When It Rains It Poors For Janša

MPs are gearing for a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Janez Janša tomorrow and the heat is on. Positive Slovenia nominated acting party leader Alenka Bratušek for the post and if things don’t change too much until tomorrow, Janez Janša will have been voted out of office in about 18 hours.


That things undoubtedly went south for Janša became obvious yesterday, when both SLS ministers, Radovan Žerjav and Franc Bogovič (who is to replace Žerjav at the helm of the party) tendered their resignations. In response, Janša tweeted about Žerjav that “the worst minister of economy this country ever had left the post”. A classic poor-me-fuck-you response by Ivan, the reason for which became obvious a bit later in the day, when Žerjav said he’s in favour of the no-confidence vote. This probably clinched the deal for Bratušek, since any vote without SLS on-board would be tricky, especially since not every MP of the hastily assembled coalitions (PS, SD, DeSUS, DL and now SLS) will vote for Bratušek and (by extension) against Janša.

The said tweet

Now, the problem with Janša’s tweet is many-fold: First and foremost and for the umpteenth time, this is no way for a prime minister to communicate. I mean, ferfucksake dude! I realise you’re convinced everyone is out to get you, but have some self-respect. Second: While it is true that there’s precious little to be said about Žerjav as minister of economy, it was Ivan who nominated him. OK, so there was a fair amount of horse-trading involved when Janša was forming his coalition, but it’s not as if anyone held a gun to Ivan’s head while he was picking ministers. Quite the opposite, one would think. Thirdly, tweeting in this fuck-you-very-much attitude makes him an ever more sore loser than he already is, especially after Žerjav replied via SLS’ twitter account thanking Ivan for the assessment of his work and wishing him all the best in the future.

Who knew: Žerjav is capable of sarcasm

But tomorrow’s no-confidence vote is not the only fall from grace which befell the stricken PM. Adding insult to injury, the Slovenian PEN club is set on ruling whether to expel Janša due to his “public statements in violation of PEN’s charter to defend freedom of expression”.

When it rains, it, well, poors

Despite writing his first book in 1992 (Premiki, Mladinska knjiga), Janša was made a member of PEN in 1988 immediately after his arrest by the Federal Army. At the time, the PEN club stretched its rules a bit, but since it was all for a good cause, no-one really minded. Well, a quarter-of-a-century later, the tables have turned and those same people who stood up for him are now standing up to him. Problem is, Ivan don’t take that too well. In fact, he blasted PEN saying it had degenerated into a den of informants of Yugoslav secret police (see here for Google translate)

Nor did he take it well when the Supreme Court (not to be confused with the Constitutional Court) denied him an injunction against the anti-graft commission. Janša disputed the report and sued to have the anti-graft report removed from the web pending the ruling. The Administrative Court denied the last request and when Ivan petitioned the Supreme Court to revise the decision, citing violation of his human rights (“I am at the peak of my political career”, he wrote), he was denied again and told that “his human rights were not violated in any way, shape or form, since being a prime minister is not an individual’s human right“. Ouch. Basics, of course, but… ouch.

Ivan response was predictable: “The decision was expected. The PM has no human rights. Bull mastifs do, if they belong to the right owner” (Google translate here). Lovely, innit? Bringing back the drummed-up scandal which basically wiped out Katarina Kresal and where every single charge was dropped, because there simply was no proof. But that of course did not stop Janša from bringing it up. And the list goes on. Recently, his daughter was in the media after the anti-graft commission concluded t she and son of Jože Tanko, SDS’ parliamentary chief landed jobs at the state-controlled gas company after undue pressure was exerted. Not a full week had passed when the Party-friendly media started clamouring that anti-graft’s commission second-in-command Rok Praprotnik had landed that particular job not on merit but because he knew the right people.

