PPE Scandal: Opposition Calls for Govt to Resign After Police Searches

By , 30 Jun 2020, 18:49 PM Politics
The Cabinet on 13 March, 2020 - their first day at work, and first day of the official epidemic in Slovenia The Cabinet on 13 March, 2020 - their first day at work, and first day of the official epidemic in Slovenia Twitter

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STA, 30 June 2020 - Opposition parties bar the SNS spoke on Tuesday of independent police work in the investigation into ventilator procurement and called on the government to take a cue from the resignation of Interior Minister Aleš Hojs. Coalition parties were mostly reserved, an exception being PM Janez Janša, who said it is time to end "selective justice".

Commenting on today's house searches conducted over suspected abuse of office in the March procurement of medical ventilators and the resulting resignation of Hojs and Police Commissioner Anton Travner, former PM Marjan Šarec of the opposition LMŠ said the "entire government is ripe for resignation".

"Attempts to conceal things with attacks on the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the entire police force show that the independence of the prosecution authorities is a thorn in the side of those in power," tweeted Šarec, who feels an early election is the only way forward.

Tanja Fajon of the SocDems, the second largest opposition party, said Slovenia was dealing with a crime of epic proportions that seems to go all the way to the top of the government instead of focusing on the major challenges ahead.

Fajon, who suspects the government "failed to prevent the house searches", argued the conspiracy theories being peddled are merely an attempt to divert attention. The government has no political and moral clout left, she added, calling on Janša to resign.

Luka Mesec of the Left said Hojs and Travner resigned "over regret they didn't manage to discipline the police to a point where there would be no more criminal police following their own conscience and professional ethics".

Mesec, who expects PM Janez Janša will now try to appoint somebody "who will do a better party job in the police force", added the government has already turned to its known strategy - "personal discreditation and attacks on criminal police officers, which is unheard off". The Left will protect the independence of the police and wants an early election, he said.

Alenka Bratušek of SAB said Hojs's resignation showed he "had a somewhat peculiar notion" about how the police force operated. While saying she was content the police were doing their job and not shying away from investigating government officials, Bratušek argued that such probes were too often only a show for the public.

She does feel that the time is ripe for Janša "to face the mirror" as well and assume responsibility for the opaque procurement of PPE during the crisis. Bratušek spoke of the possibility of an no-confidence motion in the entire government, mentioning DeSUS as a coalition party that could be won over to secure the needed absolute majority.

The only opposition party leader to echo Hojs's reasoning that the police's operation was politically motivated was Zmago Jelinčič of the National Party (SNS).

"Certain leading staff in the police force are politically appointed and undermine the police's professional work," he said, expressing surprise over Hojs's resignation and arguing he had expected "Hojs would start cleaning up at the police force".

Meanwhile, the coalition parties were mostly reserved in their reactions today so far, with the ruling Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi) initially refusing to comment.

SDS head and PM Janša responded later with a letter entitled Selective Justice, in which he said he would not comment on an ongoing procedure, but wanted to comment on the "double standards in the priority choices of the NBI, the prosecution, and the judiciary".

Janša wrote that it is "political sympathies and media pressure" that have been governing the choices of all three for some time as opposed to the scale of the crimes.

He said that no epilogue had been seen for other "hundreds of millions of euros" worth of crimes in the healthcare system, no house searches conducted related to a suspected EUR 1bn in money laundering for Iran at NLB bank, and no criminal complaints filed against the owners of several media outlets despite ample evidence of "harmful contracts and annexes through which these factories of rotten news are attached to taxpayers' money".

Janša argued that selective justice and the "general politicisation of a part of the repressive apparatus prevents a normal functioning of parliamentary democracy in the country".

"It is therefore our duty and it is high time that we secure a consistent honouring of the Constitution and laws and equal standards for everybody," Janša concludes.

Meanwhile, the Modern Centre Party (SMC), whose head and Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek is also being investigated, has not yet commented, while DeSUS head Aleksandra Pivec said she expected the investigation would be conducted in a fair and objective manner.

She urged the calming of political passions and also did not comment on Hojs's views. Asked how the developments will impact the coalition, she said things were still underway. "Once more will be known, I expect the coalition partners to also sit down, get familiar with the facts and then adopt decisions," she said.

All our stories on the PPE scandal can be found here

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