Fee Fight, A Gift That Will Keep On Giving

While the rest of the EU is musing over the antics of the Slovenian CrimPolice who are flashing search warrants left and right investigating the brouhaha regarding former PM Alenka Bratušek’s bid for the EU Commissioner post, her succerssor Miro Cerar is suddenly faced with a problem of a different and potentially much more disastrous kind. Namely, he may be facing calls for his resignation over the extra pay he earned as a consultant and/or researcher in addition to his tenure at the Faculty of Law.

Both PM Cerar and FinMin Mramor made The List (source)

The whole thing exploded late last week when the ill-fated anti-graft commission released a report stating that over the past decade or so, about a billion and a half euros in additional earnings were paid mostly (but not exclusively) to high-profile university professors including minister for higher education and science Stanka Setnikar Cankar who apparently earned 600k euros on research projects. Now, 600k over eleven or so ain’t exactly peanuts. 50k per annum in Slovenian terms means doubling an already very hefty paycheck. On the other hand, research projects are where scientists and lecturers put their expertise to (good?) use and make money.

The report was a bombshell, both because the name that appeared on it and included Prime Minister Miro Cerar and financial minister Dušan Mramor and because the amounts in question were within the scope of imagination of the average Slovenian. You see, 600k euros is indeed a lot of money, but it is not an amount of galactic proportions where one would not now what to do with all that cash. Difference between 10 and 20 million? In the mind of the ordinary taxpayer almost negligible because they a) will never see that kind o money and b) would never know how to use it if they did. But 600 big ones? That could buy the house they always wanted, plus the unnecessarily oversized car and a vacation in South-East Asia. It’s the same thing that got Janša. Do millions of euros-worth of arms deals and no one cares. Fail to explain an apartment’s-worht amount of money, people will take to the streets.

So when Setnikar Cankar emerged as one of the top earners, a short but intensive barrage commenced at the end of which she offered to resign. Apparently the accepted wisdom was that due to her hefty additional income in the last decade she has no moral or political clout to negotiate changes to education system. Which poses an interesting question: are the only people acceptable to hold public office those who are unable or do not want to use resources at their disposal. Because save an apparent conflict of interests, Setnikar Cankar broke no law. Sure, it looks unhealthy (and it probably is) but odds are that the whole thing isn’t illegal. So that was mistake numero uno.

Mistake numero due was committed by Cerar who accepted the resignation. This was plainly wrong for a couple of reasons: first and foremost, he just let go a minister from his party’s quota. This suggests that a) he believes there many people who would be willing to take up the job (tehre aren’t) and b) that SMC’s vetting process still sucks donkey balls. This alone would be embarrassment enough by the PM but he exabberated it further when he indeed let Setnikar Cankar go, because he opened a direct route for attacks on himself as he is on that infamous list, too.

And sure enough, the political body of Setnikar Cankar had not even cooled off when Cerar, too, was faced with calls to resign and to take finance minister Mramor with him, forcing him to hold a press conference to respond to the allegations. He said that everything was a-ok, that he earned the extra 350 grand fair and square, ditto finance minister Mramor and that we should all just chill.

Which is a fair point. These high earners, despite their admittedly high cumulative incomes, were in fact applying years if not decades of experience. As Boštjan Narat succinctly put it in his blogpost on the issue (Slovenian only), one should be able to charge for that. Whether or not they were making research projects their private little gardens to cultivate and grow euros is, of course another matter. But this particular angle was hardly addressed. As was the question just how tangible (if at all) were results of their research. Because the issue here is – how very Slovenian – the fact these people earned money beyond their salary. Because Bob forbid you should be doing stuff on the side, let alone pay taxes from it.

But the political take-away here is entirely different. What we have here is a Prime Minister’s blunder of epic proportions which will turn a non-issue into a gift that will keep on giving.

