et cetera).

Playing Risk

Throughout the day Zoran Janković refused to concede a single point made in the report. And if one was very generous, one might even say Janković is correct. At least asset-wise. But what the commission states in no unclear terms is that Janković was repeatedly exposed to a high-level risk of corruptible behaviour and has indeed made this risk worse by his actions. Specifically, by having his sons every so often return part of the 8 million euro loan he effectively granted them by deferring payment when they bought his company Electa off of him and at the same time allowing the company to partake in financial transactions which included firms doing business with the city of Ljubljana or (indirectly) the city itself.

Janković maintains that no corruptive activities have taken place. Indeed, the report stops short of even hinting at such activities. OK, so Zoki is under criminal investigation for some of these activities since late September. But that’s not really the point, is it? What in pengovsky’s opinion the commission is trying to say is that not only must there be no corruption, but that elected officials must actively avoid situation where the possibility of such corruption activities existed. Janković responded by saying (more or less) this risk is always present. Which is true. But it would be awfully nice if this risk were as low as possible. For example, by not having the company your kids own do business with firms you deal with as mayor. It could be that everyone plays by the book but it don’t look very nice.

But come what may, Janković is standing ground and will not yield an inch, let alone a yard. And that has its own inner logic. Ideally, a politician resigns when the burden of fighting off allegations prevents him from doing his job effectively. He/she clears up the mess and goes back in action squeaky clean. However, this being Slovenia and all, a resignation is viewed as practically the same as admission of guilt. Just ask Katarina Kresal. Janez Janša probably did the same math and came up with the same result. Which is why both leaders have not shied away from astonishingly unanimous support by their respective parties and have had other people denounce the commission for overreaching and/or not doing its job properly.

Mexican Stand-off

On this note: the outburst by MP for Positive Slovenia Maša Kociper who went squarely against the commission saying that it did not execute due process and that such things have been known to have been politically motivated. Now, we’ve become used to statements like this from the people over at SDS and fellow travellers. Indeed, we have heard them. Today and yesterday. Plenty of them. But apparently even Maša Kociper whom Janković tipped as his choice for the president of the parliament back in 2011, could not resist the urge. Which is a shame, really.

So, what we have here is in fact a political Mexican stand-off Slovenia style. Neither Janša nor Janković will resign, but their posses are screaming bloody murder demanding the other guy quits. Lovely, innit? Add to that the predictable but nevertheless disgusting manoeuvres by Janša and his team about how Slovenia will come to a standstill if his government is not allowed to continue (and that whoever brought it down better know what they are doing) and you see that Friday will be much fun indeed.

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Shit Hits The Fan For Janša And Janković

The anti-corruption commission today released the final report on financial status of leaders of parliamentary parties (Slovenian only). It found no irregularities on the part of Borut Pahor (leader of SD until April 2012, now president of the republic), Karl Erjavec (DeSUS), Radovan Žerjav (SLS), Gregor Virant (DL) and Ljudmila Novak (NSi). However, the report states that Prime Minister and leader of SDS, the largest coalition party Janez Janša and Ljubljana mayor and leader of PS, the largest opposition party Zoran Janković failed to report substantial parts of their respective income. Additionally, the commission states that Jay-Z was on the receiving end of some 208.000 euro in transactions which originated with companies which do business with the city of Ljubljana, while JJ simply cannot the origin of some 210.000 euro of assets. Translation: shit hit the fan.


The list of transgressions for both top policitos is long and distinguished. But to cut a long story short: according to the commission Janković failed to report several substantial shares and bank transactions and was repaid by various companies some 2.4 million euro of loans given. This includes the aforementioned 208k EUR where the commission states a huge potential for conflict of interest, undue lobbying and corruption existed. Janša, however, failed to report various real estate deals and loans taken, under-reporting the value of a luxury car, providing a collateral for a 500k EUR loan his SDS took out as well as providing collateral for a loan taken by family member (presumably his wife) and reporting a cash deposit in amount of 33k euro. Also, he is reported to have unduly profited some 100k EUR in a real estate deal. In addition, the report stated, Janša failed tot explain the origin of the aforementioned 210k of assets, used to finance various deals and expenses.

On a sidenote: it is interesting that despite the fact Janković lately got a lot of flak over alleged shady real-estate deals, the commission nailed him for what mostly seem to be purely financial transgressions while they threw the book at Janša on various real-estate deals (and one luxury car), despite the fact that he was rumoured to have had a hand in cash transactions in various arms deals and is standing trial on corruption charges in the Patria Affair. Ironic, to say the least. But more to the point: Both Janša and Janković denied any wrongdoing. Zoki is expected to hold a press conference tomorrow, while JJ went on national telly this evening and got the royal treatment, with the anchor kid-gloving him and letting him do the talking while she only occasionally interjected with a how-do-you-explain-this type of questions and, predictably, no follow-ups.

