Family Code: There Must Be Over Fifty Thousand Screaming Love And More For You…

It was Simon Zelotes or Simon the Zealot who in the seminal rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar urged Jesus to attack Roman occupiers for he was followed by the fifty thousand who screamed love and more for him. All that was needed was for Jesus to add a touch of hatred for Rome and Galilee would be free once again. It was, in short, an attempt to use religion and its followers to political ends. Fast forward two thousand years and you’ll find similar zealots in Slovenia. It’s just that they’re not fighting Romans but gays. And lesbians. And bisexuals. And anyone else who doesn’t subscribe to the notions of “natural laws”, “normality” and “tradition”, freeing Slovenia not of Latin occupiers but of evil and unnatural ideas, making it a God-given heterosexual haven.

Aleš Primc’s “defenders of all things natural” (source)

As both readers of this blog know, it all has to with the new Family code which the parliament passed last week after what was most likely one of the more brutal legislative procedures in the history of this country. Not necessarily the most brutal, but definitely close. In fact, it was one of those cases where the entire breadth of the ideological and cultural divide in this country became visible. This was not a power struggle nor was it a fight over a slice of the ever thinning financial pie, not even a run on well-paid government jobs. It was, pure and simple, about what kind of a society Slovenes (will) live in. Was? Is, rather. Because even though the Family code was confirmed by the parliament, the ordeal is by no means over. The law, which was significantly watered down on most crucial points in a vane attempt to placate the right wing, miraculously escaped a veto in the National Council but is now subject to yet another referendum bid.

A grass-roots campaign headed by former SLS member Aleš Primc and heavily backed by the Catholic Church was and still is very vocal in their opposition to the new code. As the debate progressed it became more and more obvious that (just as the more observant suspected all along) positions of the political right-wing and Primc’s campaign itself were extremely harmonious and synchronised. In fact, Primc and his lot were only saying what the right wing was thinking. And in the end, they ended up saying it as well.

I’ve no problem with gays in fact I have many gay friends

The level of hypocrisy, double morals and false arguments reached almost unprecedented levels during this debate. No matter how often the myth of “a normal family” was debunked, the opponents of the code kept getting back to that (case in point being France Cukjati MD, of Janez Janša‘s SDS), claiming that by extending the definition of a family beyond its current scope, the traditional family (mother, father, offspring) would somehow lose on importance. That the very fabric of this society will be irreparably torn and that the nation as such will die off sooner rather than later. But woe be unto them who would dare to think that there was anything remotely homophobic in their opposition to the Code because… wait for it… they have a number of gay friends!

This, obviously is the most perfidious of arguments. Justifying one’s homophobia by claiming to have gay friends while bashing them and their rights is derogatory to the extreme. The more the political right tried to prove that their argument was not about denying gays and lesbians equal rights, the more they were proving exactly that. But to be fair, there was a lot of this going around on the political left as well, only in a more subdued manner.

This was quite probably the main reason the code was watered down significantly. Specifically, provision which originally allowed same-sex marriages was reduced to allowing civil unions with full rights while the provision allowing child adoptions by same-sex couples was tightened to allowing adoptions only if one of the partners is a biological parent of the child. Both provisions are a marked improvement over the existing situation but still stop short of completely equalling same-sex and heterosexual couples.

Clash of cultures

Officially, this watering-down was meant to placate Primc, his gang and the political right. But since the only way to placate them was to kill the code entirely, the move was more likely meant to make the code more acceptable to the “traditionalists” on the political left. The fact that the Code was passed by a relative rather than an absolute majority only further strengthens this particular line of thought.

Be that as it may, the new Family Code was passed and – miraculously so – the National Council did not veto it, which means that it should be enacted soon. Well, not really. There’s still the possibility of a referendum. And sure enough Primc and Co. collected 32,000 signatures (only 2500 were needed) to initiate referendum proceedings. In this enterprise they were assisted by the Roman Catholic Church which apparently was more than happy to let them collect signatures in or near churches. But since the Church takes it upon itself to decide questions of morality and properness (never mind the paedophile scandals and the 700 million debt accumulated by a single diocese in Slovenia) this was to be expected. Rather than going apeshit about it, one can only conclude time and again that when push comes to a shove the political and ideological right will resort to any and all weapons in this particular clash of cultures.

What. Happens. Next.

