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Sunday, December 10, 2023

Recipe for disaster; when the “new face” and “influencer” join forces

By: Dr Metod Berlec

After about sixteen months of the 15th Government of the Republic of Slovenia, or Golob’s government, we can see that the current government is literally experiencing an implosion (a process in which a body collapses into itself). More than external factors, internal factors have an impact on its functioning. First and foremost, the Prime Minister Robert Golob, who entered politics at the beginning of last year.

Let’s remember. In the autumn of 2021, because the supervisors appointed by the Janša government did not grant him another term as the CEO of GEN-I, he vengefully entered politics. In the Gibanje Svoboda party, he mostly gathered people united by their aversion to the previous centre-right government, especially its president, Janez Janša. Golob entered the last pre-election campaign with empty rhetoric, with the help of dominant media. Talking about the “end of COVID restrictions”, the “upcoming freedom”, and in a style of “we will dance”. The consequences of this are visible, as the Gibanje Svoboda won by a large margin. A margin that is too significant, which is a result of the left’s hegemony in Slovenian society and a distorted, unbalanced media landscape.

Under Golob’s coalition government (Gibanje Svoboda, SD, and Levica), just like under Šarec’s and previously Cerar’s government, it is becoming evident that the politics of the so-called “new faces” does not work well in practice when it comes to the actual governance of the country. In many ways, it does not work at all. Parties that are formed just a few weeks before the elections and emerge as winners often lack the basic skills of political craftsmanship and have little understanding of the mechanisms of power. Moreover, their leaders, who believe they have discovered the “hot water” with a kind of messianism and rhetoric about a new politics, often reveal that they do not even understand the basics of parliamentary democracy, let alone the division of powers, which relies on a system of “checks and balances”. All of this is particularly evident with the current Prime Minister, Robert Golob, who, with many unwise actions, practically undermines himself. From the beginning, he made a mistake by including the extremist party Levica in the government, a party that fundamentally negates the achievements of Slovenian democratisation and independence. Because Gibanje Svoboda and Golob lack a serious programme, they are susceptible to scandalous and unconstitutional proposals from Levica. A clear example is the abolition of the Museum of Slovenian Independence or the controversial amendment to the RTV Slovenia Act. Another issue is the amendment to the government act, with which the ruling coalition (GS, SD, and Levica) added new ministries. The opposition SDS rationally opposed this and demanded a referendum on the matter, but the voters approved the amendments to the government act, RTV Slovenia Act, and the Act on Long-Term Care. The consequences are, of course, negative. Golob himself is now realising the challenges of leading a government with so many ministries, including ministries with seemingly vague responsibilities, like the “Ministry for Solidarity Future”. The Prime Minister is considering merging ministries as a way to address the challenges.

Golob himself opened some political fronts, which are now coming back to haunt him. One such move was the replacement of the Minister of the Interior, Tatjana Bobnar, with Boštjan Poklukar and the Acting General Director of the Police, Boštjan Lindav, with Senad Jušić. This decision did not sit well with many on the left who praised the “professionalism” and “independence” of Bobnar, including the network associated with Milan Kučan, which is to a significant extent operationally coordinated by the former investigator Drago Kos. With the choice of Danijel Bešić Loredan as the Minister of Health, Golob initially displayed poor judgment in his personnel decisions, as it was known that Bešič Loredan is a confrontational personality who would not last long in the role. Golob had initially praised him, but eventually, under the influence of the so-called “Voice of the People” movement, realised that he had to let him go. And he did. More recently, he has also let go of the ministers from the Gibanje Svoboda party, namely Uroš Brežan, the Minister for Natural Resources and Spatial Planning, and Irena Šinko, the Minister of Agriculture. According to experts, Golob’s partner, Tina Gaber, had a significant influence on their replacement, as both ministers had fallen out of favour with her in recent months. For instance, Brežan supported the culling of bears, and Šinko had approved a reduction in the number of nutrias in the Ljubljana Marsh. Of course, both of these decisions were based on the professional assessments of their respective ministries. Golob’s decision to replace them has also irked many within the Gibanje Svoboda party, as it is evident that he listens more to Gaber than to his party members. Now, another incident involves Sanja Ajanović Hovnik (GS), who became embroiled in a clientelist-corruption scandal related to a call for proposals for so-called “non-governmental organisations”, which ultimately led to her resignation.


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