By now you’re starting to see the pattern, right? Whenever Ivan or the Party land in deep shit, they start throwing it around in every direction possible, hoping that some will stick one way or another. That they are brazen in mixing fact and fiction in doing that doesn’t bother them one bit. Thus they’ve launched an “anonymous letter” alleging the PM hopeful Alenka Bratušek plagiarised part of her masters thesis. This comes after a string of high-profile revelations of MPs, elected officials and managers stealing academic work of others and claiming it as their own. Or simply forging academic credentials. It’s not that the SDS would be the only party with such a credibility problem, but theirs were among the most problematic cases, as Branko Marinič was forced to forfeit his MP post after receiving a suspended sentence in a criminal case, while Alenka Koren Gomboc was forced out by a procedural trick by her own party, after a long running scandal. And today yet another SDS MP was faced with allegations that his masters thesis is not entirely his own. So when the “anonymous concerned citizen” found out Bratušek mistyped the title of an otherwise credited source, they made it into an affair of practically biblical proportions. Indeed, it seems nothing but bad news for poor Ivan. If if rains, it poors. Pun very much intended.


We’ve come all this way and the vote hasn’t even been taken. One person who must feel slightly miffed about all of this is the super-minister Žiga Turk, who wrote up a 60-page response to the ill-conceived interpelation proceeding initiated by the SD. Pengovsky wrote back then that was one of the stupider moves SD made lately (and there were no shortage of them) but added that the stupidity was matched by Turk’s initial reply. Well, the full text only furthers the image.

The self-styled “humble engineer who sometimes just doesn’t get modern culture” went all out against SD, calling it a relict of the past, reeking of naphthalene and not even having come as far as Deng Xiaoping had in the 60s with his “it doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white” doctrine. A classic text which would make Dick Cheney and Karl Rove proud not only disputes everything SD holds against Turk, but extols some of those very same things on the grounds of market economy. Also, at first he claims to have fought vigorously for this budget which was slashed almost 20% due to austerity policies, but a bit further down admits that there’s nothing he can do if there’s no money. Well, it seems there’s lack of money and then there’s lack of money (if you catch my drift).

Also, he extols President Pahor’s political leadership while he was running the SD, while at the same accusing his government of being the worst there ever was (he must not have gotten the memo about Žerjav, though). All this did not stop him from taking credit for projects that were pretty much near completion before he took office. Indeed, there wasn’t such an ideology-heavy text in Slovenian politics since, well, since he was writing about “re-communisation of Slovenia” or indulging in Haidt’s pseudo-science. Again, a pattern. Who would have thought, eh? Too bad Janša will probably get voted out of office first, denying Turk from standing front-and-centre, telling those fucking Commies off. It would have been quite a sight.

Bring popcorn

Not that there will be any shortage of fun in the next few weeks. Bratušek looks poised to oust Janša, but that only means Janša is in a care-taker capacity until she forms a government. And that might prove harder than it looks, since SLS will not be joining that particular party and both SD and DL are making noises about early elections sans an interim government not being such a bad idea.

Tomorrow will be ugly. Bring popcorn.


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Janša Taking Country Hostage As Virant Quits The Coalition

Yesterday Gregor Virant put his money where his mouth is and quit the ruling coalition, taking ministers Senko Pličanič (justice and public administration) and Janez Šušteršič (finance) with him. Virant himself also resigned as president of the parliament, effective Monday. Thus his party Citizens’ List entered the opposition and left Janez Janša with 43 votes in a 90 seat parliament, making his a minority government.

(Image via @fraticesevalter)

With this a turning point has been reached, especially since DeSUS of Karl Erjavec is apparently going to follow suit fairly soon and SLS of Radovan Žerjav is also making noises about jumping ship (albeit at a later date). This leaves Janša with unequivocal support only ChristDem NSi led by Ljudmila Novak and nowhere near at least theoretically operative government. In fact it is safe to say that Janez Janša’s downfall is a matter of weeks rather than months.

Fighting tooth-and-nail

Things will of course not go smoothly. Breaking his silence for the first time since the anti-graft report which set in motion this chain of events was published, Janša today unleashed hell and accused Virant of partaking in a long-planned conspiracy to remove Janša from power. He also added he will not be resigning of his own accord and dared Virant and anyone who would follow in his steps to form a new majority and move for a no-confidence vote. Translation: Janša will fight tooth-and-nail to remain in power, if only in the form of a caretaker government.