Anyways. President of the parliament Pavle Gantar (who, apparently, will step down sooner rather than later) is now obliged to initiate the procedure in which the proponents of the referendum must collect 40,000 confirmed signatures in a month’s time to call a referendum on the Family Code. Although they collected 32k signatures in a matter of days, the task is slightly more difficult as those 40k signatures must be given on a special form and confirmed by an official at an Administrative Unit (upravna enota) which – if nothing else – means a trek downtown, standing in line and doing the paperwork rather than just signing on the dotted line and being tapped on the back by the local priest. Gantar already said that the procedure will be initiated on 1 September since initiating it now would mean it would end during summer recess.

However, it is probably a safe bet that Primc and Co. will collect enough signatures to have a referendum called. Under this scenario, the government will then petition the Constitutional Court to deny the referendum on the basis that it would mean a popular vote over basic human rights and/or could mean imposing the will of the majority on a clearly defined minority of the population and thus discrimination based on sexual orientation which is explicitly forbidden by the constitution.

Elementary, my dear Watson…

The case seems open-and-shut. There can be no popular vote on human rights. They apply to everyone and are exerted directly, based on the constitution rather than via specific legislation. Elementary? Not really. Sadly, this may not be the case. Technically the Constitutional Court will be asked to deny petitioners their right to a referendum against the right of same-sex couples to have their family-related rights equalled with heterosexual couples. And all of a sudden the case becomes highly complicated.

Luckily, gays, lesbians and everyone else who would benefit from the new Family Code have one thing going for them: a ruling by the Constitutional Court which declared part of the existing law on registration of same-sex couples passed under Janša government unconstitutional and basically said that heterosexual and same-sex civil unions should enjoy equal rights. But before one gets one’s hope too high it should be noted that this case referred only to the right to inheritance. Recently, the Constitutional Court showed cojones and acted pro-actively, effectively making policy, but the question at hand is, whether it will choose to do so again or will feel the need to back up and show restraint.

The final verdict, therefore, is far from conclusive. And Slovenia will thus continue to see bigots waving placards saying how grateful they are to have had a mother and a father at the same time denying some children to have either, saying how marriage is a sacred institution, denying those who want to honour it.

In the aforementioned rock opera, Jesus replied to Simon the Zealot that he doesn’t get it and that is not what Christianity is about. Well, someone should tell Primc and his gang, the political right and everyone who swears to defend the “traditional family” and the “natural order of things that taking the Lord’s name in vain and forgetting the “love thy neighbour” part is making then anything but good Christians.


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A Day Late And A Dollar Short

Hollywood is laden with epic “I quit” scenes, with pengovsky’s favourite still being the one in The American Beauty. But the cesspool that is the Slovenian political landscape can occasionally offer a gem or two regarding the style in which someone tells someone else to “take this job and… fill it!”, to put in the words of Abe Simpson

Gregor Golobič and Zares exit the coalition (original image here)

A moment like this occurred yesterday when Zares of Gregor Golobič officially quit the ruling coalition, leaving PM Borut Pahor to his own devices, with LDS leader Katarina Kresal by his side (for the moment, at least). Ever since Zares issued what for all intents and purposes was an ultimatum for a radical cabinet reshuffle, lest the party quits the coalition toute-de-suite, the PM either did not understand the message or thought Golobič was bluffing and did nothing which lead the three remaining minsiters of Zares to quit their posts. Thus Darja Radić, Majda Širca and Irma Pavlinič Krebs followed the example of Gregor Golobič who resigned his ministerial post on the eve of the super-referendum Sunday.

The Letter

To top it off – and probably to make sure that there is no doubt about who if the dumper and who the dumpee in this case – Golobič sent a rather longish letter to Pahor and Kresal, outlining the reasons for Zares taking the plunge. He puts the blame squarely on the PM, accusing him of being unable to rein in special interests and bad practices which this government promised to uproot but failed to do so, thus (says Golobič) affirming and continuing misdeeds of the government of Janez Janša. He specifically cites cases of Patria APCs (Janša in scheduled to stand trial over allegations of bribery and abuse of power over that one) where the government failed to take decisive action. Ditto for the case of Šoštanj coal power plant where the stand-off between Zares and Social Democrats was further complicated by a conflict between local and national interests and which caused a lot of bad blood within Zares as well, provoking open confrontation between Golobič on one side and Matej Lahovnik (former minister of economy) and Cveta Zalokar Oražem (former MP for the party) on the other. Neither Lahovnik nor Zalokar Oražem are party members any longer. And although he doesn’t mention it specifically, the list could be expanded to include the LDS-led fiasco with Draško Veselinovič as the CEO of Nova Ljubljanska Banka, where Katarina Kresal imposed Veselinovič as her man at the helm of Slovenia’s biggest (and state-owned bank) only to see him forced to quit over extending the credit line to Boško Šrot in his failed attempt to take over Laško Brewery (Šrot is standing trial for that one as well).

