STA, 11 March 2019 - Simon Zajc, who currently serves as a state secretary at the Environment and Spatial Planning Ministry, is the candidate for new environment minister, Miro Cerar, the leader of the Modern Centre Party (SMC), announced on Monday.
Addressing reporters in Ljubljana, Cerar said Prime Minister Marjan Šarec agreed with the party's proposal for Zajc to succeed Jure Leben, who resigned in late February after becoming embroiled in allegations that he was involved in a tender rigging in his previous capacity as Infrastructure Ministry state secretary.
In the previous term, Zajc served as MP for the SMC, but failed to get re-elected in the 2018 general election. If appointed, he will become the tenth Slovenian minister of the environment and spatial planning.
Cerar said that the candidate would be able to continue on the course set by outgoing Minister Leben, ensuring continuity at the ministry.
Noting that Zajc had been picked for a state secretary by Leben, Cerar said that the candidate was "surely capable of coordinating people", adding that he had proved himself as an MP and vice-chair of the parliamentary Agriculture Committee.
Before being elected an MP in 2014, Zajc, 38, who graduated from the Faculty of Criminal Justice and Security, also worked as a radio and TV host.
He also managed car fleets of large companies and headed a video production and mobile app company, hosted events, wrote for the Slovenian edition of the Cosmopolitan magazine and performed as a stand-up comedian.
Before the formation of the SMC in 2014, Zajc was a member of the Slovenian Youth Party (SMS). He also unsuccessfully stood in the 2018 local elections for a member of the Ljubljana city council on the SMC's ticket.
The prime minister's office quoted Šarec as saying that Zajc was an optimal choice for the new environment minister at the moment "if we want the work that has been started to be continued".
The remaining coalition partners have responded positively to the nomination or said the name had been expected.
The Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) said it wished for Zajc to understand the connection of his ministry with the Infrastructure Ministry, headed by SAB leader Alenka Bratušek.
Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) leader Karl Erjavec said supporting Zajc in the vote in parliament would not be a problem, adding that "the current state secretary is acquainted with the content and issues in the field, which makes him an appropriate staffing solution".
Social Democrats (SDS) head Dejan Židan believes the SMC had given a thought to proposing Zajc. "Prime Minister Marjan Šarec will also give the proposal a thought before nominating him, and we support such proposals."
The opposition New Slovenia (NSi) expects that the new minister will continue Leben's work, saying that the "issues that have piled up in the field of environmental protection ... demand quick and thoughtful response and opposition to certain lobbies which only pursue their own interests".
Zmago Jelinčič, the head of the opposition National Party (SNS), said that "emergency replacements" would not result in solving the issues Leben had started to tackle.
These issues are the reasons for Leben's resignation in the first place, Jelinčič said, expressing doubt that the new minister will be able to do anything.
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