The Slovenia Times

Janša Left with Minority Government



DL president Gregor Virant resigned as speaker, along with Janez Šušteršič as finance minister and Senko Pličanič as justice and public administration minister. The resignations will be effective as of Monday as parliament is formally acquainted with them.

The DL governing council adopted the decision to quit the coalition unanimously, following the expiry of the deadline set by the party for Janša to resign in the wake of a damning report by the country's anti-graft watchdog.

Virant labelled the DL's exit from the coalition "the first step in the resolution of the political crisis", which he said erupted when the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption presented its grave and damning findings.

As of Monday Virant will no longer serve as the speaker, while the two DL ministers will continue to perform caretaker duties until their replacements are appointed or until the prime minister has put some other minister in charge of their departments.

Šušteršič and Pličanič, who will tender their resignations on Thursday, said the decision to quit the government was not easy, citing their involvement in major government projects, which they said should continue with Šušteršič explicitly mentioning the work on the bad bank.

The priority for the party now is an early election and Virant indicated that an alternative coalition was unlikely. He said that he had noticed party members entertaining serious doubts about forming a coalition with the opposition Positive Slovenia (PS) until Zoran Janković remains the party's "frozen" president.

"We believe the report of the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption has changed the situation in Slovenia so much the citizens ought to be given the chance to make a new choice," Virant answered when asked about the likelihood of an early election or an interim government.

Virant pledged for his party to be constructive in opposition and to back good bills, and would continue to endeavour for further implementation of reforms. But he also said that the party would seek initiatives better than the government's "where we will use all constitutional and legal means at our disposal".

This is an indication that Janša could have a difficulty running a minority government, especially if two of his other coalition partners, the People's Party (SLS) and the Pensioners Party (DeSUS), make good on their threat and leave as well, unless Janša resigns.

DeSUS president Karl Erjavec said that his party would take a vote on leaving the coalition on 5 February, while the SLS is willing to remain in the coalition until the close of the next session of parliament, which begins in March.

The departure of the DL already leaves the coalition with only 43 MPs in the 90-member legislature; if the SLS and DeSUS leave as well, it will shrink to 32.

If Janša decides to stick with a minority cabinet, he will first have to replace all the ministers who will have stepped down. He can propose new ministers (who are unlikely to be confirmed in parliament) or assign the vacated portfolios to other cabinet members, but only for up to three months.

The parliamentary rules of procedure stipulate that the notification of the resignation of ministers must be put to parliament within 14 days, whereupon the prime minister has ten days to nominate new ministers or assign the portfolios to other cabinet members.

The law on how long such a minority government can remain in office is unclear, but the majority of law experts appear to agree that it could theoretically serve out the rest of the term, though it would be hampered in the decision-making.

Another option for Janša would be to seek a confidence vote, though his recent statements suggest this is unlikely. Nevertheless, he could tie the confidence vote to the adoption of a key law, for example the labour market reform.

Alternately, at last ten MPs may seek a no-confidence vote, but only if they put forward a new prime minister-designate, who needs to be confirmed with 46 votes.

Yet an alternative coalition does not appear to be a likely scenario, especially as Igor Lukšič, head of opposition Social Democrats (SD), who currently lead opinion polls, repeated the party's position today that an early election was the best solution for Slovenia.

But he also expressed the belief that the government should see to the ratification of Croatia's EU Accession Treaty before an early election, meaning the government could bid farewell in a month or two at the most.

Ljudmila Novak, the president of New Slovenia (NSi), the only coalition party that has not made its stay in the coalition conditional on Janša's resignation, sees little point in insisting on this coalition if the cabinet starts losing its ministers.

The SDS refused to comment on the events today, but Janša said he would speak about potential "irrational decisions" by the DL tomorrow. The opposition Positive Slovenia (PS) is also yet to comment on the latest developments.

In parliament a new candidate for speaker can be put forward by 10 deputies but needs the absolute majority of votes in the 90-member legislature. In the interim period the National Assembly is headed by the oldest deputy speaker, in this case Jakob Presečnik of the SLS.


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