And this is the crux of the matter. Janša accuses everyone and his brother, from the anti-graft commission onwards of destabilising the country. In fact, it is he who is the major source of instability. Coalitions crumble, reports get published, politicians resign. Sure, it’s time- and strength-consuming, but hardly uncommon in a democracy. What is uncommon is the notion that established tools of a (parliamentary) democracy should be sidelined in the name of “stability of the country”. Not surprisingly, this is very similar to what the Constitutional Court used as an excuse to ban referenda on bad bank and state sovereign holding, when it said that functioning of the country takes precedence over the right of the people decide these issues in a popular vote. It also shows Janša does not understand or – probably closer to the truth – doesn’t give a pair of fetid dingo’s kidneys about what the protest movement wants. But then again, neither do Virant, Erjavec or Žerjav. Let alone Igor Lukšič of SD or Alenka Bratušek, acting president of Zoran Janković‘s PS

In fact, it seems that right now the entire political master-class are hedging their bets. They’re playing an angle and they all have a lot to lose. First and foremost is Janša. His 30-odd minute rant followed by a brief Q&A on live television today showed just that. He was playing hard-ball which included trying to put a wedge between ministers Pličanič and Šušteršič on one side and Virant on the other. Indeed it would be quite a feat if both ministers switched sides. At the moment it seems unlikely but not impossible, especially since neither of them was elected to the parliament in the first place and is thus about to quit front-line politics. Also, Janša chided Virant for having the audacity to tell Janša what to do and said that it is unbecoming of a small parliamentary group to make demands on a large parliamentary group. In other words, everyone should know their station. Having said that, however, Janša did bring up the question of electoral system which – in addition to Virant – is supposedly the source of Slovenian troubles.

Talking sense into Janša

This shows that Janša is seriously considering the possibility of a snap poll and is trying to hi-jack the issue, again proposing a two-round majoritarian electoral system (which would actually spell disaster for Slovenia, but we’ll leave that for another time). But it would seem that someone talked some sense into Janša, since he did allow for other possibilities to be considered as well. And on a larger scale of things, the electoral system is a problem. It will not solve the current situation per se, but changing the voting system could address one of the basic complaints of the protest movement: the illegitimacy of the political system (note: not illegality, illegitimacy). Even more, this passage in Janša’s rant was the only thing which had any sort of a meaning, which means that he was trying to send a signal of some sort. However, what he conveniently forgot is that not only do (former) coalition partners demand he resign, the people want that too. And for a plethora of reasons, not just the anti-graft report.

Virant, Erjavec and Žerjav are also hedging their bets. A snap poll is not exactly what they want because they run the risk of being thrown out of the parliament. OK, so Virant won a couple of brownie points for having found his spine, but would be spent in an electoral campaign sooner than you can say “confidence vote”. Which is why he’d much rather see a new PM elected in the parliament than elections being held. Ditto for Karl Erjavec, who is locked in a intra-party leadership struggle which means that DeSUS walking out on Janša is as much a political move against Janša as it is a PR-manoeuvre to rally people in the party support within the party. Žerjav on the other hand is probably looking to sort out his succession (he’s quitting as party chief in March) and doesn’t want the party to campaign without a leader.

Predictably, Igor Lukšič wants early elections ASAP since public opinion polls put his party at the top while today Alenka Bratušek floated the idea of forming an interim government with a mandate to tackle specific projects including changes to the voting system and then hold elections in about a year’s time. Needless to say that PS is not doing particularly well in the polls right now.

But coming back to Janša: the only way he’s apparently ready to negotiate is with him continuing as PM. Should that not be possible, he already announced SDS will be returning to the opposition. And you can be sure that he will pull no punches when trying to shoot down anything and everything a potential new government would try to pass through the parliament. The problem is that neither the (former) coalition partners nor the protest movement see Janša as a legitimate player any more. But then again, as far as protest movement is concerned, every other political leader is struggling with its legitimacy as it his. Which is why also part of the reason they’ve ganged up on Janša.


Exactly a week ago, pengovsky wrote of four possible scenarios on how all of this can play out. As of today this boiled down to scenarios one and four. But despite everything he said today about other people being responsible for the situation, the primary responsibility lies with Janša. If he chooses to prolong the situation by clinging to his job (as he is likely to do) he will be indeed holding the entire country hostage to his political survival.

Which is why it is no surprise that the government today upped the ante in relations with Croatia which is to join the EU on 1 July. Janša’s Cabinet did not approve basic points of Slovenian brief to the ad-hoc court on Slovenian-Croatian border. Some say that happened because Janša wants to lay claim all the way to the Croatian town if Savudrija. Which would basically send the entire Arbitration Agreement negotiated under Pahor’s government down the drain.

