Y’all probably know by now that Janez Janša was found guilty in the Patria Affair and sentenced to two years in prison and a EUR 37,000 fine. Similar sentences (22 months in prison and 37k€ fine) were passed on Brigadier General Tone Krkovič (Ret.) and Ivan Čnkovič, owner of company Rotis, while Jože Zagožen, accused to have done the legwork in the affair, and Walter Wolf, international lobbyist, businessman of Formula 1 fame and an overall shady character, will be sentenced separately. This, of course, is the bombshell of Slovenian politics and deserves to have some light shed upon. Also, it is a good enough excuse for pengovsky to re-enter the blogging orbit after an unintentionally long break.
Janez Janša leaving the courthouse and meeting his supporters (source: Gorenjski glas)
Firs thing’s first: the verdict against Janša et al. is not final as the defendants will most likely file an appeal. Therefore, they should still be considered innocent until proven guilty. Also, given that conspiracy theories are his soft spot, it should come as no surprise that Janša declared the court’s decision was a part of a wide-ranging communist conspiracy (which, if one is to follow his logic, expands to Austria and Finland and in fact goes back in time all the way to 1945. You see, they were out to get him before he was born). However, there is more to the events of last Wednesday than meets the eye.
Then there is the mobilisation potential of the verdict. Rather, the lack thereof. Granted, the Party shot to the top spot in the polls, catching up with Igor Lukšič‘s SocDems. Also, there was a relatively strong showing of support for Janša within party ranks as both senior and not-so-senior party officials rushed to pledge allegiance to Ivan, without as much as blinking an eye.
But what the verdict failed to generate, was any sort of meaningful street protest, despite calls for a mass rally and people reportedly being bussed to Ljubljana from all over the country. In fact only a few hundred people attended the rally in Janša’s support and even they were constantly heckled by a few dozen anti-Janša protesters stationed nearby. In addition, the pro-Janša Twitterati are conspicuously quiet. Conclusion: while the Party closed its ranks and manned the barricades, the non-faithful seem much less impressed.
The problem, therefore, is twofold. On one hand, Janša needs all the support he can get. And – to be honest – few things are conductive for the sense of belonging to a group (or, say, a political party) than a clear and present danger of imminent destruction. After all, Janez Janša is literally the centre of political beliefs of a number of people in this country. And a guilty verdict shatters these beliefs to the very core. Thus it is no wonder a lot of people cried as if Kim Jong Il died. Can’t blame them, really.
But on the other hand, it is precisely those strong held beliefs which present the gravest danger to the man and his party. Because if Janša’s guilty verdict is upheld by any chance and the man actually ends up in the slammer, a leadership crisis will ensue faster than you can say “our beloved leader”.
Janša of course knows this and has been keeping more or less mum for a week now as a result, save an occasional interview. Instead, he has been calling in favours from all over the place. Be it from people who owe him their (political) existence or from people who have lobbied him successfully in the past and are now returning the favour (such as an owner of a large media network who benefited greatly from changes in media legislation under Janša’s first government, to give an example at random). At least, pengovsky hopes that is the case. If not, then people who have a vested interest in Janša remaining a free man are operating of their own accord, meaning the Force is not strong with the Prince of Darkness.
What is clear, however, is that a guilty verdict would have made Janša about as popular in the EU as clap. Janez Janša is no Julia Timošenko and Slovenia is no Ukraine where democrats are labelled as such depending on whom they sell their gas to. There is no way in hell Frau Merkel or David “Super Injunction” Cameron are staging a photo-op with a convict.
But not to get ahead of ourselves: despite the fact that Janša & Co. were found guilty, the judge still has to put the ruling in writing, which reportedly might take up to two months. After all, there are apparently more than 22,000 pages in the case file. It only then can the former prime minister appeal the verdict and the appeals court can take its time deliberating, you can be sure Ivan isn’t going anywhere any time soon. But he just might find it increasingly difficult to direct things according to his wishes.
One thing, however, does strike pengovsky as funny. Upon having been ousted as Prime Minister for the second time, Janša chose not to take his MP seat, he rejected ex-PM benefits and refused being employed by the party, running it in his free time. In fact, his means of income remain a bit of a mystery this time around (officially, he’s writing books and giving lectures). But the point is that – looking back – it appears as if he was wrapping up business. We’ll know soon enough.
P.S.: pengovsky bet Janša and his chums would skate free out of this one with only Zagožen risking a suspended sentence, so from my point of view this is an intriguing and somewhat unexpected turn of events. And, again, the ruling can still be overturned.