You see, Cerar axed Setnikar Cankar within 48 hours of the story breaking. Probably in the name of political expediency, hoping the issue will go away. But they never do, do they? Thus in effect what PM Cerar had done was

a) accept the issue as a legitimate one (which it needn’t be), thus
b) admitting there was a sense of urgency to is and
c) letting the situation to spiral out of control.

As a result, the issue is no longer a semi-important minister with a semi-important portfolio (gone are the days of then minister Gregor Golobič threatening coalition rift to get additional budget funding for technology and research), but the fate of the prime minister himself.

Sure, Cerar tried to impress on the media that his case was different, but in the end, no one really cared. Why should they? If a portfolio minister is axed because of excess earnings while she was not holding public office, why should the PM be treated any softer? Indeed, going on past experience, the PM is held to an even closer scrutiny, justified or not, than his ministers.

This will not blow over easily. Slovenian public and indeed the media are much more comfortable thinking in the price range of a couple of thousands of euros. To stave off the now inevitable scenario of Cerar himself being in the crosshairs, the PM should have kept Setnikar Cankar in her position, at gunpoint if need be for as long as necessary, letting her go only after the issue had blown over completely.

But as things stand, the prime minister once again fell hostage to his pre-election rhetoric of “higher ethical standards“. The platform which got him elected is now being used against him, not entirely unsuccessfully, regardless of whether accusations are based on fact or fiction.

Days ago the PM finally took stand to defend finance minister Mramor and by extension himself. But if this drags on and if he fails to follow-up with more drastic measures which could very well include an across-the-board reshuffle of the coalition, Cerar’s countermeasures might prove too little too late.



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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The Government Break-In

Wait, what? A group of perps repotedly broke into a government parking lot over the weekend, vandalised several government vehicles and spray-painted some hate graffitti on the walls, the whole thing totaling to about 6k euros in damage. OK, tough shit, you say and a good excuse for the government to buy some new wheels in times of crisis. But there’s a catch. A couple of them, actually…

The government building in downtown Ljubljana. Parking lot marked with arrow (image via Google Maps)

First and foremost: the perps apparently made their escape. Sure, a quicky, you say. In-and-out, no sweat. The only problem is that the parking lot in question is walled from all sides. Pengovsky’s line of work took him to that particular building on quite a number of occasions and although it’s no Guantanamo, the security is pretty heavy. Not in the least in the form of steel automatic door which can only be opened from the inside by the guard. In fact, in addition to a security detail just beyond the door, there are uniformed cops on both sides of the building (that would be norht and south on the photo above) not to mention the CCTV system. Although the latter was apparently conveniently out of order.

Yup, you read it correctly. The executive centre of the country (well, half of it, the other half is across the street to the south) was without CCTV surveillance for an extended period of time. Officially since August, no less. Which is weird. Doubly so since this was not leaked (not to mention publicly known) even though the previous government in it’s dying days was leaking sensitive information by the bucketful. And if you really want a full serving of bullshit: the CCTV system was down “due to a lightning strike”.

This is the point where alarm bells start ringing. A lightning strike? Really? Call me stupid, but I thought lightning strikes the taller buildings. This particular piece of late 19th century architecture only has two storeys while a couple of buildings in the immediate vicinity… no, scratch that… all buildings in the vicinity are markedly higher than that. Not to mention that the Ljubljana Twin Towers, both of them reaching fifteen storeys high are only two hundred metres away. Lighrning strike was almost surely not the cause of the outage.

Ready for more? The cars were vandalised with granite cubes, not unlike the ones that were hurled into the parliament almost two years ago. Theories have been floated since that the outbreak of violence back then was not so much alcohol-induced but a carefuly orhestrated attack by right-wing extremists which have infiltrated the protest, while the blame was then shifted onto left-wing activists (some of whom now comprise the local branch of Occupy movement). Point being that the MO is similar and that the parallels are drawing themselves.

