STA, 13 November 2018 - Marko Bandelli has resigned as development and EU cohesion funds minister after being told to do so or face dismissal by Prime Minister Marjan Šarec. The decision was announced after a session of the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), whose head accused Šarec of using double standards, while she also announced a stepped-up push for higher pensions.
Bratušek, who called today's session of SAB's executive council after Šarec told Bandelli to resign over efforts to use his government clout to impact a local election, praised Bandelli's work, while adding he was also capable of accepting responsibility and was thus resigning.
While Šarec was also critical of Bandelli's performance as minister, the main issue seems to have been his communication style, in particular when getting involved in the election race in the municipality of Komen (SW), where he was mayor until recently.
Bratušek suggested that Šarec was using double standards in this respect and should apply the same criteria to all government officials, meaning "those he has defended and those he plans to defend in the future".
Speaking about the party's situation, she said SAB did not enter the government to have three ministers but to work for the benefit of the people, of the young and of pensioners.
While giving up Bandelli, Bratušek took the opportunity to stress the party would insist in what have been SAB's demands for significantly higher pensions - these come as government faces demands from public sector and after a raising of the welfare allowance.
Also mentioning demands related to the healthcare system and the young as non-negotiable for the party, Bratušek said the party would demand explanations at the next coalition meeting on how the commitments from the coalition agreement will be honoured.
"The deadline for the bills to be adopted is 1 January 2019, which means we're actually a little short on time," she said, accusing Šarec of violating the coalition's agreement.
This also applies for the procedure for dismissing and replacing a cabinet minister. Šarec was supposed to have first discussed the situation with Bratušek, she however found out about it from the media and through Facebook.
"If these are the communication channels that the coalition will be using then our time here will be preciously short," Bratušek said.
Meanwhile, Bandelli, who threatened one of the mayoral candidates in Komen with leaving the municipality without the support of his department and of the Infrastructure Ministry, rejected Šarec's accusations regarding the delayed action plan for the drawing of EU funds. He argued he had gotten a lot of work done in the past two months.
"I replaced the main director of the body that carries the main responsibility for EU funds phasing, we changed the operative model and started fixing the problems with the IT system that had dragged on for five years," Bandelli told the press.
He also took a jab at "people currently employed around Šarec", saying some of them were in fact to blame for the mistakes that were made in the past in the phasing of EU funds.
The Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (KPK) had welcomed Šarec's call for Bandelli to resign, labelling the minister's acts and threats as unacceptable.
The anti-graft watchdog said that Bandelli had violated the code of ethics for government and ministry officials, stressing that "it was not a single act".
The KPK noted that Bandelli had also promised to help Komen residents address heavy traffic on a local road in return for forming a list of candidates for the local election and backing the party where he is vice-president.
It said that the minister's integrity had been undermined in this case too, adding that such "disputable practices should not take place in the Slovenian political space."
The watchdog thus welcomes the prime minister's decision and understands it as a sign of support for the idea of integrity of officials at the most senior posts in the country.
Bandelli, who is expected to return to parliament, announced he would continue to work for SAB, the party he helped establish.