Funny, how this reminds pengovsky of former Croatian PM Ivo Sanader who was looking to pick a fight with Slovenia but then surprised everyone by resigning only 14 days later and is now rotting jail. But that’s jus me being evil.



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Cultural Learnings of Azerbaijan for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Slovenia

The fallout from the report of the anti-graft commission is huge. On Friday the protest movement got a new impetus, putting Janez Janša and Zoran Janković side by side, along with the rest of the gang. Some 10.000 people attended the second edition of the “National Uprising” and the centre of Ljubljana was again packed, but it was in fact just a prelude to what turned out to be a bit of a cliffhanger Saturday.

(photo by Smetnjak)

Namely, after calling, nay, shouting at both the Prime Minster and the mayor of Ljubljana to resign, Gregor Virant‘s Citizens’ List held a powwow on Saturday where they were they… waited. They were waiting for Zoran Janković and his Positive Slovenia to wrap up their own party congress, where they (finally) adopted their party platform which – to chagrin of many – puts fight against corruption high on their priority list. I mean, it is slightly silly to adopt an anti-corruption platform while your party chief is being slammed on the head by the anti-graft commission. OK, so Janković is screaming bloody murder over it and professes his innocence (as does Janša, mind you), but still. On the other hand, Janković being Janković, this is exactly the type of thing he would have done in any similar case. A tongue-in-cheek move, to piss everyone off and try to prove his point. Which is why it came as a bit of a surprise that at the end of the congress he announced he’s “freezing” his party leadership (cue penguin jokes).

Power play of galactic proportions

Hearing of it, pengovsky went oh-no-you-didn’t. This was the worst possible move for Jay-Z to make. He maintains he made the move to open the doors to a shake-up of the political landscape by removing himself from the picture and encouraging junior coalition partners to kick Janša and his SDS loose and possibly form an interim technocratic government until early elections are held. He maintains that he will have no part in any potential negotiations and will not contend for the PM job. Fair enough. But since at the moment the anti-graft report is the only game in town, his “freezing” the presidency (effectively resigning) by definition makes it look as if that was the prime reason and not the alleged political crisis. Also, the move fuelled calls for his resignation as Ljubljana mayor as well. After all the report dealt with his actions as a mayor. Also he could have simply said that he will not claim the PM position nor will he negotiate in any way, shape of form, empowering others in the party to do that, and achieve the same effect sans resignation. Alternatively, he could have resigned (or at the very least, “frozen”) as mayor as well and really send a powerful message. Either, or. He chose to sit on the fence and nothing good ever came from that.

Especially since the odds are, that the whole thing is just a power-play of galactic proportion over the Slovenian State Holding, the newly established mother-of-all-state-owned companies. Courtesy of the Constitutional Court and its “act on protection of the state” it became operational at the beginning of the year and has a nine-member supervisory board which is to be appointed by the parliament. Case in point being the fact that Virant called a “consultation meeting” on the issue only days after first calling on JJ and Jay-Z to pack their bags. Also, SLS of Radovan Žerjav extended their deadline for Janša to go from “immediately” to 8 March, i.e. after the board will be appointed.

Wet dreams of a Communist conspiracy. Also: Azerbaijan, douze points

Word on the street, however, has it that Virant is dead-serious with his threat to walk out of the coalition if JJ continues to cling to his job. That may be, but Virant is known for his being dead-serious over a lot of things but then backing off at the last second. On the other hand, he could have bluffed his way into a tight spot and now can’t get out of it.

Namely, the SDS (now lovingly known as The Party) is no longer pulling any punches and went all out against anyone who is doubting Janša’s fitness to do his job. This primarily includes the protest movement, which they’ve tweeted was “full of communist zombies”, pushing crack-pot theories about “left-wing fascism” originated by Slavoj Žižek (piggy-backing on a blog in The Telegraph) and generally claiming that the government of Janez Janša is the only thing standing between Slovenia and the Apocalypse.

Ironically, their main political targets are not Zoran Janković and his PS (after all, he and Janša are in the same fix) but rather Gregor Virant and his Citizens’ List. For there seems to be a pro-Janša fraction in the party some elements of which have taken it upon themselves to debunk the anti-graft report in minute detail. At the same time the SDS parliamentary group said that Janša resigning “are wet wishes of some people”.

