To Viktor Go The Spoils

Prime Minister Janez Janša submitted his list of ministerial appointments for parliament approval Friday last and the first hearings were held Tuesday, with the second batch following today, with the government expected to be sworn in tomorrow. So let’s look at who these men and woman actually are (in order of appearance):

The J Team

Ljudmila Novak (NSi) – Leader of the Christian democratic party Nova Slovenija and the only woman in Janša’s administration is set to become a minister without portfolio, tasked with keeping relations with Slovenian diaspora. The single remaining “ministry-at-large” caused quite a stir. It was created by the previous Janša administration and was tasked primarily to keep tabs on the Slovenian diaspora, both immediately across the border as well as around the world.

Aleš Hojs (NSi) – Minister of defence. Last seen as member of the board of DARS, the Slovene motorway company and a relatively high-profile party member. No-one has any clue as to why exactly he gets to oversee the Slovenian Army, but since qualified defence ministers were few and far between in this country and the armed forces are one of PM Janša’s pet peeves, it can only be assumed he will take suggestions on how to run the ministry from the very top. The key to understanding of his exact role in the office will be whom he picks or is told to pick as his state secretary (the number two person in the ministry).

Senko Pličanič (DLGV) – Minister of justice and public administration. One of the merged ministries, this will be one hell of a portfolio to run. He will be directly responsible for negotiations with public sector unions and those can be a bitch to deal with, as the outgoing government of Borut Pahor can tell you with some authority. Public administration was Gregor Virant‘s portfolio in the first Janša government and it was thought that Virant himself would take the post, quit the position of the president of the parliament and let Karl Erjavec of DeSUS take it. But apparently Virant grew cozy in that chair very quick and made Erjavec take another prestigious position.

Janez Šušteršič (DLGV) – Minister of finance. Arguably the mother of all portfolios and the most difficult right now. Also a sure-fire way for DLGV to sink even lower in public opinion polls (if that is at all possible, since they are already scoring on the low side of single digits). Šušteršič aims to cut up to 800 million euro of budget expenses in the first year alone. Since that comprises about 9% of the entire budget, shit is bound to hit the fan really soon.

Radovan Žerjav (SLS)Minister of economy. Again, no clue as to why exactly he gets to run this particular portfolio, since he is a chemist by trade and a politician by vocation, while the economy in this country is more or less in deep shit. Even more, he was the principal sponsor of a law which prevents people who held top positions in a company that went out of business to start a new company within ten years. As with every other coalition party leader, this particular nomination seems to be more a matter of prestige than actual competence.

Franci Bogovič (SLS) – Minister of agriculture and environment. Apparently capable and knows his way around both primary fields of work. His problem is that agriculture and environment are usually at odds with each other (which is why they were kept as separate portfolios) and Bogovič might have a problem reconciling both.

Tomaž Gantar (DeSUS) – Minister of health. Former mayor of Izola municipality and former head of Izola hospital should generally be on top of things. Hopefully, he will work to improve the reform of the health system which was drafted by his predecessor Dorijan Marušič and will not go back to square one.

Karl Viktor Erjavec (DeSUS) – Minister of foreign affairs. Ah yes, to Viktor go the spoils. Failing to secure the comfy position of the parliament president, leader of DeSUS went for the next best thing. He will now become the diplomatic face of Slovenia. And just when we thought that Dimitrij Rupel is the worst that can happen to a country’s foreign policy. Karl Erjavec has zero mileage in the field. OK, so he did go to NATO and EU meetings, but seriously… As foreign minister he is expected to be proactive and have a general idea of this country’s positions long before anyone asks us our opinion. The European deck of cards is being reshuffled and it will take a master poker player to bluff a country’s way out of this one. With Viktor as the foreign affairs boss, this looks highly unlikely. But then again, he can crack a joke like no other man can. Surely that must be worth something….