In other words, the list of grievances is long and distinguished. What is not explicitly mentioned (but is sort of a public secret around here) is the fact that Social Democrats often hijacked Zares’ initiatives, saying that they will gain support in the parliament only if SD is the one who officially introduces them and (by extension) takes the credit. But the real bomb-shell comes in the second part of the letter (Slovene only):

Instead of elementary decisiveness and responsiblity in taking the decisions necessary to ensure the well-being of the country and its citizens and looking for actual not just PR effects, we are increasingly faced with a hyper-production of senseless buzzwords about radars, trains, convoys, ships, throwing in towels and so on, all of which only goes to prove that this particular line of politics has emptied itself and is completely void of ideas.

Golobič then goes on to add

Rejection of our call to reshuffle the cabinet by the PM and leader of the Social Democrats was in our view a short-sighted move, one which opens the door wide open for ascent of the transition right wing with all its properties and effects. We will take no part in this. We do recognise our share of responsibility for the duration of our time in the government. However in the case of scenario which is (knowingly or not) unfolding, we will do no such thing.

In other words, Golobič is saying that Pahor fucked up royally, squandered the chance to make a difference and gave us PR fluff instead, thus rehabilitating the ways of Janez Janša who is already considered the new PM-apparent. Truth be told, Golobič on some other occasions gave credit where credit was due, especially in the case of the Arbitration Agreement and subsequent revolutionary thawing of relations with Croatia, but in terms of internal politics, the letter was about as strong a condemnation as they come.

Pengovsky believes that Golobič might be slightly off as far as ushering in Janša is concerned, but Pahor can take zero credit for that one. The leader of the SDS has crediblity problems of his own, including but not limited to Patria case, fake-grass-roots initiatives to call early election and – curiously enough – strange use of his Twitter account (where pengovsky even played an small and insignificant role).

Barely functioning government

Anyways: as a result, the ruling coalition barely deserves its adjective. The government has only thirty-three votes in a ninety-seat parliament, which makes it practically impossible to govern as the balance of power is now almost completely shifted towards the parliament. There is a gap twelve votes wide and bridging even once would be a political and logistical nightmare. Doing it on a per-vote basis is practically impossible. The government is bleeding as it is and pulling off a stunt like this (and doing it repeatedly) would require inhumane quantities of strength, politicking, horse-dealing and manhandling. It simply can not be done.

Even more so. With four ministers gone, the government is on the verge of being legally defunct. Namely, the Law on government specifies (Article 11) that the government is considered fully empowered if at least two thirds of ministers are appointed (ministers without portfolio notwithstanding). Since there are fifteen full-blooded ministries in this government, Pahor’s government is only two ministers short of being found operationally incapacitated. True, he can temporarily overcome this by assigning a sitting minister to take over another portfolio for a period of no more than six months, but this provision was meant to speed up the formation of the government, not extend the life of a nearly defunct one.

A day late and a dollar short

To put it graphically: when Golobič quit his post of science and higher education minister, PM Pahor entrusted the minister of (primary and secondary) education and sports Igor Lukšič (SD) to take over. He is reportedly poised to take over the ministry of culture as well, while minister of development and European affairs Mitja Gaspari (SD) is rumoured to stand in for Darja Radić in the economy portfolio. By that same token Aleš Zalar (LDS) is rumoured to take over Public Administration ran by Pavlinič Krebs. Given that minister without portfolio tasked with relations with diaspora Boštjan Žekš is already standing in for Henrik Gjerkeš, who was minister without portfolio tasked with local self-government until he quit for driving under the influence, you can see, that this is not even funny any more. Instead it’s bordering on ludicrous. That the government is mulling a reorganisation of the ministries, reducing them in number is just another case of PR spin and alleviating the symptoms rather then administering the cure.

