Ljubljana related

19 Feb 2020, 13:48 PM

STA, 19 February 2020 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec has denied allegations that he and his State Secretary Damir Črnčec demanded information from the police about party officials in coalition-building talks with the Democrats (SDS) so as to pressure them to withdraw from the talks.

"When various portals close to the SDS report that I ordered lists and whatever else about parties in government negotiations it is clear that they are describing their own methods," Šarec tweeted last night.

"This is an attack on the police force without comparison. I believe that things would work that way with [SDS]. Maybe they already did in the past," he also said in the tweet posted after it was reported that the parliamentary Commission for the Oversight of Intelligence and Security Services (KNOVS) had visited the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) [that story is here].

On Facebook this morning Šarec said: "This is the same scenario all over again; a few KNOVS members make an unannounced visit to the NBI and the police. Because the NBI is allegedly being abused to persecute political opponents.

"But in truth, KNOVS is the one being abused and nobody else. Independent institutions are investigating Hungarian funds which are flowing we all know where and attention has to be diverted."

Yesterday's inspection was headed by KNOVS vice president Žan Mahnič, a member of the SDS, the party associated with media that have allegedly received funding from circles close to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

It was reported last week that the NBI was investigating alleged funding from Hungary to two media outlets close to the SDS, which the SDS has no denied. However, the police said yesterday in relation to this that they were not investigating illegal funding of political parties but a criminal act investigated ex officio.

Šarec's State Secretary Črnčec issued a statement through his lawyer last night denying reports by the right-leaning Demokracija that he had spun a web of spies.

This morning, he also took to Facebook, posting a strong-worded criticism of SDS leader Janez Janša. Črnčec used to be an associate of Janša's and was appointed the head of the Intelligence and Security Agency at the Ministry of Defence in 2005 when Janša was first prime minister and became the head of the National Intelligence and Security Agency SOVA in 2012 when Janša was prime minister a second time.

Today, he said that Janša's modus operandi was harmful to democracy and right-wing political parties. He said that their ways parted when he realised that "the SDS apparatus operates on the principles of a mafia business, where all paths lead to its leader and his inner circle".

He said he needed a while to realise the ramifications of Janša's modus operandi, which, he says entails submissiveness to foreigners while systemically undermining vital social subsystems, like freedom of speech and other constitutional values, in Slovenia.

"Yesterday's fake news about alleged mass espionage, the abuse of KNOVS by MPs of the SDS, and the attack on the police show how close Slovenia is to slipping into Janševist authoritarianism, funded with no-good money from abroad."

In his post, Črnčec also wonders "why and for how many Judas silver coins or millions did [Janša] sell Slovenia's national interests to its eastern neighbour".

01 Feb 2020, 12:14 PM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 31 January 2020

Mladina: Rejection of health insurance changes disgraceful

STA, 31 January 2020 – The left-wing weekly Mladina says in its latest commentary that the rejection of the proposal to abolish top-up health insurance in parliament was a disgrace, and that the result of the vote should be saved for future reference. What is even more problematic is that the vote has automatically become the foundation for a possible new coalition.

In the commentary headlined Someone Said Corruption?, editor-in-chief of the left-leaning weekly Grega Repovž notes that once it had become clear that a majority in parliament supported the bill, commercial insurers had launched a wide lobbying campaign.

Although it is not clear whether a new government will be formed, it is clear that one of the "largest lobbying campaigns in modern Slovenia has taken place in front of our eyes, and the formation of a new and the collapse of the current government is closely connected with this campaign."

Commenting on the vote, Repovž notes that the Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi) have been advocates of private health insurers for years, and the National Party (SNS) too, although not as openly.

"This week, the interest of private insurers was also publicly supported by three more parties: the Modern Centre Party (SMC), the party which relies on ethics, the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), which fights for common people, and the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), which fights for pensioners. This says it all."

The result of the vote should thus be put up on the wall because it is a list of people who voted that taxpayer money is transferred every month to some accounts, that someone there take their cut, and then transfer the money forward.