Vinko Gorenak (SDS) – Internal affairs. A commanding officer of a police station way back in socialist times (today that would probably translate into senior member of security forces of a totalitarian regime), he knows his way around police and internal affairs. His problem is the fact that he also gets to exert partial control over state prosecution, which was transferred from justice to internal affairs. With Janez Janša still in court over Patria affair, it’s way too close to comfort to have a senior SDS member be able to, say, launch a special investigation into the prosecutor who is trying to get Janša convicted. If you catch my drift…

Zvonko Černač (SDS) – Minister of infrastructure and spatial planning. Seems to be close to Janša lately and has jumped in as his boss’ chauffeur on occasion. Other than having some mediocre experience in the municipality of Postojna, it is a mystery (wrapped inside a riddle, hidden in an enigma) what exactly makes Černač so special as to be awarded the newly crafted infrastructure ministry which will arguably be crucial in any and all attempts to kick-start the economy (if that is at all possible, mind you). Well, maybe he’ll be just there to make sure the right folks get government contracts. Or maybe he’ll surprise us all and actually do something. He could, for example, go about making plans for upgrading Slovenian railway system.

Žiga Turk (SDS) – Minister for education, science, culture and sport. Well, the Ljubljana city councilman (he will vacate the post tomorrow as he is sworn in as minister) has his hands full. While he was busy going over his slides in a parliamentary hearing, couple of hundred of artists and culture-related people were busy decrying merging of culture portfolio with all the other (these were previously three separate ministries) and even burned a contra-bass as a sign of protest (in case you don’t get it: the message is we rather do it ourselves than let you enjoy it). It is ironic that demotion of cultural portfolio to the level of a state secretary brought together people who would usually rather cross a busy street than meet each other on the pavement. Culture is sacred for many a Slovenian (after all, our cultural identity was formed long before we even thought of calling ourselves a nation) and rather than just being a budget item, a lot of people took this a symbolic gesture of anti-patriotism by a coalition which for all intents and purposes draws heavily on patriotic feelings. It is therefore little wonder that the minister-to-be was awaited by protesters and booed to the point of being called “a stink” by a heckler. Which, for the record, was totally uncalled for, below the belt and utterly undeserved. Protesting and marching is one thing, calling names quite another.

And finally, Andrej Vizjak (SDS) as the new minister for labour, family and social affairs. Minister of economy in the first Janša administration apparently has some background in the field so it is expected that he will not be a complete failure, although it should be ridiculously fun to watch how he tackles unemployment while finance minister Šušteršič is shaving 800 million of the budget most of which goes to Vizjak’s portofolio as it is.

At any rate, these are all the king’s men. Nobody was really impressed by the list and even Janša himself said that this is the best possible team under the circumstances. But the trick is that this “best possible team” will have to produce the “best result ever” regardless of the circumstances, lest it go down in history as “the team that couldn’t”. If Pahor’s government way fighting an up-hill battle especially in economic policy, Janša’s ministers will be forced to climb vertically. Well, all except one. It is clear that – once again – Karl Erjavec already came out on top. Question is, will he stay there or is this just the beginning of a quick and uncontrolled descent…

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Janša 2.0

While leaders of the new centre right coalition busied themselves with signing the coalition agreement at high noon on Wednesday, President Danilo Türk rained on their parade a bit, calling a press conference at exactly the same time, where he announced that he will not be making another PM nomination and added that he will leave it to the parliamentary groups to settle the matter as they see fit. In other words, he refused to go with the flow and nominate SDS leader Janez Janša for the PM post.

Signing of the coalition agreement. Looks like the Presidium of the Central Committee 🙂 (Photo: BoBo/RTVSLO)

In all honesty, the new PM apparent was quite unfazed by this, as he had already secured a majority of 52 votes (50 coalition plus both minorities MPs) and will be laughing all the way to the voting booth, as the parliament is scheduled to vote on Janša’s PM bid later today, but the president’s remarks and moves are not to be just discarded. Firstly, because he’s the president and secondly, because he went all out against Janša, thus firing his first salvo in a possible (but not yet confirmed) re-election bid. In fact, The Prez pulled precious few punches, saying that he still considers Zoran Janković as an appropriate candidate and since his first choice did not secure a majority, he did not make another nomination. He added that in his view Janša does not have the necessary legitimacy for the nomination due to the fact that he is on trial for the Patria Affair and had therefore left it to the coalition itself to do the magic.