In what is a glimmer of hope, reality seems finally to have caught up with PM Pahor as well, although he came a day late and a dollar short. Word on the street has it that he realised the gravity of the situation just prior to the official celebration of the Statehood Day Friday last and nearly had a melt-down. Whether that is true or not is basically beside the point but it is telling that it was Katarina Kresal who gave the initial reaction to Zares walking out yesterday and that the PM was seen only later in the evening at another official function where he gave a relatively impassioned speech. He is, however, expected to make an announcement regarding the new political reality in the next day or so.

What is this? Afghanistan?!

However, that the leader of the remaining junior coalition party said yesterday was also a relatively ill-conceived attempt at calming an explosive situation. Namely, Katarina Kresal more or less said that what is left of the government will first pick up the pieces, try to pass the remainder of planned legislation and then (this is the important part) work for an orderly transition to early elections, adding that they can’t just drop everything and walk out thus implicitly accusing Zares of doing precisely that. All fine and dandy, it sure as hell ain’t nice being dumped when you’re down and out although – mind you – it is entirely unclear what this will do to Zares’ ratings which leave a lot to be desired as it is.

But the bit about “orderly transition towards early elections” is just plain nonsense (and I’m being kind here, because I kind of like KK). What is this? Iraq? Lybia? Af-fucking-ghanistan?!? Slovenia has no need for “orderly transition” of any kind because save political hard-headedness of the current PM there is nothing that is out of order. Even more so: the constitution clearly provides for exactly these kinds of situation so there is no need to “work towards” anything. The scenario is very simple. If the government falls one way or the other, the sitting ministers and the PM continue in a caretaker role until a new cabinet is appointed. This applies even if the entire cabinet resigns tomorrow. Implying that the world will end if they all just let go is misleading at best. Doubly so since the government is barely functioning as it is.

Calls for early elections are mounting although few of them are genuine. It is a failure by the PM not to be able to tell those which were fake from those which weren’t. The one made by Zares was – well – meant for real.


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The Prez Has Ideas As Golobič Eyes Resignation. Plus A Few Fun Facts About Early Elections.

The saga continues. After Karl Erjavec and his DeSUS quit the coalition and the government of Borut Pahor, the ball kept rolling yesterday and today. With the notable exception of Pahor’s Social Democrats, LDS of Katarina Kresal and Zmago Jelinčič‘s nationalists, every major political force in the country called for early elections to be held as soon as possible. Even President of the Republic Danilo Türk spoke to that effect this morning and – what was most shocking to the uninitiated – Gregor Golobič of Zares said that he will resign his post as minister of higher education, science and technology and return to the parliament. And SDS of Janez Janša still maintains that all it takes to hold early elections is a deal between SDS and SD. So, let’s take it one thing at the time.

The Prez with his two cents (source: Office of the President)

The Prez held a press conference where he “commented on recent developments in the country”, which is polit-speak of saying that he chipped in his two cents. His bottom line was that a) the coalition must throw everything is still has behind the pension reform and that b) he’d be quick to call early elections had he the power to do so.

A slap on the wrist for The Prez

As most of you know, The Prez has very limited powers and even him saying what would be the best course of action while we still have a fully empowered government means pushing the envelope of acceptable. Toying with the (admittedly hypothetical) scenario of dissolving the parliament and calling snap elections, knowing full well (and saying as much) that he can not do that, is bordering on exceeding his powers. I know things look bad, but apart from the fact that a junior coalition party left the government and that reforms are not popular, there is not a whole lot that is wrong at the moment. Yes, we can see the contours of a political crisis shaping but we’re no there yet. And until we get to that point the day-to-day politics should be left to the coalition and the opposition. The Prez went out on a limb needlessly.

Secondly, the idea of calling snap (or early) elections is floating around for some time now. Indeed, until DeSUS quit the government, a sort of political paralysis seemed to have crept into Slovene politics as no one wanted to make the first move. But now the ball has dropped, the paralysis is gone and suddenly things are moving ahead with lightning speed. But getting to early elections is mighty difficult. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature. The Prez can not call them and even saying what he would do (or contemplate doing) had he broader powers means walking on thin constitutional ice.

