STA, 19 January 2020 - DeSUS leader Karl Erjavec has withdrawn his bid to become PM-designate until all MPs will be able to work in normal conditions, says a press release published on the web site of the National Assembly. The move comes after several MPs have been infected with coronavirus and would not be able to vote in person.
This means that the parliamentary session to vote on Erjavec's bid that was scheduled for Wednesday will not take place. Also cancelled was today's college of deputy group leaders, which was to decide on the timing of the vote.
The ruling coalition criticised the move as an excuse to avoid a failure to vote out the government with Prime Minister Janez Janša commenting on Monday that "the Slovenian caviar left is unfit to fight any fair political battle anywhere".
This was after Erjavec said on Monday he was considering withdrawing his bid because some MPs had been infected with coronavirus or were self-isolating, which meant they would not be able to vote in the secret ballot that was planned for Wednesday.
"Considering they have been unable to count their votes for three months, this is no surprise," Danijel Krivec, the head of the deputy faction of Janša's Democrats (SDS), told reporters in parliament today.
"Considering such a demanding matter is being tabled with 42 signatures, which we know is doomed to failure, they're just looking for an alibi to avoid a fiasco in the vote," he said, hoping the "burlesque" would not continue.
Janša said the parties behind the motion were only seeking to cause trouble and spread coronavirus following the principle "the more infected and dead the better for KUL". "If bringing down the government succeeded, then [there was to be] chaos and election," Janša tweeted.
"Cases become statute barred on purpose in the judiciary, in parliament votes of no confidence are announced, cancelled, withdrawn ... In the meantime the mainstream media subjected to them spread the virus of intolerance, exclusion and divisions," added Janša.
Also reacting via Twitter, Zdravko Počivalšek, the economy minister and leader of the Modern Centre Party (SMC), questioned the pick of Erjavec for the post of PM considering that he had not even been elected to parliament.
"A serious opposition would put forward the leader of its biggest party for PM-designate. Marjan Šarec may dare to look for the gun thrown in the maize field. We wouldn't back him, but I'd value him much more," said Počivalšek, expanding on the set phrase that had been used by Janša earlier in response to the opposition's bid to replace his cabinet.
Počivalšek's tweet was also shared by Defence Minister Matej Tonin, the leader of New Slovenia (NSi).
"Karl Erjavec and his supporters have had to realise at last the epidemic is not the right time to propose motions of no confidence," the NSi said in a written response, calling for constructive conduct to defeat Covid-19.
National Assembly Speaker Igor Zorčič, an SMC member, noted obstacles in Erjavec's attempts to get MPs from his own party on board for the motion as a sign of "how such a coalition would function".
The head of the SMC deputy faction Janja Sluga said she believed the problem was in fact the absence of some MPs, while she also noted that temporary withdrawal of such a bid was not possible so the whole procedure would have to be started anew.
Under the parliamentary rules of procedure, MPs must be present in parliament in person for the secret ballot, whereas the deadline to hold the extraordinary session on the no-confidence motion is Friday, seven days after it was tabled.
Erjavec said he would consult legal experts about this and he held talks with the members of the informal KUL coalition this morning.
The no-confidence motion was filed by 42 MP from the opposition LMŠ, SD, Left, SAB and DeSUS last Friday.
Erjavec's withdrawing his bid means the procedure for the vote of no-confidence is over.
If the vote is to be held in the future, a new no-confidence motion will have to be filed, with all the signatures, Speaker Igor Zorčič told the STA yesterday.
Zorčič and deputy faction leaders today discussed ways to allow MPs to cast a secret ballot remotely or outside the parliament building with Zorčič expecting proposals by Thursday.
However, any such change would entail amendments to the parliamentary rules of procedure, which require a two-thirds majority to pass. Zorčič does not think solutions can be offered overnight, also because of a series of legal, security, ethical and health issues involved.
Noting the controversy over remote session and public voting last year, he said: "No one would even dare consider a secret electronic ballot, as other countries don't have something like that either. In particular not to vote a prime minister via computer."
Erjavec is expected to address the press at 4pm today.