The Slovenia Times

Virant Elected Speaker


Virant was put forward and endorsed by his list together with the Democrats (SDS), Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), People's Party (SLS) and New Slovenia (NSi) as well as the two minority representatives.

The five parties agreed to the deal after the Positive Slovenia (PS) party of the winner of the 4 December early election Zoran Jankovic and the Social Democrats (SD) of outgoing PM Borut Pahor had fought it out in two previous rounds of voting despite being considered the most likely partners in the future coalition.

The deal appears to be a blow to Jankovic's efforts to form a coalition, although Virant rushed to reassure the public after his election that he would be willing to step aside once a coalition agreement is reached.

"This was a coalition for forming the National Assembly, to overcome the stalemate," he said, adding that it in no way prejudices talks on the forming of a government coalition.

He said the post of speaker was important in the structure of power, so it must be subject of the coalition agreement. He will surrender the post to "whom the post is intended in the coalition agreement".

But he said that inaugurating the National Assembly was absolutely essential considering the need to take a decision on the fiscal austerity bill.

"There's a lot of work ahead, the adoption of the austerity bill, which will require a lot of coordination with the social partners and among the political parties and this move was essential."

The nomination was made at the initiative of Virant himself and DeSUS leader Karl Erjavec, both of whom Virant said were shocked by today's developments and found that the deadlock needed to be broken.

However, Jankovic commented on Virant's election by noting that a new coalition may be in the making and that it would be given a chance to form a government.

Asked whether he could decline the mandate to form government, Jankovic said that he would "sleep on it". He said it was hard to negotiate and work with people who show "not just double, but a triple face".

He had noticed three phases in talks with party officials: "one is what we discuss at the office, for some the second phase is what they say in the media and the third what they do here."

"I have no reason to doubt their decisions, but as I listen to discussions in parliament, it is becoming increasingly clear to me why I do not belong here," Jankovic said.

He said that he had three proposals for the speaker on the table, one by Pahor, one by Virant, who did not insist on it, and one by Erjavec, who told him that he could not negotiate with Positive Slovenia unless he was given the post of speaker.

He believes the failure to elect his party's candidate Masa Kociper, who won 38 votes, was a missed opportunity to elect the first woman speaker.

Even analysts disagree as to weather the parties that backed Virant could form a future government coalition.

Matevz Tomsic believes the parties could well form the ruling coalition, having 50 votes among them, which is more than what the SD and Positive Slovenia have.

Today's "confusion" is nothing new, Tomsic said, paralleling the conflict between the two left-leaning parties to the conflicts seen in the outgoing coalition; this indicates that Jankovic could hardly form a strong coalition.

But political philosopher Igor Pribac believes the "informal virtual coalition today showed just how much the negotiations on the coalition are still open.

"The public learnt that they are fully open and that the coalition is in fact just a seeming coalition that will yet need to form its own foundation, which it does not have at the moment."

Virant, is the 9th speaker of the Slovenian National Assembly and the first not to be backed by the biggest deputy faction.

Virant, 42, served as the public administration minister in the 2004-2008 government of Janez Jansa one of his biggest projects being a reform of the public sector pay system.

Virant was never a member of Jansa's SDS, but he was a member of the party's shadow cabinet, and stood for the SDS in the 2004 general election. He headed the rightist outfit Assembly for the Republic between December 2008 and this year.

This is why he was ostracised by the right bloc ahead of the 4 December general election as he announced that he would stand for election with his own party, Citizens' List of Gregor Virant.

Virant, who holds a doctorate in law, has most recently worked as lecturer at the Faculty of Administration. He is married and has two children. One of his pastime hobbies is music and he plays the guitar.

Deputies also elected today Ljudmila Novak of NSi and Jakob Presecnik of the SLS as two deputy speakers, while a third will be elected once it is clear which parties will form the coalition.

Three candidates bid for the two posts available; Novak won 70 votes and Presecnik 54, while Majda Potrata of the SD only won 42, four votes short of the needed majority.

The National Assembly has up to three deputy speakers, one of whom needs to be from the biggest opposition faction.


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