MON, 16 OCT 2000 00:56:45 GMT
The transitional government of Andrej Bajuk did not give up on personnel purges of persons holding prominent posts in the economy and public enterprises despite the forthcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for October 15.
AIM Ljubljana, October 9, 2000
Although just a couple of days before Slovenian parliamentary elections, Bajuk’s government surprises the public every day with some personnel changes. Everything started when vice president of the reconstructed Populist Party Marjan Podobnik was appointed to head the only telephone company in Slovenia (Telekom). After that foreign minister Lojze Peterle recalled four ambassadors. Needless to say, they had received credentials from the former minister. President of the state Milan Kucan temporarily frustrated Peterle’s designs by deciding not to sign Peterle’s decision, since it was not explained and because “it is not customary for the government to change ambassadors on the eve of the elections”. Correspondence between Peterle and president Kucan that started on this occasion has lasted for two months already, and lasts to this day.
This has not prevented the leadership of the government to continue with interventions, primarily in the economy and the school system. Director of an elementary school, for example, did not get the approval of the ministry of education to be reappointed formally because the school council did not support him with “a convincing majority of votes”. The fact is, however, that out of nine members of the council all six who had come to the session voted in favour, so the question is what majority would be necessary to be “convincing”, especially in the context that news leaked in public that the director had lost his job because he had uttered some critical words concerning the Church interfering in the school system.
The government did not lose time and in the past two months managed to replace the council for research in the Ministry of Science. The appointed person at the head of this agency which is in charge of introduction of nine-year elementary school in the system of education is Darja Piciga, who is the known opponent of this project. In other ministries there was also plenty of “airing” even above the permissible level of personnel changes – on the level of state secretaries. The academic computer system (Arnes) which offers Internet services to the employees at the University, was faced with the demand of the government to break the contract on rent of lines signed with electric power industry and turn to state Telekom. Then a strike at the electric power industry of Slovenia (Eles) followed.
“When I saw the decision on the change of the status of Eles, I knew that they would relieving me of duty”, declared after removal (by then former) director Vekoslav Korosec. He received the decision with which he was relieved of duty personally by courier who had brought it directly from the government. It must be admitted that Bajuk’s team had to make a big effort in order to install its man at the top of Eles. First it had to arrange the amendments of the statute of this public enterprise. It erased all the rigid conditions and needed qualifications for discharging this important duty to the extent to enable the personnel officer of the Right to be planned for the post of the director of electric power industry without university education in economic, technical or humanistic sciences; without having to speak two languages, without even being acquainted with the electric power system of Slovenia, and without having at least ten years of working experience. According to the new statute it is sufficient that the candidate speaks one world language, that he has five years of experience and a university diploma in any sphere.
It is interesting that new conditions, every one of them, were met by the man who used to be in charge of trade in the electric power industry Vitoslav Turk. “I don’t know what they will think of us in Europe if in the past two years we have had three directors of electric power industry”, the director who was relieved of duty wondered reminding that in April this year Drnovsek’s government (also without convincing explanations) had relieved of duty the then director Ivo Banic. All this is contrary to the practice in the states of European Union where electric power industrial systems are headed by experts without interference of politics.
The final blow followed in the past few days. The government had just a couple of days left to install its men where it intended. Director of state tax administration (Durs) Stojan Grilj was also the target. The immediate cause was the list of the greatest tax debtors in the state published by the government a couple of months ago with the demand that Durs puts its foot down. Time was passing until state secretary Romana Logar came to the conclusion that its subordinates had done nothing. She submitted the government her report on defects in the work of the service and the cabinet agreed with the assessment that a change at the head of the tax administration is urgently needed. It was published that Grilj was relieved of duty and then the minister of finance in the same government Zvonko Ivanusic appeared in public. He did not deny that criticism of the work of Durs was justified, but he was opposed to relieving of duty of the leading persons, moreover – he said that the move of the government was unnecessary and left the session of the government in protest. But before that he managed to list the accomplishments of the tax administration.
Ivanusic said that in six months Durs had managed to introduce a new system of paying value-added tax without raising prices. Thanks to the good work of Durs and its management, Slovenian tax debt was reduced and nowadays amounts to only 2.4 per cent of the domestic gross income, which is the least among the states in transition.
The minister of finance was supported by his colleague minister Andrej Umek. “I am resolutely against replacements without agreement with the persons concerned. I do not support relieving people of duties according to political criteria contrary to the law, all for the purpose of pre-election interests. In tax administration we need unbiased people, experts, and we must carry it all out according to the established procedure”, the minister argued. And since the government cannot appoint the new director of Durs, the controversy has been “put on ice” for the time being.
Putting director of Durs on ice has not prevented Franc Zagozen, head of the party of revived Populists united with Christian Democrats, to address a few angry comments in the direction of the prime minister at the height of the election campaign. Franc Zagozen might be the most competent for it because his party was the one that put Bajuk on the Air France flight from Argentina to Ljubljana and brought him to the presidential palace. Bajuk paid his political mentors back by splitting Zagozen’s party and founding, on the eve of the elections, a completely new party on the right (New Slovenia) which was then joined by Janez Jansa and Lojze Peterle. Zagozen is declaring nowadays that Bajuk was a big mistake which has become clear after the avalanche of purges in state administration he has lately initiated. Zagozen claims that the government is not united (which is evident from reactions of minister Ivanusic to the replacement of his subordinate), that it is a question whether the government operates at all (at least when activities of interest of the state are concerned), and that until the elections it should discharge only technical duties. In pre-election duel Bajuk rejected Zagozen’s criticism and Zagozen called the voters not to repeat his mistake. And not give their votes to Bajuk. The split in the Right and in the structure of the authorities reached its climax.
The intolerance between the coalition partners who created their joint party just last spring is so great that it cannot be concealed from the public any more. It all became clear during TV duel in the election campaign when Janez Jansa, head of Social Democrats, was directly attacked by Franc Zagozen, president of new SLS. Immediately after he had created the new party SLS+SKD Zagozen surprised Jansa by being the first to give up on the struggle (lost anyway) for majority election system (which was Jansa’s life project). Jansa paid him back by offering support to prime minister Andrej Bajuk and a faction of Christian Democrats to split up the just created party. The story is known; SLS+SKD split into two and New Slovenia joined the election race.
Such political background made the ministers of SLS+SKD in the government oppose the chain of new discharges and appointments. Perhaps Zagozen’s attempt to unmask and stop political ambitions and style of rule of Andrej Bajuk has come too late. About 300 people have been discharged so far. And this certainly is not good publicity for the state. The statement of British ambassador in Ljubljana David Lloyd given to the Financial Times testifies about it. The ambassador claims that because of the policy of the government all those who held any influential posts in business and academic circles are in danger: “Some of these replacements in the business world leave us – observers of the events – mildly speaking, breathless”. The voters are the ones to assess the policies of Janez Jansa, Andrej Bajuk and Lojze Peterle. On October 15, already.