The Slovenia Times

Turbulence in ruling party as two members expelled

Prime Minister Robert Golob (centre) speaks to the press after a session of the party's top decision-making bodies. Photo: screenshot

The Freedom Movement has expelled two senior party members after a turbulent few days for the senior coalition party amidst rumours that it was splintering much like at least two other parties formed just before elections have in the past.

The party's council and executive committee unanimously decided on 24 October to expel MP Mojca Šetinc Pašek and Robert Pavšič, a senior aide to the National Assembly president, over what Prime Minister Robert Golob said was an attempt to undermine the party's unity.

"Someone who does not believe that you have to play for your own team and keeps playing for a different team all the time has no place on our team," Golob said.

The decision came as somewhat of a surprise in the aftermath of a series of media reports suggesting that a deep rift had opened up between Golob and National Assembly President Klakočar Zupančič, and that Golob had urged her to step down, apparently due to her refusal recently to vote for the dismissal of the agriculture minister.

Golob described these reports as "malevolent misinformation" planted in the media by malicious actors. He said he was amazed at how "media reality is so far from the actual situation" and argued the media were "victims" of planted information.

Accusations of lack of democracy

Šetinc Pašek, a former journalist, was one of the earliest members of the Freedom Movement, whereas Pavšič joined when the Freedom Movement merged with the Marjan Šarec List, a party for which he was an MP in the previous parliament.

While Pavšič would not immediately comment, Šetinc Pašek said she had not been told about why she was being expelled, with the way this has been done "showing the appalling state and understanding of democracy within the party".

"As my colleagues told me after the session, they did not hear the right reasons, except - I assume from what I've been told - a collection of slander, lies, insinuations and fabrications apparently collected by secretary general Vesna Vukovič," she said.

Vukovič, Golob's right hand and by many accounts the party's main staffer, denied having been the initiator of Pašek Šetinc's expulsion.

While staying on as National Assembly president, Klakočar Zupančič has nevertheless decided to step down as vice-president of the party saying that she wanted to focus on the important job of running parliament. She will be replaced as vice-president by Sara Žibrat, a 31-year-old MP.

Klakočar Zupančič said she was stepping down as party vice-president due to excessive workload and to prevent the post of parliament president from becoming "a nexus of disputes or the launching pad for rifts."

Majority not in jeopardy for now

Šetinc Pašek has not said what her next steps will be, but judging by previous such cases, she is likely to either continue as an independent MP, or join one of the other deputy groups.

Despite losing one MP, the ruling coalition has a comfortable majority of 52 MPs in the 90-member legislature. Speculation is however rife that additional MPs may leave the party along with Šetinc Pašek.

Cabinet reshuffle possible as well

Golob also announced a forthcoming deliberation about a cabinet reshuffle and a reduction of the number of ministries, less than a year after his government expanded the number of ministries in a process that saw months of disputes with the opposition and involved a referendum at which the expansion was confirmed.

When it comes to a government reshuffle "everything is open" as he spoke about a "radical reduction" in the number of ministries, saying that "even twelve is a high number".

There are currently 20 ministers in the Robert Golob government.

"We don't know what the reaction by the coalition partners will be, but we've realised over the past year, in particular in response to the floods, that coordination among a large number of ministries ... becomes a drag on government effectiveness."

"We plan to have a candid discussion about that with the coalition partners."


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