So, to recap: a government compound, walled from all sides in the center of the city in a well guarded goverment quarter, with uniforms outside and (supposedly) a security detail inside, under CCTV suveilance (conveniently out of order) was broken into, cars and walls vandalised and no one saw a thing?!.

This bears all the hallmarks of an undercover operation, not unlike the series of incidents in 2007, some six months prior to presidential elections, when the target of a similar operation was the late President Janez Drnovšek. And curiously enough, the building to which the said parking lot is attached also houses the Office of the President. And we’re up for presidential elections later this year.

You do the math…

UPDATE: The website of SDS-owned Demokracija magazine claims that “leftist extremists” are behind the incident. QED.

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From Dubai With Love

While pengovsky was addressing the wider aspects of multiculturalism, a true human resource drama of nearly Shakespearian proportions was unravelling in Slovenia at the end of which Prime Minister Borut Pahor had to say goodbye to one of his closest coworkers, chief of staff Simona Dimic, who could (had this been a different James Bond spoof) rightly be called Pussy Galore on account of her looks. She was accused of corruption and abuse after it was revealed that she took out a EUR 350,000 loan with state-owned Nova Ljubljanska banka to renovate the house, that workers of the embattled construction company Vegrad worked on her project and even took materiel from a larger Vegrad’s construction site and, tangentially, that her partner’s tourist agency had a suspicious spike in turnover since the new government took over. The pressure was mounting and days later Dimic resigned from her post and reportedly took refuge from the media onslaught in Dubai, accompanied by her partner and their child.

Photoshop job by yours truly

The snowflake which started the avalanche was a loan of some 350k EUR which she took out with state-owned NLB to renovate a house she and her partner own in a plush Ljubljana neighbourhood Murgle. This was combined with claims that builders worked on the site incognito and were in fact employed by the embattled construction company Vegrad and that materiel for renovation was taken from one of Vegrad’s nearly-failed housing projects in Ljubljana. This was an explosive enough mix which – combined with some very clumsy PR, a couple of unanswered questions and a few inconsistencies – led to her resignation.

Vegrad and NLB

Vegrad probably deserves a post of its own, but to put in the context, suffice it to say that the company (which recently filed for bankruptcy) became one of the major players in the construction during the construction boom and undertook to build a large housing project in Ljubljana but went under because of if due to combination of the financial meltdown and some gross mismanagement of its CEO Hilda Tovšak (who, by the way, is on trial in the Operation Clean Shovel). As the company started its protracted and painful demise it turned out that wasn’t paying its already miserably underpaid workers, mostly foreign labourers from Bosnia.

With social injustice still (and rightly so) being magnum crimen in Slovenian society, this was and still is a huge story which boiled thrice over, to the point where everyone jumps at the mere mention of the company, almost regardless of the context.

Ditto for NLB, which still suffers from overexposure to bad loans, awarded to various politically or otherwise well connected managers and manager wannabes in the past few years. As a result NLB requires somewhere between 200 and 400 million EUR increase in capital, which will probably come in the form of taxpayer’s money. And since a 350k EUR loan is not peanuts – at least from the point of views of the “ordinary people” (an populist angle Slovenian media are increasingly covering all stories from) – a conclusion that was immediately made (or at least inferred) that the loan was granted without the usual scrutiny and that Vegrad was continuing it’s practice of exploiting its workers – all for beautification of a senior official’s crib.

… the fuck?

It looked bad from the beginning and it got only worse. For all her cunning, Dimic reacted badly and denied allegations but refused to offer further explanations thus only fuelling speculations further. At some point she sort of caved in and presented some documentation. But it was too little to late.

Fair’s fair and it must be said that while big, 350k EUR loan is not impossible. Yes, initially the bank will probably have refused or place some impossible conditions. But since a bank is not a supermarket where you just walk in and pick stuff from the shelf (not any more, that is), there’s always room for negotiations. Especially if your credit is more or less OK.

