By: Uroš Gabrijelčič
It will soon be a year since the beginning of the epidemic with a disease called COVID-19, and about the same amount since the changes in Slovenia’s political leadership. In Slovenia, both events dominated the media, which in the case of the virus of pandemic proportions is of course not surprising, as it was dealt with by all countries of the world.
Less understandable, although not in our country, is the media political hysteria of the now former government coalition, which resigned on its own. How these events marked our lives, seen through my eyes of a completely ordinary citizen, who follows political events because he wants to find himself in the space where he lives and because he knows that politics determines the framework of his social life, follows in the following paragraphs.
After Marjan Šarec resigned as Prime Minister last winter, ending his coalition, a new government was formed, which still leads the country today. The former, as befits, became the opposition. I am not sure that the president of LMŠ party wanted this, it is more likely that he had new elections in mind, in which he expected to win over even more voters and thus consolidate his position in the left part of the Slovenian political bloc. But even if that had happened, what would he even do with a (perhaps) better result? The presenters of the electoral mood among the people were clear only in the fact that neither the SAB nor the SMC would come to the parliament after the early elections, and most likely DeSUS would not either. The results of other parties were predictable only to the extent that the SDS party would show its superiority again, the NSi would remain an important player for any coalition, and the SNS could most likely count on its already traditional supporters. Would any of the parties waiting in the waiting room make it to the parliament? No one dared to predict that. So we can once again ask ourselves what Šarec was expecting when he was counting on the elections. And did he even think that far?
The fact remains that the old coalition had broken up, just as two deathly quarrelling spouses break up, that is, with a lot of washing of dirty laundry. Even officially, all parties of the former government coalition (in front of microphones and cameras of various TV stations) stated that the level of mistrust and non-cooperation was simply too high, and a representative of one of the parties even said that they did nothing during the time of their mandate, wherein she was thinking about healthcare. This statement is probably in place, but it was all the more worrying because at that time we were already facing a problem with the virus, about which little was known in the medical profession around the world.
The former prime minister thus created unstable political situation at the wrong time and ignored the danger of the virus, which his government team almost unanimously underestimated. He (inadvertently) left the health fate of the country to those who recognised the danger of the epidemic long before him and also warned him about it. The action of the LMŠ party was a cowardly and rather reckless act, which could be disastrous for him and his ambitions if all the citizens of our country were aware and would realise what their responsibility is. But to reach this with the current coalition of biased media, we are missing more than we would like, maybe even a few decades.
Well, for us, the citizens, Šarec’s unexpected move, as it turned out later, was extremely fortunate. Namely, a new and capable (as we can already estimate today) government coalition was formed quite quickly under the tactic of the president of the SDS party, who won the last election by a landslide. In this regard, things have actually returned to normal, the government was given to the leadership of the party most trusted by the people in the elections, and the government was formed with somewhat surprising support from the two parties of the former coalition. The coalition included the (previously) opposition NSi party and, quite unexpectedly, SMC and DeSUS parties, which already had a new leadership at the time. A little earlier, at the congress of the DeSUS party, Aleksandra Pivec won with majority and inflicted a severe defeat on Karl Erjavec.
Whatever we think about the formation of a new coalition under the leadership of Prime Minister Janša, the moves of the new government and the quick reaction to poor health conditions speak for themselves. Namely, they talk about the success of the new government, which found itself in a very bad situation, mainly due to the narrow-mindedness of the previous government composition, which did not perceive the danger of the new virus. The virus has been on a “march” around the world for quite some time, but the previous government did not know how to predict the consequences in time. The ability to anticipate events in the world is an important feature of good government teams, especially the Prime Minister, but Šarec did not have them, he also did not have any real competencies for leading the government and he still does not have them today.
I think that there were very few people in Slovenia who missed Šarec’s team in such conditions. Under normal circumstances, he and his party would be left to oblivion, as has happened to many ad hoc established parties in Slovenia. But all of us who had hoped he would tackle comedy, which suits him better, he rather decided to show his presence in the political space by defying the work of the new government, with an eager help of the SD, Levica and SAB parties. The latter, led by the offended, for a short time former prime minister, is not even worth speaking about (the president of this party showed her reach when she ran for European Commissioner). The only thing that can be said about the Levica party is that it does not have and has never had a consistent programme that would ensure the development of the country and the most equal and recognisable place in the European community. The red star is their guide, but it does not lead them forward, but far back. And then there is the SD party, which, after the departure of Pahor as the leading representative of this neo-communist party, does not find itself at all and is slipping into unrecognizability. Of its democracy, of which it boasts about in the name, only false sociality remains. This is bad, but only for them, especially after they decided to “elbow” with the Levica party.
So there is an obvious crowd in the left pole, because some also include LMŠ there.
