Aside from the good weather that has been gracing us for almost two months now, there was not much reason for joy in Slovenia in September. The temperature outside may have been warm, but the downward spiral of political and economic developments has left the atmosphere distinctly cool.
It was one piece of bad news after another. First Slovenia dropped to 57th place on the Global Competitiveness Index, losing 12 places. Then the International Monetary Fund downgraded its prediction for Slovenia’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth in 2011 from two percent to 1.9 percent. Slovenia’s Office for Macroeconomic Analysis and Development followed suit, changing its prediction from 2.2 percent to 1.5 percent.
The criticism of the way the government has been dealing with combating the crisis then ceased to come merely from the outside but also came from within, in the form of Joseph A. Mussomeli, the US ambassador to Slovenia. His harsh words indicated that he was allergic to the beloved phrase of Slovenian political elite “the national interest” and is unsure whether an appropriate translation for words cooperation and consensus exists in the Slovenian language. You might not like what he said, but he was only saying what critics of the now-outgoing government have been saying too – the unbiased critics of the government, that is, not the political scoring army that is mounting an imminent attack on the Slovenian electorate.
The final blow, in economic terms, came in the form of Moody’s decision to downgrade Slovenia’s government bond ratings to Aa3 from Aa2. The reason? Problems in the corporate and financial sector at a time of growing uncertainty regarding the government’s ability to curb growing debt.
That decision coincided with what was the biggest but least unexpected news of the month – the government has fought and lost its final fight, losing the confidence vote in parliament. This could be good news for Slovenia, as this government – for all its honest policies to better the lives of its citizens – has proven itself unable to do more but pander to the interests of the few. The new problem, however, lies in the government that will be elected in the coming vote. It is the same old faces that have graced Slovenian politics in the last two decades. And, what is more, the leaders of all political parties have a stain against their name in one way or another. Let’s look at the outgoing coalition partners first.
Katarina Kresal, the LDS leader, has been dogged by affairs from the moment she entered politics. And she was finally forced to resign as the minister of interior affairs over allegations of corruption in renting new offices for the Ministry of Interior from a family friend. Evidence of corruption in the case was also found in an investigation by the Corruption Prevention Commission.
Zares leader Gregor Golobič damaged his reputation right at the beginning of his mandate in the outgoing government, by not publicly declaring his share in Ultra company. Furthermore, he was viewed by many as the one who was at the forefront of hindering the work of the Pahor government.
Though not directly accused of corruption or wrongdoing, leader of the Social Democrats Borut Pahor has done enough damage to himself with too much exposure in the media. Extensive talking was not followed by much needed action – not for a lack of will, but mostly for a lack of authority.
Karl Erjavec, who has a serious following but who nobody takes particularly seriously, is perhaps the cleanest of the lot which doesn’t say much for Slovenian politics.
And the opposition?
SDS leader Janez Janša is still battling bribe accusations over the Patria affair, the latest of arms-related scandals he has allegedly been involved in since the nineties. And the leader of Slovenian National party, Zmago Jelinčič, who can gain enough votes to play a part in the new government, has also been exposed in questionable dealings of late.
Not much of a choice, one might observe. But choice nonetheless. What most will hope is that consensus and cooperation will find its equivalent in the Slovenian language and play a major part in the politics in the next four years, regardless of who is elected to run the government. Slovenia’s economic troubles are deepening and it can’t afford to play party politics any longer.
28 Oct 2012 / By Tilen Majnardi, M. Sc.
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