Furthermore, journalists always pressed Dimic whether it was Vegrad which renovated her house and she continuously denied that. But “Vegrad” is not the same as “Vegrad’s workers”. Pengovsky is not trying to unnecessarily defend anyone, but I can totally see a scenario where a worker or a subcontractor who went without pay for months, simply takes on another job and uses materiel and tools from Vegrad’s construction site to do a quickie somewhere else, cash on the nail. This is pure speculation, but it is somewhat corroborated with inconsistencies in Dimic’s later explanations where it transpired that a) her spouse signed a very loose contract with a small construction company to handle the project and b) there were some cash transactions, possibly to avoid paying taxes.

Escape to Dubai

But that was only the start of a very bad week. An old story about Escape travel agency was revived. This apparently somewhat obscure travel agency is owned by Dimic’s spouse (together with another partner) and is mostly selling Dubai destinations. According to media reports the company’s revenue sky-rocketed after the new government took over and Dimic became Pahor chief of staff, with various government ministries and bodies apparently buying airline tickets directly through Escape. Pegovsky can not say for a fact that there was anything illegal going on, but it does look unhealthy, no matter how you look at it. Especially since there’s a government-wide system for purchasing airline tickets where short-notice tenders are issued and travel agents then bid with the lowest price.

Anyways, point being that the media onslaught was such, that despite expressions of strong support by the PM himself Simona Dimic resigned from her post last Friday by ways of a tearful letter to the Prime Minister, thanking him for all that he’s done for her and the trust he had shown her, but added that it was all just too much and that she can’t take it anymore. The very next day she was on a plane to Dubai together with her son and spouse.

So, what was really going on?

Simona Dimic was one of Pahor’s closest advisers for the past twelve-or-so years, especially during his stint as a Member of the European Parliament. With his ascent to the premiership Pahor picked her as his chief of staff. Dimic was reportedly very effective in this powerful position. Some would say even too powerful, which was probably what caused her downfall. According to media reports her influence over who gets picked to various para-government positions was enormous, but little birdies tell pengovsky she increasingly had a say over various government policies. And with that she presumably overplayed her hand.

There are various competing theories as to what exactly happened:

1) Dimic has outlived her usefulness to Pahor and was starting to reach over his head.

2) The scandal was coalition-induced as a sort of revenge by other coalition parties and their leaders for the shit they had to go through, especially with Ultra Affair and Canine Scandal (Zares and LDS respecitvely)

3) It’s all Janez Janša’s doing, as a warning to PM Pahor that he too is vunerable and that Janša will do everything to destroy Pahor should the Patria Case proceed.

Let’s deal with No. 2 first, as it is highly unlikely. Neither Zares nor LDS at the moment have the capacity to launch a full-scale media offensive on the largest coalition party. In addition, this would require plenty of coordination on the highest levels of both parties, not to mention that it would all have to be planned during election campaign. However, it is highly likely, that all junior coalition parties and their leaders, Katarina Kresal of LDS, Gregor Golobič of Zares and Karl Erjavec of DeSUS just sat back and enjoyed the ride, since Pahor didn’t move as much as a muscle when each of them hit their respective badlands.

But Brutus is an honourable man…

Well, that’s not exactly true. What Pahor did each of those cases is to state very strong support for the embattled leaders of coalition parties. But there’s a twist. Each and every time Pahor publicly supported them but then left them out to dry. It is a shrewd tactic, not unlike what Shakespeare had Mark Anthony say in Julius Cesar but in this case serves mostly to save face and curb his political allies.

I’m not saying that Pahor initiated the whole thing, but if you will look closely, he – publicly at least – didn’t do much to help Dimic either (save the aforementioned expression of support) and not unlike Karl Erjavec of DeSUS she too buckled under pressure and resigned of her own free will, thus diverting at herself all the mud that was beginning to stick to the polished figure of the PM as well. Parallels with Erjavec’s protracted removal from ministry of environment are stunning, in fact.

