By: Gašper Blažič
When, earlier this week, I praised in my column the Sunday evening response of NSi champion Matej Tonin to the referendum, I naturally ran the risk of becoming some kind of “all-round offset”. But kidding aside, I have not changed my original assessment at the time – but it is true that an explanation is needed due to the further course of events. Which went in a slightly different direction than I initially expected.
Matej Tonin started well but continued disastrously poorly. Some 48 hours later, he explained to the media in the style of Ljudmila Novak that his cooperation with Janez Janša ended forever. Well, of course, Novak also found a benefit for herself, who reminds me more and more of Spomenka Hribar in her performances.
What do I want to say? If, on Sunday evening, Tonin correctly assessed and between the lines hinted at the operation of a parallel mechanism through the mechanisms of mass psychology (i.e., the so-called anti-Janša reflex), he gave in to the same reflex only a little later. Much to the delight of the current government coalition and its “uncles”. And also, those other “uncles”, namely those who strive for NSi to be a kind of reserve coalition party, because it is necessary to ensure certain financial flows. Požareport has been actively reporting on this in recent months, especially in the case of DARS, which is (still) headed by Valentin Hajdinjak. Who, by the way, is a former spokesperson of the (first) Janša’s government, which does not bother the current coalition (so far).
And if we are talking about the first Janša’s government, let’s also mention how it came about in the first place. Even today, there is a kind of urban myth circulating that for its victory in March 2004, the SDS can thank only the fact that the LDS began to disintegrate into prime factors after Drnovšek’s departure and that Drnovšek’s double successor, Anton Rop, stepped into too big shoes. Which means that it was supposed to be a gifted victory due to the carelessness of the previously ruling party and that SDS was just lucky because it was in the right place at the right time.
Well, that is not quite the case, because the SDS already set up an expert council long before that and presented alternative solutions, which, however, hardly made it to the public, as the media tried to keep the public from being aware of them. At that time, NSi was still a relatively new actor in the Slovenian political space, it was led by the now deceased Andrej Bajuk, who took over the rather ungrateful position of finance minister in the first Janša’s government, but NSi was well aware that the latter was created mainly due to resistance against cow deals with the old nomenclature, which was most tragically demonstrated when the proportional electoral system was cemented into the constitution in 2000, at that time with the help of SLS+SKD MPs.
But the formula “SDS yes, Janša no” actually appeared more than ten years ago. Let’s remind: after the victory of the “new faces” of Janković’s now-defunct Pozitivna Slovenija party at the end of 2011, it became clear that the mayor of Ljubljana, who was “blessed” by an entire army of “pilgrims” a few months before the elections to the magistrate’s office with Milan Kučan at the head, does not know the foundations of political craft: these are coalition negotiations. In his authoritarianism, he was not used to this, so the first attempts to form a coalition between the PS and the other parties were doomed to failure. This is also why the possibility that “someone else” will take over the government was offered quite quickly, even the American ambassador in Ljubljana at the time, Joseph A. Mussomeli, publicly mentioned this possibility, thereby unnerving the entire transitional left, which indulged in a truly wild outburst at the annual January meeting in Dražgoše in 2012. But even when the coalition “to get out of the crisis” (SDS, NSi, SLS, DL, DeSUS) was formed, it was said that a “third party” should take over the leadership of the government, but then the SDS champion Janez Janša took over the leadership of the government anyway. Apparently also because no one else dared to bite into this sour apple – because running a government is no joke.
By the way: even now Zoran Janković, who won another mayoral mandate, has considerable problems, because now his list no longer has an absolute majority, so he will have to seek a consensus with Ljubljana councillors from the ranks of the Gibanje Svoboda party. At the same time, according to our information, the same party is demolishing Janković’s former close colleague Gašpar Gašpar Mišič, who will compete in the second round for the mayoral position in Piran on Sunday.
