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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    FRI, 07 JUL 2000 18:43:41 GMT

    Purges in Slovenia

    Summer Spring Cleaning

    Despite the forthcoming elections and previous promises, the new, rightist, Slovenian government has started an avalanche of purges both in state administration and in the economy. The alarm was sounded only after the turn has come to the – media.

    AIM Ljubljana, June 27, 2000

    Although the political shift in Slovenia has passed, at least at first sight, peacefully and with no major stresses, personnel changes have greatly shaken the backstage of the political scene. Just a fortnight after ratification of the composition of the new cabinet in the parliament (by a very narrow score of 46 to 44), it turned out that there is a great many of those who have a weakness for the so-called state capital. Immediately after inauguration, the new cabinet started applying exactly those unpopular methods which its members, while they had been in the opposition, criticized the most. Bajuk’s government expeditiously gave its approval for the replacement of all state secretaries and advisors in the ministries.

    So far, for instance, 28 state secretaries have been replaced. Formally, this is all in accordance with law, although lack of qualifications of the newly appointed cadre is very conspicuous, as well as their political “aptitude”; it is unusual that the new regime has decided to initiate such profound personnel changes when it is known that it will have a short term in office, since regular elections should be scheduled by November this year at the latest. The great “spring cleaning” has not swept only through state administration, but also all para-state funds, institutions and companies which are controlled by the state. When state secretaries are concerned it is easiest to prove the thesis on political pattern in the choice of the candidates. In the past eight years this post was held by 150 persons in Slovenia. Out of that number, little less than half also held major party offices. In this period the ruling LDS (Drnovsek) has appointed eight of its officials to the posts of secretaries. In comparison with that, SDS of Janez Jansa has appointed thirteen of its members to the posts of secretaries, despite the fact that it participated in the government only twice – in 1993-1994 and now. This shows to what extent the thirst for power and “awarding” with posts prevailed over the previously given promises on “expert government” which was supposed to work primarily on passing of “European” legislature.

    It is also interesting to note who has returned “to the place of the crime”, that is, to the sources of power. Apart from Lojze Peterle and Janez Jansa, foreign and defense minister, other persons known from the former cabinet have also returned to power as advisors of the cabinet. For example, Andrej Lovsin, former director of Slovenian military intelligence service (OVSA) who participated in arms trade that took place via Slovenia in the beginning of the nineties (and who opened a company abroad), has now become an advisor of the general staff of Slovenian army. The same title was bestowed on Tone Krkovic, former commander of Moris special brigade, who has left the army and become a caterer after the scandal in which his subordinates had beaten up civilian Smolnikar near Depala vas.

    Perhaps it is not a big problem that many former participants in power have taken over the reins again. Negative criticism, however, is caused mostly by the latest changes in various para-state funds and companies, where real purges have taken place under the pretext of “introduction of democratic system”. Immediately after it had been constituted, Bajuk’s cabinet appointed a new head of the state post - Marija Ribic, former director of the financial service at the defense ministry (in Jansa’s cabinet) who was several times accused by the accounting court and media because her signature was on various permits and dubious contracts. Director of Telekom was also replaced. Vice president of the new Populist Party and former deputy prime minister Marjan Podobnik was appointed in his place. Podobnik is also a person discredited in public – both because of the scandal concerning illegal financing of his party and unsuccessful persecution of the media which had revealed the scandal after which his rating dropped way down; it is believed that this was the reason why, despite union of his Populist Party with Peterle’s Christian Democrats, he was not given the possibility to get a prominent place in the united party and Bajuk’s government. The additional problem is “partisan” personnel policy according to the principle “it does not matter that he is stupid, the important thing is that he is one of us”, since neither – contrary to the sacked predecessors – has had anything to do with the post and telecommunications before.

    Specialized magazine from Ljubljana, Financ, warned against the third, perhaps the greatest danger, when it published that the government intended to take over the two largest printed media – dailies Delo and Dnevnik. The already mentioned Marjan Podobnik demanded that Bojan Petan, president of the state publishing company of Slovenia which is the biggest share-holder of Dnevnik, discharge its editor-in-chief Zlatko Setinc. The answer was negative, but analysts of Financ believe that the government will exert pressure through state funds and banks in order to break down the management of Dnevnik. The principle of financial “blitzkrieg” is simple. Through state banks (New Bank of Ljubljana, New Credit Bank of Maribor and capital companies), the state will ensure about 40 per cent of the votes in the assembly and achieve the change of the management board of the state publishing company of Slovenia. Once this operation succeeds with the help of minor owners, a change of the supervisory board, director and editors of Dnevnik would follow. A similar recipe is in preparation for Delo.

    An expert on communications Sandra Basic from Ljubljana faculty of social sciences thinks that this plan is not at all naďve. It has already become evident that the Slovenes do not like new media (three attempts have failed already), so it is easier to organize a raid on the already established media than risk again with new ones. “A change of editorial policy would bring about a decline of circulation up to ten or fifteen thousand, but they would still bring a profit to their owners. When speaking about circulation of Delo – this may be a large reduction, but for formation of public opinion, for formation of a specific political opinion, it is still a tolerable and attractive figure”, Sandra Basic warns. Besides, the state is the owner of about ten per cent of the shares in many printing works, radio stations and similar. That is why an alarm was sounded in Slovenian media.

    “If there is even a trace, even five per cent of the truth in all this, it is something morbid which will sooner or later end up in European courts, because such a revolutionary attack on the media is in no way appropriate for this time, if we, of course, forget about Milosevic, Tudjman’s Croatia and a few other similar, inglorious example”, writes Boris Jez, commentator of Delo.

    It is a paradox that with its first moves, the government of conservatives and Christian Democratic candidate Andrej Bajuk has proved that there is no such thing as immaculate conception in politics – return to “capitalism” and break with the alleged communist “single-mindedness” has been achieved in Slovenia by application of verified Bolshevik methods. That is how, cynically, Bolshevism has won again.

    Igor Mekina

    (AIM Ljubljana)