"The vote on the abolition of top-up health insurance has automatically become the foundation for the formation of a potential new government. This is what has brought them together. A good start. And it's only the beginning!"

Demokracija: Šarec alone to blame for coalition problems

STA, 30 January 2020 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija says in its commentary on Thursday that it was clear from the beginning that the government of Prime Minister Marjan Šarec would not last a full term, and that the fault is Šarec's alone, although he pretends to be the victim, blaming coalition partners for the coalition's problems.

Under the headline The Slovenian Patient, Demokracija says that Šarec was the one who let himself be drawn into a game of exclusions even before the election of 2018, he was the one who (officially) put together the coalition, approved the ministers and was responsible for the government's work.

What is more, Finance Minister Andrej Bertoncelj, who resigned shortly before Šarec, and Health Minister Aleš Šabeder, who was also set to resign at any moment, were both "from the same nest".

"Šarec did not have problems only with coalition partners, but also with ministers nominated by [his own party] LMŠ. But above all, he had problems with himself, his narcissism and his tongue, which he used to create a smokescreen and hide his incompetence."

While he failed to do anything reform-wise, he was very brutal in political staffing, fighting ideological opponents, abusing power and spending budget funds, the paper says, liking the 16 months Šarec was in power to a long, dark winter.

During this time, the state has been worn out in the face of programmed social justice, socialist mythology and threats to people who think differently, as well as political correctness.

All of this was dictated by progressive activists who always found the right "partners" for Šarec, who was interested only in preserving the status quo and protecting his position.

As a result, ordinary people, patriots who work for a living and fear for safety, have been "covered with a layer of radioactive contempt".

"They say that bad governments are chosen by good people who do not vote," the weekly says, expressing hope that people will not be fooled by "leftist frauds" and fall for "stand-up comedians from the transition left's closet", ahead of the likely snap election.

All our posts in this series are here

28 Jan 2020, 09:20 AM

STA, 27 January 2020 - The government's relative inefficiency and PM Marjan Šarec's realising it would be very hard to secure a majority to appoint two new ministers after the defence and finance ministers have announced stepping down, are the reasons for which Šarec stepped down, pundits have told the STA. They say it is now hard to predict the course of developments.

"Šarec has apparently assessed that given the degree of its inefficiency, the government would not be able to implement certain measures and he would be eventually blamed for it, so he decided to check the situation in an election now rather than any time later," says Domovina news portal editor Rok Čakš.

Andraž Zorko of pollster Valicon meanwhile says there are several reasons for Šarec's resignation, but the key cause was Finance Minister Andrej Bertoncelj's resignation, announced today.

Zorko says that replacing one minister after Defence Minister Karl Erjavec announced his plan to resign earlier this month would have been a major challenge in itself.

Čakš agrees, saying December's appointment of Angelika Mlinar as cohesion minister "caused this government agonising pain" and "the question is how much energy and time would have to be invested to get a new finance minister through parliament".

However, Šarec' move was not entirely unexpected since he is the only one who could gain from an early election, "while it was harder to imagine he would trigger the process leading to an early election himself".

Zorko believes that while future developments are uncertain, they will depend on the coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC), saying "the SMC is the key piece on the chess board and SMC leader Zdravko Počivalšek the bishop".

Of course, this is true only if the opposition Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi) assess an early election is not a good possibility, he says.

The two conservative parties have 33 MPs in the 90-year parliament, so if joined by 10 SMC MPs, they they would need just another small party - for instance the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) or the three MPs of the opposition National Party (SNS) to form a coalition.

Similarly, Čakš sees the coalition SAB as the main candidate to switch coalitions, since its chances to make it to parliament are rather slim, according to polls.

Among the parties "probably not keen on an early election" he also mentions the SNS, and notes that only a simple majority is needed to appoint a new prime minister-designate.

Should the parties opt to form a new coalition instead of going to an early election, Zorko and Čakč could not anticipate who the prime minister-designate would be.

Zorko finds it likely it would be a non-partisan candidate with strong support in parliament, or NSi leader Matej Tonin or SMC leader Zdravko Počivalšek.

