Awaiting Virant’s Call, Bratušek Mulls Minority Government

While caretaker PM Janez Janša was busy signing a memorandum on Ljubljanska banka (LB) bank with his Croatian counterpart Zoran Milanović, his likely successor Alenka Bratušek was busy hammering out a deal that would see her cabinet sworn in on Thursday. And while the deal between two Balkan states is to delegate the problem, indeed the very decision what in fact constitutes the problem, to the Basel-based Bank for International Settlements (and got a perfunctory pat on the back for it), Bratušek is seeing her problems shape-shift, forcing her to come up with plan B, that is to say, the possibility of forming a minority government.


Plenty of people fretted about the Slovenian Sovereign Holding (SDH) and the bad bank which were seen as the main sticking points between Igor Lukšič‘s Social Democrats (SD) and Gregor Virant‘s Citizens’ List (DL). The brain-child of outgoing finance minister and DL’s no. 2 man Janez Šušteršič these issues were seen as possible deal breakers, especially since Šušteršič was adamant about how bad bank collecting bad debt and then covering it by selling assets concentrated in SDH is the only way to go about solving the crisis.

But some days ago, while he was in a head-to-head with his predecessor of social-democratic persuasion Franc Križanič, he made a seemingly off-hand remark about how there will still have to be some form of bank recapitalisation directly by the state (i.e. taxpayers). Which goes along the lines of his being adamant how not an euro of taxpayers’ money will be spent on recapitalising the NLB but did precisely that only months later. Križanič, on the other hand, was in his merry-go-happy mood and went on how state recapitalisation is cheaper and more transparent and is basically just an accounting operation as the state already parked vast amounts of cash in the banks. If it’s so easy and effective, why hasn’t it been done yet, then? Preferably while Križanič was the head-beancounter in the country?

However, that seems to be water under the bridge. For all its importance, the SD/DL spat was apparently solved fairly easily. But the bill is being presented to Bratušek personally. The deal with SD brought DL on the verge of a schism. The Šušteršič-led faction in the party fell out with Virant-led part over leaving Janša’s coalition and those wounds haven’t even begun to heal when the bad bank/state holding compromise was reached, further alienating the Šušteršič wing. Which means Virant has to give them something fast, lest he sees his party break into two for good. That “something” is, predictably, the energy department.

Under existing government organisation, the said department is within the portfolio of ministry of infrastructure. It is to be a part of DL quota, but Bratušek was looking to move the energy department into a PS-ran portfolio (possibly economy). Latest reports indicate that Virant won that particular round and got Bratušek to back down. While no details have emerged yet, pengovsky is speculating Bratušek agreed to Virant’s demands on condition that she gets to veto a nominee for that particular ministerial post.

But while the horse-trading session is still on, PM-designate Bratušek is being dragged through the mud by the more rabid part of the right-wing (i.e.: the Party and its media entourage). Riding on the coat-tails of several high-profile plagiarising cases recently discovered in Slovenia, an anonymous (!) letter circulated the interwebz, supposedly revealing that Bratušek did not write her master’s thesis according to academic standard. The university had initiated proceedings in establishing authenticity of her work, but the story stuck and the damage was done.

This allowed Virant to be righteous yet again (after walking out on Janša over the anti-graft report) and demanded Bratušek resign all positions should her thesis be shown plagiarised. Apparently, Bratušek agreed. But the thing is that for the more fervent part of the right-wing, she is already guilty beyond any reasonable doubt and will be dogged by this for the entire duration of her term. That the Party faithful are serious banging this particular drum for the foreseeable future is obvious by the fact that they’ve even set up a Wikia page, citing alleged academic transgressions of the would-be prime minister.

In case you’re wondering about SDS connection into these plagiarism accusations: Party-friendly media reported that, university inquiry aside, the “lead investigators” in this matter are Bernard Brščič, a never-realised economic wunderkind of Hayekian persuasion and Janez Janša’s recent edition to his ever-increasing number of staff-appointees and Matej Makarovič, former head of SDS youth organisation, dean of FUDŠ, a right-wing-friendly university and a regular talking head when the cause of the Party needs to be advanced. Not only does the academic Duo Fantasticus not instil confidence in their work, they’re doing it at the behest of the Party which – as we know – doesn’t really have a clean bill of health when it comes to handling of archive material.

