A Letter To Prime Minister Borut Pahor (Yo B., Wassup!)

Dear Prime Minister!

It’s me again. I hope you don’t mind the quip in the title. It seems that these days almost everyone feels comfortable addressing you on first name basis. Not just your (former) brethren in arms but just about anyone who litters the Slovenian corner of the internets with their more or less half-witted comments. Anyways, it’s that time of the year again and I’m not talking about the December festiveness, if you catch my meaning 😉 No matter how you look at it, it’s been quite a year, hasn’t it? You’ve seen your ratings plummet, the crisis took a turn for the worse and skeletons have been falling out of closets faster than you could say “welfare state”. But, unlikely as it may seem, your second year in office earned you much higher marks in my book.


Finger-pointing PM Borut Pahor (source)

You see, in your first twelve months in office you’ve been more or less all fluff. No need to go into details (besides, you can read them up on this blog), but let’s just say that your chronic searching for common ground was beyond counter-productive. Then, all of the sudden, you seemed to have gotten your bearings, released a few carefully placed “gaffes” and transformed – it seemed as if overnight – into this decisive, no-bullshitting, finger-pointing asshole who will walk over bodies to get what he wants.

First and foremost, I congratulate you on securing, signing and winning ratification of the Arbitration Agreement between Slovenia and Croatia. I for one wholly agree with your assessment that consequences of this agreement go beyond mere here-and-now. To think that things regularly escalated almost to an armed border incident while times were good for both countries, it doesn’t bear contemplating what would happen if the border dispute were to become a convenient red herring for either country in times of economic woes and rising nationalism. Yes, I think that had the issue remained unresolved, we could have even witnessed an armed conflict. Things were that bad and with that in mind I feel that for this alone you deserve utmost praise.

Having said that I’d like to impress upon you is that this is the moment to construct your own piece of Churchilliana. Remember him? The old conservative fart with a cigar in one hand and a glass of brandy in another (brandy, not whiskey as you mistakenly claimed in your inauguration speech) whom we both appreciate? If memory serves, one of his many quotes includes “In victory – magnanimous”. This is how you should go about the arbitration agreement. Yes, you struck it, stuck to it and saw it through. But you were not entirely alone in that enterprise. The government and the coalition were behind you. The majority in the parliament was behind you. A lot of people who needn’t stick their necks out were behind you as well. Yes, if you had failed the blame would fall entirely on your shoulders. And, yes, you can claim all the success as yours. But that would be a bit short sighted, methinks. Not only because the story is not quite over yet, but also because a lot of people would feel better about it if you spread some love. Many a voter supported the deal simply because they were fed up with the whole storm in a teacup. This doesn’t mean that they’re in your bag for good. But they might support you again if you come off as magnanimous enough.

Sir!

Arbitration Agreement aside you seem to have generated some clout with your Balkans initiative which is – as I understand – now seen as a convenient fall-back for NATO and EU ever since the Butmir process more or less failed as did the Spanish initiative during their EU presidency. You were also very active in the Arab world and the much lacked economic aspect of foreign policy now finally seems to be there. Hopefully it is not too little too late. At the very least I’m sure Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković is grateful for your Lybian endeavours, since apparently moneymen from Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya will invest 30 million euros into Stožice Complex.

Foreign policy is your strong suit. Case in point being the cable by US Embassy in Ljubljana which was released by WikiLeaks and picked up by Spanish El Pais daily which detailes how you floated the idea of Slovenia accepting one Gitmo detainee and put it in the wider context of Slovene-US relations. While US charge d’Affairs apparently took the bait, the idea did not bear fruit. It does, nevertheless prove that you know how to play the game, although people whose opinion I value tell me that your performance lacked diplomatic style in this particular episode. However…

If were are to broaden the famous dictum by von Clausewitz and accept that foreign policy is only a continuation of domestic policy using different means, then, my dear Prime Minister, I fear you are on the brink of your ego issuing checks your body can’t cash.

You see, most if not all of your diplomatic exploits will not be worth a pair of fetid dingo’s kidneys if you fail in your domestic policies which – as we both know – constitute a rather tall order unto themselves, doubly so in times of economic and social crisis.

Prime Minister!

While it is generally understood that (in Slovenia, at least) left-wing coalitions are fraught with bickering, divisive rhetoric, principles which sometime border on hard-headedness and a plethora of interests with almost every player, no matter how unimportant, convinced that he/she would do a far better job in your place, you must take caution as to not let this state of “organised chaos” dissolve into senseless waste of time. This can happen either by you and your government being spread thin over too many fronts or by you not keeping your coalition partners and (even more importantly) your own party in check. You seem to be going down both paths with gusto.