In case of an early election, Zorko expects an unpredictable situation, and Čakš says the interpretation of who is to be blamed for the early election in the media will be crucial.

"This is where Šarec risks the most," says Čaks, arguing that if he manages to convince the public that he found himself in a dead-end and that he needs more votes to run the country successfully, then he could win the election.

Meanwhile, constitutional jurist Ciril Ribičič says an early election could not be disputed because the deadline set by the Constitutional Court to change electoral legislation has not yet expired.

Although it is not good for an election to be held if the electoral laws are not in line with the Constitution, "it's not as bad as it may seem".

Ribičič points to the fact that "only one thing is not in line with the Constitution, namely the different sizes of electoral districts".

In December 2018, the Constitutional Court gave parliament two years to change the legislation.

28 Jan 2020, 08:53 AM

STA, 27 January 2020 - The LMŠ-led minority government, whose disbanding was announced today 16 months into its term, struggled since its very start with securing parliamentary support as well as with strife in the five-member coalition and with its erstwhile partner, the Left. Serious reforms appeared unattainable, healthcare funding being the latest case in point.

The centre-left government was formed by Marjan Šarec, a novice in the national political arena, and his LMŠ party with the SocDems, Modern Centre Party (SMC), the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) and the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) after the relative election winner Janez Janša and his right-wing Democrats (SDS) failed to put together a coalition.

A cooperation agreement with the opposition Left was an important component of the equation, but cracks soon appeared in the relationship with the far-left party, starting with Šarec's hiring of Damir Črnčec, a radical opponent of migration, as national security state secretary in his office.

While the Left managed to push through some of its agenda, mostly to improve the lives of low-income earners, it insisted that the bulk of the pledges made in the cooperation agreement were being ignored.

The straw that broke the camel's back was the coalition's rejection in the autumn of the Left's proposal for scrapping the voluntary top-up insurance system that several governments had attempted to do away with to no avail in the past.

While the Left withdrew from the partnership agreement at the start of November, the coalition pushed ahead with the healthcare funding reform.

The Left's bill was reshaped, but in a way that was not to the liking of Finance Minister Andrej Bertoncelj, who resigned earlier today. The resignation of Bertoncelj, who did not state a clear reason for his decision, was followed up immediately by PM Šarec's.

Šarec, who insists his resignation was not the result of the differences between Health Minister Aleš Šabeder and Bertoncelj, was also facing the search for a new defence minister, with Karl Erjavec announcing his resignation recently after failing to get reappointed DeSUS leader.

After losing the Left, the minority coalition had come to rely on the opposition National Party (SNS) in parliamentary voting, and the appointment of Development and Cohesion Minister Angelika Mlinar at the end of 2019 already proved a major challenge.

Cabinet staffing had also kept Šarec busy before that, with five ministers resigning before Erjavec and Bertoncelj.

Meanwhile, the need for structural reforms was raised by many during the government's term, but the coalition partners acknowledged on several occasions that adopting them would be difficult in a minority government situation.

On the other hand, the economic boom helped keep the government going, with record high budgets envisaged for 2020 and 2021.

The government managed to slightly tweak pension and tax legislation, while struggling somewhat with bills related to welfare.

It failed to implement Constitutional Court rulings requiring changes to electoral legislation and to funding rules for private primary schools.

The latter case, which has seen the government refuse putting state funding for private schools on a par with that for public schools, led to Šarec being subjected to an SDS and SNS-initiated impeachment vote at the start of 2019.

Šarec, who survived the vote, has recently also had to deal with accusations he help an acquaintance get a job at intelligence and security agency SOVA.

He said today that the LMŠ's 13 MPs and the current coalition did not suffice to meet people's expectations but that this could change with the early election.

The LMŠ remained in the lead in the latest Mediana agency poll commissioned by the private broadcaster POP TV. It gained two points compared to December to poll at 15.1% and the SDS added 1.4 points to 14.1%, showed the results, released on Sunday.

The SD and the Left were tied in third place at 7.2%, the centre-right opposition New Slovenia (NSi) ranked fifth at 6.2%, DeSUS got 4.1% in sixth, while all other parties fell well short of the 4% parliamentary threshold.