EDIT (12/03/12@1000hrs): SDS youth organisation just announced on Twitter it will deliver an annotated copy of Bratušek’s M.A. to every parliamentary group, supposedly proving plagiarism accusations. Of course, potentially different findings of the university committee will be dismissed as a conspiracy.

This is the setting in which Bratušek is waiting for DL to make the call. If Šušteršič wing prevails, she will have to put forward a minority government, which could be confirmed with an absolute majority with the understanding that DL or any other party or parliamentary group will consider its support on a case-by-case basis. Alternatively, the whole deal can still go down the drain, with the PM-designate being blocked to name even two thirds of her ministers in three consecutive votes, thus triggering early elections.

At any rate, until a new government is sworn in Janez Janša is still very much holding the reins of power since there is no legislation on dos and donts of a caretaker government. More will be known tomorrow, so watch this space.

P.S.: Apologies for being mum for a week. Things to see, people to do and all that jazz…


Enhanced by Zemanta

Indecent Proposal (How Many Ways To Say “Fuck You”?)

The SDS of Janez Janša and DLGV of Gregor Virant had a bit of a fall-out in the past few days over the position of the State Prosecution office after the ongoing reshuffle of public administration. The whole thing escalated into a very public spat with DLGV saying that SDS made an unacceptable offer when they offered that the coalition agreement be suspended in the part which provided for the prosecution to be moved under the jurisdiction of the minister of interior, but under the condition that justice minister Senko Pličanič of DLGV resigns if no viable results are shown within a year.

Janša and Virant a month before the elections (photo: Borut Kranjc/Mladina)

Now, as you very well know, little love is lost between DLGV and pengovsky and truth be told, they’ve more or less themselves to blame for this latest cock-up. It all goes back to the time when Gregor Virant thought he has everyone by their balls and was trying to play both ends (Janković and Janša) against the middle during the coalition negotiations. Back then he demanded that the prosecution be moved under the interior portfolio, having already earmarked his man Jani Soršak for the post. But once Virant gave the finger to Zoran Janković, he was stuck with Janša no matter what and all of a sudden found that his ego was writing checks his body couldn’t cash. Janša came back hard, had Soršak move out of the arena via a quick-and-dirty smear campaign and had his very own Vinko Gorenak installed as minister of interior.

Naturally, DLGV had a very quick change of heart and demanded that the prosecution remain within the justice department “for reasons of political hygiene” (in other words, they saw the light). They were not heard and the government (including DLGV ministers) approved the reorganisation of the public administration, moving prosecution into the interior portfolio. Thus an SDS minister had within his sphere of influence both the police and the prosecution at the time when his party boss is being tried for charges of corruption and bribery.

Still, DLGV wouldn’t let go of it as Pličanič and Virant demanded the coalition agreement be amended and prosecution returned to the justice portfolio, which was part crying over spilt milk, part gutsy move. You see Janša and his SDS could have stonewalled the issue. The move was made, decision passed, case closed, et cetera. Instead they wanted to teach Virant a lesson, offering him to move the prosecution back to justice department, provided that minister Pličanič resigns his post if no results are shown within a year.

Yep, you read it right the first time. A senior coalition party said a minister of another coalition party must pack his bags should he not perform according to its expectations. This fact alone speaks volumes about how the SDS sees the coalition as its own backyard where everybody dances to their tune. The goal of the exercise was not just protecting political gains brought to them on the platter by way of Virant being overambitious early in the game, they had to humiliate DLGV as well. Had the latter accepted the deal, it would have thrown itself at Janša’s feet and Pličanič might as well have resigned immediately, because the SDS does not specify what exactly it means by “viable results of the prosecution”. Presumably shaping the justice after their own image.

Be that as it may, DLGV obviously had to turn down the offer if it wanted to keep some sort of a face. In fact, by saying that the offer insulting, DLGV came as close to a “fuck you” as humanly possible without them being carried out of the coalition legs-first. Whether or not this is a first real crack in the coalition remains to be seen. Sure enough, the SDS faithful went after Virant and Pličanič with full force when the news broke. But then again, they were praising DLGV as a god-send when Virant picked Janša over Janković, so their acid out-pour was to be expected. But since the end result equals zero and the prosecution remains with the ministry of the interior, you can be sure that neither side will soon forget the acts of one another. But at the very least, the DLGV managed to wash their hands of their foley and can now put the blame for any future cock-ups in this department squarely at the SDS. Oh, and one more thing: this is the final proof that Virant’s election adventure was not just a Janša spin-off, but rather the real deal.

