STA, 2 March 2020 - Miro Cerar, Slovenia's outgoing foreign minister, announced on Monday he was quitting the party he founded, saying the Modern Centre (SMC) lost its face after joining a coalition led by Janez Janša, the leader of the right-wing Democratic Party (SDS).
Speaking in parliament, Cerar said he did not wish to be party member any longer, let alone "an honorary member of a party that has ended up without honour".
Cerar had been staunchly opposed to the SMC joining a Janša-led coalition since before the 2018 general election, but the party changed its mind under its new leader Zdravko Počivalšek.
However, despite his decision "in principle not to take part in the Janša government, I seriously considered Zdravko Počivalšek's proposal to head the National Assembly".
"The SMC could thus protect the principle of the division of power and serve as a liberal corrective to a right-wing government."
Cerar said that he had been encouraged by many within and outside the SMC to bid for the post of the speaker, but that after his discussion with Počivalšek last night he realised "it's all manipulation, empty rhetoric and private ambitions of individuals."
Meanwhile, Počivalšek suggested his decision not to put Cerar forward as candidate for the speaker under the Janša government was the reason behind Cerar's quitting the party.
Unofficially, the candidate for the post is Igor Zorčič, the leader of the SMC faction in parliament.
Cerar said that by opting to join the Janša-led coalition, the party had lost credibility to implement its founding values.
He said the party leadership did not see beyond themselves, not even as far as party members, let alone as far as their voters.
Cerar, a jurist and constitutional law expert, founded the SMC shortly before the 2014 election, leading it to victory and going on to serve as prime minister until 2018.
After the party's poor showing in the following general and EU elections, he stepped down as SMC leader, handing over to Počivalšek in September 2019.
Cerar said SMC MPs had forgotten not only who invited them to the project, but mainly who elected them, so he urged them to start thinking with their own heads.
"If this doesn't happen I appeal to party members who want to remain true to the SMC's founding values, democracy, rule of law, human rights and the freethinking liberal stance not to betray those values and leave the party that no longer deserves to be called Modern Centre Party".
"The SMC long ceased to be the party of Miro Cerar, and sadly even the Modern Centre Party, unless modernity is understood as following the latest fashion and turning the way the wind blows," he said.
Cerar would not say whether he will return to serve as MP after his ministerial job ends.
Looking back on the past six years as party leader, PM and party member, Cerar admitted that he may have made some mistakes.
"What hurts the most is that I was wrong about certain people that I proposed for senior positions: from ministers to the head of the deputy faction and others," he said.
In response, Počivalšek said that he had set out the situation in the party to Cerar; unofficial information suggests that they met on Friday morning and again on Sunday evening.
He said that after a long period of turbulence the party needed to undergo a consolidation, which he said could not happen if the party kept returning into the past.
This is why he told Cerar that he would not put him forward for the speaker once he returned to parliament, a decision that Počivalšek said was hard but required for the party to go forward.
Počivalšek, who has served as economy minister in the governments of Marjan Šarec and Miro Cerar, said that the SMC was keeping its social, liberal and sustainable profile.