27 Jan 2020, 20:18 PM

STA, 27 January 2020 - PM Marjan Šarec announced his resignation on Monday after Finance Minister Andrej Bertoncelj stepped down, presumably over differences regarding a bill scrapping top-up health insurance. Šarec said he could not achieve what he had set out to do with the current minority coalition. The most likely scenario seems to be snap election.

Šarec said that he "cannot fulfil people's expectations at the moment with 13 MPs and this coalition", but stressed he could fulfil them after an early election.

He seems eager to find out whether the polls showing 50% support for the government are right and whether the approval ratings are realistic or not.

Most parties also seem to favour going to the polls early, although the possibility of forming a new coalition in this term cannot be completely ruled out yet.

An advocate of the latter option seems to be Zdravko Počivalšek, the leader of the coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC), which Šarec mentioned as a potential pre-election ally. He said he did not see the need for a snap election.

In contrast, Janez Janša, the leader of the largest opposition party, the Democrats (SDS), deems an early election by far the likeliest and best option.

Given the current composition of the National Assembly, Janša believes it would be hard to form a solid development coalition.

But he proposes for the time ahead of the election, which he reckons could be held in the second half of April, to be used to pass what he says are urgently needed laws, including a bill on the demographic fund, a bill to cut waiting times in healthcare and a bill on public procurement in healthcare.

Similarly, the opposition New Slovenia (NSi) wants to push through parliament the bill to cut waiting times in healthcare, and amendments to the penal code to step up prosecution of sex abuse.

The NSi, Left, and the coalition Social Democrats (SD) all favour an early election. The new leader of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), Aleksandra Pivec, said DeSUS was ready for a fresh election but would want to talk things through in the party before taking any decisions.

Meanwhile, the coalition SMC and the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) are not keen on snap election, as is not the opposition National Party (SNS).

Both the SDS and NSi indicated that changes to the electoral law needed after the Constitutional Court found the existing legislation unconstitutional were no longer possible ahead of a fresh election.

Responding to the government collapse, employers and trade unions said this would delay the necessary reforms in healthcare, long-term care, housing policy, labour relationships act, pension reform and other fields.

Trade unions said the start of Šarec's term had been promising, with changes to the minimum wage and abolition of austerity measures, but later the government work came to a standstill due to problems with securing a majority.

Representatives of employers think Šarec "cut the Gordian Knot" today, given that there had been no coordinated political direction or predictability in recent months.

As there are many challenges to be tackled, they want Slovenia to get a new government with a clear political mandate as soon as possible.

Analysts believe the reasons for the government collapse were its relative inefficiency and Šarec's realisation that it would be very hard to secure a majority to appoint two new ministers after the defence and finance ministers stepped down.

"Šarec has apparently assessed that given the degree of its inefficiency, the government would not be able to implement certain measures and he would be eventually blamed for it, so he decided to check the situation in an election now rather than any time later," Domovina news portal editor Rok Čakš said.

In the 16 months in office, the minority government of the LMŠ, SD, SMC, SAB and DeSUS, which was formed after the 2018 early election following Janša's failure to form a coalition even though his party won a plurality of the vote, did not implement any substantial reform.

It managed to push through some changes to pension and tax legislation, but fell short of modifying laws on social affairs.

Two important Constitution Court decisions also remain unimplemented, the one demanding changes to the election legislation and the ruling concerning the financing of private primary schools.

Slovenia's 13th government did, however, manage to pass a record EUR 10 billion plus budgets for 2020 and 2012, both with surplus.

Šarec's term as prime minister will end when the National Assembly takes note of his resignation. This could happen as early as Wednesday. The term of the entire cabinet will end at the same time and the government will assume a caretaker role. A snap election could be held in late April.

According to the latest public opinion polls, Šarec is the second most popular politician in the country preceded only by President Borut Pahor.

His LMŠ party is neck-and-neck with Janša's SDS in topping the party rankings. The most recent poll conducted by pollster Mediana put the LMŠ's support at 15.1%, ahead of the SDS, which polled at 14.1%.