Enhanced by Zemanta

The Prez Floats Banker As Possible PM Nominee

In what was something of a surprise, president Danilo Türk said in a press conference earlier today that he asked Marko Voljč if he’d take on the nomination for the post of the Prime Minister. Formerly CEO of Nova Ljubljanska Banka (NLB), the largest bank in the country, he was forced to step down in 2003 in the wake of the so called Sigma Affair, when the bank entered a prolonged period of epic fails after implementing a new IT solution called Sigma which wasn’t all that was cracked up to be and wrecked temporary havoc with people’s bank accounts. Voljč moved on to become head of the regional division of the Belgian KBC which bought 34% of NLB in 2002. But today is not Voljč’s first foray into politics.

Marko Voljč in the middle (source: via

Way back in 1992, when it became obvious that the first democratically elected government of Lojze Peterle was more or less in disarray, Marko Voljč (who was until then with the World Bank in Central America) was put forward as a challenger to Peterle in a no-confidence vote but lost by five votes. Eventually Peterle was ousted by Janez Drnovšek and soon thereafter Voljč became CEO of NLB where he stayed until 2003.

Testing waters

The President’s announcement today doesn’t mean that Voljč is nominated. What The Prez did was floated Voljč’s name for the political parties to consider whether the 44-44 stalemate between left- and right-wing parties could be broken. Specifically, this puts the spotlight on DeSUS of Karl Erjavec and DLGV of Gregor Virant. The former is apparently under pressure from party ranks not to join a possible Janša coalition, whereas Virant said more than once that a third person should be put forward, i.e. someone who is neither Janez Janša nor Zoran Janković.

While on the surface the Prez’s suggestion might seem bi-partisan and an attempt to break the political impasse, it could very well backfire. Sure, Virant will have a hard time explaining how or why he wouldn’t support someone from outside the immediate political field, but since his ratings are on the low end of the single-digit territory, his clout is all but gone and he seems to be already in Janša’s pocket. OK, so anything can happen and Virant is more than capable of shooting himself in the knee repeatedly, but reneging first on Janković and then on Janša will only speed up his political demise.

But as things stand, Virant may actually stand a chance of skipping Voljč and living to tell about it. Namely, what President Türk did today was not the most brilliant of political moves. True, the PM need not first be elected to the parliament to take the post, but nominating someone who did not even run, much less got elected while there’s a potential PM nominee on the political right is not exactly kosher. Sure, Janez Janša faces exactly the same problem as Zoran Janković did, in that he can only count on 44 votes and then lure “rats” from the left side of the spectrum across the isle, but if Zoran Janković was extended the privilege of being nominated, the same courtesy should be extended to Janša.

Speak now or forever hold your peace

In round two of the “find the PM” reality show things admittedly get much more serious. This is the final round where an absolute majority is needed and a reasonably stable government can be formed. Should this round give us no PM, however, a third round is possible, where only a relative majority is needed. In pengovsky’s opinion, president Türk should have waited with his “outside of the box” solution until then.

Regardless of the outcome, it would be only fair to let Janša have a crack at forming the coalition. It was also due to his actions that round one failed and leader of the SDS should be allowed to try and pick up the pieces. Namely, if he failed (something that depends heavily on Karl Erjavec and DeSUS), he’d be hard pressed to do anything but forever hold his peace and press the “yes” button during votes. Optimistic, I know, but there you have it. But what the President did was go head to head against Janša, who now only needs keep Virant in check, thus undermining Voljč as a nominee (the banker-man apparently said he’d want bipartisan support) and politically humiliate President Türk, who would thus score his second strike-out.

Zoran Janković said minutes ago that his PS would support Voljč, but that only means 28 votes. Luckily, Türk didn’t officially nominate Voljč, but the damage is done. Shitstorm continues.

Enhanced by Zemanta