Challenges (to use one of your favourite buzzwords) you and your government are facing today are numerous, chief among them the upcoming pension reform where you’re bleeding too much too fast and should bring the issue to a favourable close as soon as possible. The longer it takes you to do it, the less positive outcome there will be.

You are most likely facing a referendum in pension reform in 2011. Ditto for legislation on menial work. The same quite possibly goes for the new Family Code. You’re also up for a referendum on the new law on RadioTelevision Slovenia (RTVSLO). These are battles you must win. It is only with political victories at home that you can claim clout abroad. But to win them, you desperately need to get your own house in order. The fuck-up over your former chief of staff Simona Dimic put quite a dent in your armour. Leader of one of your coalition parties is on trial for dereliction of duty in the Patria Affair and has burdened this country with an attack boat Slovenia got as compensation for the so called “clearing-debt” owed to us by Russia. True, Karl Erjavec of DeSUS had a hand in this while he was defence minister in Janez Janša’s government, but fact of the matter is that your government is taking heavy flak over it. Not to mention that it is Erjavec who is continuously giving you the short shrift over pension reform.

Not that it stops there. Your other two coalition partners, Zares and LDS are having problems of their own and I don’t mean just fighting for survival in the public opinion polls. Zares and its leader Gregor Golobič is constantly fighting off ever more silly attempts to implicate him and Ultra company in every half-baked investment in this country while LDS is possibly up for a third consecutive interpelation of one of its ministers, this time of Justice Minister Aleš Zalar (not in the least because is using Twitter, which some find irresponsible)

But all of the above is peanuts compared to the slaughterhouse that is to become your own party if you don’t kick some serious ass soon. Case in point being bloc 6 of Šoštanj Coal Powerplant (TEŠ6), an investment of a whooping 1.2 billion euro with so little oversight that it probably made even tax consultants cringe. While TEŠ6 is more of a “local v. national” rather than inter-coalition feud, fact of the matter is that some very powerful players in your party became very nervous when one of the largest investment in Slovenian history was (finally) starting to be questioned.

Dear Prime Minister!

You yourself often said that your political opponents tend to underestimate you. But you yourself must not underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups. Regardless of your (probably intentionally) misleading signals over whether you will seek another term as PM, I think that – barring a disaster – you will do just that. But elections are never won, only lost. And right now you seem poised on losing them not because you’re doing the wrong thing, but because you’re doing too little of the right thing.

Put your own party in order. Roll a few heads. Kick some pensioner butt. Possibly kill TEŠ6. To quote Winston C. again: “If you’re going through hell, keep going“. And stop worrying whether Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković will run for PM in 2012. He won’t.

Oh, and while you’re at it, do make sure Slovenia hosts 2013 European Basket Championship. I know you’re just playing hard-to-get when you’re not (yet) giving it your full support, but really… We could do with a bit of good copy in this day and age.

Kind regards,
pengovsky

P.S.: If by any chance you didn’t get the joke in the title, he’re a hint 🙂

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Some Rights Are More Human Than Others

Remember Petition 571? A group of journos went wailing to the international community about the media onslaught Janez Janša and his government undertook during their tenure and PM Janša was really unhappy about it, saying that allegations of political influence over the media (the said petition) and human rights abuses (the Roma family Strojan and the Erased) should be dealt with on domestic scene as not to mar Slovenia’s reputation just prior to its taking over the EU presidency.


Part of what SDS was sending around the world

While SDS and its leader went apeshit when someone was dissing the family on their watch, they were happy to do it when it was their turn to sit in the back of the classroom (i.e.: lose the 2008 elections).

And they seem to have acquired a bit of a taste for it. Either that or some rights are more human than others as far as SDS is concerned. Because in the past few days this leading opposition party made a big show of tearing apart the nomination of Branko Masleša for President of the Supreme Court (not to be confused with the Constitutional Court). SDS went after Masleša for a number or reasons and saw it fit to go international with the story. And then some. And then some more.

In case you don’t want to sift through everything SDS threw at Masleša (although I strongly urge you to do so. Is a fun read. And is in English), here’s the basic beef: Masleša is unfit for President of Supreme Court because he:

a) Was the last Slovenian judge in Slovenia to sentence someone to death.
b) Took part in secret committees which inspected shootings of defectors across Yugoslav – Italian border as late as 1989.
c) SDS suspects he was opposed to Slovenian independence and allegedly claimed Yugoslav army will run Slovenia over.

Masleša in turn responded (Slovenian only), saying that:

a) Death penalty was legal in mid 80s and that it was a case of multiple homicide and that the sentence was commuted to a 20-year-imprisonment.
b) Those committees were not secret at all and that he was required to attend them as a judge at the District court in the border town of Nova Gorica.
c) Allegations of his “lukewarmness in the cause of independence” are false.