Šarec is the fourth Slovenian prime minister to resign, following Janez Drnovšek in December 2002, Alenka Bratušek in May 2014 and Miro Cerar in March 2018.

27 Jan 2020, 15:02 PM

STA, 27 January - Marjan Šarec, who resigned on Monday, will see his term as prime minister end when the National Assembly takes note of his resignation. This could happen as early as Wednesday. The term of the entire cabinet will end at the same time and the government will assume a caretaker role. A snap election could be held in late April.

The parliamentary rules of procedure say that the prime minister must inform government ministers about the resignation, and has the right to explain the resignation in the National Assembly.

After the parliamentary speaker is notified about the resignation, the matter is put on the agenda of a National Assembly session at the latest in seven days. The National Assembly does not take a vote, but only takes note that the prime minister's term has ended.

As a regular, three-day plenary started today, parliamentary Speaker Dejan Židan said that MPs could take note of Šarec's resignation already on Wednesday.

Židan added that, considering the rules for the further procedure in the case of resignation of a prime minister, a snap election could be held in the second half of April.

Following the National Assembly getting formally acquainted with the resignation, the president of the republic has 30 days to propose a candidate for the new prime minister to parliament.

Following the resignation of Alenka Bratušek as prime minister in 2014, the predominant opinion was that the deadline could be shortened if all qualified candidates renounce the possibility to nominate a prime minister-designate.

If there are no candidates for prime minister-designate, this is also formally confirmed by the National Assembly, after which a new 14-day period starts in which a candidate could be proposed by a deputy group or a group of at least 10 MPs.

If this round is unsuccessful as well, a 48-hour period starts in which MPs may decide whether to go for the third round, and if a new prime minister is not elected, the president dissolves the National Assembly and calls a snap election.

Šarec himself called for a snap election to be held as soon as possible, which in accordance with the relevant law are held not later than two months after the dissolution of the National Assembly.

The term of the current National Assembly will end with the maiden session of the MPs elected in the snap election, which must be held not later than 20 days after the election.

Not later than 30 days after the maiden session, the president must put forward a nominee for prime minister-designate following consultations with the deputy groups.

As a rule, this is the president of the party which has won a relative majority in the election. The nominee is voted on in a secret ballot and is elected with an absolute majority of 46 MPs.

Most parties favour snap election

STA, 27 January 2020 - First reactions to Marjan Šarec's surprise announcement that he was stepping down to seek a snap election indicate most parties favour an early election, while Zdravko Počivalšek, the leader of the Modern Centre Party (SMC) which Šarec mentioned as a potential pre-election ally, does not see the need for a snap election.

Janez Janša, the leader of the largest opposition party deems an early election by far the likeliest and probably the best option. His Democratic Party (SDS) is holding a session of the executive council on Thursday or Friday to decide steps in the wake of Šarec's resignation.

However, Janša proposes for the time ahead of the election, which he reckons could be held in the second half of April, to be used to pass urgently needed laws that Slovenia had been waiting for years or decades. The SDS thus invited other parties to start talks on those laws.

Janša listed a bill on the demographic fund to shore up the pension system, which he said had already been drafted, a bill to cut waiting times in healthcare that had been drawn up by the Medical Chamber and tabled by the opposition New Slovenia (NSi) and a bill on public procurement in healthcare, to be filed by the SDS shortly.

"It may be easier to pass these laws at the time when there's no government, and that those who have opposed these laws, or turned down talks themselves, may be willing to talk. Also, because voters may be more attentive at this time," said Janša.

Given the current composition of the National Assembly, Janša believes it would be hard to form a solid development coalition.

"It may be possible forming a coalition which would do less damage than the one that fell irreversibly apart today. But there are many doubts there as well," said Janša, who was unable to form a government coalition after the 2018 election even though his party won a plurality of the vote.

The opposition New Slovenia (NSi) and the Left, and the coalition Social Democrats (SD) also favour an early election and the new leader of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), Aleksandra Pivec said DeSUS was ready for a fresh election, but would want to talks things through in the party before taking any decisions.