While it is no particular secret that the anchor in question is cosy with Janša it was still a shameless performance. Asked if he will resign, Janša played the ultimate gambit and said that…. wait for it… he doesn’t know. He then proceeded to add that he will offer his resignation to the executive council of the party and should they vote to accept his resignation as party leader he will step down as PM as well. This particular line of action is of course meant to rally the troops and close the ranks, not unlike what Janković did after the high-profile police raid in late September 2012. Also, Janša pulled the same trick on election Sunday in 2011 when he got his ass whooped by Janković, so this manoeuvre comes as no surprise and pengovsky is not holding his breath. Regardless, the TV anchor tonight said that JJ’s resignation would be “the start of a political crisis”. Just to make sure everyone knew what is at stake.

Not that anyone needed remembering. The SDS media machinery immediately went into full swing, with various talking heads decimating the anti-corruption commission as unconstitutional, biased and politically motivated. The junior coalition partners were none too happy with the story (alternatively: they were jumping with joy over the badlands JJ found himself in) and when Gregor Virant of DL called on both Janša and Janković to resign toute-de-suite, he immediately became a target himself. Sure enough, it was funny to watch Virant going all pious on Janša and Janković after his fiasco over getting ex-MP payment and earning a little extra on the side. But pengovsky is sure he relished the moment. Also, Janša himself unscrupulously went after the vice-president of the anti-corruption commission Rok Praprotnik, claiming that the latter is on a personal vendetta against him (Praprotnik reported widely on arms deals in Slovenia while he was a journalist at Dnevnik daily). Even Goran Klemenčič, the head of the commission was not off-limits, despite the fact that Klemenčič’s wife, Nina Zidar Klemenčič represents Janša in a number of lawsuits.

Also, Janša – in his trademark poor-me fashion – complained that he was not given a draft of the report so he could respond properly. Interestingly enough, the report states that during the course of the investigation, the commission found out that a request to a state-owned company for data on Janša’s dealings was leaked to him. An independent investigation into that incident was apparently launched.

As for the illustrious Ljubljana mayor: in a preliminary statement Janković pointed out that origins of his assets can be and were accounted for (which is true, according to the commission’s report) and that at no time was the City of Ljubljana defrauded (this also appears to be true, since all loans given to Janković-related companies by firms dealing with the city were reportedly repaid in full). However, Janković goes on to add that the commission did not actually find corruption, but rather found the possibility for corruption activities. This, in all honesty, is splitting the hair mighty fine. Often, appearances can be just as damaging as (non)actions. And while no-one really expect Janković to resign (he said as much this evening, reportedly), it should be noted that for some time now he was dropping hints on “a new mayor and a new team”. True, these were often off-hand remarks and no too much should be read into them, but there you go.

Oh, and in case you were wondering: the newly minted President of the Republic Borut Pahor “expressed concern over the issue”. Neat. Must be kind of weird feeling, since a month ago, while still running for president, he proudly said that “the support of Janez Janša means a lot to him”. Well, politics makes for strange bedfellows, I guess. At least this particular president doesn’t seem prone to bothering Janša with calls for resignation.

Well, at the very least, this will probably breathe some fresh air into the protest movement. The next big rally is to be held on Friday.

EDIT: I almost forgot. In a most telling sentence, the commission writes that “it does not have the authority to demand resignations of Janša or Janković”. Translation: if they did, they would have. Also, Janša’s first response was (as is usual lately) on Twitter, where he wrote that his assets correspond to his work (labour) of 30 years. A slight Freudian slip there, Jimbo. The money did’t just fall out of the sky, that’s for sure. The question is just what exactly did Janša do to get it.

P.S.: On a related note, a funny fuck-up occurred over the alleged reaction of the SDS on this report. Grega Stritar (@gstritar) has more on this. Read it up and follow him.


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Police Raid Zoran Janković

Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković got raided by law-enforcement agencies early this morning. The CrimPolice knocked on his door at about 6 am, produced a search warrant and searched his place, places of eight other individuals and fourteen places of work. While Janković himself was apparently not detained during the course of the investigation, six people were. This includes his two sons (one whom was in hospital, where his wife was having a C-section) as well as Uroš Ogrin, general manager of Gradis G, the principal contractor in the Stožice Complex project (and several other construction projects in the city).

Cop cars in front of the City Hall earlier today (photo: The Firm™)

Officially, the primary focus of the investigation is the Stožice complex and the flow of money surrounding it. The commercial part of the complex still isn’t finished, allegedly because GREP (a company established by Gradis G and the other contractor Energoplan for the purpose of constructing the complex) can’t secure a final credit line of about 15 million euro in what is essentially a 350 million euro project. Specifically, the police suspect (among other things) money laundering, abuse of office and fraud.

Right now no charges are filed. They usually aren’t in cases like these. It will take the cops over at National Bureau of Investigation some time before they sift through the pile of papers they’ve confiscated but it seems inconceivable that the prosecution would not press the case all the way to the court. Regardless of how watertight the case against the mayor really is.