To me, however, this seems unfair, because this party is neither left nor right, and also non-center, if the center even exists. Basically LMŠ is nothing as it offers simple and overly primitive rhetoric in the style of broad is a frog (from Šarec’s saying: “Broad is a frog, and a frog is not human”). It is worrying that a good 10 percent of our citizens fell for such an address to the party. He speaks in favour of the fact that part of our electorate body either very uncritically accepts the offered flat content, or considers the political stage to be a kind of stand up theatre. Thanks to LMŠ, and no less to other leaders of the KUL coalition (Bratušek, Fajon, Mesec), this may be becoming the case, but we citizens simply must not agree to that.
At this point, allow me a brief digression. It is true that such an agenda has the support of some of the most influential media, especially RTV SLO, but this should not be a reason to be fooled. All the more so because today, fortunately, we also have some media that can help us create a more objective image. If we want that, of course. Unfortunately, it is obvious that the pursuit of the most objective picture of society at different levels does not permeate all citizens. Some believe that such an attitude is their business, but to me it seems that this is not the case. At least not when these people go to elections or are reached by a questionnaire from one of the opinion polls. In the elections, they also influence the social conditions in which I and my family will live, and this matters to me.
If we go back to the situation after the current government took office, so after March 13th, and follow what has been happening since, we can sum it all up in a few general conclusions. First, that the government coalition worked hard to limit the health damage of the epidemic, which was their priority. In doing so, it did not receive the support of the opposition, although the latter was invited to participate (this was a mistake that exposed all parties). Not only did the opposition not come together with the government in this fight (this would be much better for it in the long run), it began to attack and criticise the allegedly inappropriate measures. The fact that these oppositions and daily discredits were visible and resonant was ensured by the majority media, regardless of the inappropriateness of these attacks. With their biased reporting, they became, figuratively speaking, the fifth party of the opposition (the positional SNS otherwise supports the government all the time). This is the public RTV SLO even today, only now it has become the sixth party after the departure of the DeSUS from the government.
Why do I claim that these attacks were inappropriate? Simply because there is no way of knowing how another government coalition would lead the solving of the all-round crisis in the same circumstances. We will never know this; virtual simulations of a reality are by no means the same as reality itself. What we can do is compare the actions of our government with the actions of other European governments, and even then the comparisons are not fair.
Objectively, it is very difficult to assess the capabilities of individual health systems and compare them. Namely, we know that our health care system is not in the best condition, and although we cannot put the blame only on the previous government, its non-contribution is most obvious, as the coalition was active at the time of the European and global conjecture. Despite the disorder in the health care system, which has been waiting for its reform for too long, everything shows that the new Slovenian government was among the most successful ones, as evidenced by some European surveys, which assessed Slovenia’s achievements very highly. As a rule, the majority media did not report on this, and this is not only their duty in an informative sense, but it would also be ethical. In such a situation, we must thank all the health workers who, under the effective leadership of the government, have given their invaluable achievement to the health of our society and prevented much worse scenarios. The government has acknowledged this to them, but it cannot reward them accordingly, as this kind of sacrifice can only be thanked. That is how we, the citizens, or at least many of us, feel. We will never be able to repay them for their sacrifice.
At this point, it is worth mentioning that critics of the current government often cite a statement that supposedly very clearly shows the government’s deception and misleading: “When a government is successful, it takes the credit itself, when it is not, it is the fault of the people who do not follow the regulations.” This is a very unfair statement against the current government, because we have often heard, even from the Prime Minister, that all citizens are responsible for the success of the fight against the virus, which in other words means a synergy of measures and behaviour of people, i.e. their voluntary compliance of recommendations and commands.
Commands? Yes, I do not know why we should avoid this word, although the opposition often understands it as a part of the term of authoritarian regimes. But if people’s behaviour does not go hand in hand with measures or it even contradicts them, it is difficult to argue that the wrong measures are to blame for the deterioration of the situation.
So if we do not keep with what is obligatory, we cannot blame the government. Or can we. At this point, like a boomerang, we can get a question that reads: But how do we know (profession, government, citizens) that a certain part of the population did not follow the measures, meanwhile we do not even know how much of the population falls into this category? We will find it difficult to help ourselves with theorising, which leads us to different, even diametrically opposed assumptions. According to the first of them, the measures prepared by the profession (which is not 100% uniform, but this is not to be expected, because we are again at the point that we will never know whether any other approaches would be better) and implemented by the government (again, not always united because it is party-written and because, despite the coalition agreement, it must also think of its voters), must be successful. If they are not, the citizens clearly did not follow the proposals, recommendations and orders. However, since we do not know the latter, it is possible that a large number of people followed what was told. In this case, the actions of the government and the profession were not right.