Yes. Wet wishes. Not wet dreams. Wishes. Geez, you’d think these people were never teenagers, playing the one-string violin or something. Yes, I know it’s a terrible mental image, but still. Also, today the SDS released a letter in English (!) explaining their take on things, which can basically be summed up in one sentence: IT’S ALL A COMMUNIST CONSPIRACY.

No, really. Here’s an excerpt:

The last President of the Communist Party of Slovenia and later on the first president of the Republic of Slovenia, Milan Kučan, who despite his retirement still figures as the most influential political persona of the hard-core Slovenian Left, has in his public appearances as well as via the background networks, activated members of the former secret political police, communist veterans, network of leftist organizations and some trade unions, and is also personally actively engaged in efforts to replace the government.

Read the letter in full. It’s a lovingly compiled scrapbook of their collective delusions, bad grammar included.

This, of course happened while Janša was in Azerbaijan, the winner of 2012 Eurovision song contest and apparently a new strategic market for Slovenia. In what has become a bit of a tradition, important things in this country happen while the man himself is out of the country. You know, alibis and stuff. The only problem is he was visiting the world’s Most Corrupt Leader of 2012. What were they doing? Exchanging notes? 😀

Letters Galore

Truth be told, the SDS only wrote the letter after first denouncing a similar letter (of opposite content, naturally) by KOKS, an association of people of creative and/or cultural milieu. Signed by thousands, the letter states among other things that

The government has also responded to the protests by closing down the centre of the capital city of Ljubljana, by using riot police, horses, armoured vehicles, water cannons, antiriot fences and helicopters in what can only be characterized as a gross overreaction to the largely peaceful gatherings of Slovenian citizens. Top members of
Janez Janša’s party (SDS) have described the protesters as “ultra left extremists,” “zombies,” and characterized them as radical “neo-socialists,” in an effort to balance out the actual presence of neoNazis during the first Ljubljana protest (possibly organised by the ruling government itself in an effort to discredit the protests at the beginning of the movement)

Read full letter here. At least the grammar is much better 🙂

Also the newly minted President of the Republic got a letter. His initial response to the anti-graft report was muted at best (he was “worried”). He added a week later that he supports the commission but that it was up to Janša whether to resign or not and that he will not enter party politics. And today, when pressed in a letter by Janez Stanovnik (last socialst president of Slovenia and head of WWII veterans’ organisation), Pahor wrote a letter of his own, clarifying that he supports the anti-graft commission in its drive to clarify its competences but that as a matter of principle he will not call upon any elected official to resign.

Note how Pahor is bending over backwards to avoid saying anything on the position the PM of this country found himself in. Also, it is extremely telling that the president did not support the anti-graft findings, but rather said that he is in favour of clearly defining the commission’s competences. Which is exactly the one of the point both Janša and Janković dispute the commission. Bottom line: Borut Pahor is paying dearly for Janša’s support in the presidential race. He even has to cover Janković’s back, even though Zoki was in the other camp.

What does Auntie Angela have to say?

At any rate, Janša is back in the country which means this particular game of high-stakes poker can continue. Will Janša resign and pick a successor from within SDS, as DL, SLS and DeSUS demand? Odds are he will not. The stakes are simply too high for him. Some, however, say that he will be forced to. Not by his coalition partners, but rather by Berlin and Washington. Sure enough, the outgoing US Ambassador to Slovenia Joseph Musomelli has recently met with National Assembly vice-president Romana Tomc whose name was already floated as a possible interim-PM until early elections are called.

Now, this is a highly unlikely scenario in pengovsky’s opinion. Janša does not breed successors, he breeds followers. But the anti-graft fiasco was noted in Europe as well and it is quite possible JJ will find himself sidelined by Angela Merkel and the rest of the EPP pretty soon. Especially after the fiasco with alleged support by EU Council President Herman van Rompuy which turned out to be a gross misinterpretation of the facts Or as we call it – lying.

How does this play out?