If I wanted to kill you, you’d be dead by now

It was Virgil Sollozo who said that to Tom Hagen in The Godfather, but it is possible that the media onslaught was orchestrated by Janez Janša of SDS who has his ever increasing pile of elephant shit to deal with. The Patria Case is progressing and the prosecution just upped the ante, changing the indictment from “attempted bribery and corruption ” to “complicity in bribery and corruption” which is a notch or two more serious a charge. If we presume for a moment that the prosecution does in fact have a case, then Janša is probably worried sick. And if that is the case, then he might have just sent Pahor a message, basically saying “I can get to you”.

While we’re on the deep end of the conspiracy pool: in 2005 Pahor and Dimic were returning from Brussels by car and it caught fire in a tunnel on Ljubljana-Koper motorway. Officially foul play was excluded, but some people claimed that it was in fact an assassination attempt. It’s more or less a crack-pot theory, but I thought I’d mention it while we’re on the issue 😀

Wrap it up, will ya?

Regardless of what actually happened, even if it was just media sort-of-performing their role in society (although they get no marks for style and only average marks for technical excellence), bottom line is that the PM is now probably better off then he was a month ago, because he removed (or had removed) a powerful courtier whose ego started issuing cheques her body couldn’t cash (to quote another favourite film of mine). And in the final analysis the story was a welcome diversion, steering the public away from other, quite possibly more important issues.

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Lahovnik To Quit As Minister And MP (His Schwartz Just Ain’t Big Enough)

Lahovnik and Golobič while they were still on the same team (source)

Yesterday the government communication office released the infamous letter minister of economy Matej Lahovnik sent to Prime Minister Borut Pahor in which he detailed grievances against his former party boss and ministerial colleague Gregor Golobič. Lahovnik’s adios to Zares was not really a surprise, but the timing left a lot of people, yours truly included, a bit baffled. Pengovsky speculated on reasons why Lahovnik took the Fatboy Slim approach (right here, right now) and now it turns out that he thought his Schwartz was bigger than anyone else’s and he turned out to be dead wrong. As a result, he announced his resignation earlier today and even said that he will not re-take his position as MP.

The letter was widely expected to be a bomb-shell. It turned out to be a dud. Basically, Lahovnik complained that companies owned by or connected with Ultra (a company in which Gregor Golobič owns a 7% stake) applied for public tenders and such. Lahovnik’s main grievance – at least according to the letter – was the very fact that a company in which a sitting minister owns a stake runs for public funds. But the devil is – as always – in the details. Lahovnik goes on to write that in no instance (at least no instance which he detailed) did any of the companies win any tenders, but – and this is where he seems genuinely pissed – in one case the company files a lawsuit against his ministry for kicking it out of the tender.

Let’s be brutal. The fact that a company, where a sitting minister (or any other elected and/or public official) owns a stake,  no matter how small, runs for a public tender, is not entirely cricket. The world would be a much nicer place if these things didn’t happen. However, the Ultra issue was over and done with. At least on relation Golobič-> Zares-> Coalition-> Government (the opposition is still trying to keep the whole affair simmering on a low temperature).  If Lahovnik had a problem with that, he should have quit months ago.

From a legal point of view, however, there is nothing wrong with Ultra (or any other similar company) running for public funds. The law stipulates that a company where a public official and/or his immediate keen hold more than 20% stake cannot take part in public tenders. And if it does it anyway, it simply gets thrown out. Pengovsky should know, it happened once with The Firm™. No ifs, not buts, one simply gets a nice letter saying “Sorry, you can’t take part due to anti-corruption legislation”.

But Golobič’s share in Ultra is not above 20%. It is not even, say, 19.5%, which would imply that he is following the letter if not the spirit of the law. No, he holds a 7% share, which he apparently earned by working for the company and that’s it. There are scores of public officials which own various stakes in various companies. After all, we are running a sort of capitalism in Slovenia. But Lahovnik goes on to say, that he finds it hard to believe that Golobič would not use his influence to put Ultra at an unfair advantage vis-a-vis other companies running for tenders. That may be, but in all honesty, you don’t need to have a sitting minister among your stakeholders to better your business positions. All you need to do is know the right people.

