The Slovenia Times

Govt and president target of latest pensioners' rally

Rally of pensioners in Ljubljana
Photo: Bor Slana/STA

Several thousand pensioners gathered in Ljubljana on 3 May for the fourth rally led by Pavel Rupar, a former MP for the opposition Democrats (SDS), to call for higher pensions and the government's resignation. This time the protesters also took aim at the country's president.

Carrying Slovenian flags and banners targeting the government and journalists and calling for decent pensions, the protesters gathered in Republic Square in front of the parliament building before filing through the surrounding streets past the government offices and the Presidential Palace.

The monthly rallies are being organised by the civil initiative called Voice of Pensioners and its offshoot 1 October Institute, which is headed by Rupar.

Their main demand is a 20% rise in pensions, a call that has not been endorsed by the country's Pensioners' Association. They have also been calling on Prime Minister Robert Golob and his government to resign because of what they see as their arrogant attitude to pensioners.

They also wanted to file a bill scrapping top-up mutual health insurance but the government submitted its own bill to the same effect first. Rupar said the government-sponsored bill "brings nothing", and "people will realise sooner or later that you've left the money in one of their pockets to take it from the other pocket".

Stopping in front of the Presidential Palace, the protesters took issue with a bill drawn up by an NGO campaigning for dignified old age which seeks to legalise assisted suicide for terminally-ill people who are dying in suffering.

Rupar called on President Nataša Pirc Musar to remove as her adviser Biserka Marolt Meden, who participated in the drafting of the bill. He said "even Hitler in the German Reich would have been be happy having such an adviser", adding: "The Nazis helped the mentally handicapped and then the elderly to an early death." "We want life, not death," the crowd chanted.

President Pirc Musar responded on her Facebook profile, saying she could not tolerate "such a reckoning with someone who is moving mountains in the fight for human rights" and whom she respected herself.

"I therefore strongly condemn the calls for her 'removal' and even comparisons with Nazi methods, which defies all logic and is completely inappropriate and reprehensible. These are brutally hateful words directed by someone who has a long history of doing this. It has also been proven in court," Pirc Musar wrote, expressing her support for the assisted dying bill.

Rupar's comments later also drew condemnation from the prime minister's office and National Assembly President Urška Klakočar Zupančič, who ruled out the possibility of future dialogue with "individuals and groups spreading hate speech".

The protesters accused the government of neglecting pensioners. Rupar said they were open to talks with the government, but they expected concrete proposals - otherwise they will "show the door" to the government, demand "serious, fair and compatible interlocutors and new elections with a new government".

Commenting on speculation that he might start a new party, Rupar said his 1 October Institute was determined to help pensioners and workers with their pensions and wages.

"If you are in favour of us founding a party, we will, if not, just as right, because it will be you who make the decision," he told the gathering.

He announced that the protests would continue until satisfactory solutions are found. He said they would join forces with workers, pensioners and farmers "for a joint victory and an end to agonies". The protesters also expressed their support for farmers, who held their most recent rally on 25 April.


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