There are three, nay four, ways this whole thing can go:

One: Janša doesn’t resign and roughs it out. Possible, but will leave him crippled for the rest of the term. Also, this probably only postpones the inevitable.
Two: Janša resigns immediately, no replacement PM is found and early elections are called in Spring. In the current climate of popular uprising, this would probably mean a very low turnout and a result which would only prolong the existing status quo (the PS would lose to SocDems, but overall picture would change little).
Three: a new coalition with a left-wing PM who is not Zoran Janković. This is unlikely in the extreme.
And four: Janša resigns, SDS goes into the opposition, while all other parties form a sort-of-national-unity coalition with a technocratic government which edges the country towards early elections some time in autumn, while it enacts the basic demands of the protest movement, including but not limited to changes in the voting system, anti-graft legislation and curbing austerity policies.


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Vote of Confidence: How PM Janša Just Screwed Entire Slovenian Politics Dry

Speculation was rife in Slovenia today that PM Janez Janša will tie a confidence vote to tomorrow’s vote on initiating procedures to enshrine the fiscal rule in the constitution. In less than twenty-four hours the country found itself in the middle of a political cliffhanger, since the government does not have the necessary two-thirds majority to change the constitution. It was obvious from the outset, however, that the whole thing was nothing more than an elaborate bluff, it’s primary goal not being mustering the votes necessary but rather a disciplinary measure, smoking out this government’s “internal opposition” and bringing them back in line for much more crucial votes which this government faces down the road.


Namely, the government of Janez Janša enjoys a stable majority in the parliament. The coalition has 52 votes (53 if you count the overly-indulging former PM Borut Pahor) and can pass legislation virtually at will. In fact, this is exactly what it is doing, as the parliament only this week passed 20-or-so laws, most of them under emergency procedure. Not that there was any real emergency, but the government asked for multiple quickies and the MPs who support it complied no-questions-asked. Such is the discipline within the coalition and there really is no need for Janša to test whether or not he has the support of the parliament.

That Janša was entertaining the thought regardless shows only that he is willing to (ab)use legal instruments to further his own grip on power. Tying the vote of confidence to a 2/3 majority would create a legal and political clusterfuck of epic proportions because it would mean the fall of a majority government without a viable alternative coalition to replace it. Which would probably suit Janša just fine as he thrives in an uncertain environment and would most likely end up on top again, even stronger. Truth be told, he most likely already got what he wanted and thus screwed the entire Slovenian politics dry.

Namely, earlier this evening an 11th hour compromise was reached, putting the vote on fiscal rule off until September, which places the debate conveniently close to presidential elections. And let us not forget this is not the first time he pulled a stunt like that. Back then he did it a week after Danilo Türk was elected president, this time around he tricked others (namely, president of the parliament Gregor Virant) into placing a debate a few weeks before the elections, possibly hijacking the debate entirely.

As an added bonus, he also forced the hands of Karl Erjavec (DeSUS) who was immediately ready to jump ship saying that he’s willing to be a part of any coalition and of Radovan Žerjav (SLS), who openly toyed with the idea of yet another early elections, excluding up front the possibility of someone else heading the government under the same coalition. Both Žerjav and Erjavec will pay dearly for their political amateurism. Additionally, Igor Lukšič of Social democrats made a bit of a blunder, saying that “if the going really gets tough”, the SD will support the fiscal rule. Well, the going got tough long ago and Janša now has Lukšič by the you-know-whats as well and the newly minted SD leader will have to spend a lot of energy to get out of this particular fix.

Right now, fiscal rule is the least of Slovenia’s problems. While not peachy, national finances are a far cry from that of Greece, Spain or Portugal (public debt in Slovenia right now is about 47% of GDP). This country has other problems: banking sector is cause for immediate concern with pension, labour market and health reforms coming in close second, as detailed here by Edward Hugh of Economonitor

That after six months in office Janša tackled none of the above (even the banks are on hold until Autumn) only further strengthens the point that the whole point of today’s exercise was purely political with the ultimate goal of not relinquishing power, but tightening the already firm grip on it. After all, why would someone who six months ago went to great pains to clinch the PM spot, suddenly just give it up. Especially since he has this huge millstone hanging around his neck…


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Administrative Reform Packages, pt. 3: On National Council

It’s been a while since pengovsky wrote up an instance of the constitutional overhaul the ruling coalition went about more or less from Day 1. You can refresh your memory here, here and here if you need to, but the item on today’s menu is the proposal to abolish the National Council. Funny thing is, pengovsky is about to break into the Mipos Dance of Joy over it, although the big honchos are doing it for all the wrong reasons.