Because even though everyone was loath to look at the case from the political point of view, it is obvious that the ramifications of this case go beyond mere questions of legality of Janković’s actions. With him being the president of the largest party in the parliament this somewhat levels the political playing field in Slovenia, since his arch-rival Janez Janša is knee-deep in the Patria Affair. Somewhat being the operative word here as no charges are pressed as yet against Janković, while Janša is standing trial. Since the investigation was apparently opened a year and a half ago it would be unfair to say that the whole thing is purely political, but there are too many coincidences here to just brush them off.

First, as with almost every other big story in the last year, the whole thing broke while PM Janša was out of town. This time around he was in New York, attending the UN General Assembly, calling for a world without genocide (I’m sure everyone else went: Hey, why didn’t we think of that?). Second, this happened after the State Prosecution was transferred under the portfolio of Ministry of the interior, now ran by Vinko Gorenak of Janša’s SDS. And third, the fact that the raid happened on the same day Jankovič’s daughter-in-law was in hospital, giving birth via a C-section, reeks of intent to humiliate. These procedures are planned in advance and while pengovsky is not pointing any fingers, it looks as if someone was looking to add insult to injury.

But even if these are pure coincidences, fact remains that the spotlight is now firmly on Zoran Janković and this will be exploited by his political opponents in every way, shape or form. Indeed, it wasn’t long since president Danilo Türk was called upon to “publicly denounce” Janković, who was Türk’s first PM nominee after 2011 elections and whose party Positive Slovenia supports the incumbent president in his re-election bid. Funnily, no-one calls on SDS presidential candidate Milan Zver to publicly denounce Janez Janša due to him being tried in a court of law. And you can be sure Borut Pahor will try to jump on that particular bandwagon as well.

But while the right-wing will howl about how this is the beginning of an end of Jay-Z and the “entire left wing”, there is an issue that will have to be dealt with mostly by Positive Slovenia and sooner rather than later: as things stand right now, the party appears united behind their man. But in the past members of this party and other notable left-wing politicos claimed that Janša should resign the moment the court accepted the charges against him filed by the State Prosecution. With regard to their leader, the SDS maintains that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. As expected, they are not willing to extend this luxury to Janković. But Positive Slovenia claimed an altogether different criteria, which is definitely more in line with the concept of a modern democracy. Thus it will be interesting to see how they respond if charges against Janković are indeed formally pressed.

On the other hand, however, there’s always the possibility that Jay-Z will spare them the grief. Tonight he categorically denied any possibility of him resigning, but then again, you never know…

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[VIDEO] Fabiani Bridge

In late August, Ljubljana finally got a crucial piece of traffic infrastructure which completed the so called “inner road ring”. Fabiani bridge across the Ljubljanica River connects Roška and Njegoševa streets, cutting commute time between Poljane and Tabor neighbourhoods by a substantial margin. The bridge itself was controversial. Bridges tend to be. This particular bridge is a two-level construction with motor traffic on top and pedestrian and cyclist traffic below. Also, it is a four-lane bridge connecting a three-lane road to a two-lane road, which raised many-an-eyebrow. But it works.

However, the lower level of the bridge was just as controversial: a bicycle lane which starts on one bank and does not go in a straight line to the other bank was a point where mayor Zoran Janković and vice-mayor for urban planning Janez Koželj got plenty of flak. Also, the stairs on the left bank seem to be quite a challenge to negotiate. But as far as cyclists go, pengosky was in the neighbourhood recently and decided to have a look…

Has Janković Had Enough?

Days ago Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković for the second time this month dropped a hint in the passing which none of the news media seems to have picked up. Namely, that this will be his last term as mayor of the capital. At the start of a new school year Zoki, while cutting the ribbon at the new building of Ljubljana Waldorf school said that any further expansion projects will be overseen by the new mayor. While there were a few gasps in situ nobody made a big deal about it. Ditto two days ago, when upon unveiling the concept of a new housing project, he announced the new head of City Administration (to take over soonest) and told her that she will have to see that the next mayor will provide funds for the project as well.

Tired? Fed up? Bored? Or just having fun… (photo by yours truly)

Now, Zoki being Zoki, this could mean absolutely nothing. He can change his mind in split second, again full of zest and vigor and carry on as if nothing happened. On the other hand, he does seem a bit, well, fed up. Also, things are not going especially well for him. After being subjected to a year-long tax audit, his case was now referred to the state prosecution which will decide whether or not to press charges. No points for guessing what the decision will be.

The list goes on. In some circles he is constantly being mentioned as a possible “technocratic prime minister”, a sort of Slovenian Mario Monti (but much less sombre), but in pengovsky’s opinion those are just wet dreams of people who still think in terms of getting to the power first and thinking about everything else second. Janez Janša and his government are a fine example of this approach and the disaster it brings about.

All things considered, it seems extremely unlikely that Janković will (again) resign before his term is up. But if he really intends to make this his last term as mayor, political parties in the capital should start getting their asses in gear, because right now not a single one of them can produce a person with enough clout to cover all the bases in the city. Autumn 2014 may turn out to be plenty of fun.

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