The continuation of the story of Janša’s second government is well known: it was in office for only a good year, as the decision of the anti-corruption commission, then headed by Goran Klemenčič (later Minister of Justice in Cerar’s government), triggered the transfer of Gregor Virant and Karl Erjavec to the other side. The consequences of which were constructive distrust of the government (only the second in the history of Slovenian parliamentarism) and the coming to power of Alenka Bratušek. Virant especially loudly emphasised the already mentioned formula “SDS yes, Janša no”. Since the SDS did not obey him and did not replace the president, he left the previous coalition and joined the “leopard princess”. And regretted the act later.
The tragic irony of it all is that in 2015, the Supreme Court overturned the CPC decision that brought down Janša’s government. Just as the Constitutional Court overturned the verdict in the Patria case, which sent Janša to prison. But the political and economic damage caused by this could no longer be repaired. It is interesting, however, where the protagonists of this story are today: Klemenčič is no longer in politics, neither are Virant and Erjavec, and Bratušek is sliding down the ladder (from Prime Minister to minister to state secretary). During this time, Janez Janša became Prime Minister for the third time (let’s leave aside the fact that he is currently “only” a member of parliament – after all, at the end of 2019, the “right-wing scavengers” told him that he would never be Prime Minister again – well, then Marjan Šarec performed that acrobatic throw of the towel…).
It may be true that the status of an opposition party for NSi is something that it feels quite uncomfortable with. Public statements always require some rational consideration and not immediate instinctive speech. It is true, however, that already in March 2020 part of NSi resisted joining a coalition with Janša’s SDS. However, common sense prevailed, and the coalition lasted until the end, something we were not used to with, for example, Marjan Šarec, Miro Cerar, and even earlier, Borut Pahor. But as soon as both parties found themselves in opposition again, considerable differences and cracks became apparent. And finally, even in the political support for the referendums, there was a significant absence of prominent representatives of NSi. We can only guess whether it was the fear of offending the rulers, or perhaps the fact that they were trying to replace Tonin. Is “The Invisible Power” at play again?
But if we stop for a bit at the actual swearing in the style of “we no longer cooperate with Janša”: Can you imagine that, for example, the Levica party would set a condition when forming the current coalition that Robert Golob withdraw from the top of the party and make room for, for example, Marta Kos? Or that Golob does not become Prime Minister, but someone else does – for example, Jože P. Damijan, the original hope of the KUL coalition?
Regardless of how well-founded the individual members and functionaries of NSi are in their personal reservations about Janša (as we all, I hope, know that even politicians are human and not gods), something else is clear: in circumstances where the Slovenian version of the Putinist “people’s democracy” is more solidified, it is extremely irresponsible to prioritise some whim and defend your own sandbox. The referendum result in itself actually gave the ruling coalition confirmation that it can fully unleash all the brakes on its own self-righteousness. All of us who have at least a little faith in the rule of law should be sobered up by the chilling announcements of ministers from the ranks of the Levica party. Are we perhaps aware that in the current conditions of controlling public opinion, the ruling elite can also call a referendum on leaving the EU and NATO and win it? Slovenian membership in these two organisations – leaving aside their imperfection – is perhaps the last barrier against the totalitarian attacks of renewed Slovenian Bolshevism.
Of course, two facts should also be remembered here. First of all, the rather suspicious reluctance of the State Election Commission, which we must trust if we are really democrats (yes, a little sarcasm does not hurt). And then there is the fact that the main turning point already happened on April 24th, this year. At the same time, it is not superfluous to think that the spring electorate saw the election strongly divided, as the internal campaign regarding measures against the epidemic (especially regarding vaccination) greatly weakened the electorate – among the sympathisers of the Gibanje Svoboda party we can now recognise some familiar faces, which we previously saw in spring camp.
Lest I forget: during the previous government, due to the anti-vaccination frenzy among the sympathisers of the spring camp and Catholics, I also warned (albeit privately) that due to such a deepening of internal divisions, the hard left would come to power. And it really came to power.
And that is also why defending one’s own sandbox in the current circumstances is a kind of “opium for the people”. Which the current ruling coalition and its godfathers like very much because they practically do not have to do anything. Because we are doing it a favour. And with this, we are digging a grave for what is left of Slovenian democracy.