The feud

The feud between Türk and Janša goes way back, all the way to the election Sunday 2007 when Danilo Türk won the presidential elections by a landslide in what was – among other things – a protest vote against the first Janša government, an event which saw Janša go into sulking mode, unleash the war against tycoons (which he helped create) and, as it turned out, set the tone of the political debate which lasts to this very day. There was a lot of bad blood between the two, especially after Janša’s SDS tried to implicate Türk in the Velikovec bombing of 1979 by means of creative photocopying archive documents. It was in the aftermath of the Archivegate that Türk said in an interview that the politics of Janez Janša should be rejected and later on that he will be very careful as to whom he will nominate for the PM position. So, in one sense The Prez remained true to his word (the will-nominate/will-not-nominate flip-flop notwithstanding). However, in making his point and exercising – albeit necessary – forays into daily politics, The Prez again threaded on thin ice.

Saying that Janša does not have the legitimacy for the PM post is tricky at best. Now, to be sure, Janša indeed does have a huge legitimacy problem, but that is not for the president to say. Or, if the president does say it, he should be damn well prepared to do everything constitutionally possible to make sure Janša does not clinch the nomination. Namely, as president, Danilo Türk swore to uphold the constitution and act in the best interest of the country. One of the basic constitutional principles is the presumption of innocence. Thus, until proven guilty, Janša is free to run and be elected to any office.

If you do it, do it with style

Alternatively, if being on trial and/or having been indicted is the new standard, than the president should not only make a token effort to have the parliament elect a PM with a clean record, so to speak, but should use any and all procedural possibilities available to him, including nominating another candidate and – this is vital – speaking before the parliament on the issue. For the president can ask (and is usually granted the request) to address the parliament on whatever issue he (or she) sees fit. Granted, this would in all likelihood change nothing, but neither does just saying that Janša has a legitimacy problem and leave it at that. Both approaches are sure to produce an ominous backlash especially from SDS faithful, but hey – if you gotta go, you do it with style.

Pengovsky would be much more pleased if The Prez did none of the above. A short press release saying that he will not be making a nomination would suffice. Even more, it would perhaps be politically opportune for the president to in fact nominate Janša, just for the sake of doing the unexpected, but that’s water under the bridge now.

History repeating

So, unless things go badly wrong for the SDS leader, Slovenia will sport Janša 2.0 in a couple of hours. History, they say, tends to repeat itself. First as a tragedy and then as a farce. And there are indications that Janša’s second term will be something of farce.

Not only is the PM-apparent on trial in one of the biggest corruption scandals in the (albeit short) history of this country. Two out of four other coalition leaders are, eeer, judicially challenged as well. Karl Erjavec of DeSUS was cleared of charges of abuse of powers and negligence in a case tangential to Patria Affair, but the case in on appeal and the verdict is still not in. Gregor Virant, however, was recently sentenced to a month in prison with a two-year probation period because of libel (pending appeal). One of these two men will be running the parliament for the next few years, the other will probably be named a minister.

Radovan Žerjav is also in court in civil case (the fallen construction tycoon Ivan Zidar sued him for slander) which leaves Ljudmila Novak of NSi the only one with a relatively clean record. Which is not surprising, since she took over the party after it was evicted from the parliament in 2008 elections. And just to complete the circle, the apparent leader of the opposition Zoran Janković is reported to have been indicted over tax evasion and abuse of power as well. Now, it is possible that all of the above will sputter out into nothingness and everyone will in the end be cleared (which is why presumption of innocence is so important) but if you talk credibility and/or legitimacy, there’s precious little to go around as it is.

Balking at 300 million, not blinking at 1 billion

Additionally, the new coalition vowed to cut budget expenses for something between 800 million to 1 billion euro in its first term year. Which is somwhere between 8 to 10% of the annual Slovenian budget. While budgetary discipline is a noble goal and even if we can agree to disagree on approaches (some people say less radical cuts would produce better results), the question at hand is: when the outgoing government proposed a 300 million cut in public sector expenditures, the SDS went apeshit over it and refused to support the emergency law, threatening a referendum, yet now the very same SDS and its coalition want a 800 million cut and expect it to just sail through? Credibility my ass. Not to mention the fact that the whole of Europe already realised that too much austerity will stifle what little growth potential there is.