Meanwhile, the coalition SMC and the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) are not keen, as is not the opposition National Party (SNS).

"I don't see the need to have a fresh election at the moment because of the government's resignation," said Počivalšek, the economy minister.

He said that the situation in Slovenia was stable at the moment and could be used to go forward. He was open for talks in all directions provided they benefit one and the other party.

"I had a hunch that something like that would happen, considering what've experienced recently," Počivalšek told reporters after Šarec announced he was stepping down.

Asked whether he would be involved in an attempt to form a new government headed by SDS leader Janez Janša or NSi head Matej Tonin, he said the SMC was interested in cooperation and in what was good for the country: "We don't intends to go left or right, not backward but forward."

Asked whether he would be willing to act as the prime-minister designate himself, Počivalšek said that all options were open.

As to pre-election cooperation offered to the SMC by Šarec, Počivalšek said the party was cooperating with everyone. They were talking how Slovenia could do better with ones and the others.

27 Jan 2020, 10:38 AM

Last updated 12:30 27/01/2020

STA, 27 January 2020 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec has announced he is stepping down in a bid to push for a snap election, saying he could not achieve what he set out to do with the current minority coalition.

"With 13 MPs and this coalition I cannot fulfil people's expectations at the moment. But I can fulfil them after elections," Šarec told reporters on Monday, shortly after it transpired that Finance Minister Andrej Bertoncelj was stepping down, presumably over differences regarding health insurance.

Related - A Short History of Prime Ministerial Resignations in Slovenia

"People on the ground should say whether they trust me or not," Šarec said, adding that he could not know whether the polls showing 50% support for the government were right and that a snap election would show whether the approval ratings were realistic or not.

He said that even the previous government, which had 36 and later 35 MPs in the 90-strong National Assembly, was not capable of implementing any substantial reform.

"If we head for elections, if there's that will, we have spoken with Zdravko Počivalšek about that, to link up to go together so you didn't have to guess what's happening behind the scenes," Šarec said.

Apart from Počivalšek's Modern Centre Party (SMC), Šarec was also offering cooperation to other local initiatives, lists and initiatives and everyone interested in contesting the election.

However, in his first reaction Počivalšek said that Šarec's resignation did not mean yet there was a need for a fresh election.

Šarec said he was aware that after his resignation "parliamentary kitchen may be set into motion to start forming a new government".

However, he believes the fairest thing to do for citizens as well as for oneself would be "heading for an early election and let people tell whether they trust me".

Looking back on a year and a half in office, he said that on 13 September 2018 when his government took over there were a number of problems awaiting them, including talks with public sector trade unions and budgets for 2020 and 2021.

"In the meantime, we implemented tax optimisation and reduced the tax burden on the holiday allowance, which has had a favourable effect on domestic consumption and people certainly had more in their purses."

He also noted the increase in social transfers, improvements to the situation in the police force, reduction of state debt, and the budgets for 2020 and 2021, the first ones with a surplus.

"Considering the past government, this is a good achievement," he said, adding that the government also saw to the fiscal stability, but said that Slovenia had one of the most rigid fiscal rules in the EU, which needed to be softened.

"The government has sailed safely through many dire straits and I must say successfully," Šarec summed up his record in office, adding that the cabinet adopted measures allowing the country to run on, but that citizens reported many problems that needed to be tackled.

He believes electoral law could have been reformed, "if there were less talks and more will". He also noted the challenge of long-term care and demographic fund and new housing legislation.

A Short Biography of Marjan Šarec, Ex-Comic & Slovenia's Youngest PM

20 Jan 2020, 07:28 AM

STA, 19 January 2020 - The Marjan Šarec government is entering a new challenging period as Karl Erjavec, the mainstay of Slovenian government politics for 15 years, announced he was withdrawing from public life after losing the contest for the leadership of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) to Aleksandra Pivec.

Campaigning on an alternative vision of the party's future in a desire to make it more inclusive and collaborative, Pivec, the 47-year-old serving as agriculture minister, won 143 votes at Saturday's congress to Erjavec's 80 in a development that few had expected.

