An early season of transfers – setting the stage for autumn elections

My memory is not the best one. I tend to forget (or forgive?) politically funny moments of the past, which is a shame, since even in such a small place we have plenty of stories to tell. Many currently active politicians have switched sides in the past, many of them quite recently actually. Just remember the former Prime Minister Tone Rop leaving the Liberals and jumping on the boat of soon-to-be-winners Social Democrats. Well, he was not the only one then, it was a more serious issue that followed the near dissolution of the Liberals in March 2007.

But there is my all time favourite: Rupel‘s jump from left to right in 2004. Our current foreign minister was in fact part of several left-leaning governments before under the leadership of Janez Drnovšek (who just recently left the political scene, after handing the President’s post to Türk). And while Rupel today might claim that he was kicked out of the government, he for sure was not forced to join the other side. Now only a distant memory to some, for me this represented a crucial moment of my political education. How could someone change sides so easily? Enemies one day will be your friends…Anyway, this is not the point of today’s entry. But it’s a nice intro.

We have seen a more recent “transfer” (in football terms) that raised some eyebrows in Slovenia. Mitja Gaspari, former finance minister and governor of the Central Bank, declared his willingness to join Borut Pahor in his government as a super-deputy-prime minister, if Pahor ever gets a chance to build a government one day. But let’s set the stage first. Most of you will remember Gaspari as one of the strong candidates in the recent Presidential elections. Yes, he was running as an independent candidate, but actually on the ticket of the Liberals. He will also tell you that he has never been member of any party, but served in many governments. Interestingly, he also run as an independent candidate on the list of the Liberals in 2000 elections and actually got into the parliament. But let’s see what the consequence of his alliance with Pahor might bring.

Gaspari is not someone that would inspire masses. True, he got nearly into the final round of the Presidential elections if it wasn’t for some 1000 votes, but that was because his face is related to a certain political option. I would say he got perhaps more from the Liberals (Minister of Finance, Governor, Member of Parliament) than they got from him in the past. And although he doesn’t inspire masses he carries some weight, even as an individual. He also gives to the Social Democrats a more “technical” image, of someone that “knows” and “does”.

Gaspari clearly stated he wants to continue with politics, while pretending to be “beyond politics” (no party membership, independent candidatures). He still does, which makes absolutely no sense. And this will kill him this autumn politically. By switching sides and joining Pahor he wanted to secure himself an early place and Pahor wanted to secure himself more professional credibility in times when he gave strange statements about Slovenia’s indebtness. But the transfer actually makes life more difficult for Gaspari and for Pahor. Gaspari annoyed clearly the Liberals and Kresal was taken by surprise (indeed, she appeared very emotional about it…) This has two consequences: the Liberals will not propose him for any post when composing a possible coalition government with Pahor and they will also most probably oppose him standing for any post. Of course, this presupposes that the Social Democrats actually win the elections and want to build a coalition government with the Liberals.

As for Pahor, this has two negative consequences as well. First, as a strategic move, it was not widely appreciated. The headlines were not positive about Pahor, but surprised about Gaspari’s sudden change. The fact that you take over a strong candidate from another party has to have a reasoning. This one just doesn’t go beyond political pragmatism – something Pahor should try to avoid before the elections. Secondly, it puts Pahor at odds with the Liberals. Why doing this, if they could be of good help at a later stage during the elections, playing together on the tune of “united centre-left” or “united-against-Janša”? Again, I think Pahor miscalculated here. You can “steal” to the enemy, but not to your allies.

P.S.: There were also some recent developments in the Slovenian Nationalist Party (SNS). Their vice-president Saso Pece (“Sasko”), also vice-president of the Parliament, split with the president Zmago Jelinčič and left the party, taking along 2 other parliamentarians. A sever blow to the party which was set to score a record result in the autumn. The event is marginal and welcome for my political preferences anyway, so go Sasko, go!

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