Saving on watering office plants

And lastly, there’s the eyewash with the “thinning of the government”. Janša’s coalition just passed a new law on government (which, incidentally, Janša 1.0 was the last to amend into its present form) and reduced the number of ministries from eighteen to eleven, merging a few portfolios and reshuffling scope of powers for others. Two changes that stand out are the merger of education, sports and culture portfolios (previously three separate ministries) and moving the Office of the State Prosecutor General from under justice ministry, to ministry of internal affairs (colloquially known as the ministry for police). Both of these are problematic at best.

Until now, culture was a relatively important portfolio, which included media policy oversight, not to mention keeping the country’s cultural infrastructure (museums, theatres, galleries and such) afloat and even building a couple of new ones. Sure, money can always be spent better, but what kind of message does it send, when a government reduces a culture potrfolio to the level of a secretariat, while farming, fisheries and agriculture, something that would be long dead if it weren’t for EU funds, still remains a full-blooded ministry?

As for shifting prosecution from justice to internal affairs, this is creating an unpleasant whiff of political control over the prosecution. You see, on paper, both the Police and the Office of Prosecutor General are relatively autonomous and it shouldn’t really matter what ministry they’re under. But a minister can still execute control over both agencies and of course it is better to have just one minister keep tabs on both the cops and the prosecutors. Especially if the minister in question is an SDS member and not from the DLGV quota as Gregor Virant had hoped when he demanded the move be made in an (again) naive hope that he will prevent up-front any Janša’s attempts to influence the judicial proceedings against him.

But lastly, the whole “thinning of the government” thing is not worth a pair of fetid dingo’s kidneys. A true government reorganisation would encompass a redesign of policies and finances and remodelling of the bureaucratic apparatus which would reflect the new priorities. There was a half-hearted attempt at that somewhere during Pahor’s government and it didn’t really catch on. What the new coalition proposes is nothing but a few office changes which does shit even in terms of cutting down number of various government offices, agencies and directorates, let alone in terms of policy redesign (or horizontal interoperability, to use the more fancy term). In short: the only savings that will come from there will be lower bills for watering flowers in ministers’ offices.

With that in mind, pengovsky is keenly expecting the first address by the new PM-apparent and can’t wait to see whom he picks as ministers.

EDIT: This post was written over the course of the week an scheduled for publishing on Friday afternoon. Point being, I had no way of knowing Primož Cirman of Dnevnik newspaper will be using the exact same title in his lead in today’s Objektiv 🙂

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President Türk Nominates Janković for PM Post

A few hours ago President Danilo Türk nominated Zoran Janković for the post of the Prime Minister. With this the first stage of a post-election political wrangling is concluded and the relevant players now move to stage two, which is not all that different except for the fact that we now know who gets to have the first crack at forming a government. This was of course already known on election night, but due to a combination of inflated egos, cloak-and-dagger politics and naiveté, the last month can only be described as a fiasco bordering on a snafu

The PM nominee in the parliament (photo: Boštjan Tacol/Žurnal24)

In all honesty, it was painful to watch how Zoran Janković fumbled (with a little help from outgoing PM Borut Pahor) the early stages of coalition negotiations, allowing lesser players to cash in while the political left was locked in a senseless dick-measuring contest.

Post-election powerplay

A quick recap: immediately following his upset victory on 4 December, Zoran Jankocić intitiated what later turned out to be a preliminary round of negotiations with prospective (and slightly less so) coalition partners. Being a man of action and all that jazz, the “immediately” part should be understood literarly. While the rest of the political arena was still reeling from the shock of the result, Janković called at Borut Pahor the very next morning and was more or less given a cold shoulder, with the leader of the Social Democrats adding a thinly veiled insult or two, saying that he would rather have nothing to do with Janković and even went on the record that he disapproves of the (supposedly authoritarian) leadership style of the PM presumptive. This later erupted into a full blown war of words just prior to the inaugural session of the parliament, where – if all things were equal – the coalition would be at least broadly already agreed upon and a president of the parliament would be elected from the ranks of (future) coalition partners.