Now, pengovsky agrees that human rights are important. No. Scratch that. They are an infinitely important element of any society which even remotely wants to call itself democratic. And if SDS has a beef with human rights record of a candidate they have a duty to voice them. But it looks as if the issue is being abused for a tangible political goal which is only remotely connected to any (if any) human rights violations.

On one hand it’s bad form according to SDS and Mr. Janša to tell the world about how media is being pressured, how Roma people are being persecuted and how more than 20k people have no legal status whatsoever, but on the other mere allegations and suspicions are reason enough to sound the international general alarm thrice over. Secondly, it is more than just slightly worrying that a revolutionary mindset is being applied two decades after independence was achieved (and achieved it was with political, legal and military means). I mean “actively opposing Slovenian independence”? What is this? A search for the “enemy within?” The KGB was mighty good at that, you know…

But what is most bothersome is that thus far these allegations were not substantiated by anything other than more allegations by some of Masleša’s fellow judges (and a constitutional judge to boot). Which is more indicative of some seriously hurt egos rather than a systemic and continuous violation of human rights, the likes of which we’ve seen in the case of the Strojan Family and the Erased.

But since the power to nominate the President of the Supreme court lies with the Minister of Justice – in this case LDS’s very own Aleš Zalar (recently of Twitter fame) – the whole thing obviously has a huge political angle. Zalar already crashed and burned with his previous nominee for this post, as Marko Šorli did not get support of the parliament, which caused quite a few waves within the coalition. Secondly, the minister is for some time now pursuing ways to replace Attorney Prosecutor General Barbara Brezigar which is both dividing the coalition as well as freezing blood of some top SDS people. And lastly, prior to his entry into politics, Zalar was a highly profiled president of the Ljubljana District Court and reportedly stepped on about as many toes within the judiciary as possible (and took some ego bruising himself).

Which is why it comes as no surprise that SDS today in the afternoon started making noises about calling an extraordinary session of the parliament or even submit an interpelation against minister Zalar. Which is a classic manoeuvre. First you stir enough shit, then claim the whole issue is so unclear that extraordinary measures must be applied. All the while (ab)using human rights as a pretext. This will get dirtier by the day.

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Immunity for Janez Janša and Ivo Sanader

Janez Janša and Ivo Sanader share a great many things. Not only are both former prime ministers of their respective countries, their parties are also members of European People’s Party, they were both implicated in alleged (and then strenuously denied) fixing of border incidents between Slovenia and Croatia prior to 2004 elections and now they are both facing criminal charges. Talk about male bonding! 😈


“So, tell me Janez, what’s it like on the inside?” (source)

As you know, former PM and now opposition leader Janez Janša was indicted for aiding and abetting bribery and corruption (with four more people facing similar or graver charges). What has happened since is that the indictments were “tested” by the local court at which they were filed and the court approved them. This of course does not mean that the man is guilty, but it does mean that potentially the biggest procedural hurdle was cleared and that the trial will go forward.

Which is why today the parliamentary Committee for Public Office and Elections had to vote on whether Janez Janša should be granted immunity in the Patria Affair. Under Article 83 of the Constitution a deputy can invoke immunity if the maximum penalty for charges against him/her do not carry more than a five-year prison sentence. And since charges against Janša carry three years or less, the parliamentary Committee can (even against Janša’s wishes) grant him immunity.

But the man, who already knows what the inside of a prison cell looks like, said upfront that he will not invoke the immunity clause and hours ago the committee dully voted not to grant him immunity, which means that the trial can start with the full cast. Not so in the case of JJ’s buddy Ivo Sanader, who – it now appears – was virtually run out of office but not because of now-virtually-solved border dispute with Slovenia, but because there was no way to keep the lid on his (alleged) mischief.

One version goes that he was “summoned” to Brussels, but – instead of stalling yet another round of border-dispute negotiations – he was greeted by a stack of binders documenting in detail his supposed criminal activities, some of which are said to be connected to the downfall of the Hypo Bank and then to a series of fraudulent and embezzlement activities in his native Croatia.

However, unlike his Slovenian paisan, Sanader, having returned from what was officially a lecturing tour in the US (unofficially avoiding questioning by the parliamentary committee and Croatian CrimPolice), decided to claim his seat in the parliament and invoke the immunity clause, to which he is apparently entitled.

Fun times. Two former PMs looking at a prison sentence, while their successors iron out what even yesterday looked like insurmountable problems. Can it really be that easy? Nah, I’d be out of stuff to write, then… 😈

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