As soon as the results were declared, Erjavec announced his intention to resign as defence minister. Taking a step further, he issued what he described as his "last political statement" on the morning after, announcing that he was withdrawing from public life altogether.

"Since 2004 I have been part of all the governments, served as minister in various departments (...) after the congress's decision that I will no longer lead DeSUS, I see no reason to continue as a minister or government member any longer," the 59-year-old said in a written statement.

While Erjavec is willing to discuss the timing of his resignation with Prime Minister Marjan Šarec so as not to cause any inconvenience to the government, his decision is expected to put the ruling coalition in a tight spot as it struggles to secure a majority to appoint his replacement.

Sources close to the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) say that quick moves are not to be expected, because any potential candidate to succeed Erjavec at the ministerial post would first need to get the endorsement of the party bodies, which are yet to formed anew in the coming weeks following the congress.

While Šarec was quick to welcome Pivec's victory on Saturday night, he has not yet commented on Erjavec's decision to resign as minister, and coalition parties have been mostly muted in their reactions, but appear to be concerned about how to muster a majority needed to appoint a new minister.

Matjaž Han, the leader of the deputy faction of the Social Democrats (SD) is aware that "it will be absolutely hard to get a new minister through parliament".

The narrow vote on Angelika Mlinar, the cohesion policy minister, in December showed how precarious the ruling coalition's position became after the Left withdrew its support, with the opposition National Party (SNS) staying away in order to tip the scales as even one DeSUS member voted against Mlinar.

Rok Čakš, the editor of the news portal Domovina, said that Šarec was probably not happy with Erjavec's standing down as minister, even though he preferred Pivec as a non-confrontational person at the helm of the coalition partner, and pulled some strings to make that happen.

"Not because the prime minister would be happy with his [Erjavec's] work, but because it means he will have to put forward a new ministerial candidate to the National Assembly. As seen in the case of Angelika Mlinar, securing the required parliamentary majority is all but a routine for the Šarec minority government," Čakaš commented.

By contrast, even as admitting that developments remain unpredictable, analyst Andraž Zorko from the pollster Valicon maintained that DeSUS's decision to vote out Erjavec made the Šarec government stronger. What is more, he sees it as a very positive step for further developments in Slovenia.

Another question raised in the wake of the congress was a potential rift in the DeSUS deputy faction, as three out of the party's five MPs backed Erjavec in the leadership contest.

However, all of the DeSUS MPs, bar the rebel MP Robert Polnar, who has withdrawn his support for the minority government on several occasions and who failed to attend the congress, were quick to pledge their support for the new leader, and rushed to assure the public of the deputy faction's unity.

Erjavec's resignation also raised speculation about a government reshuffle, as Pivec indicated she planned to talk it through with Šarec whether DeSUS might assume responsibility for some other ministry than defence.

In her address to the congress, Pivec suggested DeSUS focus on areas concerning its platform in the future, including taking over at the Ministry of Labour, the Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities.

However, coalition parties expressed their reservations about any broader reshuffle at the moment, and
DeSUS told the STA that the party would discuss changing government departments only if Šarec was considering a reshuffle, but they would not want to interfere in the coalition partners' briefs.

Social Democrat Han said that having a broader reshuffle endorsed by parliament given the current balance of power, would be a "mission impossible", adding that DeSUS would simply need to find a new defence minister.

12 Dec 2019, 09:26 AM

STA, 11 December 2019 - Election legislation, provinces and climate change ranked prominently as the country's top four officials met for an end-of-year reception in Ljubljana on Wednesday. Coming out of the meeting, President Borut Pahor said changes to election legislation should be ready for parliamentary procedure at the start of 2020.

Pahor said the leaders of deputy groups in parliament who support the proposed abolishing of electoral districts and introduction of a preferential vote would be urged to iron out the proposal in January so that the necessary signatures of support could be collected.

Changing the electoral legislation in line with a Constitutional Court decision is strategically speaking a key political issue in Slovenia, Pahor said after the meeting with Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, Speaker Dejan Židan and National Council President Alojz Kovšca.