Apparently, Janković was quite blunt in telling Pahor there’s no place for him in the new government, which is what probably prompted Pahor’s furious response and things went downhill from there. At first Pahor was urged to run for president of the parliament but refused, then changed his mind at the 11th hour and ran anyway, in a move that appeared to have been coordinated and aimed at sealing the deal between PS and SD. Only it wasn’t and it didn’t. In fact, Pahor went solo, catching off-guard both SD and PS parliamentary groups. In retaliation Janković – who isn’t the one to let other people have the initiative – put forward his own candidate for President of the Parliament, Maša Kociper (Ljubljana City Councilwoman and first time MP), thus creating an insurmountable impasse, as the votes on the left were split between the two candidates.

It was all very basic political mathematics, in fact. Janković who (mistakenly, as it turned out) thought he had his back covered with Gregor Virant‘s DLGV and Karel Erjavec‘s DeSUS, could simply not let Pahor steal the momentum in the opening stages of the game, because that would inevitably mean the outgoing PM would gain the upper hand in any coalition negotiations, quite possibly forcing himself into the position of Foreign Minister. Admittedly, this was the pundint’s consensus early on, but it soon emerged that in a Janković-led government, there is room for only one ego: that of Zoran Janković, who – instinctively or otherwise – knows better than to let a potential challenger into his inner circle, especially if this person is also an expert in a field where Zoki is lacking.

Jay-Z gets screwed over

With the impasse being created, the (imagined) consensus between PS, DLGV and DeSUS for the latter two to support whomever Pahor and Janković agree upon, broke down just as Pahor backed down and SD agreed to support Kociper. Virant and Erjavec went rogue and formed an ad-hoc coalition with Radovan Žerjav (SLS), Ljudmila Novak (NSi) and Janez Janša (SDS) and elected Gregor Virant to the post of the President of the Parliament, nominally the second most senior position in the country.

Obviously, all hell broke loose. Whether or not this was a pre-meditated move or was indeed just aimed at ensuring the constitution of the parliament and adopting the emergency financial legislation before the year’s end (as the official line went) will probably never be known for sure. Pengovsky believes that it was a mixture of both. Namely, if the right-wing MPs were concerned with the legislation that much, they might have just elected Kociper and let things stand. But there was more to it.

With Zoran Janković being both the new kid on the political block as well as having the delicate approach of a buldozer on steroids, the rest of the political honchos were itching to teach him a lesson in humility. So the old boys made a quick deal and ganged up on Janković, screwed him over and effectively stalled the already protracted two-stage nomination process. That this was indeed the case, was shown beyond a shadow of a doubt in the last three weeks. That and the fact that there are still Top Gun references to be made in Slovenian politics.

Namely. Ever since his ascent to the top of the parliament, Gregor Virant became increasingly obnoxious and started taking his role of the king-maker way to literally. In fact, he began raising the bar for his entry into a coalition almost daily, as well as negotiating with Janković and Janša simultaneously and trying to form a “third block” of smaller parties to prop up his own position. This third block at first included DLGV, DeSUS and SLS and now includes NSi as DeSUS dropped out.

Virant’s fall from grace

If Virant didn’t already get the message, he will. That’ll in all likelihood become painfully obvious in the coming days. He made huge bets left and right, putting his people (namely Janez Šušteršič, also a possibility for the post of finance minister) as “a compromise PM candidate”, forgetting that he already won plenty, especially in light of the fact that he didn’t bring a lot of chips to the table to begin with (8% of the vote ain’t much, really). But a month has passed and President Türk did what everyone expected him to do from Day One, so Virant will definitely pay the price for his behaviour.

But turning to the president’s decision: OK, so he didn’t rush things, but separation of powers should not be taken lightly. The Constitution is clear on this issue and it instructs the president to make a nomination after conferring with parliamentary groups. The Prez did that, gave some more time for negotiations and then nominated Zoran Janković. Could he have done things faster? In hindsight, yes. But in hindsight Janković probably wouldn’t have left Virant and Erjavec to their own devices two weeks ago and would have had his “chief whip” Jani Möderndorfer keep close tabs on both. OK, so Möderndorfer should have done that in any case and that he didn’t is a #fail on his part.