However, as noted above, Ultra did not win any of the tenders Lahovnik takes issue with. So, not only was no law broken by Ultra running for tenders, even if pressure was brought to bear, the system worked and threw Ultra’s application out on merit. The fact that the company then filed a suit against Lahovnik’s ministry over it only reiterates the fact that the system worked, because seeking legal protection against what an applicant deems an unfair decision is perfectly normal. It is done by scores of companies practically on a weekly basis.

So, on the face of it it looks as if Lahovnik doesn’t really understand how the system works. Which is kind of hard to believe for a minister who runs a pretty important ministry and (among other things) gave thins country a electronic one-stop-shop system (e-VEM) for setting up your own company.

So, waddafuck is going on? It looks more and more that there was a clash between Lahovnik and Golobič. Either there was some sort of a leadership challenge (less likely, as Lahovnik reportedly refused taking over Zares) or – more likely – Lahovnik felt Golobič was pissing in his pool and wanted to put an end to it. Only he played his cards wrong and put an end to his political life (at least temporarily).

Namely. One area Lahovnik specifies in the letter is the energy sector. There’s a relatively huge debate going on right now in Slovenia whether to invest in Bloc 6 of Šoštanj Coal Power Plant (so called TEŠ6) or to start building the second reactor in Krško Nuclear Power Plant (known as NEK). Pengovsky says “both” and there seems to be a general consensus that Slovenia will need both investments in the mid-term, but the real question is which comes first. Lahovnik was very much in favour of TEŠ6, as it will replace the ageing blocs 3,4 and 5 and produce much less carbon dioxide to boot. However, since Šoštanj is part of Lahovnik’s electoral unit (constituency, if you will), this can also be seen as “bringing the bacon home“, to use an Americanism. Which would all be fine and dandy, had it not been for the fact that some dubious contracts were being signed for TEŠ6 even before the project started for real. I’m not saying that Lahovnik had a hand in this (he probably didn’t) and regardless of his feud with Golobič, energy still is Zares’ turf right now and if there’s a screw-up, Zares as a whole will take the blame anyway. But it seems probable that he felt he was being side-tracked and he took it personally.

The more pengovsky looks at this the more it seems as if Lahovnik only tried to do as much damage as possible and brought up the Ultra affair for no reason other than to hurt Golobič. But he took it too far and forced PM Pahor to choose between a seemingly competent minister and a whole coalition party. Pahor obviously knew where his priorities are and Lahovnik achieved nothing but maybe yet another dent in the government’s already ridiculously low ratings. As a result he really had no other option but to quit his post and PM Pahor undoubtedly told him that his credit just ran out.

This goes for his MP status as well. Upon quitting as minister he could have re-taken his MP seat as he was elected to the parliament first and made minister second. Thus he would have ousted Alojz Posedel of Zares, chipped off one sure vote for the coalition and would even help form a new parliamentary group “independent MPs”, as parliamentary Rules and Procedures specify three MPs are needed for establishing a specific group and there are already two independent MPs (Franci Žnidaršič and Vili Rezman who quit DeSUS months ago), all of which would probably weaken the coalition grip on parliamentary majority, if not immediately, definitely some time in the future.

However, Lahovnik was probably told in no unclear terms that he would be branded a political leper had he returned to the parliament and started stirring shit, so he is apparently returning to the Faculty of Economics from whence he came – and will possibly be awarded membership in one or two low-key supervisory boards somewhere out there. He might have thought he was doing a good thing, but in politics, just as in real life, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Such is the nature of the beast.

Oh, and just a technicality. Some Slovene media erroneously report that Lahovnik’s function will cease tomorrow. Not entirely true. While he has already tendered his resignation, he will remain in office in a care-taker capacity until a new minister is appointed.

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