STA, 12 November 2018 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec has told Marko Bandelli, the minister without portfolio in charge of development and EU cohesion funds, to resign or face dismissal over efforts to use his government clout to impact a local election. Reactions by the coalition parties indicate Bandelli would not survive a dismissal vote.
Šarec said he has warned Bandelli twice before about his communication, right after the government was appointed and then again a few weeks ago, when Bandelli came under fire for using emergency lights on his service vehicle. "Now I've decided he should leave."
Šarec and Bandelli met today after the story broke last week that Bandelli had threatened one of the candidates for the mayoral post in Komen (SW) with leaving the municipality without the support of his department and of the Infrastructure Ministry.
Both are controlled by the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), on whose slate Bandelli was elected the mayor of Komen in 2014 and earlier this year as MP, which meant he had to give up the mayoral post.
Bandelli, who left today's meeting with Šarec without a comment, had apologised for the September e-mail to Erik Modic, in which he accused the candidate of being driven merely by self-interest and a personal vendetta.
The apology was also highlighted in today's press release by SAB, whose leadership will meet to discuss the situation on Tuesday morning.
But Šarec said that neither the apology nor SAB's initial defence that mayors are used to a different style of communication was convincing. "It was also insulting to all current, past and perhaps future mayors," said Šarec, who used to serve as the mayor of Kamnik.
While the largest parliamentary party, the opposition Democrats (SDS) already threatened with a dismissal motion ahead of today's meeting, the first reaction by SAB's fellow junior coalition parties confirmed Bandelli would not survive a vote were he to hold on to the post.
The Modern Centre Party (SMC) welcomed Šarec's decision, arguing Bandelli had undermined trust in the government. In the case of vote, the SMC would back the dismissal, as would the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) whose Karl Erjavec said he would have probably acted the same way as Šarec in such a situation.
Erjavec however indicated that the Komen e-mail had not been the sole reason for Šarec's decision. According to his knowledge, Bandelli also still owes the PM a report on the drawing of EU funds.
The SocDems, another junior coalition party, did not wish to comment on the situation today, but with the ruling Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) naturally sharing the view of the prime minister, Bandelli's fate seems sealed.
"I'm convinced I did the right thing. We'll see what happens next," Šarec said.
Other issues with Bandelli’s communication style in local politics
The controversial correspondence was reportedly not an isolated case of the minister communicating inappropriately with a candidate in the Komen election.
Media also highlighted an October exchange on Facebook with Sergio Stancich, in which Bandelli expressed support for Stancich's rival candidate Dean Zalesjak, announcing the latter would "of course get maximum political support, know-how and ministerial information".
He later argued that he just highlighted the obvious fact that "mayors and municipal councillors of parties that are part of the government have easier access to ministers".
The news portal Siol reported last week that Bandelli erased his profiles on social networks last week.
In general, Bandelli appears to have not performed according to expectations, in particular now that the government has come under heavy pressure due to the poor drawing of EU funds.
Unofficial information obtained by the STA suggest Šarec demanded Bandelli that he present measures to improve the phasing of EU cohesion policy funds by last week, something the minister did not do.
But the demand that he resign also comes in the midst of rising tensions between Šarec and Brastušek, who recently requested a government debate about the realization of coalition priorities.
Her party attempting to take over the mantle of pensioner protection from the DeSUS, she said she would not rescind her demands for significantly higher pensions, even as the government faces demands from public sector unions that could run into several hundred million euro per year.
If Bandelli resigns or is dismissed, he will be allowed by law to return to the National Assembly as an MP.
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