#fail is all around us

Speaking of fails, US Ambassador to Slovenia Joseph Mussomeli made a bit of a faux-pas the other day. While visiting PM Pahor, who spent most of the last month in hospital with what was officially described as a serious ear infection, he was a wee bit too candid regarding the political situation and described – without naming names or political parties – what kind of a coalition he’d wish for Slovenia. It later emerged that various (but not all) party leaders discussed the situation with the ambassador with Ljudmila Novak of NSi rambling on about how the US wants a coalition which includes NSi.

Now, while pengovsky is more than happy to entertain thoughts about US hegemony, this is too rich even for my own perverted mind. Seriously, to think that there’s a Slovenian desk somewhere in the State Department, which advises the US ambassador on which parties the only world superpower would like to see in the ruling coalition in Slovenia? It seems Gregor Virant is not the only one whose ego is writing checks their body can’t cash.

BTW, Mussomeli earned himself a slap on the wrist by both President Türk and Slovenian foreign ministry for that one.

Do I hear 60 votes?

At any rate, the deed is done. Zoran Janković is nominated for the post of the PM and it is now entirely up to him to form a ruling coalition. Pengovsky believes things will go relatively smoothly from now on, at least compared with the last four weeks. The way things stand now, a coalition between PS, SD, DLGV and DeSUS seems the only viable option. In my opinion SLS is still in the picture, despite the fact that Radovan Žerjav said in no unclear terms that he will not support Janković for PM. But not supporting Janković does not mean not supporting the government or at least certain key government policies. And with SLS as a backup, Janković comes interestingly close to the 60 votes needed to amend the constitution.

Great things could be afoot. But note the conditional…

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The Real Slim Shady – Slovenian Elections Edition

Ah well, it’s that time of the year, I guess 😀 After the hugely successful Primary Colours and its follow up, the Top Gun, pengovsky gives you yet another round-up of the political movers and shakers. Most of them you already know, a couple of them are new kids on the block. But at any rate, this should be at least mildly entertaining. Hope you like!

The Real Slim Shady – Slovenian Elections Editions from pengovsky on Vimeo.

Naturally, credits, where credits are due: Original videos are the work of their respective authors and/or entities including SDS, SD, LDS, Zares, and Idea TV. Songs on the other hand you know, but still: Real Slim Shady (Eminem), U Can’t Touch This (MC Hammer), Money (Pink Floyd), Pass the Dutchie (Musical Youth), Ice Ice Baby (Vanilla Ice), Always Look On the Bright Side of Life (Monty Python), I Will Survive (Gloria Gaynor), YMCA (Village People), Last Christmas (Wham) and Mah Na Mah Na (The Muppet Show version).

And on Tuesday, back to number crunching 🙂

Janković Takes The Plunge, Virant Follows Suit

It is decided. Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković will be running in parliamentary elections on 4 December. What is more, he will be doing so by forming his own party. This is the gist of his announcement yesterday. Janković set an ambitious goal of winning enough votes to clinch a nomination for the prime-ministerial position. While yesterday’s move is sure to redraw the electoral map, the actual impact of Jay-Z going national is yet to be seen.

Mayor Janković under media siege (source: The Firm™)

As of yesterday the industrious mayor of Slovenian capital is on a tight schedule. He needs to set up a party, with which – if all goes according to plan – will be catching deadlines to submit candidate lists, which also have yet to be formed. During this time, Janković must also decide whether or not he will indeed run for a parliamentary seat, as well as establish operation on the ground. Also, he should get cracking on an election platform. His record as mayor of Ljubljana will only get him so far.

Enter Gregor Virant

If Jay-Z was practically under 24/7 media surveillance, nobody saw Gregor Virant entering the race of his own accord. The (apparently former) president of Council for the Republic, a right-wing think-tank and Minister of Public Administration during Janez Janša‘s 2004-2008 government was at the outer edge or media interest lately. He did stir the pot a bit after he said that Janša’s goal of winning 50+ percent would be bad for democracy in this country, but everyone assumed that he had received a good dressing-down and he seemed to have toed the line ever since.