A slap in the face for Zares MP

While it may be constitutionally dubious for the president to call for early elections, it is perfectly OK for leader of the coalition party to do so. Which is what Gregor Golobič of Zares is apparently attempting to achieve. He said in no unclear terms that the main goal right now should be the referendum on the pension reform (which will be held together with referendums on black market labour and access to secret archives on 5 June) and that a new government should be appointed sans leaders of the coalition. Since neither PM Pahor nor Katarina Kresal were amused by the idea, Golobič decided to go for broke and announced that he will tender his resignation as minister some time between now and 5 June and that elections could be held as soon as September this year.

Despite the fact that it looks suspiciously similar to president Türk’s idea, Golobič’s move is actually a small political masterpiece which a) keeps the momentum of actually forcing early elections (more on that later on) and b) solves a nasty problem in Golobič’s own party, the problem which goes by the name of Cveta Zalokar Oražem. This MP for Zares who only gained her seat after Golobič was appointed minister and who used to be a member first of Social Democrats and then of LDS (and was a long time mayor of Domžale near Ljubljana) has long been critical of her president and stabbed him in the back quite a few times, most notably during the Ultra Affair, where she was careful to get as much media attention as possible criticising Golobič and doubting his leadership abilities.

Well, by announcing his resignation, Golobič made sure himself and Zares continue to be among those who dictate the tempo of the game and will have gotten rid of Zalokar Oražem, who will thus lose her MP status and cease to be a major problem within the party.

A few fun facts before everyone gets carried away

But before everyone goes ga-ga with the possibility of breaking new political and constitutional ground in Slovenia, here are a few facts to consider:

-Slovene political system is so stable it borders on rigid. Which is precisely why everyone is getting so nervous these days. The government, albeit a minority one, is still fully functional. Political crisis is possible, but still some time away. It’s just that we’re not used to these kinds of situations.

-Because of this rigidity of the system, early elections are practically impossible. The only way to have them under present constitution is a) for the government to resign and b) for the parliament to fail to elect a new government in three consecutive votes. The parliament can not simply dissolve itself by a majority vote or something like that.

-To ensure early elections by means of either empowering the president to call them or enabling the parliament to dissolve itself would require a change in constitution. To do that, a special procedure must be initiated, requiring a two-thirds majority twice over, which is extremely unlikely the way things stand now.

So, the only viable option to call early elections remains resignation of PM Borut Pahor and it seems Gregor Golobič is trying to force him to do exactly that. The PM does not enthuse over that, but things might change come June 5 and the triple referendum.

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On Second Thought, Maybe PM Pahor *Should* Resign

The aftershocks of the defeat in the referendum on menial work are reverberating throughout the cesspool that is Slovene political environment. Not only did the result embolden the labour unions and their brothers in arms who are now gearing up to bring down the pension reform as well. But the political fallout is also considerable. Obviously, the opposition rushed to take advantage of the situation despite the fact that for once it had preciously little to do with this referendum (as it will have with the next one). This of course did not stop it from demanding the government step down, specifically, senior SDS MP Zvonko Černač using a football analogy saying that the government was shown a red card.

Prime Minister Pahor contemplating defeat (photo: Uroš Hočevar/Delo)

However, if anyone really seized the moment it was the freshly-acquitted leader of DeSUS Karl Erjavec. DeSUS opposed the pension reform from the start, one of the sticking being system of pensions adjustment for inflation. Erjavec’s loyalty to this coalition government was questioned even back then, most vocally by Zares of Gregor Golobič and LDS of Katarina Kresal. But on Monday, Erjavec stuck it up to PM Borut Pahor, calling for the PM to call a confidence vote prior to the pension reform referendum which is to take place on 5 June.

The Quartet became The Trio

Despite the fact that Erjavec often invoked the opt-out clause in this coalition (not that one exists, but it was understood that some leeway in loyalty to coalition is acceptable) but then always fell back in line, this particular move can not be interpreted as yet another stunt by Teflon Karl. Not only did he call on the PM to go check if he still enjoys the support of the parliament, he also “disowned” minister of Labour Ivan Svetlik who, although not a party member, was considered to be a DeSUS ministe. When constructing the cabinet, Pahor wanted Svetlik in particular and Erjavec wanted for DeSUS that portfolio in particular. Thus Erjavec politically “adopted” Svetlik and everbody went home happy. Until now.

