By: Gašper Blažič
For many, yesterday’s referendum Sunday was “black”, as the (in my opinion, wild) government coalition won all three referendums. Some of my colleagues have already presented the essential reasons for the referendum defeat of the opposition, my view on this will be published on Thursday in the new issue of the printed Demokracija magazine. However, I would like to mention some of these reasons in connection with yesterday’s reaction of NSi president Matej Tonin.
Although many turned up their noses at his response – which is understandable given the apparently secret agreements with which NSi defends its personnel, for example at the head of DARS – it must be admitted that Matej Tonin took a big step forward this time. Between the lines, he admitted something that we were not used to from him: that we do not have a normal democracy in Slovenia and that the engineering of human souls exists. He admitted that people do not make real decisions in the referendum, but ideologically and under the influence of emotions. And, of course, according to the laws of the conditional reflex: as soon as they hear that an option in the referendum is connected to Janez Janša, they will vote exactly the opposite, regardless of the consequences that will follow. So pure irrationality.
Why did Tonin not disappoint me? Maybe because I was used to different messages from his circle so far. Somehow in the style that, despite everything, we are still in a normal democracy, where all political options have equal chances. But Tonin of 2022 is no longer the same as Tonin of 2014, when he confidently uttered the well-known slogan that Janša is merely a “politician in prison”. In the meantime, the President of NSi has accumulated many political experiences – including very bitter ones. He was the defence minister in the last Janša’s government. And not a bad one at all. The government took power right on the threshold of the covid-19 epidemic, with the Ministry of Defence bearing one of the main burdens. And Tonin was also grinded by the teeth of the parallel mechanism. Perhaps the godfathers of the parallel mechanism counted on breaking him and getting him to tear up the coalition with Janša, but this did not happen: despite internal tensions, the coalition lasted until the end.
Nevertheless, with this year’s elections, Tonin himself experienced a painful personal defeat: he had to hand over power at the Ministry of Defence to his compatriot Marjan Šarec, the man who attacked him most fiercely and who, as Prime Minister, turned out to be a great clown (but as it seems, Robert Golob will surpass him).
With all these political experiences, Tonin highlighted a very important realisation yesterday: that in the conditions of an unfinished transition, it does not matter how successful you are and how much good you do for people. The last Janša’s government was successful by all standards, and that is what Tonin said. However, despite this, the option that led the government lost the election. Likewise, the excellent and morally unburdened presidential candidate Anže Logar lost the fight against a morally questionable candidate. Until now, even under Tonin’s leadership, NSi has built on the position of a constructive opposition – but this did not bring it additional votes in the elections. So Tonin is beginning to perceive that something is not right in Slovenian politics. Surely no nation in the world is so suicidal that, despite the high-flying words about morality, it chooses the worst of the options. But this is exactly what is happening here. How is this possible?
Is Janez Janša guilty? Considering his already proverbial role, which the media attached to him, it could be said that Janša is also to blame for the war in Ukraine and also for the volcano that caused global famine in 1816 and the extremely cold summer of that year. Is the media to blame? We know who has hegemony in the media space here, now RTV will be completely under the control of a parallel mechanism. Is Nika Kovač to blame? According to Bojan Požar, her appearance is actually one of the biggest frauds in Slovenian political history. Are deluded and confused voters who make decisions instinctively rather than rationally to blame? Are “right-wing” parties to blame? Could it be Golob’s fault?
In the past, I have repeatedly criticised Matej Tonin’s political stance. And I must admit that when I carefully read his press release on the eve of the referendum, I was quite pleasantly surprised. He wrote something about the need for NSi to first do some self-reflection, that the current government needs a serious alternative, and that it will also depend on NSi how the centre-right will continue its path. In short, the politician whom I considered to be some kind of a “suck up” a few years ago came very close to the truth this time. And what is most important: he did not immediately attack the SDS, which was otherwise the initiator of the referendum. He wrote, however, that every election (or referendum) where Janez Janša appears directly or indirectly, becomes irrational and emotional. Unfortunately, that is true. Although Janša himself does not decide on this. Others decide. Namely, those guilds that Kučan’s long-time adviser Zdenko Roter described in the book “Fallen Masks”.
A propos: this is also why any possible “slaughter on the right” (according to Bojan Požar) is completely unnecessary.
And if, according to Tonin, Sunday’s triple referendum was also a kind of referendum on Janez Janša, does that mean that the problem will be solved if Janez Janša leaves politics? The experience of the recent presidential elections teaches us that this is not the case. Anže Logar was accused all the time of coming from the SDS and actually being a kind of “other Janša”, albeit wrapped in a slightly more “friendly” cellophane. On this account, the propaganda apparatus of the transition nomenclature managed to scare the voters, saying look what awaits us if the SDS candidate wins. And even if, hypothetically, tomorrow Janša leaves politics and closes his Twitter account, there are no guarantees that the propaganda apparatus would not find a new formula, e.g., that Janša is an “uncle from the background” and continues to maintain a strong influence on SDS. And that he tweets from an anonymous account as a kind of “nettle”.
And here, too, it is no longer a matter of hatred only for Janša, but for everyone who is connected in one way or another with the values of the Slovenian spring. Even the infamous Nazi propaganda minister Goebbels would be justifiably proud of Slovenian engineers of human souls.
Some less educated or perhaps burdened observer of political events would perhaps immediately conclude that we are all some kind of hostages of Janez Janša. Which is far from the truth. The presidential election showed that the spring camp is capable of using a discourse that appeals to the middle, which under normal circumstances would mean a smooth victory. But that did not happen. And it is very likely the result of the “anti-Janša” reflex. And it must be admitted that the parallel mechanism works according to the principles of mass psychology and with the help of strong assistance from the media and non-governmental organisations. The latter pass the ball, and the media score in the basket. And the advantage of the “red” team increases – to use a metaphor from basketball.
Matej Tonin therefore began to perceive that the parallel mechanism is real and that it really works. And that the spring parties themselves are not strong enough to match it. Such recognition may be the true path to healing.
What all spring parties lack at the moment is their civil society background. So, a set of people who are ready to spread the spring agenda on the ground among those who are otherwise not interested in politics and respond instinctively to the signals that reach them through the mainstream media. On the contrary, the transitional left has a very well-developed civil society background, which is understandable given the financing of its non-governmental organisations. It must be admitted that the SDS was very active in calling for three referendums, as its members actively collected signatures and encouraged people to submit their signatures. We know that submitting a signature for a referendum is more difficult than casting a vote in a referendum – to submit a signature, you need to go to an administrative unit. Once the signatures were collected, all of a sudden, this activism was nowhere to be found. But we all know – even in light of the current world football championship – that the match does not end after the first half. If a team leads 3:0 in the first half and then “falls asleep”, the final score at the end of the match is e.g., 3:6 for the opponent.
Of course, the question arises as to who will continue to expose themselves publicly and address people on the ground in an atmosphere of deliberately incited hatred. But that is another question. As the old Slovenian saying goes: “Slowly, the frog screams” (it expresses a warning that something should be tackled prudently, persistently, slowly). Building a civil society is not a sprint, but a long-distance run.