Gregor Virant, unnoticed in his outflanking manoeuvre (source: RTVSLO)

Which is why information of his entering the race was a bombshell. Pengovsky was all like 😯 because it seemed until Monday that the only thing that stood between Janez Janša and his complete and utter domination of the dark right side was a good showing on part of Radovan Žerjav and his Slovene People’s Party (SLS) which – wisely – decided to go solo and published their platform on Friday.

24 hrs after the initial shock, when they were able to come up only with “we’re unpleasantly surprised”, the SDS reacted with great vengeance and furious anger. In a formal statement, the party wrote that “Virant was sneakily forming his [candidate] list using SDS know-how and infrastructure, thus acting indecently. We deplore this and state that Slovenia will not solve its social, economic and moral crisis with sneaky actions, no matter how much shiny the rhetoric and non-partisan the appearances“.

They also point out that Virant is cousin of Jankovič’s wife and that Janša confronted Virant as late as end of September with rumours of him going solo, but the latter denied any such innuendo and even participated in a session of SDS Council on preparations for elections. SDS is basically crying treason and saying that the whole Janković-Virant thing is a set-up, possibly concocted by (naturally) Milan Kučan.

I’d be pissed too, if I were in their shoes right now 😀

Is it all just a scam?

With this being SDS and Janez Janša (of whom it was once written that he lives in a Ludlum-like world) one immediately thinks of the possibility of Virant and Janša… well… faking it. Fact of the matter is that SDS is not scoring nearly enough in the public opinion polls if it is to achieve its stated goal of 50, nay, 60+ percent. So, Virant could be just a ploy, to appeal to more moderate voters.

The former minister is appealing to the moderate right and he can fill in the obvious blank Janša is leaving behind. But he will also eat into SDS voters and the amount of venom the SDS spewed in Virant’s general direction suggests that this indeed is the real deal and not some sort of a double play. This is further supported by the anti-family-code astroturf initiative of Aleš Primc, which within hours released a statement denouncing Virant (and Janković) for accepting the compromise solution on gay adoption provided by the code.

The left clapping hands carefully

On the other hand, parties of the political left are cautiously welcoming both Janković and Virant into the game. Like Virant, Janković is also poised to eat into their electorate, but they are obviously counting on increased turnout, mostly by those voters which have voted for either of the three left-wing parties but have been disillusioned one way or another. The party which stands to lose most under this scenario are the (still somehow) ruling Social Democrats of Borut Pahor which are in danger of having to cede the leading position on the left to the newcomer from the Ljubljana City Hall. Their noticeable lack of enthusiasm is therefore understandable.

On the other hand the LDS of Katarina Kresal and Zares of Gregor Golobič tried a more cheerful approach, with the latter being especially perky when stating that what we are seeing today is a continuation of a trend of political innovation which was started and maintained only by Zares. While he may have stretched it a bit, he does have a point, especially when one considers their election platform which is a marked departure from the neoliberal rhetoric prevalent in Slovenia. Katarina Kresal, on the other hand went along the usual “more options are good for democracy” tune. Cliché, to be sure, but good enough.

Throwing the game wide open

What we saw in the past few days in Slovenia was a major shift in the political arena. Gregor Golobič is right in saying that the situation we have today was unthinkable months, even weeks ago. But just how fundamental a redrawing of the political map has indeed happened remains to be seen. Virtually all the public opinion polls that were published in the last couple of weeks can be thrown right out the window. Including the one published today and conducted by the Faculty for Applicative Social Studies which is thought to be closer to the right (not to be confused with the generally left-leaning Faculty for Social Sciences) and which – surprisingly – puts Janez Janša’s SDS at a mere 16,5 percent approval ratings.

One thing is certain, though. The 4 December elections were just thrown wide open. Anything can happen between now and then and as things stand now SDS were the only ones caught wrong-footed. They’ll probably bounce back, but after spending most of the three years undermining anything and everything the left did and preparing the terrain for a takeover of power, Janša’s SDS just got the rug pulled from under their feet.

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