With Svetlik “officially” not being a part of DeSUS’ quota anymore, Erjavec says that a) PM should dismiss the incumbent minister and b) he gets to pick the next one. And although the party leadership today voted against DeSUS exiting the coalition, this is exactly what in effect happened. For all intents and purposes, DeSUS (at least for as long as Erjavec is at its helm) is no longer a member of the ruling coalition. The Quartet is once again The Trio

If you’re going through hell, keep going

The perfect storm of political screw-ups and disinformaton that ultimately led to Sunday defeat was well analysed by drfilomena in this post (Slovene only). The way it looks now this was not a one-off event. Well, truth be told, this government also lost the referendum on the new law on RTV Slovenia, but it does not end there. Next up is the referendum on the law against black market labour, then we have the referendum on pension reform and then quite possibly, referendum on law on access to classified material, which was in part caused by the SDS fiasco on Velikovec bombing documents and is bound to reignite it again.

The highpoint, the climax, if you will, will of course be the pension reform. This will probably be where Pahor’s government will make the last stand to implement what remained of the reform legislation, thus at least patching things up for the time being and then seeing what, if anything, can be done. Given the rhetoric and against the backdrop of Sunday’s result it seems conceivable that the government will lose the referendum on preventing black market labour. And even though anticipated, the defeat will not be any less hurtful. If nothing else, it will give additional impetus to what pengovsky calls an “unholy alliance” of unions, student organisations and the opposition and on the other hand making the majority of the population even more tired of constant referendums, thus ensuring that only die-hard voters (mostly those against reforms) will cast their vote.

In that respect, one can sympathise with PM Pahor who yesterday, during a visit to UK Prime Minister David Cameron said that “I’m going through hell with my ministers.“. A most aptly chosen sentence given the situation and the PM, who often likes to quote the greatest of British Prime Ministers, Winston Churchill, might want to remember that the old bastard (and I mean that in the most loving way possible) said that “if you’re going through hell, keep going”.

Bad PR and caring for the common man

And some hell this government is in. Much of it is its own doing, mostly through its disastrous PR. Most of the scandals which rocked the coalition hard spiralled out of control because the initial response was wrong, lacking, or both. The same goes for achievements of the government. Sure, it easy to be smart about it, but in pengovsky’s mind the fact that PM Pahor and his team basically solved the border dispute with Croatia (or at least took it of the agenda) should be written in the history books with golden letters. Instead, everybody treats it as if it is a minor event, not even worthy of page seventeen of Monday’s paper.

On the other hand, we have a leader of the opposition who is under criminal investigation, but still somehow manages to dictate the debate on variety of issues and those he doesn’t hijack, others do it for him. Were the government PR doing its job, the situation would probably not be half as bad. The good doctor wrote about it in her post, while Centrifuzija expanded on it considerably. This hijackings of debate are done under a common umbrella of “caring for the common man”. The reality of course is that no-one gives a shit about the mythical “common man” because he/she is just a statistical approximation. What is actually happening is every interest group trying to forward its agenda on account of everyone else, not taking no for an answer and threatening or even resorting to civil disobedience, no matter how irrational or out of proportion their interests are in relation to the world around them. The same goes for the opposition which at the moment operates on a very simple premise: so much worse for the government, so much better for us.

It is no wonder then, that populism and obvious impossibilities are being used daily. The last in line being a statement by Janez Janša who said that – watch this – “pension reform may not even be necessary, if only Slovenia cut public spending radically“. So, keeping the pension fund solvent by reducing public expenditure? WTF? But it sure sounds nice.

Legitimacy problems

Point being that the opposition, once it regains power (and even Pahor is now talking about Janša as the next probable PM) will have to implement those very same reforms it is derailing today only that they will probably be even more austere or just plain brutal. But hey, if it helps them grab the power, the country can probably take a little more abuse.

Or can it? If anyone had done a sober analysis of the Sunday vote, alarm bells would be ringing wildly. The turnout was 34% with 80% of those voting “no”. This means that labour unions and the student organisation, two of the strongest civil society groups together with the opposition generated a puny 27% overall vote against the government. Let me repeat that: a little more than a quarter of all voters could be bothered enough to vote against the government which is scoring historic lows (only 20 percent or so) in public opinion polls. It seems as if everybody is so busy trying to “get the government” that they can not see that they have a huge legitimacy problem themselves.

What to do?