The president had launched the debate on possible legislative changes after the Constitutional Court declared the size of electoral districts for general election unconstitutional at the end of last year.

After seven rounds of talks with representatives of parliamentary parties and two meetings with deputy group heads, Pahor believes the proposal to abolish electoral districts and introduce a preferential vote is ready to be made into a bill.

In order to be passed in parliament, it will need to be backed by at least 60 MPs in the 90-member legislature. "If and when 60 or more MP signatures are collected, the proposal will be filed to parliament."

However, Pahor believes that a step further should also be taken to close the debate on the proposal to change the borders of the electoral districts as an alternative to the first solution.

The top officials agreed today that the deputy group heads who want to finish this debate should meet with the public administration minister in January, so that both proposals could be on MPs' table at the beginning of next year.

PM Šarec said he was in favour of scrapping electoral districts and introducing the preferential vote in order to give voters more say on who was to sit in parliament.

Speaker Židan expressed hope that the parties who had publicly supported this solution would also contribute signatures.

He also pointed to Tuesday's debate hosted by the Women Parliamentarians Club, where participants agreed that legislative solutions should be aimed at increasing gender-balanced representation in parliament.

National Council President Kovšca said the Constitutional Court had also found the National Council act unconstitutional in the part mentioning the possibility of appeal to election to the upper chamber. He said changes to the act had already been filed to parliament and expressed hope MPs would discuss it in January.

Turning to provinces, Pahor said that a task force of the National Council had done an excellent job in preparing guidelines for legislative changes.

The top officials agreed today that the finance minister should get involved in the drawing up of a bill on the financing of provinces in the next two months.

Kovšca said that in the first phase more than 50 experts had formed the proposal on the setting up of provinces. They covered the territorial aspect, and made a list of tasks to be transferred from the state and municipalities to provinces, he noted.

In the first phase of a public debate, local communities will be asked to give their remarks, while the government will review the financial aspect, he said.

When this phase is completed, the work of the National Council will be over and the proposal will be sent to the National Assembly.

Šarec said the government supported the idea of provinces but that their tasks would need to be defined and their seats picked as well. "Provinces must serve a purpose, implement tasks, and citizens must benefit from the arrangement," he said.

This was the first time that the top officials also discussed climate policy at their annual meeting. They agreed that special attention must be paid to three documents related to the climate and energy policy of the country which will be discussed in the public and the National Assembly next year.

There must be plenty of opportunity for a broad political and social debate, they agreed.

Šarec said a big problem was the sixth generator of the Šoštanj Thermal Power Plant (TEŠ), "which gives us 25% of electricity". "Until we close TEŠ 6, it will be difficult to talk about a greener environmental policy," he said.

Pahor agreed that TEŠ would need to be shut down sooner than planned, but he stressed this would not be possible overnight. However, preparations for its closure should be sped up, he said, adding that alternative energy sources needed to be introduced.

Šarec and Židan agreed it should first be acknowledged that climate change is a reality, and then Slovenia should not only set ambitious goals but also start implementing them.

26 Nov 2019, 16:09 PM

STA, 26 November 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec visited the Government Office for the Support and Integration of Migrants and the appertaining asylum centre in the Ljubljana Vič borough on Tuesday, praising their efforts.

Accompanied by Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar, Šarec visited the Reception and Support Division and was acquainted with accommodation procedures.

A release from the Government Communication Office said that the issue of integration of persons with recognised international protection status ranked prominently during the visit.

It said that the main challenge in the field was preparing action plans of integration for the implementation of the government's migration strategy.

The release said that, in dealing with the challenges of migration, Slovenia remained committed to preserving a right balance between solidarity and security.

Šarec also visited the division for families where he met the youngest residents of the asylum centre. Commenting on his visit, he said that asylum seekers were being accommodated and attended to in accordance with Slovenian and EU legislation.

He found that the accommodation capacities were not overcrowded and that apart from regular psychosocial care the asylum seekers benefited from many other activities provided by NGOs. The prime minister praised the efforts put in the integration of migrants.

Upon his visit, the asylum centre accommodated 201 residents, most of them coming from Morocco, Algeria and Iraq.

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