The Slovenia Times

Government grilling ends without conclusions

Daily news
Independence-era figures, including Janez Janša and Lojze Peterle, attend a rally against closure of Independence Museum.
Photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA

Slovenia's current and former prime ministers, Robert Golob and Janez Janša, clashed over their cabinets' track records during an acrimonious 14-hour debate at the National Assembly on 19 April that wrapped up without conclusions or a vote of no confidence, which would be the usual course of action in an interpellation.

The gist of Janša's arguments in setting out the reasons for his Democratic Party (SDS) moving the interpellation was that the only thing that came out of the long list of reforms promised by the coalition in power was a "timeline reform".

As the debate came to a lose just before midnight, Janša urged the government to "get a grip", announcing that the SDS would continue to support good proposals and oppose those they considered harmful to the country, if need be with referendums.

He made a prediction that the government would not complete its term. "It's not a given that when this government falls, there will be a snap election," he said.

"I believe those who have followed this debate today have been able to see definitely what the difference is between the bloc that had been in power before 24 April last year and the current government," Golob said, referring to the general election last year in which his party won an overwhelming plurality of votes.

He said the former government, led by Janša, lived in the past, while his was "facing reality". He said they were insisting on respectful and open dialogue with everyone, including those who might not share their opinion.

As a demonstration of that he said that in recent weeks he had met with farmer representatives, who subsequently walked out of negotiations this week, and today, on the sidelines of the interpellation, he met with Pavle Rupar, a former SDS MP who heads the group that has been staging pensioners' protests in front of the parliament building.

"The dialogue was brief, but it always starts somewhere," Golob said, adding it was through dialogue that better solutions could be arrived at.

Museum at core of dispute

The interpellation was prompted by the government's decision to merge the Museum of Slovenian Independence, formed by the Janša government, with the Museum of Recent History. As a result, the directors of both museums, who were appointed in the previous term, lost their jobs.

Referring to independence, Janša argued that those running the country now had "strayed away from the values on which the country was formed" and plunged Slovenia into a "deep crisis of values, which generates many other crises".

While the debate went on, several hundred people gathered in the square in front of the parliament building in protest against the decision to scarp the museum as an independent institution.

The protest was called by the right-leaning Association for the Values of Independence, whose president, Slovenia's first prime minister Lojze Peterle, told the gathering they stood for the "truth about independence" and for school lessons about independence.

The protesters, which were also addressed by Janša and joined by Matej Tonin, the leader of the other opposition party New Slovenia (NSi), supported the interpellation and the NSi' recommendations to the government to enhance Slovenian independence values.

Apart from accusing the government of failing to deliver on its reform promises in particular in healthcare and taxes Janša also charged the government with reversing measures aimed at decentralisation, with staffing purges and with pressuring the Constitutional Court.

Golob welcomed the debate as an opportunity to present the work of his government in a truthful way, which, in Golob's words, had been withheld from people because "some media had been captured and because some keep misleading and scaremongering".

He argued that 60% of the text in the SDS's motion against the government was dedicated to the Museum of Slovenian Independence and 2% to healthcare, which was what people were struggling with the most. This, he said, said a lot about the SDS's priorities.

He reiterated that the museum had not been abolished but merged with the Museum of Contemporary History, a move he said had been backed by all the major veteran organisations. He said independence had not been the project of a single party but of the whole nation.

As proof of his government's successful track record, he listed falling electricity, oil and petrol prices, inflation and unemployment figures, as well as decisions concerning taxes and healthcare.

The debate was split along the partisan lines, straying into a whole line of unrelated topics. The SDS initially announced it would put forward conclusions urging the government to tackle what it described as unlawful and unconstitutional conduct and decisions, but failed to table them in the end.

The NSi accused the government of waging a culture war, and of failing to implement health reform. The party thought the SDS should have tabled conclusions with its motion, arguing it should have some kind of a "vote outcome".

Rallying together, the ruling coalition parties rejected all the accusations levelled against the government, arguing the government was successful and trustworthy. They accused the SDS of abusing the institute of interpellation.

Golob's Freedom Movement said the government had proved with measures taken so far in healthcare it was not just paying lip service but would implement reform.

Luka Mesec, the leader of the Left said the interpellation, "containing 14 pages about cultural Marxism, single-party totalitarian regimes, liquidations and similar bogeymen", was merely about demonising the government and causing unrest, while SocDem leader Tanja Fajon added there were no major conflicts within the government.


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