Slovenia: The all-mighty Janez Janša

The Slovenian Prime Minister, nicknamed the "Prince of darkness" by one of his predecessors, in 2008.
The Slovenian Prime Minister, nicknamed the "Prince of darkness" by one of his predecessors, in 2008.
5 April 2012 – Novi List (Rijeka)

Janez Janša is back in power in Slovenia, since February, despite having lost the December 2011 legislative elections. This veteran political operative has a firm grip on the reins of power and is placing his allies in key positions, beginning with the justice department and the secret services.

The new Prime Minister Janez Janša is acting like the victor after the battle and as if Slovenia were his spoils of war. Dubbed the "Prince of Darkness" by former Prime Minister Janez Drnovšek, Janša has once again shown that he is a faithful follower of the theories of General Sun Tzu, author of "The Art of War," a book he keeps by his bedside.

Once again, he applied the theory of the illustrious Chinese strategist according to which, to win a war, you have to fool the enemy and you have to appear strong even in moments of weakness.

In spite of his electoral defeat last December, and unashamed of having come to power thanks to electoral gerrymandering and backroom deals [when he was appointed PM from 2004-2008], Janša, pleading budget restraints, immediately implemented radical institutional changes by eliminating or combining seven ministries.

Justice controlled by the executive

Nonetheless, it would be wrong to explain his firmness and his intransigence as due only to his character and a desire for revenge. Indeed, as an experienced politician, he understands the importance of controlling, as early as possible, all the levers of power.

Yet, it seems that a desire to politically control the judicial system, responsible for investigating the Patria affair [in which Janša is suspected of taking bribes to buy Finnish tanks] is behind his attempt at "rationalising the state apparatus". What Berlusconi tried to do in Italy, that is to submit justice to the executive power, Janša is doing successfully in Slovenia without a single peep of protest from Europe.

Janša has managed to place the state prosecutor, who is currently investigating his implication in the biggest corruption scandal since Slovenia's independence, under the tutelage of the Interior Ministry and placed at its head an apparatchik and former police officer, Vinko Gorenak. This is un-heard-of, even by the vacillating democratic standards of today's Europe.

Less than a half-hour after Janša was appointed, heads began to fall. The first to go was the head of the Government Information Office. A journalist and former director of the daily newspaper Delo, Darjan Košir, recruited to the job through a competition, was replaced by an acolyte of Janša's Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS).

The head of the secret services, Sebastijan Selan, was also sacked in the early hours of Janša's term. Janša replaced him with Damir Črnčec, a former military intelligence service chief and announced the probable merger of the military and civilian intelligence services.

Purge has gone ahead with no protest from Europe

While the third sacking, of the head of the unimportant intergovernmental Office for Religious Communities surprised some, it serves as a symbolic message aimed at the Catholic Church, a faithful Janša ally.

Since Aleš Gulič, a bike-riding, long-haired, self-avowed atheist was appointed to the job a few years ago – which Slovenian bishops called a provocation – the Church has been looking forward to this day.

Nonetheless, that was but the beginning of the upheaval for high-level civil servants. For a long time, Janša's party has published a list of 244 people appointed "according to political criteria" on its web site – a hit list, of sorts. It includes historians, journalists and economists – all well-known – appointed by the government of Borut Pahor to the boards of certain institutions.

Some are on Janša's purification list because they signed "frowned upon" petitions, notably calling for support for the 'erased' – Yugoslavs deprived of Slovenian citizenship after independence.

Others appear because they have family ties with 'offending' people or have friends that are 'politically incorrect'. Their sins were noted alongside their names in a very pedantic manner by Janša's people.

While Janša is not wasting any time, Europe remains silent, as the European Popular Party kept silent while one of its Slovenian members, the respected and influential Lojze Peterle, trampled the rights of the 'erased", and of Roms during Janša's first term.

If Janša dared to attack the independence of the Central Bank, Europe would howl, but when it is a question of political purification and of the independence of the state prosecutor's office, no one gives a hoot.

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