Počivalšek Looks to Merge SMC with Pro-Business Political Party (Background)

By , 15 Sep 2021, 14:10 PM Politics
Zdravko Počivalšek Zdravko Počivalšek gov.si

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STA, 15 September 2021 - Delegates of the coalition Modern Centre Party (Stranka modernega centra – SMC) will meet in Celje on Thursday for a congress at which party president Zdravko Počivalšek will seek support for a merger with the non-parliamentary GAS party and a tie-up with several other parties and lists for a joint list at the next general election.

Počivalšek, who serves as economy minister in the government of Janez Janša, will look to be given the mandate to merge the SMC with the Economically Active Party (Gospodarsko aktivna stranka – GAS), a pro-business party headed by National Council President Alojz Kovšca.

The plan is to create a liberal, business-oriented party, with the talks on the merger having been conducted in recent months, and to hold a merger congress by the end of the year. The new party would also get a new name.

The abbreviation SMC originally stood for the Miro Cerar Party, after its founder and former prime and foreign minister, with the name being changed later to the Modern Centre Party, keeping the same abbreviation.

According to the smallest party in the ruling coalition with five MPs, the new name is expected to shift the focus on the party being a political partner of the business sector.

At the congress, Počivalšek will seek a mandate to connect with some local parties and lists ahead of the next general election, scheduled to take place next year.

According to unofficial information, talks are being held, among others, with the list of Celje Mayor Bojan Šrot, several local parties, and the Greens of Slovenia, which is headed by former MP Andrej Čuš, now a state secretary of Počivalšek's.

The SMC is reportedly also open for talks to join Revive Slovenia, a project which features several parties, lists and individuals, including the People's Party (SLS). These talks are expected to be held at a later date.

All talks on cooperation and association are being held so that the diverse parties and lists create a joint slate for the next election.

It is expected, though, that the SMC as a parliamentary party will be the driving force, while the remaining parties would help out with a developed local network and locally prominent individuals.

The SMC is also expected to adopt guidelines for its platform for the next election, which include political partnership with the business sector and development for all regions.

What is probably a key congress and key election for the party comes after the SMC joined the Janez Janša government last spring after being part of the centre-left coalition led by Marjan Šarec, formed after the 2018 elections.

The party faced criticism for joining the coalition with the Democrats (SDS) after Šarec resigned, including internally, with as many as five MPs or half of the original number of SMC deputies in the National Assembly leaving the deputy group.

In the last year and a half, Počivalšek has faced allegations as economy minister of misconduct in the purchase of medical equipment in the early stages of the Covid-19 epidemic.

"After Šarec quit at the most difficult moment for our country, the SMC made a responsible move and was a motor of creation of the new government, which has tackled the health and economic crisis," Počivalšek told the STA ahead of the congress.

"Because it is precisely the SMC that holds the key to the current government, we have been the main target of attacks on it," he said, adding that "we have bled in this fight, but survived eventually."

Počivalšek said the SMC would be strengthened by new partners in allies so that it could succeed in the election campaign next year.

The SMC is currently barely registered in public opinion polls and ranks well below the threshold to enter the National Assembly.

The congress comes ahead of the imminent debates in parliament on the opposition-sponsored motions to oust two ministers from the SMC quota - Education Minister Simona Kustec and Justice Minister Marjan Dikaučič.

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