Habemus Congregatio

With Gregor Virant‘s Citizens’ List (DL) ting in favour of joining the coalition of Alenka Bratušek earlier tonight, the PM-designate is expected to present to the parliament a full list of ministerial nominees tomorrow. This brings Slovenia a step closer to having a fully operative government which is to replace the administration of Janez Janša. Thus the coalition agreement between PS, SD, DL and DeSUS was signed shortly before midnight tonight. It gives Bratušek a majority of votes which can, if need be, excpanded to 55 out of 90 votes, including the three independent MPs and two MPs for Italian and Hungarian minority.

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(source: RTVSLO)

In a curious twist of fate, the Vatican curia needed less time to elect the new Pontifex Maximus (that be Francis I., in case you were just unfrozen cryogenically) than the new Sovenian coalition needed to hammer out a deal. In fact, “habemus papam” beat the “habemus congregatio” by a few hours. But I guess it is easier to pick the supreme minister than a minister in a Slovenian government.

We’ll leave the list of nominees for some other day (maybe tomorrow) but even now it is perfectly obvious that the real winners is Karl Erjavec, who is poised to continue as foreign miniser. A few other people are expected to continue in their current positions, notably minister of health Tomaž Gantar (DeSUS) and minister for justice Senko Pličanič (DL).

Speaking of DL, there seems to have been hell to pay tonight at DL HQ, since Janez Šušteršič quit vice-chairmanship of the party. He said he will continue as party member, but the rift between his faction and that of Gergor Virant seems insurmountable. Although it must be said that the move to enter the coalition got a pretty solid backing tonight at DL. However, it appears that a party schism is forming within the DL and that could present PM Bratušek with more of a problem than she may anticipate this early in the game.

At any rate, the coalition agreement is signed and if there are no last-minute surprises Slovenia could have a new government within a week’s time. It will move away from purely austerity and across-the-board-cuts policies into a combination of spending cuts and growth stimulation with special emphasis on infrastructure projects. That and the banking sector. Plus a few other points of interest. And a possible increase of value added tax.

But we’ll deal with these issues in the coming days. Until the new cabinet is sworn in, the old one is still fully in charge, making last-minute appointments left and right.

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Awaiting Virant’s Call, Bratušek Mulls Minority Government

While caretaker PM Janez Janša was busy signing a memorandum on Ljubljanska banka (LB) bank with his Croatian counterpart Zoran Milanović, his likely successor Alenka Bratušek was busy hammering out a deal that would see her cabinet sworn in on Thursday. And while the deal between two Balkan states is to delegate the problem, indeed the very decision what in fact constitutes the problem, to the Basel-based Bank for International Settlements (and got a perfunctory pat on the back for it), Bratušek is seeing her problems shape-shift, forcing her to come up with plan B, that is to say, the possibility of forming a minority government.

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(source)

Plenty of people fretted about the Slovenian Sovereign Holding (SDH) and the bad bank which were seen as the main sticking points between Igor Lukšič‘s Social Democrats (SD) and Gregor Virant‘s Citizens’ List (DL). The brain-child of outgoing finance minister and DL’s no. 2 man Janez Šušteršič these issues were seen as possible deal breakers, especially since Šušteršič was adamant about how bad bank collecting bad debt and then covering it by selling assets concentrated in SDH is the only way to go about solving the crisis.

But some days ago, while he was in a head-to-head with his predecessor of social-democratic persuasion Franc Križanič, he made a seemingly off-hand remark about how there will still have to be some form of bank recapitalisation directly by the state (i.e. taxpayers). Which goes along the lines of his being adamant how not an euro of taxpayers’ money will be spent on recapitalising the NLB but did precisely that only months later. Križanič, on the other hand, was in his merry-go-happy mood and went on how state recapitalisation is cheaper and more transparent and is basically just an accounting operation as the state already parked vast amounts of cash in the banks. If it’s so easy and effective, why hasn’t it been done yet, then? Preferably while Križanič was the head-beancounter in the country?

However, that seems to be water under the bridge. For all its importance, the SD/DL spat was apparently solved fairly easily. But the bill is being presented to Bratušek personally. The deal with SD brought DL on the verge of a schism. The Šušteršič-led faction in the party fell out with Virant-led part over leaving Janša’s coalition and those wounds haven’t even begun to heal when the bad bank/state holding compromise was reached, further alienating the Šušteršič wing. Which means Virant has to give them something fast, lest he sees his party break into two for good. That “something” is, predictably, the energy department.

Under existing government organisation, the said department is within the portfolio of ministry of infrastructure. It is to be a part of DL quota, but Bratušek was looking to move the energy department into a PS-ran portfolio (possibly economy). Latest reports indicate that Virant won that particular round and got Bratušek to back down. While no details have emerged yet, pengovsky is speculating Bratušek agreed to Virant’s demands on condition that she gets to veto a nominee for that particular ministerial post.

But while the horse-trading session is still on, PM-designate Bratušek is being dragged through the mud by the more rabid part of the right-wing (i.e.: the Party and its media entourage). Riding on the coat-tails of several high-profile plagiarising cases recently discovered in Slovenia, an anonymous (!) letter circulated the interwebz, supposedly revealing that Bratušek did not write her master’s thesis according to academic standard. The university had initiated proceedings in establishing authenticity of her work, but the story stuck and the damage was done.

This allowed Virant to be righteous yet again (after walking out on Janša over the anti-graft report) and demanded Bratušek resign all positions should her thesis be shown plagiarised. Apparently, Bratušek agreed. But the thing is that for the more fervent part of the right-wing, she is already guilty beyond any reasonable doubt and will be dogged by this for the entire duration of her term. That the Party faithful are serious banging this particular drum for the foreseeable future is obvious by the fact that they’ve even set up a Wikia page, citing alleged academic transgressions of the would-be prime minister.

In case you’re wondering about SDS connection into these plagiarism accusations: Party-friendly media reported that, university inquiry aside, the “lead investigators” in this matter are Bernard Brščič, a never-realised economic wunderkind of Hayekian persuasion and Janez Janša’s recent edition to his ever-increasing number of staff-appointees and Matej Makarovič, former head of SDS youth organisation, dean of FUDŠ, a right-wing-friendly university and a regular talking head when the cause of the Party needs to be advanced. Not only does the academic Duo Fantasticus not instil confidence in their work, they’re doing it at the behest of the Party which – as we know – doesn’t really have a clean bill of health when it comes to handling of archive material.

EDIT (12/03/12@1000hrs): SDS youth organisation just announced on Twitter it will deliver an annotated copy of Bratušek’s M.A. to every parliamentary group, supposedly proving plagiarism accusations. Of course, potentially different findings of the university committee will be dismissed as a conspiracy.

This is the setting in which Bratušek is waiting for DL to make the call. If Šušteršič wing prevails, she will have to put forward a minority government, which could be confirmed with an absolute majority with the understanding that DL or any other party or parliamentary group will consider its support on a case-by-case basis. Alternatively, the whole deal can still go down the drain, with the PM-designate being blocked to name even two thirds of her ministers in three consecutive votes, thus triggering early elections.

At any rate, until a new government is sworn in Janez Janša is still very much holding the reins of power since there is no legislation on dos and donts of a caretaker government. More will be known tomorrow, so watch this space.

P.S.: Apologies for being mum for a week. Things to see, people to do and all that jazz…

 

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