The Prime Minister, indeed the entire government, would do well to regain control of the public debate(s). Given that the atmosphere is poisonous-bordering-on-radioactive there is little wiggle-room left. Special interest groups know neither fear nor mercy promoting their agendas and the opposition is enjoying the view of the government drowning in the quick-sand of political impossibilities. What PM Pahor should do, is resign immediately. But not, as some have suggested to make way for a new leader on the left, but to do what no PM has done before – actually force early elections.

Pengovsky often wrote on how early elections are practically impossible in Slovenia. You almost can not call them, especially since the parliament will most likely not dissolve itself. But that does not mean it is impossible, provided the discipline in the coalition is strong enough. Technically, the scenario would go something like this: Pahor resigns in beginning of May. This is followed by a 30-day period of trying to find a new PM, while the existing government assumes a care-taker role (which it will assume anyway if the reforms are nixed on referendums). The coalition refuses to support anyone for the post of PM three times over at which point the President dissolves the parliament and calls elections which must be held within the next two months. All in all, taking the summer vacations into account, we could have next elections by autumn this year.

By this Borut Pahor and his coalition would force the opposition’s hand. Janez Janša announced that he and his party intend to win absolute majority of votes in the next elections and that they are also writing a new constitution from scratch, no doubt rearranging the balance of power to suit their needs. But to complete the process, they will need time as they are nowhere near finished. Indeed, the latest polls even noted a continuing downward popularity trend for Janša and his party which, ironically, is also calling for early elections. But for Janša this is only another way to keep the pressure on Pahor, because early elections would catch him utterly unprepared and without a conceivable political platform other than “complete annihilation of anything Pahor’s government does”.

Gamble of galactic proportions

So, in order to have a chance at political survival, PM Pahor should resign ASAP. This does not necessarily mean that he will again be elected PM, but if he does nothing, he almost certainly will not be. Unless, of course, his main rival is found guilty in the Patria case. Either way, it’s a gamble of galactic proportions.

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Slovenes Reject Menial Work, Pollsters Miss By A Mile

In what appears to be an overwhelming defeat for the government of Borut Pahor, Slovenians today rejected the law on menial work by an 80/20 vote against. The turnout percentage was in the very low thirties, which makes it one of the more attended referendums in recent history (save the Arbitration Agreement referendum). That is in itself a sad fact, but there you go.

Lost. Ministers Katarina Kresal, Aleš Zalar, Ivan Svetlik and PM Borut Pahor (source: RTVSLO)

Politically, this is a slap-in-the-face for PM Pahor and his government that will hurt more than they will be willing to admit. True, the upcoming referendum on the pension reform is much more important and – if rejected – could even cause the government to step down. However, the law on menial work was a key part of labour market reform which will now still see plenty of tax evasion and companies which exploit students full time without guaranteeing them any social security whatsoever.

PM Pahor and labour minister Ivan Svetlik played down the result saying that people apparently are not yet aware of importance of reforms. On the other hands, there are calls for the PM to step down (even over at the wonderful Drugi dom blog, which generally gravitates to the left). Predictably the opposition, spearheaded by SDS of Janez Janša are interpreting the result as a no-confidence vote for the government, even though this time around the opposition just tagged along in what pengovsky still maintains was an unholy alliance of special interest. Anyways, there’s no reason for the government to resign. Elections are a year and a half away and even if the government resigned today, elections could not be held sooner than in autumn this year, not to mention that we’d probably have to go through a period of extended political crisis, since the MPs are about as likely to recall the parliament as they are likely to, say, ratify Slovenia becoming part of Croatia. Point being, that resignation of the government would most likely cause more problems than it would solve. Especially, since the other guys are not even close to being ready to take over. In fact, despite their vocal calls for Pahor to back his bags, the current situation suits them just fine, because they have yet to substantiate their claims of 50+ result in 2012 elections.

This is also yet another defeat for pollsters. Public opinion polls did in fact forecast victory for the no-vote, but no single poll detected a 80/20 distribution. Not one. Sure, it was a beautiful day today and with low turnout the margin of error increases substantially, but how the fuck don’t you detect an electoral freight-train coming in your direction? But perhaps I’m wrong, perhaps they did detect it but no-one published it, since the law forbade it. Days ago, the Constitutional Court ruled that this particular provision is unconstitutional and in the future we can look forward to last-minute polls on Friday nights :).

The way things stand now, people with ideas don’t have the authority, and people with authority don’t have the ideas. Expect turbulence ahead. We’re in for a bumpy ride…

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