National Council (source)

Namely, Gregor Virant‘s DL (formerly DLGV – they’ve dropped ‘GV’ some weeks ago), chief proponent of the move claims that the National Council is an oboslete institution, adding that the second chamber of the parliament is usually found in federal countries and is as such unncessary in a unitary Slovenia, costing money but adding little of value. Well, I’m sligtly sad to say that on this issue Gregor Virant is full of shit.

The current president of the parliament, former minister for public affairs, former state secretary (right-hand man) to the minister of the interior and a professor with the Faculty for Administration know full well that the National Council is not some cockamamie piss-pot institution but a virtually unckecked bastard of an instituion which weild a rather hefty arsenal of powers for which it has no clear mandate. Never has and never will. Among others, the National Council can use the so-called “deffering veto”, by which it can send a law back for another vote in the National Assebly (parliament propper) where it needs an absolute majority (46 votes) to be confirmed, even if it needed only a relative majority the first time round. But even more importantly, the National Council can call a referendum on a law with a simple majority of 21 counclimen (out of 40).

The problem is that none of the councilmen are elected representatives of the people. Rather, they represent special interests. No, really. They literally represent speical interests. Four representatives of employers, four of employees, ditto for farmers, crafts and trades, and independent professions, six councilmen representing non-commercial fields and twenty-two (22!) representatives of local interests. Need I say more? I do? OK…

As with most old democracies (and in this respect, Slovenian democracy is aging fast), the decision making process is ever more initiated and to an extent controlled by some sort of special interest and ever less by the general public. This in it self in not necesarily good or bad. As basic relations in a society are settled, for the time being, at least, other, more specific questions arise, where general public is less keen to take interest (a great manifestation of not-in-my-back-yard-syndrome). Thus special interests come to the forefront, be they local, regional, business, industrial, whathaveyou. The problem is, however, that – when left unchecked – special interest can not only act to bypass the common good (the interest of the public, if you will) but can also act squarely against it. A classic example of this would be drilling for oil in Alaska. Or, if you want sometihng closer to home, liquid gas storages in the Gulf of Trieste, just off the Slovenian Adriatic coast.

Ideally, the parliament acts to limit these particulars or find common ground between special and public interest. Now, we all know that is seldom the case, especially with specific pieces of legislation (case in point being the shooting-down of the media law near the end of the previous term, courtesy of a would-be media baron). But the point is that the parliament can and should act in the public interest. The thing is that in case of Slovenia, the legislative process can be (and often is) plagued by special interest not just at the bottom (during drafting period) but also at the top, after the parliament has passed a law and is up to the National Council whether to confirm it or enact the “deffering veto”. In short, under current system, special interest squeezes public interest from both sides, which is a) undemocratic and b) totaly unhealthy in the long run. Not to mention the fact that over the course of the last twenty years, sucessive National Councils and especially their presidents have tried ever so hard to win the status of a full-blown second chamber of the parliament, if not in theory, surely in practice.

Thus, the National Council is a far cry from an obsolete and unimportant institution as claimed by Gregor Virant and politically icreasingly lonely leader of Social Democrats Borut Pahor. Rather, it is a residual element of a corporativistic mindset which Slovenia (let’s be honest here) has never completely done away with, no matter the political option in power. As such, the National Council is in fact a long-term threat to democracy of this country. It is because of that that it must be abolished sooner rather than later. Sure, the current government (with the notable exception of Radovan Žerjav and his SLS who oppose the move) is trying very hard not to mention the elephant in the room and is making sorry-ass excuses as it goes along, but right now the problem is with the opposition. Unfortunately, Positive Slovenia of Zoran Janković is trying to have the cake and eat it by proposing modification to the role of the Council, but stops short of supporting complete abolishment. Thus one of the few constitutional changes which would have made sense (and there really are only a few of those) both in long- and short-term (I’m sure no-one would mind one less possibility for calling a referendum) looks dead on delivery.

BTW: if Slovenia ever gets around to establishing regions as the definitive layer of local self-government (stripping municipalities of much of their powers), we might consider the parliament getting a second, regional chamber. But we’ll cross that bridge if an when we get to it.

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