That is the theory. What about practice? This says that we have government orders in front of us, but the citizens follow them according to the system of a little yes and a little no, if we say it in laymen terms and playfully. Or to put it more bluntly: some citizens stick to them and some do not.
Here we ask ourselves why one part of the citizens is against. Maybe because they do not trust the government (read: the profession) and takes the right to judge on things they have no idea about. This is a very stupid reason, but I know from my daily contacts that it is quite widespread (“COVID-19 is just one form of the flu,” the sceptics chat on tweets).
What about the other part of the population? Everything shows that it is not only stupid, but viciously perverted that some people do not stick to it, because the left wing constantly imposes its image on them, and a central negative role is played by Janez Janša, who in their opinion is not only incompetent, but with all the other bad qualities attributed to him, also vindictive. Or how Alenka Bratušek, who compares the current coalition to a train of madness and warns us that one day we will find ourselves in a country we will not recognise, is scattering her nonsense. Yes, her public appearances really are a “web of madness and pain”.
That part of the opposition that is not capable of judicious reflection (and even less of self-reflection) is, as a rule, loud, which is understandable in the absence of arguments. However, because it is loud due to the biased most influential media and has a great reach thanks to them, it is enough for the confusion, disorientation, dissatisfaction, and anger among citizens, all of which is water on the mill agenda to overthrow the government. In doing so, they cannot be told that the government (always and anywhere) has the ONLY right to decide on behalf of the citizens, because it is made up of a party or parties that have won enough votes in the elections to reach a majority in a coalition. And this is where the violently destructive role of the opposition should end, unless they can show substantive reasons for their disagreement and prove “mistakes”.
The role of the opposition is to hold a mirror to each government and to remember what all went wrong, and then issue a bill to the government in the first election. However, since the opposition cannot prove any of the allegations to the current government, all artificial affairs fall like dominoes. The problem is that they fabricate a lot of them, so the one-sidedly informed public has the impression that everything is going wrong. Just an example: how many citizens have received the news that the government of the Republic of Slovenia can borrow money at a negative interest rate?
How many of our inhabitants know that Slovenia has a very high rating of economic confidence? This and other such messages from Europe should resonate in all media. But no, during the Bled Economic Forum, the important news of RTV SLO was also the rascal protest on Lake Bled.
The health situations in our country are still not good today, but they will undoubtedly improve in the future, although there is no sense in guessing the dates of the relief. It makes even less sense to predict when Slovenia will find itself among effective parliamentary democracies that do not allow changing governments on the street. (Will it even be waiting for Godot?) As long as all the speakers will talk about platitudes of the self-proclaimed KUL coalition, which has no real content but carries a heavy backpack of its failure from the time it was in power, we cannot expect this. One commentator says that Slovenians deserve better than what KUL offers, as well as what Janša represents. This is the “analyst” who, among other things, suggests that this government has often slipped in its functioning.
Some cypress-scented breeze has put the accusation of an elderly politician in a corrupt media, saying that this government does not have empathy for citizens!?
First, the answer to the first: There is no government in the world that works one hundred percent because this is not even possible; one hundred percent does not exist. However, there are governments whose work can be assessed as good after the end of their rule, using the achievements of previous governments or comparisons of the behaviour of governments of other countries (by the way, according to European criteria we are among the best countries that faced health and economic crisis).
In this respect, the current prime minister is far ahead of his predecessors in terms of the achievements of this coalition government, despite the “slips” to which no one is immune. And just by the way: minor inconsistencies in government decisions, possible fluctuations and hesitations or rapid changes in decisions are, on the one hand, always new circumstances, and on the other hand, the inherent weakness of such coalitions. And this is due to our electoral system, which is another story. Above all, has anyone really considered what a possible government of the self-proclaimed KUL coalition would mean? If not, it would be right to grit your teeth and wait for the new regular election.
And the answer to the second: Empathy is not just in words, as is typical of this former socio-political worker who shakes clichés with empty promises, but it shows in deeds. How we lived in “his” times is still witnessed today by archives with recordings of long queues for goods that are so self-evident today that leftists take them for granted!
Empathy? What else are the measures taken in the anti-corona packages? Let’s just remember the many benefits for citizens and businesses, tourist vouchers or perhaps the low price of energy, which is a significant monthly cost in every family, and more and more. Is that not empathy?
Let me make a dot under the article that is not an analysis as I just do not have enough space available for it. Syntagmas of the left pole of politics, with which they shower citizens, are miserable and similar to an elementary school student who, after getting an F, claims that that is injustice because he knew the subject, but got the wrong questions… Bombing citizens with platitudes of the worst kind is violent and is fully in line with the political agenda of the left wing subversive (read: fraudulent) parties in recent European history. Such an agenda has been fatally detrimental to citizens in some parts of Europe (Eastern Europe), but fortunately in other parts it has never fallen (so far) on fertile ground.